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The skinny

By TIMES WIRES
Published May 3, 2007


AMPS FROM ALES

AHHHHH, BEER. IS THERE ANYTHING IT CAN'T DO?

Scientists and Australian beermaker Foster's are teaming up to determine if beer can solve global warming. Exaggeration? Maybe, but not by much. They think they can convert a brewery's sugar-, starch- and alcohol-rich wastewater into a battery with a sugar-consuming bacteria. They aren't going to be powering nearby cities or anything, but a brewery could produce enough electricity to power a house with green energy. All as a byproduct of beer.

BID FOR FREEDOM

When jail key is on eBay, change locks

The keys to the maximum-security Anamosa State Penitentiary in Iowa were for sale on eBay. Seems a locksmith who retired in 1974 took some keys with him. Then he died. Then his wife died. Then all their stuff ended up in an estate auction. The person who bought them put them up on eBay. When Jerry Burt, the prison's warden, found out, he made the executive decision to change the locks. "We did it as a precaution, " Burt said. Some of the locks at the prison had been changed since 1974, but some hadn't. So, good move.

SPARE A SQUARE?

Toilet paper is like currency in this jail

Prisoners in the Hutchinson (Kan.) Correctional Facility need to be very careful with their toilet paper usage. The prison has long had a limit of four rolls per month, but only recently started enforcing it when they heard reducing usage by one roll per inmate could save them $600 a month. But officials want to stress that inmates won't go without toilet paper. If an inmate gives up an empty roll, they can get a fresh one (that protects against stockpiling), and if they want to upgrade to Charmin (well, la-di-da), they can buy that in the canteen. And they realize that they may have just created a new black market. "Anything you restrict becomes a thing of value, " said spokesman Steve Schneider. "It automatically becomes a means of dealing and trading."

Vandalism strikes at personal hygiene

At least Kansas prisoners have options. Try going to a park in Walkersville, Md. After vandals set fire to the toilet paper in a park restroom there, officials refused to replace it. So when picnicking in Walkersville, do not forget to pack your own.

UPDATE

Block breaks ice

A wire report in March detailed some betting pools around the nation where people guess when heavy things will fall through the ice on bodies of water. If you got in on the action, the cement block on Vermont's Joe's Pond took the plunge at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday. Dr. Robert Marshall of Montpelier, whose guess was just nine minutes off, won $4, 216.

Compiled from Times wires and other sources by staff writer Jim Webster.