Iowa Professor Seeks Funding

For Midwestern 'Body Farm'

If University of Northern Iowa professor Tyler G. O'Brien has his way, there will be an unusual harvest from a new "farm" in Iowa. O'Brien, a physical anthropologist, wants to establish a "body farm" similar to a renowned forensic anthropology operation at the University of Tennessee to study the decomposition of bodies in Midwestern climate and conditions.

"We have different types of insects, much wider temperature variations, different ecology, for example cornfields," said O'Brien, who has applied to the National Institute of Justice and other organizations for funding. "In a cornfield, there's not much air circulating because of these seven- to eight-foot-tall plants, so certain insects are not attracted to the body because they can't smell it, while others may be attracted to it because they frequent cornfields."

The farm, to be located near the Cedar Falls campus, would be used for forensic research and training, as well as training in archaeological excavation techniques. It could be used for preparing "cadaver dogs" that search for trapped or missing bodies.

At the Tennessee center, where O'Brien studied, scientists study bodies buried in shallow graves, dumped in ponds and exposed to steamy weather. The center was featured in Patricia Cornwell's bestseller "The Body Farm." O'Brien said there are no other "body farms" of that scale in the country.

-- Kari Lydersen

Do-Not-Knock List Proposed

For Door-to-Door Salespeople

The Borough of Franklin Lakes could have been the undoing of Willy Loman.

Driven to distraction by salespeople pounding on doors, this exclusive enclave in northern New Jersey has proposed a registry for door-to-door sales. Under the proposed rules, salespeople -- who already have to apply for soliciting permits -- would be fingerprinted and photographed, and their names would be run through a national criminal database.

If the borough council approves the new law, officials will give "registered" salespeople a list of homeowners who do not want to hear their knocks on the door. Violators could be fined $1,250 and barred from soliciting in the borough for one year.

Franklin Lakes is one of the most gilt-laden corners of the state, with 30 percent of its residents reporting annual incomes of more than $200,000. Council members, who are expected to approve the proposal, say that salespeople flock to the place like flies to discarded steak.

One woman told the Bergen Record of a cleaning-fluid saleswoman who talked and talked. "She was here for, I'd say, probably a half-hour," the woman said. "I just didn't want to buy."

-- Michael Powell

Marriage of Appraiser and

Tax Assessor Put on Hold

Taxes put their marriage on ice, or so they say in the Hill Country.

Not far from San Antonio, the Kerr County, Tex., tax assessor and a district appraiser took a liking to each other, and soon there was talk of marriage.

But the state's nepotism law got in the way. Paula Rector, the elected Kerr County tax assessor-collector, is a nonvoting member of the appraisal board of directors.

The problem became too big for local pols, so they asked state Attorney General Greg Abbott for guidance.

Word came back from Austin in a seven-page opinion: Rector was not to leave her elected post; the bride-to-be has no authority under Texas law to delegate her job to another person. Her mate would have to leave his job.

Rector, who will not release the man's name, plans to marry in three years when her term expires. Rector told the Houston Chronicle that her job "doesn't affect his appraisals, and I don't get a percentage of what I collect."

-- Michelle Garcia

There Are 10,000 Time Capsules

And Most of Them Are Misplaced

Years ago, a time capsule was buried at Wellington Elementary School in suburban Palm Beach County, Fla. And now, with a 25th anniversary celebration in the works, it's time to dig it up.

It's got to be around there somewhere. School officials have poked the ground. They've scanned with a metal detector.

"I don't know where that rascal is," said Buz Spooner, the former principal who has a distinct recollection of burying it.

As it turns out, there are a lot of missing time capsules out there.

The International Time Capsule Society estimates that there are more than 10,000 time capsules worldwide, and that most of them have been lost.

"America is time-capsule-crazy," said Paul Hudson, a historian at Georgia Perimeter College and co-founder of the society. Trouble is, "they forget about them almost the day after they seal them."

Meanwhile, at Wellington Elementary, the search goes on.

"I remember doing it -- I just don't remember where I was," said Spooner, who notes that he is usually more organized. "My gut is that it's buried beneath the slab where the flagpole is."

-- Peter Whoriskey

Tyler G. O'Brien wants an operation in Iowa similar to Tennessee's forensic center.