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Odds & Ends 11/08

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High school students appear to still need potty-training
SHALLOTTE, N.C. — Students who need to use the restroom at West Brunswick High School can’t go alone these days. They have to be escorted by school administrators.
    It’s been that way since early October, when hall passes were suspended after three trash cans were set on fire and fire alarms were pulled.
    ‘‘If you’re going to treat me like I was in kindergarten we should at least get recess and nap time,’’ said senior Kristen Hughes, 17. ‘‘I was degraded.’’
    The alarms forced all students and staff outside and they missed hours of teaching time. The culprits have been caught and punished.
    Some of the 1,400 students complain that they’re being treated like preschoolers, but principal Jim Jordan says he’s more concerned about their safety.
    ‘‘It’s sort of a life lesson were trying to teach kids,’’ Jordan said. ‘‘It takes all of us together to be a good school, not one individual.’’
    Kyla King, a 17-year-old senior, said some students are wearing T-shirts with prison-like numbers stamped on them, but she feels students should lead by example.
    ‘‘We kind of need to take the initiative to make sure this doesn’t happen again,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s not a good situation being escorted to the bathroom.’’

Newspaper makes campaigners pay
    PROCTOR, Minn. — If you’re thinking of sneaking in a letter to The Proctor Journal that endorses your favorite candidate, you’ll have to pay for it.
    Owner-publisher-editor Jake Benson is charging 5 cents a word for letters to the editor that back political candidates.
    ‘‘After years of having candidates drop by the office, news release in hand but no ads, I just got tired of spending space and time and not getting any sort of advertising and then getting barraged with last-minute letters to the editor supporting issues and candidates,’’ said Benson.
    The Journal, a 100-year-old weekly newspaper in northeastern Minnesota near Duluth, has a circulation of nearly 2,000.
    The twice-weekly Echo Press in Alexandria has had a similar policy for letters to the editor for more than 15 years. ‘‘It seemed to work’’ and does limit the numbers, said editor Al Edenloff, although ‘‘we still get tons of them.’’
    Media ethics expert Bob Steele, of the Poynter Institute, didn’t like the idea. ‘‘I believe the letters to the editor forum is a valuable one for the public to express thoughts and ideas and concerns,’’ he said.

Turning poop into power  
    SALT LAKE CITY — How many toilet flushes does it take to power a light bulb?
    Salt Lake City is exploring a pilot project that would convert sewer waste into energy to run a heating system in a downtown building, city water department official Jeff Niermeyer said.
    It sounds gross, but should be perfectly sanitary.
    The heat, Niermeyer explains, will come partly from solid waste, and mostly from warm water that runs in sewage pipes after draining out of toilets, showers and sinks.
    The sewage temperature — between 55 and 60 degrees — combined with a constant ground temperature of about 55 provides a viable ground source for a heat-pump system.
    Simply put, the system would transfer energy from one place to another.
    Attorney John Lear’s new offices will be the testing ground for the system. Lear, who specializes in gas and oil law, stumbled upon the idea last year while investigating alternatives to traditional heating and cooling systems.
    It’s a bit expensive — the system costs $20,000 more than traditional systems — but if it works well, Lear hopes it could be eventually used by the masses.

Police officer learns not to play with guns in the car 
    LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Guns and driving don’t mix — just ask a local police officer.
    Officer Sullivan McCurdy, 41, a 10-year veteran officer with the Radcliff Police Department, accidentally shot himself in the leg while driving on an Indiana highway, police said.
    McCurdy was driving south on Interstate 65 near Lafayette on Sunday trying to unload his gun when it discharged, Indiana State Police said.
    Beside him in the car was his wife, Robin.
    McCurdy was listed Monday in satisfactory condition at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Lafayette, said hospital spokesman Matthew Oates.
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