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Scripps Howard News Service


June 09, 2005

SAN JOSE, Calif. - A woman who worked as a secretary for a dozen years at a middle school has fled with $480,000 she allegedly embezzled from the students' activity fund, police said.

Barbara Jo Price, 41, was placed on administrative leave from her job at Bret Harte Middle School in January when district auditors uncovered what they thought was a scam, San Jose police Sgt. Nick Muyo said.

District officials alerted police, who were awaiting enough information from the district to file criminal charges, he said.

In the meantime, Muyo said, Price sold her home - doubling the $400,000 she paid for it - and left town with her husband.

Over the past seven years, Muyo said, Price had written checks to her own accounts and her credit card company from money she was tasked with managing for the Associated Student Body fund.

- San Francisco Chronicle

CALGARY, Alberta - The grizzly that mauled a woman to death over the weekend appeared to be hunting humans, survivors of the attack say.

The two women who survived the encounter with the male grizzly bear that killed Isabelle Dube on Sunday said the animal appeared to be treating them as prey.

"The bear came towards us like he was stalking us," Jean McAllister and Maria Hawkins said in a statement. "He was not afraid."

That same fearlessness was on display just an hour before Dube was attacked and killed. According to provincial wildlife officials, the grizzly - which wildlife officials were at that point trying to pinpoint using satellite technology - wandered onto the course of the nearby SilverTip Golf Resort around 1 p.m. that day.

- Toronto Globe and Mail

MERCED, Calif. - The University of California-Merced has adopted a live bobcat kitten at the zoo to be its "Golden Bobcat" mascot, but animal rights advocates say the cat should rightfully be returned to the wild.

Critics say the city-run zoo and the university want to keep the animal for publicity as the new campus prepares for its opening in late August. They also assert that state wildlife biologists failed to ensure that the animal got its best chance to be released from captivity.

"This is a little baby that ought to go back to the wild," said Lydia Miller, president of the San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center. "There is nothing wrong with him, and for the UC to go ahead and exploit a species as a zoo exhibit or a mascot is wrong. I don't like the idea of live mascots. I think it is really obscene."

The 4-month-old bobcat, covered with mites and fleas, was found April 21 abandoned in a closed satchel next to a trash can at Merced's Applesgate Zoo. The state Department of Fish and Game determined that for its own safety it should not be released and allowed the zoo to keep the kitten.

But critics sent protest letters last week to Merced city officials, as well as state Department of Fish and Game administrators, complaining that the state made its decision based on the recommendation of the zoo and a local veterinarian. Instead, they wrote, the bobcat should be independently evaluated for release by a rehabilitation center.

- San Francisco Chronicle

ELK GROVE, Calif. - A 12-year-old girl suffered only a minor injury in an attack in a city park after an unidentified passer-by fought off her assailant.

The girl was walking through Simpson Park when she was confronted by a boy, described as being about 16 years old, police said.

The teenager threw her to the ground, pinned her arms over her head, stuffed a rag in her mouth and began to remove her clothing, according to the police report. He then pulled a knife and ran it over her torso, the report states.

The passer-by then tackled the assailant and the two fought before the attacker fled.

The girl, who suffered a minor knife injury to lower abdomen, did not know her attacker or the person who came to her aid, police said.

- Sacramento Bee

MINNEAPOLIS - Far out from Minneapolis, along country lanes in southern Minnesota, there are signs of a drug problem.

Well, the thing is, the signs are gone. That's the problem. And it's because of weed.

Not weeds. Weed. Or maybe you call it grass, or pot, or Mary Jane, or reefer. Or 420.

In several southern Minnesota counties where rural street grids use big numbers, remote road signs marking 420th Avenue or 420th Street have gone missing. Same with 420th Lane. County crews replace them - at $80 or more a shot - and the new signs disappear.

"They put them up on Friday and by Monday they're gone," said Brad Milbrath, chief deputy for the Waseca County Sheriff's Office. "It costs quite a bit of money and a lot of time."

The number 420 has been slang for marijuana at least since the 1970s, but even regular pot smokers offer only hazy explanations for its origins.

Waseca County renamed 420th to 42Xth. The new signs have stayed put for a week, Milbrath said, and yes, he's holding his breath.

- Minneapolis Star Tribune

SANTA ROSA, Calif - It's something Lucy might do - steal an already hot statue of Charlie Brown to return it to its owner and collect a $2,500 reward.

And being Charlie Brown - who never got the better of a situation - the statue got a little scraped up in the process.

Still, said owner Bob Forsyth: "We're just happy to have him back."

The case of the stolen statue began between 1:30 and 2 a.m. Saturday, when someone cut the bolts holding the 300-pound polyurethane "Peanuts" star to its concrete base outside Michele's Restaurant in Santa Rosa.

Forsyth publicized the theft and the $2,500 reward - no questions asked. Apparently, it worked.

A security guard at the restaurant got a phone call from a man who said his friends had stolen the statue and he wanted to return it.

"His quote was, he stole it from them to bring it back," Forsyth said.

The 6-foot icon is one of 55 Charlie Browns put up around town for the past two weeks in honor of the "Peanuts" comic strip's 55th anniversary. Creator Charles Schulz lived in the area for 42 years before he died of cancer Feb. 12, 2000.

- San Francisco Chronicle

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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