'Odor Alert Network' Sniffs Out

The Biggest Stinkers in Town

The chemical plants, refineries and storage yards around Lemont, Ill., emit some foul smells. And, in the village 20 miles southwest of Chicago, complaints about the odors increase with the rising temperature.

For years, residents have been complaining, but now the town, with the help of some of the plants, has come up with a sniffer system to detect odors and track them to their source.

Called the Odor Alert Network, it uses weather equipment to analyze wind speed and direction to find the biggest stinkers. Once identified, the culprit has 24 hours to 'fess up and work out a solution or be reported to environmental regulators.

The system has the support of at least 10 companies, including gas, petroleum and carbon companies. One of them, Unocal, which owns Chicago Carbon Co., provided $10,000 for two new weather stations.

Gary Holmes, Lemont's village administrator, said the primary goal is to make the community less smelly but that there are residual benefits.

"The weather stations are located at high schools and middle schools, so the schools can incorporate them into their curriculum, talk about the weather, learn about the weather," he said.

-- Robert E. Pierre

NYC School Officials Need to Learn Their ABCs (and EFGs)

It seems it's the adults, not the students, who can't nail down the standardized test administered by New York City schools.

The most recent test given to many elementary school students labeled possible answers "e," "f," "g" or "h." But the sheet where students filled in their answers had options labeled "a," "b," "c" or "d."

It was the second time the test was administered this year. The first time, school officials scrapped the results after it was discovered that some teachers had used a previous year's test for practice, giving some students a preview of some of the questions.

"We will look closely at the reasons for the error," schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said in a statement. "And we will continue to focus on giving our early grade students every possible educational support to ensure that they succeed and advance."

Or, maybe they could just put "none of the above" on all the tests.

-- Michelle Garcia

Gang Activity Is Spreading

To More Modern Venues

This spring, a gang brawl erupted in a middle-class neighborhood of Garland, Tex., a quiet place where such a thing had never happened before. Soon after, investigators tracked down the participants in a place they had never looked before: cyberspace.

On Wednesday, police in the Dallas suburb arrested 33 members of two rival gangs after a grand jury indicted them on charges of rioting. Police identified them through an Internet chat room where the gangs had swapped vulgar insults before setting a time and place for a face-off.

About 60 gang members clashed March 3, exchanging blows with bats and clubs, said Joe Harn, a spokesman for Garland police. Several were injured, including one whose arm was broken. Neighbors called 911, but the ruffians were long gone by the time police arrived.

The department's gang unit investigated and soon turned up a videotape of the fight, from which they identified some of the brawlers. But the big break came when they discovered a chat room where gang members -- some using their real names -- had "talked about how they were going to whip each other," Harn said.

Last week, a grand jury indicted 34 people, most of them high school students. Police arrested all but one gang member, who may have fled to Mexico, Harn said.

He said finding gang activity online was a first for investigators -- but not a surprise.

"Today's kids are being raised on computers," he said. "This was no 'West Side Story.' "

-- Karin Brulliard

In Denver's Court System, Every

Dog Has Its Day -- Even Pit Bulls

All dogs are created equal, but some are less equal.

That Orwellian concept is the heart of a lawsuit filed last week in Denver District Court. The city asked a judge to uphold an ordinance banning ownership of pit bulls within the city limits.

Like many cities, Denver has banned pit bulls for years. But in April, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens (R) signed legislation prohibiting cities from banning any specific breed of dog. The state law took effect immediately, and thus spared the lives of 22 pit bulls who faced canine capital punishment in the Denver pound because their owners had kept them in the city.

Backers of the new law say dogs should be judged by their conduct, not their breed. But Denver says it's safer to ban the breed entirely because of a history of pit bull attacks.

David Broadwell of the city attorney's office said Denver is arguing in court that the state government doesn't have the power to void the city ordinance. "The real issue here is not the dogs, but the state constitution," he said. "The new state law violates our home rule powers to govern ourselves."

-- T. R. Reid