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A national briefing of people, issues and events around the country

Sunday, February 13, 2005; Page A02

Rhode Island Turns to Internet To Find Takers for Others' Trash

Think eBay, but with everything free. Rhode Island officials, running out of space in their landfills, set up the Web site www.freemarketri.org to encourage residents to give away what they would otherwise throw away.

And so there are old cars, clothes, Reader's Digests, even lumber -- online and free.

It has been around only a few months but has helped with the exchange of 1,700 pounds of someone's junk becoming someone else's treasure.

That's a small dent in a state that tosses 1.2 million tons of trash annually, but environmental groups are optimistic.

Sarah Kite, an organizer for the Sierra Club's Rhode Island chapter, says the Internet has become a powerful tool in the recycling campaign. The only hitch now, she says, is getting people to drive miles and miles to pick up the free stuff.

"Rhode Islanders have a different sense of distance," she said. "Driving 15 minutes is a stretch for some folks. We're more of a very village type."

-- Michelle Garcia

Miami Suburb Sells Old Guns To Shop Favored by Criminals

A place called Lou's Gun Shop and Police Supply in the suburban Miami town of Hialeah has a certain status among Florida gun dealers. According to the Americans for Gun Safety Foundation, Lou's sells more weapons that can be traced to crimes than any other gun dealer in the state.

So, where do you think the police chief in Sweetwater, another suburban Miami town, decided to unload his officers' old guns and a bunch of confiscated weapons?

That's right.

None other than Lou's.

Not surprisingly, some gun-control advocates are worried that the same guns the Sweetwater Police Department is passing along to Lou's will end up in the hands of the criminals that the Sweetwater police are trying to catch.

The heat of public criticism aggravated chief Robert Fulgueira at first. But now he says "I sleep real well at night," because his deal to trade in old police Glocks and confiscated weapons for new Glocks is saving the city thousands of dollars. Indeed, Fulgueira is feeling so good about his business acumen that he is scoffing at the police departments that melt down old weapons and dispose of them rather than doing a little wheeling and dealing with them.

"It costs to destroy, so it isn't free," he said. "Then they dump them in the ocean, and I think that is a bigger crime."

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia

Teenage Girls' Good Deed Punished With $900 Judgment

When two schoolgirls in rural Colorado decided to bake cookies for their neighbors, they got thanks and praise for this simple act of kindness. But they also got a lawsuit and ended up paying $900 in damages.

Lindsey Zilletti and Taylor Ostergaard, both 18, said they passed up a dance for teens in Durango, Colo., last July and decided to spend the evening instead delivering chocolate chip and sugar cookies to neighbors. At nine homes, they knocked on the door and left a plate of cookies on the porch.

One neighbor, Wanita Renea Young, was so upset by the visit at 10:30 p.m. that she went to the hospital the next day. She sued, and La Plata County Judge Doug Walker ordered the teenagers to pay her medical expenses.

Despite that sour verdict, the two young bakers are now rolling in dough. So many contributions have poured in to Durango's "Cookie Defense Fund" that the pair are asking backers to send money to hospitals instead.

-- T.R. Reid

Slow-Saluting Police Recruits Get Extra Training in Detroit

After a class of 26 Detroit police recruits failed to come to attention when Chief Ella Bully-Cummings walked into the room and were slow to salute her, they were ordered to do an extra week of training.

The officers union grumbled about fighting crime being more important than saluting.

But department spokesman James Tate said the failure to come to attention signified larger problems that needed to be corrected, including other issues that "weren't adhered to internally" during their training, which he declined to disclose.

"Within a paramilitary organization, if the chief of police or other dignitaries are in the presence of officers, the protocol is that they are to call to attention," Tate said. "If they don't learn to respect [their superiors], how will they learn to respect civilians?"

-- Kari Lydersen

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