Wednesday, February 27, 2013

High Line fallout continues: Director stepping down after reintroducing freight trains to elevated park

Manhattan--The decision to reintroduce freight trains to the hugely popular High Line park on the island's West Side was not without controversy. The move was expected to raise millions of dollars for expansion and maintenance of the one-mile-long elevated greenway, but many predicted catastrophe even before the first train rumbled through the impressive public space.

Yesterday, exactly one year after CSX trains began moving freight on the line--the first freight activity since 1980--the park's Friends of the High Line board of directors declared the experiment "an overwhelming bust." The park's co-founder and director of Friends of the High Line, Kevin Venegar, who single-handedly made the call to bring trains back in 2012, also announced he is stepping down in the wake of "Freight Gate."

"It was a bad call on my part," said a choked-up Venegar, to a throng of reporters gathered at the southern terminus of the park near Gansevoort Street. "It was quite an eventful experiment, one that went horribly, horribly wrong. I sincerely apologize. I want to thank the board for providing me with countless opportunities to successfully mesh a populated park with an active rail line. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. I hope I will be remembered for helping bring New York a great space to walk, contemplate, and take in the city from a very unique vantage point. And, hopefully not remembered for all the other stuff."

The "other stuff" included six derailments, one of which spilled thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals into the Gallery District last April, where 48 people were hospitalized and six never made it home. In May, a German tourist, asked to take a photo for a passing starry-eyed couple, was crushed to death by an extremely slow-moving train near West 20th St. The two love birds were so lost in each other they failed to warn the focused photographer.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Home Depot claims slow winter sales forced early launch of new Lou Diamond Phillips head screwdriver

Atlanta, GA--Dragging winter sales has forced Home Depot to launch the Lou Diamond Phillips head screwdriver earlier than expected. The product was set to debut just when stores were welcoming back many customers tackling DIY projects in late spring and early summer. "The Lou Diamond Phillips head screwdriver was supposed to be launched in late April or early May during the spring cleaning, spring project period when sales usually spike," said Blake Shuttersmith, director of marketing for the home improvement retail giant. "However, Home Depot will now use the screwdriver to increase sluggish cold-weather profits." Lou Diamond Phillips would not comment directly but his agent expressed concern. "This was not part of the agreement," said an upset Bain Cartwright, Diamond's longtime agent. "Yes, Lou's screwdriver will bring in customers, but we also see a percentage of sales from the tool. We believe that sales will be much higher with a spring and summer debut." The actor signed a five-year contract with the big-box retailer, but the Diamond camp believes the chain is attempting to back out of the deal. "Home Depot has the right to discontinue the Lou Diamond Phillips head screwdriver and negate the contract if sales are below a certain amount," explained Cartwright. "We believe they had a change of heart and are sabotaging the tool with a winter release. This is not right." 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Texas finally cracking down on guns: New legislation would prevent gun vending machines from accepting credit cards

Austin, TX--Protesters rallying outside the Texas State Capitol last week were outraged over a proposed bill that would prevent makers of gun vending machines from installing credit card payment technology in the state's existing fleet of nearly 65,000 gun machines. The Six Flag government says passing this bill would be a "huge" step in the right direction, Lone Star residents, however, disagree. "I never thought I would see Texas take such a strong stand against guns," said Arthur Thomas (R), 56, a state lawmaker representing the Texas panhandle area, about banning the convenient payment method. "If Texas can pass this law, and I think they will, it would show the rest of the country what gun control is all about. This would be a major victory." Attached to the bill--and a significant sticking point for the many Texans opposed--is the requirement for users of the vending machines to wear bulletproof vests when making purchases. Why? Well, for many years, a serious problem with the machines has been when customers choose a gun model from one of the upper shelves. The long drop to the bottom often causes the loaded firearm to accidentally discharge upon impact. Incredibly, in 2012 alone, these incidental firings injured 3,485 and killed 47 people. Why not just sell the weapons unloaded? "No way," said Thomas. "Listen, I am for gun control, but selling unloaded firearms is just stupid, it makes no sense. It's a Texan's right. Next, you'll tell me we should ban guns altogether."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Amtrak reports snow-clearing train slowly (very slowly) making way through Connecticut, passengers getting free coffee

Milford, CT--The 2013 blizzard--Nemo, to the good folks at the Weather Channel--is gone, but the dig-out for much of New England continues. Part of the digging out process includes clearing the Amtrak and Metro-North passenger rail lines in the southern part of the state. Amtrak is very close to restoring service between New York and Boston thanks to the AmTrachea, a massive, three-engine powered train snow blower. "The AmTrachea is the pride and joy of our East Coast snow-clearing fleet," said Don Hammersmith, Amtrak's severe weather coordinator. "The only drawback is that she's old and, well, a bit slow." Actually, the huge train snow blower makes an injured snail look fast. The train left the rail yards in Queens and headed north on Saturday early afternoon. Saturday! The plow has yet to make it to New Haven, which is just 75 miles away. Amtrak attached several passenger cars onto the rear of the blower to subsidize its high cost of operation. "We didn't really properly inform the passengers about the extreme time length of the journey," said Hammersmith. "So, we reduced the prices on certain snacks and gave free coffee in the cafe car."

