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Watercooler Stories

Drug shipment was no baloney, police say

HOLYOKE, Mass., Aug. 28 (UPI) -- A hunk of bologna mailed to a home in western Massachusetts delivered cocaine, not cold cuts, police said.

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Local and federal lawmen confiscated $100,000 worth of the drug hidden inside hollowed-out meat mailed from Puerto Rico and arrested a man Thursday evening, The (Springfield, Mass.) Republican reported.

Narcotics detectives, FBI agents and a U.S. Postal Service inspector executed a federal warrant and raided the home in Holyoke, Mass., police said.

Juan Rodriguez, 30, was arrested and charged with trafficking cocaine. He was ordered held in lieu of $100,000 cash or $1 million surety bail.

Postal Inspector Brian Dailey contacted Holyoke police Wednesday about the parcel, saying it may contain illegal drugs, the newspaper said. Similar packages had been sent to the same address in May and June.

Dailey and postal inspectors in Puerto Rico had been investigating drug shipments from there to people around the country.

Dailey, working undercover, delivered the parcel, and it was signed for by a woman sitting on the steps with Rodriguez. Police said he took the package and went inside.

Police raided the scene minutes later. Other suspects were being sought.

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Confederate flag cake 'poor judgment'

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The display of a cake decorated with a Confederate flag in a Florida Winn-Dixie grocery store was in poor judgment, a spokesman says.

Displaying the flag offended some shoppers, but not everyone, WJXT-TV, Jacksonville, Fla., reported.

"To me personally, I think it's disrespectful, I know southerners got their own beliefs, white or black, but I don't like the Confederate flag at all," shopper Richard Bradley said Wednesday.

Another shopper saw it as the use of free speech.

"I feel like it's your free speech, whatever you want to do," shopper David Grimes told the TV news.

However, in a statement sent to the television station, Winn Dixie spokesman Robin Miller said: "This issue was an error in judgment and has been corrected."


Soviet plane grounded by U.S. court fight

MARQUETTE, Mich., Aug. 28 (UPI) -- A Soviet-era Russian military plane remained grounded in the upper peninsula of Michigan because of its owner's dispute with a creditor.

The Ilyushin IL-78, originally designed to refuel other military planes in flight, has mystified residents, The Detroit News reports. It sits at an airport in Gwinn, its tires chained and heavy equipment placed to block any takeoff.

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"It's weird looking," said Sara Brand, who lives near the airport. "I don't know where it came from."

Where it actually came from was Texas. Air Support Systems, a company that deals in used military aircraft, bought the plane from Ukraine in 2005, planning to convert it for use in aerial firefighting.

More recently, Gary Fears, whose family owns the company, said it had a deal for its use by the U.S. military in Pakistan. But Victor Miller, owner of a Texas maintenance firm, had placed a lien on the plane, claiming he was owed $62,000.

Fears said he was not trying to duck a restraining order when the plane was flown north. It landed in Michigan after being denied permission to cross the Canadian border.

Last week a judge finally gave the plane clearance to leave after Miller got his money.

"I think the judge was saying, 'Just get that plane out of here,'" Cheryl Hill, a Marquette County assistant prosecutor, told the News.


Judge Elijah dogged by rumors he is Muslim

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Aug. 28 (UPI) -- A Florida judge named for an Old Testament prophet has learned anonymous bloggers think Elijah is a Muslim name.

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Elijah Williams, a family court judge in Broward County, is a Christian, The Miami Herald says. He is also up for re-election this year, facing a primary on Tuesday.

The rumor spreading through cyberspace apparently comes from his sharing a first name with Elijah Muhammad, who headed the Nation of Islam for 40 years before his death in 1975. Muhammad, however, was born Elijah Poole, the son of a Baptist minister in Georgia.

Williams says a "surprising number" of people have inquired about his religion recently.

"It was a bit surreal," Williams told the Herald. "I ended up explaining to people -- some of them prominent, educated people who asked about this -- that if my name concerned them, they should know 'Elijah' has Hebrew roots, that Elijah was a prominent prophet and leader in the Old Testament. But the situation was also uncomfortable."

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