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Odds & Ends 1/12
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Man shoots friend during argument over James Brown's height
ATMORE, Ala. — A man shot a friend when the two got into an argument over James Brown’s height, police said.
    Dan Gulley Jr. was charged with assault in the shooting of David James Brooks Jr., police said.
    Officers said the men were at a friend’s home on Monday when, according to witnesses, the argument over the height of ‘‘The Godfather of Soul’’ escalated, with Gulley shooting Brooks twice in the abdomen. Brooks went to his car, got a gun and shot at Gulley but missed, then went to the police station, officers said.
    Gulley, 70, also went to the station and told police he had shot Brooks. He remained in the Escambia County Jail on Wednesday.
    Police said Brooks, 62, was taken to a hospital. Information on his condition was not available.
    The Press-Register of Mobile said officers did not believe alcohol was a factor in the argument.
    Brown, who was known to wear lifts, died of heart failure Dec. 25 at age 73. Accounts of his height vary.

Robbed couple only wanted son's ashed returned

   NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Eve and Steven Greene made a simple plea to the burglar who broke into their house: Keep the valuables. Return the cremated remains of their 4-year-old son.
    ‘‘Just drop it off somewhere with a note on it,’’ Steven Greene said. ‘‘And that’ll be that.’’
    It worked.
    Someone left the urn containing the ashes of 4-year-old Zachary Greene at the end of the Greenes’ driveway Wednesday morning, two days after it was taken in a burglary.
    Police said a burglar broke into the home, snacked on Cheerios and tracked mud all over the house as he filled pillowcases with about $10,000 worth of valuables — and Zachary’s ashes.
    Zachary died of cancer in 2005. His parents kept the urn above their fireplace next to a Play Doh fire truck Zachary made before he died.

City tries to "de-stink" its ice rink  

    WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. — The city will soon find out if its campaign to keep the stink out of a rink is working.
    The Witter Field ice rink has a 2-year-old, $196,000 warming house — as well as a not-so-savory reputation for its late-season odor.
    Bill Mohr says visits to the rink often end back home at the washing machine to clean his daughters’ winter clothes of the stink after they fall on the ice.
    ‘‘You ask just about anybody who goes out there and they will tell you. ... It’s almost like a sewer,’’ Mohr said.
    Dan Morzewski, relief supervisor with the city’s Park and Recreation Department, said the problem isn’t believed to be the ice but the dead grass beneath it.
    In late January and February, sunshine heats the ground and causes an ooze of mud and grass that bubbles to the surface at soft spots in the ice, he said.
    ‘‘We end up with what we call boils — areas where it boils up kind of like a volcano,’’ Morzewski said. ‘‘It smells in my opinion like manure.’’
    Because of the mild winter this year, the city has only opened the rink two days, but a cold snap this week allowed for reflooding the rink to reopen it for the rest of the season, he said.
    If the weather cooperates, skaters should learn in coming weeks whether the city solved the problem this year by scraping away the grass before flooding the rink.
    Even if it works, there will be more questions for the city, Morzewski said — like whether it will be cost-effective to go through the scraping operation and then have to replant grass each spring.

Well that's a ratty situation 

    TUCSON, Ariz. — Residents of a neighborhood next to the University of Arizona say small white rats have been swimming through sewer pipes and into their toilets.
    Laura Hagen Fairbanks, spokeswoman for the county’s Wastewater Management Department, said she doesn’t know where the rodents come from, though they are the kind researchers use in labs.
    University representatives note that the same type of rats are sold in pet stores as food for snakes and other animals.
    George Humphrey, spokesman for the Arizona Health Sciences Center, said university researchers follow strict guidelines for their lab specimens. Lab rats are euthanized, then double-bagged in biowaste plastic bags before they are taken to Phoenix and cremated.
    ‘‘There would be no evidence that these are connected to us, and I wouldn’t want that to become an urban myth,’’ Humphrey said.
    Hagen Fairbanks said no one knows why the rats are found in only one small area of town or why they show their faces only once or twice a year.
    Making it from the sewer up the lines into someone’s toilet is a difficult trip, she said.
    A four-inch wide pipe called the house connection sewer runs from the house to a sewer main. There’s no ‘‘trap door’’ or other barrier in place, she said.
    If the lines are running, the rats have to hold their breath and swim uphill in the pipes against the water current.
    ‘‘If the rat makes it through your HCS, that’s a determined rat,’’ she said.
    When calls come in, the department can dispose of the rat if the homeowner hasn’t done so already. County workers then flush the sewer line as a precaution to keep any others from making their way up.
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