10 worst ideas of the week: Nov. 1, 2009

Schoolkids get a wrong number, an Emeryville lawmaker may be living in upscale digs, airline pilots miss their mark, and New Zealand critters are granted a reprieve.

1. Se habla español?

Hispanic hotel employees revolt against ex-Marine

Apparently the Marine way doesn’t always work. A former Marine who had been successful at turning around failing hotels ran into a battery of unfriendly fire when his tough-talking ways were meet with anger by the Hispanic workers at a Taos, N.M., establishment. Larry Whitten wanted the workers at a rundown, adobe-style hotel to Anglicize their names. For instance, the 63-year-old wanted Jose to be called Joe and Marcos to be called Mark when he was in their presence. Whitten said he asked for the changes because many of the employees were hostile toward his policies and he felt they were talking about him, and he couldn’t understand Spanish.

2. Naughty number

Porn chat line accidentally printed on elementary school T-shirts

The details: T-shirts recently printed for an Orange County elementary school’s jog-a-thon were accidentally printed with the phone number for an adult chat line. The T-shirts displayed the school mascot, a lion, running with a 1-800 number followed by words instead of numbers. Several parents decided to call the number and discovered that not only was it a real phone number, but it connected to a phone sex line. Despite the blunder, the jog-a-thon was successful and raised $25,000 for student activities.

3. Cuba libre, not gratis

Man arrested for selling fake vacations to Cuba

The details: A Southern California man was sentenced to five years in prison and fined $154,000 for selling fake travel packages to Cuba. Ralph Rendon, 33, advertised the trips in religious magazines and sold them to 41 people before telling the wannabe travelers that the trips had been canceled by the U.S. Treasury Department. Rather than refunding his customers’ cash, he spent it on a Mercedes, his rent and a divorce lawyer.

4. Living out of area?

Emeryville councilman may be living in The City

The details: Learn the name Ken Bukowski, because he will be the subject of water cooler talk for the near future. The Emeryville city councilman reportedly has an apartment in Nob Hill for which he is paying a reduced rate under rent-control regulations, something only allowable for people living in The City (but he lives in Emeryville, right?). His daughter allegedly spilled the beans on poor ol’ pops after he kicked her out for telling him he was taking too many drugs. To make matters worse, he is the subject of an Emeryville Police Department probe for allegedly receiving $100,000 in loans from local businesses, a violation of the law.

5. Swapping green

State makes $14 million in cuts to park budget

The details: While Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pulled back on plans to close a significant number of state parks to help fill the state’s budget shortfall, the $14 million in park service reductions and cuts will still hurt. Beginning today, all 279 parks will adopt some sort of cost-saving measure. Some parks will reduce their days of operation, close a portion of a campground or outlying day-use areas, close or consolidate park offices, reduce hours of operation, lower off-season lifeguard levels or close restrooms, among other measures.

6. Moral compass off-kilter

Twenty witnesses to gang rape failed to report it

The details: Richmond police say there may be nothing they can do to prosecute the more than 20 people who witnessed the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl outside a Richmond school dance without reporting it. California law requires the reporting of sexual assault of children under the age of 14, but not of victims beyond that age.

7. Punishing good credit

Banks ‘experiment’ by charging their best customers extra

The details: Bank of America and Citibank are spearheading a stealthy movement to start charging higher annual fees to customers who pay off their balances in full every month. Bank of America bumped its annual fee from $29 to $99 for some of its most reliable customers. The credit card companies call the new fees an experiment with a small number of customers. Analysts suggest the banks are trying to figure out what their customers will tolerate.

8. Laptop alibi

Pilots blame their laptop usage in airport overshoot

The details: The two Northwest Airlines pilots who kept flying 150 miles past their Minneapolis destination while ignoring increasingly worried radio messages for 78 minutes said they became distracted with their personal laptop computers while checking out the software that would take over administering their flying schedules after finalization of Northwest’s merger with Delta. The pilots’ explanation didn’t prevent the FAA from revoking their licenses, and firing by Northwest seems imminent.

9. Bunny bouncing banned

Rabbit-throwing contest canceled

The details: A children’s rabbit-throwing contest in a rural New Zealand community was canceled after concerns were raised. The game was part of an annual pig hunt in the North Canterbury town of Waiau. While parents hunted pigs, children would hunt rabbits — then they’d see how far they could toss the dead bunnies. When the Society for the Protection of Animals got wind of the event, they were rightly concerned and, fearing bad publicity, the townsfolk backed away from the bunnies. The pig hunt, however, was not canceled.

10. Pay for play

Obama treats donors to perks

The details: When running for president, Barack Obama touted himself as the candidate who would eliminate graft and other old-school tactics that the public has complained about for eons.Well, as we approach the first anniversary of Obama’s election, a report has surfaced saying 39 donors and fundraisers attended a St. Patrick’s Day reception at the White House, while celebrations at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for Cinco de Mayo and the Fourth of July were at least partially financed by the Democratic National Committee. Among other conflict-of-interest possibilities, the president also invited a fundraiser to play golf with him on Martha’s Vineyard during his August family vacation, the Washington Times reported.


Sinking ship

US Airways said it will cut about 1,000 jobs next year, suspend several international routes and shift nearly all flights to Washington, D.C., and its three hubs in Philadelphia, Phoenix and Charlotte, N.C. The airline lost $80 million in the third quarter, and it’s expected to lose money for the full year. US Airways lost $2.3 billion in 2008.


Dim bulb of the week: Caltrans officials

What: The Labor Day repair of the Bay Bridge failed Tuesday when pieces of the bridge fell into rush-hour traffic.

Why: Already reeling from the previous repair, which caused additional delays and uncertainty, Caltrans was left with more egg on its face this week when the pieces that had been put in place on Labor Day broke due to recent high-wind conditions.Officials alluded to a lack of thoroughness in the Labor Day fix due to a large amount of concurrent projects. However, not anticipating high-wind conditions on a bridge that is close to the gateway of the Pacific Ocean is inexcusable. The result snarled traffic and caused chaos among commuters for days.

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