First, They Ban Tobacco Leaf;

Now They Are Targeting Gras

Standing up for fatted fowl, Alderman Joe Moore aims to eradicate foie gras from the restaurants of Chicago.

The politician, who says he is not sure he has ever tasted the pricey gastronomic delicacy, said he is often asked why he is pushing a law to make foie gras the culinary equivalent of a controlled substance.

The fact is, he feels bad for the geese and ducks that are often force-fed until their livers become bloated -- aficionados would say deliciously so. "The answer is very simple," Moore told the city health committee the other day. "Our culture does not condone the torture of innocent and defenseless creatures."

Animal rights groups routinely protest the way many foie gras-producing birds are fattened, and they support the Chicago measure, but Moore took his cue from Chicago chef Charlie Trotter, who quietly stopped serving the food several years ago and earlier this year called rival Rick Tramonto, chief chef at Tru restaurant, an "idiot" for serving the stuff.

"If I have to use some sarcasm or . . . do whatever," Trotter said, "I'll do what I have to do."

-- Peter Slevin

Competitor for a Free Truck

Walks Away and Shoots Self

An East Texas annual endurance contest came to an abrupt and violent end last week after one of the contestants committed suicide.

The Hands on a Hardbody contest drew national attention in 1998, when a documentary film chronicled the event. Each year, two dozen contestants selected at random by a Longview, Tex., car dealership vie for a new pickup truck. Each places one hand on the side of the gleaming vehicle. And there they stay. The last one left standing drives away.

Contestants get a five-minute break every hour and a 15-minute break every six hours. They are not allowed to sit or lean. They drop out as the hours stretch to days. Last year's winner stood with her hand on a Nissan pickup for almost 117 hours.

This year, Richard Vega, 24, shocked observers 48 hours into the competition. Witnesses said Vega politely excused himself during the 6 a.m. break, crossed the street to a Kmart, and put a trashcan through a window. He walked into the store, grabbed a shotgun, and shot himself to death. "It was the most surreal thing I've ever seen in my life," Dru Laborde told Cox News Service.

Contest officials immediately halted the competition permanently.

-- Sonya Geis

Going Where No Police Have

Ever Gone Before: the Pod

So for that subway-riding, iPod-listening New Yorker there's Coldplay, Sun Volt, 50 Cent, maybe a book or two and . . .

The New York Police Department going on about snow days.

As all sorts of less-than-groovy entities and people stick toes into the Web ether, the NYPD is intent on not getting left behind. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly apparently listens to all manner of music, audiobooks and language lessons on his iPod, and he came up with the idea for his department to become the first law enforcement agency to podcast.

The NYPD offerings are unlikely to strike competitive fear into the heart of Kanye West. The first podcast, narrated by a retired police inspector, features street closing information and an interview about identity theft. An MP3 version, Newsday reports, is also available.

There's no word yet if Kelly intends to try rapping crime statistics.

-- Michael Powell

For One Left-Coast Beach

Town, a Little Deuce Coup

With hundreds of miles of beaches, you would think there was enough surf in California to keep everyone happy. But two local governments are engaged in a trademark battle over which city deserves the lofty or, at least, foamy moniker "Surf City, USA."

Late last year, Huntington Beach in Southern California moved to trademark the name "Surf City, USA" after the 1963 Jan and Dean hit. Up north, Santa Cruz filed an objection. The state legislature weighed in when a Democratic senator used his party's formidable muscle in Sacramento to push a resolution to designate Santa Cruz "Surf City, USA." The resolution was approved by a committee despite objections from a Huntington Beach Republican.

Dean Torrence, who wrote and originally sang the song "Surf City," said he is backing his home town: Huntington Beach.

"I'm really loaning the song and song title to Huntington Beach," he told the Associated Press. "I'm not loaning it to Santa Cruz. Sure, Santa Cruz is cool, but it's not Surf City, USA. I've been there, I went to the beach, and I didn't see anyone surfing."

-- John Pomfret