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Odds & Ends

The four contestants, from left, Noah Manly, defending champion Jason Pisarik, Stacy Gleason, and James Harding compete in the 2007 ESPN Zone Ultimate Couch Potato Contest on New Year's Day at the ESPN Zone in Chicago, Monday, Jan. 1, 2007.

Ultimate Couch Potato Contest - every guy's dream?
CHICAGO — Putting in grueling hours of couch-potato training just to win a TV sports-viewing marathon is inadvisable, according to Jason Pisarik, who should know.
    ‘‘My wife would kill me if I did,’’ the Lombard, Ill., accountant said Monday from a recliner chair in front of a 15-foot screen tuned to a college football bowl game.
    Pisarik was back at the ESPN Zone sports bar to defend his title in the fifth annual Ultimate Couch Potato Contest. He endured 30 consecutive hours of TV sports a year ago.
    The winner gets a prize package valued at almost $5,000, including a 42-inch high-definition television, gift certificates and a trophy featuring a live spud. Every competitor making it past the 12-hour mark receives a leather recliner.
    ‘‘I couldn’t think of anything better than to sit and watch a bunch of games and get served food and drink all day,’’ said Pisarik, wearing a Mike Ditka jersey.
    The going only gets tough, he said, when the restaurant closes for the night and the 13 TV screens in front of the four contestants show mostly ESPN SportsCenter over and over.
    Stacy Gleason, a mother of three and the only woman in the competition, struggled to banish thoughts of all the laundry, cleaning and other household chores she could be doing.
    ‘‘I don’t know how guys do it,’’ said a smiling Gleason, 39, a paralegal from Lowell, Ind. ‘‘I’m doing this for girls everywhere who don’t get to do this while their husbands morph into the furniture watching sports on TV.’’
    Contestants, selected on the basis of their 200-word essays, are allowed a five-minute break every hour and a 15-minute break every eight hours but must otherwise be looking constantly at the screen.
Brrrave bathers hit 48 degree waters
       NEW YORK — A few hundred people splashed into the cold Atlantic waters to start the new year Monday, though foul weather apparently kept the numbers of brave bathers down.
    About 200 people joined 90 members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club to take the annual plunge into the 48-degree waters, club spokesman Louie Scarcella said.
    The annual event raised $25,000 for Camp Sunshine, a retreat providing relief to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.
    The club had hoped to raise more than $50,000, although its take was well in excess of the $6,000 or so raised last year, Scarcella noted.
    The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter bathing organization in the United States, according to its Web site. Its members swim in the Atlantic at Coney Island every Sunday from October through April.
    About 500 people participated in last year’s New Year’s Day swim, which benefited a different charity, and Scarcella blamed bad weather for the poorer turnout this year.
    ‘‘It’s psychological, I think,’’ he said. ‘‘Some people don’t like the rain.’’
Students are trying to collect 13 million pennies
   AKRON, Ohio — Students in a Hebrew class are hoping to collect 13 million pennies — one for each person killed in the Holocaust.
    Laura Hood, who teaches the class at Temple Israel, said the project will help students grasp the scope of the tragedy. The 14 students have collected 65,000 pennies so far and are seeking donations from residents citywide.
    ‘‘I want anyone who donates to hold a handful of pennies and imagine that they are holding the terrified hands of the humans who were marched into the gas chambers,’’ Hood said.
    Money raised in the effort will be donated to Temple Israel, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, and Yad Vashem, a memorial in Jerusalem.
    Temple Israel student Kyle Gersman, 11, said it’s important for his generation to learn about the Holocaust.
    ‘‘It was a bad time. A lot of people died for no reason,’’ he said. ‘‘We need to know about what happened so we can prevent something like that from happening again.’’
    The project was inspired by Whitwell Middle School in east Tennessee, which set out in 1998 to collect 6 million paper clips — representing each Jew who died in the Holocaust — and received several times that number.
    The Tennessee students decided to collect paper clips because they discovered that paper clips were invented by Norwegians and that Norwegians wore them on their lapels as a silent protest against Nazi occupation during the war.

Burglars hit local City Hall and Police Department  

    HUNTINGTON, Ark. — The burglars made off with a protective vest and a radio charger. The victims: the Huntington Police Department and City Hall.
    The theft was reported to Mayor Craig Cotner, who also serves as acting police chief in the town of 688 people.
    Cotner said an officer first noticed the break-in at the police department. When Cotner looked around the police office, he noticed that City Hall had also been burglarized.
    A couple of file drawers were dumped and files were scattered, Cotner said. The evidence room was broken into as well. But the only items that Cotter said were missing were the vest and the charger, valued in total at $1,500.
    ‘‘It looked like they got in every office up here,’’ Cotner said. ‘‘They pried every door in the house, I guess. They couldn’t get into the recorder treasurer’s office. We got everything in a safe and everything else is not worth anything.’’
    Two computers, a new phone system and a police radio were left untouched, he said.
    Cotner said Thursday that new locks will be installed and he joked that he would keep a dog in the offices overnight.
    Sebastian County sheriff’s deputies are assisting in the investigation.
    The break-in occurred when City Hall was closed for the holidays.
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