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Town says blizzard of '78 taught very valuable lesson about dumping snow into river, but can't remember what it was

The town remembers dumping the snow, but cannot recall the "invaluable" lesson learned from disposing the crippling amounts of powder from the 1978 blizzard into the local waterway. "It really was a great little lesson, but we can't quite remember what it was. [The town's residents have] all been thinking really hard about it. Yeah, I got nothing," said Pete Dempsey, 61, town councilman. "Sally Baker down on Main Street thought she remembered, but then at the last minute said she really didn't. I don't know what to make of this whole thing. Was it a lesson not to dump, or was it a lesson to go ahead and dump snow into the river? We may never know."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jacksonville Police question preschooler accused of designing Jaguars new logo

Divers discovered a Crayola 64-pack at the bottom of a pond just down the road from the child's residence.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Report: New Orleans, NFL under heavy scrutiny after shutting down several pumping stations to restore power to Superdome

New Orleans--Shortly after the second half of the Super Bowl began on Sunday night nearly all of the overhead lights on the 42-year-old Superdome went dark. The Blackout Bowl, as it has become known, was delayed thirty-four minutes while event organizers scrambled to restore power (and pride) to the Big Easy's stage in the national spotlight (Stadium workers began calling the power outage The Big Difficult). "I was initially told that it would be about a two-hour delay," said Frank Nedino, the stadium's head of maintenance. "Obviously, that was unacceptable. I did not want to be the one to call Roger [Goodell] and tell him that number. Noway, no how! I asked if there were any other options. Then, I had my assistant call Roger." There was one very drastic option: shut down several of the city's electricity-devouring pumping stations and reroute that power to the Superdome. Being that portions of Nawlins' is below sea level and depends on these stations--even when it is not raining--to keep dry, the outcome of a shutdown could have been catastrophic. The decision to shut down the pumps came jointly from the City and the NFL. "Oh, I don't see what the big deal is, people. So we diverted some power from a few of the city's pumps to bring back power to the stadium," said Stacy Biggs, NFL Super Bowl Gameday Coordinator. "It's not like there was a storm outside." Two parking lots close to Lake Pontchartrain at the northern edge of the city experienced minor flooding that had evaporated by late Monday morning. FEMA is investigating.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Was Wing Bowl winner showing off by also devouring most of the wing bones during chaotic eating competition?

Above: "The Bear" wins the popular wing eating contest known as Wing Bowl in South Philadelphia on Friday. The champion devoured 287 wings in thirty minutes, and, in a stunning display of digestive power, consumed the bones of 280 of those wings along the way. "In all the years I've done this I've never seen any contestant eat the bones. It's just not done. It was impressive," said the event's creator, Angelo Cataldi, of WIP radio. "I think the other contestants were put off by it." Doctors said afterward that "The Bear" will need to undergo an in-patient procedure to remove most of the wing bones but the champion disagreed. "No, I won't need a hospital visit. I do this all the time. The result is usually three or four extremely painful trips to the bathroom and that's about it," said "The Bear." The king of wings later admitted that the most bones he had ever previously consumed at one sitting was thirty-five, and that his custom-made, extra-padding toilet seat "may not be enough."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Super Bowl: Harbaugh parents unfortunately use national spotlight (and terrible timing) to announce plans for divorce

Above: Jack and Jackie Harbaugh, parents of the two brother head coaches facing off against each other in the Super Bowl, share a laugh during a television interview in New Orleans. The couple has made the rounds on the media circuit and have been enjoying and soaking up all the attention on the national stage. However, the two chose the "absolutely worst time" to use this platform to announce their marriage is ending. "Jack and I are cheering for both of our boys and we plan to wear neutral colors in the stadium on gameday. Also, and I know this isn't the best time to say this, but we're getting a divorce," said Jackie Harbaugh, very bluntly during a segment with the NFL Network. "We hope this doesn't affect our sons and want to say what a great two weeks this has been in the Cresent City." The Network was so thrown off by what had just transpired that they immediately broke to commercial. The announcement sent shockwaves through both locker rooms and through Las Vegas, where the point spread dropped by two within minutes. Oddsmakers feel the divorce will affect Jim Harbaugh slightly more than John Harbaugh.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Report: Normally reserved Joe Flacco to perform Sloppy Swish during player introductions at Super Bowl

New Orleans--Ravens head coach John Harbaugh says there is no truth to the rumor that his quarterback, Joe Flacco, who is a self-proclaimed "huge 'SNL' fan," will perform the unusual dance on Sunday at the Superdome. The coach also strongly denied that the South Jersey native pulled a hamstring while making last-minute adjustments to his Sloppy Swish technique on Wednesday's walk-through practice. "I can't comment on nor am I concerned whether or not Joe will perform the Sloppy whatever-it's-called coming out of the tunnel before the game this weekend," said Harbaugh, obviously annoyed that the story has captured the attention of his once-focused team and the national media. "The Ravens have one goal on Sunday: humiliate the (butt) head coach of the opposing team. Oops, I mean, play hard and win the game." Taran Killam, the actor who stars in the Swish "SNL" short, was spotted on Bourbon Street Tuesday evening reportedly wearing a Ravens cap. Player introductions could be worth watching this year.