Governors pledge
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Proselytized by former Health and Rehabilitative Services Secretary Jim Towey (who was squeezed out of office in 1995 for excessive compassion for the poor), Gov. Chiles and Gov.-in-waiting Bush kicked off Awakening 2000 by signing pledge cards to forgive, smile and sacrifice. Each day, the governor-elect's scheduler must build in time for him to pray and to reach out to people in need (which, as he has said, would have been a problem for the "old" Jeb).

Voodoo stuff and nonsense

So embarrassed at losing to an indicted man in a state senate race in Miami, Agustin Garcia has now asked for his third recount, this time of the absentee ballots, to overcome his 300-vote loss to Sen. Alberto Gutman, who got in his own shots two weeks ago, charging that a Garcia henchman had put "a bunch of blotches of voodoo crap" on his car, "Santeria stuff." (The corruption investigation of Gutman is continuing; in Oct., the Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale reported that Gutman wore an FBI wire in the legislature last year. He was indicted, supposedly after he soured of cooperating, on 32 counts of fraud, money-laundering and witness-tampering.)

Not a drop of truth

Clearwater Mayor Rita Garvey said she'll not only serve the last three months of her term but is rarin' to run again, despite now-revealed lying about a Nov. 5 collision in which she rammed a parked van on her way to a 5 p.m. city council meeting. She said then that she might have had one drink but that basically it was her anti-seizure medicine talking. Well, now it turns out that her blood-alcohol reading was 0.335 (presumed-drunk level, 0.080) and that colleagues have noticed for months that she gets their names wrong sometimes and tells herself unintelligible jokes. Last week she said hasn't had a drop since Nov. 5 and is doing fine.

Stuff you might have missed ...

• More evidence that smoking Is bad for you: John and Lela Whitely, Sarasota, have abandoned their long-held home-invader theory about Lela's mother's 1997 murder. Police matched DNA at the crime scene with the slobber on a cigarette butt John himself discarded during police questioning recently. Now John and Lela are accusing each other. (Last month, a St. Petersburg cop blotted up a hock that Charles Peterson, 39, blew on the street and took it for DNA analysis. It matched crime-scene DNA at a recent brutal rape in Tampa.)

• Christopher Norris was convicted in Orlando of various charges in his gang's scheme to leave pipe bombs all over town to divert cops while the gang robbed banks, probably to get money for their National Alliance causes (white supremacy, militias). Scheme fell apart when one of the bombs accidentally exploded in storage.

• The second of Florida's day-care center railroadees was finally released from prison by an appeals court, after 12 years behind bars based on the testimony of toddlers. Only reason the court let former cop Harold Grant Snowden out even today is the silliness of one of the prosecutor's 1986 witnesses: a psychologist who testified that toddlers tell the truth 99.5 percent of the time. (In reality, they are less reliable than, say, Bill Clinton.)

New Scientist magazine reported that University of Florida entomologists are on the cusp of a breakthrough in killing cockroaches. They figured out that roaches instinctively follow other roaches' feces because of a chemical contained therein and have extracted the chemical from the feces ["Daddy, what do you do all day in the laboratory?"] for commercial products.

• A Department of Corrections report revealed that some inmates at a minimum-security center in Kissimmee routinely go over the wall at night for beer and prostitutes but report back before roll call.

• And another report (Department of Juvenile Justice) revealed that a Pahokee center recently kept 10 teen-agers past their release date just to fatten up its head count for the following quarter's budget.

• The Federal Election Commission dropped, as too low a priority, an investigation on whether U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown (Jacksonville) accepted a $10,000 contribution from Rev. Henry Lyons in 1996, a "slam dunk" violation, according to a Washington, D.C., election-law monitor.

• Tampa surgeon Rolando "Wrong Foot" Sanchez got a light suspension when his probation committee decided not to nail him for lack of candor. In reporting to the committee on Nov. 13 (as part of the punishment for amputating the wrong foot of Willie King in 1995), he failed to disclose that he had just 11 days earlier been accused of inserting a catheter in a major chest vein of the wrong patient. Oh, well, Sanchez said later, that was because he knew he would be vindicated in the catheter case, and he was (though not nearly by a "slam dunk"), as the blame has since been shifted to a nurse.

• A federal judge struck down Florida's partial-birth abortion law, the significance of which is that the news came from Attorney General Butterworth's office in the person of a spokesman named (seriously) Joe Bizarro.

• Sleepwalker James Currens, 77, Palm Harbor, awoke in a pond near his home last Sunday night and lucky for him, he had grabbed his cane on the way out the door because when he got to the pond, he had to fend off alligators as long as 3 feet.

• Latest sick building: Gemini Elementary School in Melbourne Beach, though all tests so far have shown the water and facilities clean. Sixty-four kids and four adults had vomiting spells last week.

• Disney World hosted the annual religious scholars' meeting and what a perfect match: One paper referred to Cinderella's slipper as a "fetishistic object of desire," another went off on Disney for feeding our societal sickness of preferring simulations to reality and another placed the Disney parks just behind Mecca and the Vatican as most-visited shrines.

• And two private security guards at West Shore Plaza mall in Tampa were suspended for chasing a fleeing pervert to get his tag number, a violation of their rules not to leave the parking lot. On the other hand, the pervert, Michael Hobbs, 40, has looked up his last skirt because he died in a one-car crash during the chase.

Copyright 1998 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved. Chuck Shepherd, who lives in St. Petersburg, also writes the syndicated newspaper column News of the Weird.

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