A collection of writing from the United States


Violent Crimes Are Heart of Business for Cleanup Companies

Nov. 6, 1996
MIAMI (AP) – The blast from the package bomb killed its victim instantly and blew the hinges off the front door. Blood soaked the wallboards and stained the carpets.

Michael Hosto was paid to clean up the mess.

“It’s a dirty job,” said Hosto, owner of Crime Scene Cleanup, a Fort Lauderdale company specializing in removing evidence of violent crimes, including blood stains and body parts.

In the past, crime scenes were mopped up by police officers, janitors and even victims’ families. Read more >>

Spanish Airlined Hijacked, Lands Safely in Miami

July 26, 1996
MIAMI (AP) – A man who claimed he had a bomb hijacked a Spanish jetliner bound for Havana today and diverted it to Miami, where he surrendered peacefully, authorities said.

Iberia Airlines Flight 6621 landed safely at 3 p.m. EDT. After the plane taxied to an open area in the middle of Miami International Airport, passengers and crew were loaded onto buses and taken away.

The hijacker was taken into custody by federal authorities, said Iberia General Manager Salvador Humbert in Miami. Read more >>

Voodoo adapts to new home in Miami

November 22, 1996
Inside a dingy, dimly lit nightclub tucked away in one of Miami’s industrial areas, a group of Haitians watch as a voodoo priest and priestess prepare to honor the African spirit of the dead.

Followers kneel before a black cross wrapped with purple and white sashes. On top of the altar, a candle drips blood-red wax. Paper skeletons lining the walls sway back and forth in the breeze as if to the beat of the tamboo drums. The air carries the aroma of burnt offerings.

But this isn’t the ritual as practiced for centuries in graveyards or fields in Haiti. Read more >>

Patients try alternative drug therapy

December 2, 1996
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — When George Flores Jr. was growing up in the Virgin Islands, he used a plant called the “love bush” to cure his earaches. Today, he uses tree sap in hopes of staying alive.

Flores, 44, tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, eight years ago. Doctors told him he would be dead within two years. But he says a mixture of science, spirituality and nature has allowed him to get on with his life and to prove those doctors wrong. Read more >>


Sharecroppers; squeezing a living out of a relic of the old South

December 28, 1997
PICKENS, Ark. (AP) – With a sun-creased face and weathered hands, 55-year-old Buccie Cline is a remnant of the old South – a black sharecropper living in old plantation country.

He rents farmland for a combination of cash and a percentage of his cotton and bean crops.

“I’ve been doing farming all my life,” Cline says. “But if my son or daughter were to tell me they wanted to be sharecroppers, I would tell them to find some other way to make a living. We just don’t have the equipment, collateral and other things that are needed to make it.”

Sharecropping took root after the Civil War, when freed slaves who had little money and farming expertise would work a farmer’s land, receiving seed, animals and equipment in return for half the profits. Read more >>

Storms Kill More Than 20 in Arkansas, 4 Other States

March 2, 1997
Tornadoes and springlike thunderstorms swept across Arkansas today, flattening buildings, sweeping away mobile homes and flooding whole subdivisions. As many as 20 were killed and 200 injured.

Storms also tore through Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia, killing up to six people. In Ohio, one person was killed and four others were missing as flood waters rose. A search suspended tonight because of darkness was to resume on Sunday.

Four people died in Arkadelphia, Ark., one of the hardest hit areas. Read more >>

UFO believers are getting a bad rap

April 13, 1997
EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. – For a group that shares stories about being sucked out of cars by aliens or losing livestock to laser beams, the uninvited visitors who believed they would reach the afterlife in a UFO were just too weird.

When members of the Heaven’s Gate cult tried to join discussions at the annual Ozark UFO Conference three years ago, they were permitted only to drop off literature. No theological debates were tolerated.

The conference attracts a crowd more interested in largely nuts-and-bolts issues: UFO sightings and tales of how “I got abducted by aliens in a big space ship and I’m here to tell my story.”

This year, they can’t avoid the subject of Heaven’s Gate and its members’ mass suicides. Read more >>

This Kid’s ‘Gang’ Includes Folks Like Muddy Waters, B.B. King

December 21, 1997
HELENA, Ark. — He ain’t got no bills, girlfriend or car–he is, after all, only 11 years old–but Marvin Sherrod’s got the blues.

While his classmates are throwing footballs or listening to rap, Marvin is on the road, pouring out Muddy Waters tunes like molasses on pancakes–like a down-and-out romantic shafted in love.

“I feel the blues,” says Marvin, keyboardist for J.B. and the Midnighters, out of Clarksdale, Miss. “Rap just talks about robbing and murdering. Blues makes you think about the future. It feels good.”

But the future of the blues depends on attracting kids like Marvin. So some schools–particularly in the Mississippi Delta–are offering “Kids and Blues” programs where youths learn about blues greats, write songs and perform at local venues. In cash-strapped schools, blues musicians are often brought in for single lectures rather than longer, pricier programs. Read more >>


Political correctness emerges at summer camps

May 25, 1998
BOSTON – When Pat Hammond was a camp counselor two decades ago, campfire songs about little Indians were common, games were competitive and patting a kid on the back was OK.

