Dispatches > The Buzz
- "Your money or your life!" Fewer people faced that choice last year, according to the Justice Department, which last week reported that the violent-crime rate fell 10.4 percent in 1999. Last year's decline represents the largest one-year drop since the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics began keeping violent-crime statistics in 1974.
- Talk about not taking your job seriously: Houston Fire Chief Lester Tyra fired an ambulance driver who was accused of stopping for doughnuts while taking a patient to the hospital. The incident allegedly occurred on July 10 while Larry A. Wesley, a 20-year ambulance driver, was taking a boy to the hospital with a leg injury. The injury was not life threatening. The boy's mother filed a complaint after the incident.
- One of America's toughest handgun licensing laws is working its way through the California state legislature. The bill would require most prospective owners to pass a safety course and obtain a license from local law enforcement. So strict is the proposal that Democrat Gov. Gray Davis threatens to veto it. The gun-control bill would require every prospective gun owner except current and retired law enforcement officers to pass a written exam and a firing range safety test. If passed, it would require a written test for license renewal every five years or when the gun owner's driver's license expired. The California Senate last week approved the legislation by a vote of 22-15.
- Sheriff's deputies in Colorado fatally shot a man who aimed a handgun-shaped cigarette lighter at them and threatened to shoot. Authorities said that they repeatedly ordered him to stop and drop what looked like a semiautomatic. The man, Eric Vantslot, then raised the object, pointed it at one of the deputies, and said they would have to shoot him or he would shoot them. The deputies fired. A 911 call placed before the incident claimed an officer had been shot in the area.
- First-class stamps could hit 34 cents in January. Why? The Postal Service is losing money for the first time since 1994 with fuel prices rising as the flow of letters, cards, and advertising moves to the Internet. The agency announced that it could be as much as $300 million in the red by the end of September. This trend could grow as more communications, especially bill payments and personal notes, move into cyberspace.