good bad ugly

July 14, 2011 |
The good


For the 12th year in a row, Greater Des Moines has opened its arms to eight orphan children from northwestern Russia ranging in age from 7 to 13 years old. They spent a week experiencing the best that Iowa's metro has to offer with local host families and were able to get a taste of what it's like to be part of a family. They toured the Blank Park Zoo, swam at the Prairie View Aquatic Center in Ankeny, bowled at Warrior Lanes in Waukee, picnicked at Fairmeadows Park in West Des Moines and Dewey Park in Johnston and rode horses at the Jester Park Equestrian Center in Granger. Now only one question remains: Where do we sign up?


The percentage of Des Moines students who are proficient in reading and math appears to have been on a steady increase in most areas over the past five years, according to preliminary results of ITBS and ITED tests from the 2010-11 school year. The exams are administered to fourth, eighth and eleventh grade students to measure proficiency, which is defined by federal education rules as a national percentile rank of 41 or above. Superintendent Dr. Nancy Sebring said several factors contributed to increases in proficiency, including: teacher professional development, aligned curriculum, extended after school learning opportunities, expanded early childhood education and drop-out prevention programs. Sebring, maybe surprisingly, did not list nepotism as a positive contributor.


The bad


Apparently this criminal worked up an appetite. Last week, Michael Ray, 27, robbed a Florida Dunkin Donuts, but he took more than cash — he grabbed a couple donuts on his way out. According to police, Ray entered the donut shop around 6 a.m. and demanded money from the employee. After the employee had placed all the cash in a bag, Ray also demanded two glazed donuts and then fled the scene. The employee was able to give a description of Ray's car, and officers found him a short time later. Ray told police he robbed the store because he needed a new tire and was taken to jail on a felony robbery charge. And the donuts? Well, criminals get hungry, too.


This is a perfect example of how drugs can make you stupid. Last week, Joseph Lombardi, 23, tried using a fake million-dollar bill to buy a large amount of synthetic marijuana. According to officials, Lombardi walked into a Pennsylvania Food Mart with intentions to buy a bag of herbal incense known as "Space Cadet Flight Risk," which mimics the characteristics of marijuana when smoked. He laid down the fake million-dollar bill, but the employee quickly realized it was counterfeit and denied the transaction. Lombardi then panicked and fled the store with the incense in hand. He was later picked up and charged with theft by deception and retail theft. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?


The ugly


If you think you have an evil ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, be thankful it's not this guy. Florida resident Michael R. Burcum, 65, was arrested last week after he put black widow spider eggs in his ex-girlfriend's mailbox. The couple, who had only dated for about three weeks, ended their relationship in March, but Burcum continued to stalk and harass her by sending letters. But Burcum, who raises black widow spiders as a hobby, took the harassment to a potentially dangerous level by placing a sack of spider eggs in her mailbox. The eggs were discovered when her new boyfriend retrieved the mail and discovered the eggs had hatched. Burcum told police he would continue to harass his ex until she apologized for talking badly about him. He was charged with two counts of stalking. It might be time to find a new hobby.


On the evening of July 6, a fight broke out at a homeless camp on Southwest 16th Street, south of Martin Luther King Parkway, ending with one man in the hospital with stab wounds and a woman in jail for attempted murder. Wendy Pierson, 35, allegedly stabbed Jerome German, 39, in the gut. He was transported to the hospital and is in stable condition. Detectives learned that Pierson and German were among several others arguing at the homeless camp when Pierson took her point to a near lethal level. She's not homeless anymore. Three meals a day and a bed at the Polk County Jail.CV