10 worst ideas of the week: Nov. 29, 2009

Drivers admit to texting behind the wheel, more trouble for Detroit, quarterback gets hit off the field, cell phone bills could force layoffs and White House security has a hole

1. Dangerous driving

Half of drivers 18-34 admit texting on the road

The details: More than half of drivers between the ages of 18 and 34 admit to sending and receiving text messages while behind the wheel, according to a recent survey by FindLaw.com. One in 10 people in that demographic admit to sending or receiving e-mails or surfing the Internet while driving. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 6,000 people were killed and a half-million injured last year in vehicle crashes connected to driver distraction.

2. Weighty issues

University requires fitness class for overweight students

The details: Some students at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania are now confronted with another challenge before they're allowed to graduate. Since 2006, only students with a body mass index of 30 or higher are required to take a class called “Fitness for Life” on physical fitness, nutrition and health in order to get their diploma. Now 24 students can't graduate because they didn't enroll in the class, the first time the repercussions of the class are hitting the campus. Students are baffled as to what their weight has to do with their academic success and wonder why the class isn't required of all students.

3. Bad news dad

Father leaves son outside while he drinks in strip club

The details: A 39-year-old man was arrested Tuesday on child neglect and public intoxication charges after leaving his son in his truck while he was drinking in a strip club. While in an Indianapolis club the man got too inebriated to remember where he parked his truck and called police to report it stolen. The responding officers found the boy inside the vehicle watching cartoons. According to police the suspect put his son in danger because he left him in a high crime area.

4. Abandoned corpses

Detroit doesn’t have enough funds to bury its dead

The details: The number of unclaimed bodies in Detroit’s central mortuary has reached a record high. As many as 70 body bags lie on steel racks inside a giant freezer, some for years. This past June the $21,000 annual county budget to bury unclaimed bodies ran out. Until then, if a family confirmed they could not afford a funeral, the county spent $700 to bury the body in a rough pine casket under a marker.

5. Tarmac torture

Feds start fining airlines for stranding passengers on runways

The details: The U.S. Transportation Department levied a precedent-setting $175,000 in fines against three airlines for locking 47 passengers on a cramped plane for six hours. Thunderstorms had diverted a Continental regional flight — operated by ExpressJet — to Rochester, Minn. It landed after midnight when the airport was closed. Mesaba Airlines employees — the only personnel there at the time — refused to open the terminal despite the pilot’s repeated pleading.

6. Not-so-lucky

Notre Dame star quarterback ‘sucker-punched’

The details: Think the Notre Dame football team is having a bad season? Fighting Irish star quarterback Jimmy Clausen, coming off another standout performance despite his team’s double-overtime loss to Connecticut, was “sucker-punched” by an irate fan outside of a bar. To top things off, Clausen’s parents sold their house near campus, leading to further speculation that the potential first-round NFL draft pick will bolt to the pros after this year.

7. That’s depressing

Woman loses health benefits due to online photo

The details: A woman in Bromont, Quebec, who was on long-term disability leave for depression lost her benefits because her insurance agent found a photo on Facebook of the woman having fun. Among the smiling photos Nathalie Blanchard posted were of her at a Chippendales bar show and at a birthday party. Blanchard stopped receiving her monthly checks and called to find out what was happening. The woman said the agent told her that there was evidence she was no longer depressed. She claims a doctor prescribed participating in fun activities as a way to break out of her depression.

8. Ringing up the charges

City is struggling to curb cell phone bills amid dire budget situation.

The details: San Francisco workers are racking up the bills for their city-issued cell phones, including up to $700 in charges for a single month. The costs for the phones in fiscal year 2007-08 has nearly doubled since Mayor Gavin Newsom took office in 2004. Despite cutting back to $2.8 million for fiscal year 2008-09, The City is shelling out for roaming charges and 411 information calls while it is facing a $522 million budget shortfall and may have to lay off employees.


9. Lax security

Couple manages to sneak into White House dinner

The details: A Virginia couple, Michaele and Tareq Salahi, who are aspiring to be a reality TV show couple, slipped into a White House dinner. Several layers of high-level security appear to have been avoided by the duo, who managed to get up close to Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. The Secret Service is investigating, but it appears staffers at a checkpoint for the event did not follow proper procedure. The couple is possibly facing charges.

10. Running late

Woman accused of making bomb threat on boss’s plane

<p>The details: A South Florida woman is accused of making two bomb threats in an apparent attempt to delay her boss’s American Airlines flight to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The woman was reportedly running late for work on Tuesday, which might have in turn made her boss late for his flight. An e-mail threat was reportedly traced back to where the woman was staying, and she allegedly phoned in a threat as well.

Dim bulb of the week: ‘The Biggest Loser’

What: First “Biggest Loser” winner Ryan Benson lost 122 of his 330-pound starting weight but is now above 300 pounds again. He said he thinks he was omitted from the upcoming reunion show because he publicly admitted dropping some weight by fasting and dehydrating so severely he was urinating blood. The producers warn contestants they signed contracts, subjecting them to a fine of $100,000 to $1 million for talking to reporters without permission.

Why: The show has lead to criticism from weight-loss experts and doctors for what they say is unsafe drops in weight that are spurred on by the cash incentive for winning. Critics point to two contestants in the current season who collapsed from heat stroke as an example.


Sinking ship

A high-ranking official in the scouting department for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings was fired in January after the team was informed his was betting on games involving the franchise. Jack Mai has been banned by the league from holding any position in the NBA. The move came about 18 months after referee Tim Donaghy admitted taking money from a professional gambler in exchange for inside information about other game officials, including those in his own crew.

If You’re in the Stands, Keep Your Eye on the Ball

California Supreme Court has ruled fans assume the risk of being struck by balls, bats

Caltrain seeks $260 million to complete electrification

State budget surplus eyed to finish transformative rail project

Future of the Castro Theatre? Depends where you sit

Historical preservation and cinephile experience up against live-event upgrades