Forty-Two Deaths a Day Keep

Designated Driver at the Wheel

Several nights a week, Henry Hilley receives a phone call from a drunken stranger. Sometimes it's 10 p.m. Sometimes it's 4 a.m. The calls, like the callers themselves, are hard to predict.

Yet, even if he is asleep, Hilley answers graciously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because this is his passion: He is a designated driver.

"Forty-two people died yesterday drunk driving, 42 people died today and 42 will die tomorrow," says the Lexington, S.C., man. "What I do solves the problem. I'm not mad; I'm just doing something about it."

A retired Waffle House manager and a caretaker for an auto sales lot, Hilley, 55, knows the need for a designated driver firsthand. In 1989, he lost his license after a drunken driving incident, he said.

Hilley asks his inebriated clientele for donations, which have ranged over the nine years of the effort from nothing to $157. Hilley drives the people home in their own cars and has an assistant drive him home from that point.

When he started, he hoped his organization, Designated Driver of America, would spread across the country and halve the number of drunk driving deaths. It hasn't happened.

"People have called me over the years, but then they don't see the money in it," he said ruefully. "And if that's their only motivation -- the heck with them. . . . I do it because it needs to be done."

-- Peter Whoriskey

City Will Print All the News

That Fits in $100,000 Contract

Elected officials under attack by their local newspapers for the three deadly sins -- corruption, incompetence and indifference -- take heed. Good news can be bought, at least in Newark.

The city's mayor, Sharpe James, and the city council awarded a $100,000 no-bid contract to a local community newspaper to publish "positive news" about the city and its elected leaders.

The Newark Weekly News will, for the next year, write stories fed by the city's public information office. Howard Scott, editor of the Newark Weekly News, pitched the deal to the city council.

"We have found oodles and oodles of positive news not identified by your paper of record, the Star Liar, I mean the Star-Ledger," said Scott, referring to the state's largest newspaper.

The city council agreed and approved the contract on the spot.

-- Michelle Garcia

Police Sting May Mean Curtains

For Some Hollywood Characters

Tourists shooting photos on Hollywood Boulevard usually soak up the cinematic aura of one of Los Angeles's most famous streets while ignoring its seedier elements, such as lingerie shops and drug busts. Recently, both sides of Hollywood were on view.

In front of Grauman's Chinese Theater, where tour buses unload families to view Marilyn Monroe's footprints, the Los Angeles Police Department conducted a sting. Their catch: Elmo, the grinning red Muppet from Sesame Street; Mr. Incredible; and the black-hooded character from the movie "Scream."

The three are among dozens of actors in costumes who spend their days mugging for photos and hoping for tips. Don Harper, who was arrested in the Elmo suit, told the Associated Press he can make $400 on a good day.

But "tips" to a hardworking man in a Sesame Street costume may be the fruits of a shakedown to the LAPD. Police say the characters intimidate and harass tourists.

The men were arrested and charged with "aggressive begging," a misdemeanor. Each posted $100 bond and was released.

-- Sonya Geis

Lawmaker Makes It Clear:

Students Must Wash Hands

Many kids grow up learning they cannot come to the dinner table until they've washed their hands.

But in the rush of a school day, not only is hand-washing not mandated, it often is not even possible.

A bill introduced this month by Illinois state Rep. Mary Flowers (D) would change that. Her legislation, to be voted on next session, would mandate that every student washes or otherwise sanitizes their hands before eating lunch at school.

"When you think about all the things your hands touch -- before you even enter a room you touch a doorknob that's been touched by hundreds of thousands of people before and who knows when it's been washed," said Flowers, who represents the southwest side of Chicago. "Students are playing volleyball, football and basketball between classes without washing their hands. They're touching money that came from who knows where, different states or countries."

If school officials aren't able to cycle all students through the restroom before lunch, Flowers suggests handing out sanitary wipes to students in line or placing antibacterial hand sanitizers in cafeterias.

"I don't care how they do it as long as it gets done," Flowers said. "I'm not asking everyone to wear a mask and white gloves; we just need to wash our hands more often."

-- Kari Lydersen