Legislature Aims to Fight Truancy Threat to With Driver's Licenses
In North Dakota, where the roads go on forever and teenage driving is an act of liberation and necessity, a Senate bill threatens to link school attendance and driving privileges.
In short, kids entitled to drive at age 14 would be told to show up for class or lose their licenses.
The idea is to keep students in school at least until they are 16, when the school system no longer has a legal hold on them. The measure also would help schools avoid truancy penalties under Bush administration laws.
"Now with No Child Left Behind, schools are held accountable for attendance when we really have almost no control over it," said Bev Nielson, an aide with the state association of school boards. "Not only will it get the kids' attention, but if the kids lose their license, look who's going to be driving them around -- the parents."
Truancy laws are little enforced, Nielson said, partly because the crime is a felony with potentially serious penalties. The bill in the Senate Transportation Committee would reduce the offense to a misdemeanor on the theory that this might encourage police to file charges.
-- Peter Slevin
State Rule Change Could Cut Spending by Voyagers
No more free cruise-ship rides through Maine for immigration officials. U.S. Customs and Border Protection will no longer station agents aboard luxury liners to process passengers, saying they must concentrate their attention on securing borders and guarding against terrorists.
But the new policy has antiques dealers, lobster bakers and tour guides shaking their heads. Passengers on voyages through Canada will now have to undergo the Welcome to the USA processing at port. That's 3,000 people waiting in line.
Maine officials predict that expected long lines will discourage passengers from going ashore and spending money. Cruise-ship tourism generates $31 million annually for Maine's coastal economy.
"The impact is so negative that the ships will simply bypass Maine," said Capt. Benjamin Snow, manager of state's marine operations, adding that 98 percent of the passengers are U.S. citizens.
-- Michelle Garcia
Candor Gives Walking Papers To Potential Jurors in Memphis
Memphis might be building a case as the wacky jury capital of America.
The courthouse crowd has been buzzing about the sterling cast of characters who showed up to perform their civic duty a few days back. One citizen stood up during jury selection for an assault case, announced, "Judge, I'm on morphine, I'm high as a kite," and tromped out. Another reminisced about getting busted for trying to pick up an undercover police officer posing as a hooker.
"I should have known better," the man said. "This woman had all her teeth."
The man's recollection obviously struck a soft spot in the heart of the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney General Amy Weirich.
Defense attorney Leslie Ballin dubbed the group the "jury pool from hell."
But in the annals of Memphis jury tales, Ballin's troupe has competition. In 2003, a panel called a sheriff's deputy into the jury room, gave her some money and sent her on a beer run.
-- Manuel Roig-Franzia
South American Squid Land On Beaches and Make a Big Ink
Hundreds of giant squid typically found in South American waters washed up on Southern California beaches last week, posing these puzzles for marine biologists and beachcombers:
What were they doing this far north?
Why they did they get stranded on shore?
And how do you clean up the mess?
The bug-eyed, tentacled beasts created a spectacle when they began showing up Monday. By mid-week, an estimated 1,500 squid -- 3- to 5-feet long and weighing as much as 20 pounds -- had beached themselves along a stretch of coastal Orange County, just south of Los Angeles.
Scientists theorized that the creatures followed an unusually warm current toward California, washed up on a high tide and become stranded when it receded.
Meanwhile, some beach maintenance crews struggled with the corpses, which squirt a nasty black ink.
But by the end of the week, the problem was pretty much taking care of itself, said Ken Kramer, superintendent of seaside Crystal Cove State Park. Seagulls were picking away at the remains, and some beachgoers were hauling them away.
"I don't know if they're taking them as a curiosity, or if they're going to eat them," he said. "We don't recommend that."
-- Amy Argetsinger
Mothers at Play Twist Gag Into Gig
Remember that catchy Go-Go's tune "We Got the Beat"?
Here's a new take: "See the mothers driving down the street, see their makeup melting in the heat, straight from work, the pantyhose are tight, it's takeout tonight. . . .
"We're really beat. We're really beat. . . . "
It's the work of Frump, five moms who make up a Dallas garage band.
Suzie Riddle, an '80s punk-rocker-turned-librarian and mother of three, founded the band in 2001 as a gag for her 40th birthday party. She chose the name "Frump" because "I was feeling frumpy. I had kids. I wore sensible clothes to work. I embraced the label we had."
Frump also plays other retro-pop parodies and originals, such as "Pick Up Your Socks." Its gigs are mostly PTA meetings, library events, church events and some clubs, if they don't have to go past midnight.
The band plans to go to the mecca for mom-bands in New York this spring -- Mamapalooza.
-- Caroline Keating