10 worst ideas of the week: Feb. 21

Shooter got professor job despite violent past, Murphy tribute is marred by scandal, Olympic athlete breaks tooth on medal, and Joe the Plumber badmouths McCain and Palin.


1. Dirty water

Report on water at Marine base omitted carcinogen

The details: Marines who had served at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina are blaming cancers in themselves and their families on benzene, a dry-cleaning chemical and known cancer-causing agent. But environmental reports underreported and then denied that benzene was found in the tap water, even though the levels were dangerously high. Now the Marine Corps is being accused of covering up the findings just before a federal health review.


2. Warning signs

Alabama professor had violent, erratic past

The details: Amy Bishop, the Alabama professor who killed three colleagues in a shooting spree during a meeting, shot her brother to death and may have been involved in a bomb threat against a Harvard professor — and relatives of the Alabama victims are wondering how she got the job. It’s possible that the former cases were mishandled, according to authorities, who are considering reopening the 1993 Harvard case. In 1986, Bishop fatally shot her 18-year-old brother in what was then called an accident, even though Bishop demanded a getaway car from an auto dealer. And to top it all off, in 2002 she was charged with assault and battery after a tirade at a restaurant over a child booster seat.


3. Leggo my listeria

Kellogg warned about tainted frozen Eggo waffles

The details: Kellogg Co. received a warning letter in January telling the company that it had failed to clean up bacterial contamination in an Atlanta plant producing Eggo waffles, the U.S. FDA revealed this week. The warning came after a state inspection found listeria in the waffles in August 2009, and federal inspectors found “significant” contamination and violations in October 2009. Kellogg said it has since fully addressed all its violations and cleaned up the -frozen-foods plant.


4. Profiteering

Scandals persist after starlet’s untimely death

The details: Brittany Murphy is still creating headlines two months after her death. A foundation for the actress who starred in “Clueless” and “8 Mile” shut down its Web site following reports the group had not registered as a charity. Her husband, Simon Monjack, and mom, Sharon Murphy, oversee the Brittany Murphy Foundation, and the Web site had been collecting donations for children’s art education for the last month. The site was soon back up with a note saying donations were not currently being accepted until the nonprofit status has been resolved.


5. Just say cheese instead

German luger bites medal, breaks tooth

The details: David Moeller, who won the silver for luge in the Vancouver Winter Olympics, said he was just going along with media requests when he bit down on his medal. But Moeller bit off more than he could chew when the corner of his front tooth broke off. While he didn’t feel any pain, he went to get the tooth fixed right away so that his smile would shine in the rest of the Olympics photographs.


6. Stalled talks

Muni operators reject proposal

The details: A proposal to change its labor contract with San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency was rejected by the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents 2,500 Muni operators. The SFMTA was hoping to get $15 million in savings from the union over two years to meet a $16 million deficit this year and more than $50 million deficit next year. Muni’s budget is about $765 million. The transit agency says it is now looking at more service cuts and fare increases.


7. Bad exposure

Photographer’s gaffe soaks luge track before race

The details: A photographer caused a delay at the start of the women’s Olympic luge race when he accidentally knelt on a switch that flooded the track with water at a critical moment. German bronze medalist Natalie Geisenberger was just about to start down the track when a warning light flashed, signaling a two-minute hold. Race officials said the wayward photographer had caused a hydrant to be accidentally activated and that the delay was put in place for the safety of the athlete.


8. Spell check needed

Mint director fired over coin typo

The details: Chile’s mint sent into circulation thousands of coins marked with “Chiie” instead of the correct spelling of the country, and the mint’s marketing director has been sacked over the error. The coins, worth 50 pesos each (around 10 U.S. cents), were produced and sent out in 2008, but the error was only noticed in late 2009. It comes as no surprise that collectors are snapping up the misprinted coins.


9. Euthanasia bombshell

BBC host confesses on TV to killing terminally ill lover, is arrested

The details: In the middle of narrating a BBC television program about end-of-life decisions, well-known British documentary maker Ray Gosling departed from the prepared script and declared emotionally, “I killed someone once.” He said the person was a partner from long ago, stricken with painful terminal AIDS. Gosling was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of murder and questioned at a police station. He has not yet been formally charged.


10. Kickin’ it

Raiders make Janikowski highest-paid kicker

The details: Sebastian Janikowski is famous for several off-field incidents during his career as a kicker at Florida State and with the Raiders. But there has always been one constant: He has a powerful and accurate left leg. “Seabass,” as he is known, was rewarded with a four-year $16 million contract. Considering the Raiders don’t get into scoring position very often, the money could have been -better–spent on someone who makes more of an impact.


Dim bulb of the week

Joe the Plumber

What: Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher has turned against Sen. John McCain and Sarah Palin, with whom he toured to support during their unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. Joe is now telling interviewers that McCain is “no public servant” and “really screwed my life up.”

Why: To Joe the Plumber, McCain “does represent the Republicans but not true conservatism.” Joe is all for the Tea Party now. And he is also withdrawing his support for Palin because she endorsed McCain for re-election in Arizona.


Sinking ship

The Census Bureau may be good at counting people, but it hasn’t been so good at counting pennies leading up to the 2010 head count. According to an audit, the census has wasted millions of dollars on training for temps who never did the work, and for travel expenses that were vastly overbilled. The problem, says a census spokesman, is that more recruits than expected showed up for paid training in address canvassing last year — then got laid off when that project finished ahead of schedule.

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