“Twenty years ago we wouldn’t have thought twice about letting kids sit on our laps at campfires or making sure their shoulders had sunscreen on them,” said Hammond, a standards director at the American Camping Association. “But we have to be really careful now.”

Today, camps and other institutions are skittish about possible lawsuits over sexual abuse, discrimination and malpractice. Read more >>

Tenants protest seizure of Boston apartments

November 5, 1998
For the past quarter-century, tenants at the Bromley-Heath Housing Complex managed its 27 buildings in an experiment hailed as a national model of self-determination for people in public housing.

The experiment is over, at least for now.The city seized control of Bromley-Heath’s operations and locked out tenant management this week in the wake of a drug raid that resulted in charges against 38 people, including three relatives of the housing complex’s executive director.

“You have 38 people under indictment who lived at the complex,” said Hilary Jones, chief of staff at the Boston Housing Authority, in explaining the takeover. “We’re not out to get anyone. We just want to make sure there is no impropriety. Our intent is to return management to the tenants.” Read more >>

Brothers banned from fishing federal waters for life

April 29, 1998
When the fishing boom hit in the 1980s, Jim and Peter Spalt quit business school, got their dad to sell some property, and bought a 68-foot boat equipped with scallop trawling gear.

The brothers from Cape Cod did great for years. Then lean times hit when federal regulations were implemented to protect dwindling fish stocks. The Spalts say they cut corners to survive.

But federal officials said they broke just about every regulation to catch more than their fair share of scallops, cod and other fish.

In the largest settlement ever in a fishing fraud case, announced Monday, the brothers were fined $2 million and forever banned from fishing commercially in federal and state waters for regulated species. Read more >>

Underwater observatory to be built off of the Vineyard

September 30, 1998
BOSTON (AP) – Scientists will soon be able to measure whether long-term carbon dioxide levels will bolster the so-called greenhouse effect on the ocean.

The Katama Observatory – being built off the south shore of the Martha’s Vineyard – is under construction now, and is scheduled to be active within two years. Unlike some coastal research stations that measure carbon dioxide levels on a temporary basis, Katama will monitor levels 24 hours a day.

Scientists know that global warming can raise ocean temperatures and affect currents. But it is still unclear how the ocean absorbs atmospheric heat. Read more >>

200 Years Later, Spice Trade Still Has Flavor of Success

February 19, 1999
SALEM, Mass. — More than two centuries ago, a bold young sea captain named Jonathan Carnes set sail from Salem to Sumatra to secure pepper, nutmeg and enough contacts to propel America into the lucrative spice trade.

Today, the spice business has lost some of its romance: brokers negotiate with sellers via faxes, airplanes are used instead of wooden ships, taxes are no longer payable in pepper, and spice traders have all but disappeared from the docks of Salem and other New England cities.

But in Massachusetts and other parts of the country, spices remain a profitable venture, their exotic appeal adapted to fit the business world of the ’90s. Read more >>

Blarney! Boston hotel only wants Irish bar workers

June 18, 1999
BOSTON — Preferring a native trill to a heavy “Bahstahn” accent for its Irish theme restaurant, a hotel has put a twist on history by allegedly saying only Irish need apply, causing three veteran waitresses to file a discrimination complaint against Hilton.

In the last three decades, Gloria DiMartino, Dorothy “Dottie” Webb, and Jo Murray have worked at the Logan Airport Ramada, trying hard to calm anxious travelers and being happy to entertain a common request from tourists.

“They all want to hear us say ‘Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd and chowdah,”‘ says Murray, 71, of Winthrop, a veteran waitress and one of three who filed a complaint against the Hilton Hotels Corp., based in Beverly Hills, Calif.

“We don’t care if they hire students from Ireland, but we should have first preference for those jobs,” she said. Read more >>

Should fish food be on the menu at aquarium?

October 13, 1998
BOSTON (AP) – It’s a menu to whet the appetite of any seafood connoisseur: Maine crab cakes, grilled yellowfit tuna, savory clam chowder and breaded haddock.

There’s just one problem for some customers: It’s all being served at the New England Aquarium.

It may seem a silly concern, but some animal rights activists say serving fish at the aquarium, which prides itself on marine conservation, sends a mixed message. Read more >>

Au Pair Judge’s Computer Crashed

November 10, 1997
BOSTON (AP) _ Glued to their computers, reporters and others who closely followed the Louise Woodward case waited for a judge’s decision today to be posted over the Internet. But the system crashed, and the word got out by more conventional means.

Last week, Superior Court Judge Hiller B. Zobel said he would decide whether to reduce the British au pair’s conviction, order a new trial or honor the jury’s second-degree murder verdict. He said because of public interest _ and to avoid a paperchase _ he would issue the text of the verdict over the Internet.

Media outlets were supposed to be given an hour’s warning of when the ruling would be posted. Using the code word “authenticator” to verify the ruling, reporters waited by computer terminals to see the first flash of the text. Read more >>