High numbers mark low points

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In Florida's runoff primary last week, 93 percent of registered voters statewide had something better to do (97.7 percent in Dade), and that doesn't count all those who had something better to do all year than even register.

We did manage one activist record: With three months to go, we've already set the mark for most times in one year being declared a federal disaster -- six (Georges, the fires and four tornado binges).

Loss due to faith

A Melbourne couple hit the national news when their 2-year-old son was stung by yellow jackets 432 times and died seven hours later after zero medical attention, which apparently is de rigueur for the couple's Bible Readers Fellowship, which trusts all things medical to God. Added to the horror: Experts say yellow jacket venom is majorly painful. On the bright side: No one left to pass on the family's obvious genetic gifts.

Mother of a deal

Such a deal! A Miami-Dade judge tossed a marshmallow at Griselda Blanco, matriarch of a 1980s Colombia-Miami drug cartel, who cops suspect was involved in 40 murders but who was indicted only for three. For her plea, she got three 20-year, concurrent sentences (also concurrent with a cocaine-trafficking sentence), under old Florida guidelines that included, of course, two-thirds off for good behavior. Counting time served, she'll be out before Clinton leaves office (uh, in the non-impeachment scenario). (The Blanco case was delayed for a while for a new prosecutor because old one's secretaries had phone sex with one of the Blanco witnesses.)

Scuzzy logic

Authorities in Tampa found the little girl's blood on Willie Crain's clothes and charged him with murder. But then Judge Walter Heinrich refused to appoint a court-paid lawyer for Crain even though his only holdings are a scuzzy truck, a scuzzy trailer and a scuzzy crabbing boat, a ruling so bizarre that it made lawyers' jaws drop, but then that happens often in Florida courtrooms.

Stuff you might have missed ...

• The Miami police and the ACLU settled a 10-year-old battle to end terroristic police roundups of the unsightly homeless. Anyone hassled after 1984 can file a claim for cash from a $1.5 million kitty (uh, make that a $600 thousand kitty; the ACLU gets paid off the top).

• Three 1-year-old toddlers at Bonding Babies day care center in Gainesville had both arms broken over a several-day period.

• More men who don't watch TV enough: An 84-year-old South Carolina man and an 84-year-old Virginia man showed up on consecutive days at the Tampa office that administers the American Family Publishers sweepstakes, certain that they had won the grand prize. Police informed them they had to read the notifications more closely, say, as if they had been written by Bill Clinton.

• The state welfare office announced joyously that 146,000 of the 151,000 families receiving cash payments in October 1996 have by now been booted off the rolls.

The Miami Herald reported that a public-housing bureaucrat turned down a $38,000 loan request for a first home by a school-bus attendant with two kids because the bedrooms were 9 feet by 11 feet (vs. the county-loan guideline minimum of 10 feet by 10 feet).

• On the school shooting front, Felly Petit-Frere, 17, a rarely attending North Miami High student, fired off a shot in the hallway, grazing a student and hitting a teacher in the thumb. Motive: A guy looked at him wrong. Felly started a fight, got his butt kicked, fetched his gun and headed to school to find the guy (surprisingly, he remembered the way). In Leesburg, a 17-year-old boy took a bullet in the arm at Leesburg High, but things being gentler in Lake County, he eventually admitted shooting himself for attention because he had recently been forced to enroll there after years of home-schooling.

• USDA officially condemned 3,000 tons of meat (E.coli) at Bauer Meat Co. in Ocala. (Owner Frank Bauer had shot himself in August, the day after a USDA raid.)

• A 13-year-old boy, Hollywood, was charged with five home burglaries with his buds, each age 11. The older boy was on tight probation since May, when he confessed to 35 other burglaries.

• The first thing Louis Brayman, 51, Deltona, did when he was jailed for trying to hire a hitman on his wife was to use the lock-up phone to find another hitman, who ratted him out just like the first one.

• Brief freedom was bad for William Moran's health. He's the Cali cartel lawyer-defendant who fled during his trial in Miami in July. He was convicted anyway and picked up last week in Mexico City. One of his jurors couldn't even recognize him, so haggard was his face. Moran also had a "wait a minute, you found me guilty?" look when informed of the verdict.

• Raymond A. McMahon's libel suit against the Tampa Tribune was dismissed by a Hillsborough court. McMahon said the paper had harmed his reputation. You have to be touched that a diagnosed pervert serving a life sentence for murdering two young girls would be worried about his rep.

• Gainesville City Commission voted 3-2 to exempt Trader's South-Gatorland strip club from the city's nudity-and-alcohol-don't-mix rules for seven years provided the club donates $500 a year to local charity.

• Pharmacy assistant Veronica Smith, 22, West Palm Beach, who was adopted, said she was the one who made more than 100 vile telephone calls to childless women who had been prescribed fertility drugs, criticizing them for not adopting. "You infertile bitch" and "Go lay a `expletive not reported` egg" were two of the more somber messages.

• Democrat Diane Ellis, 59, the challenger to well-known Pinellas County lawyer Gus Bilirakis (son of U.S. Congressman Michael) for state House District 48, made a formal complaint to the county fair campaign practices office that "Bilirakis" is an imposter, really a guy named Danny Divito from New York, because she once met Bilirakis in 1991 and he was taller. Ellis' Democratic colleagues quietly shook their heads.

• And Darrell E. Bryant, 33, was arrested for the robbery of a Chuck E. Cheese's in Pensacola. Bryant has a permanent, astonishingly bloodshot eye, and you'd think a person who intended to enter the robbery profession would have thought to disguise it, but no. He was spotted by a duly-grossed-out person a few hours later.

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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