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Social Security advocacy blasted

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Washington Senate Democrats on Friday criticized President Bush’s plan to add personal accounts to Social Security and accused his administration of improperly using the Social Security Administration to promote the idea.

A pair of Social Security employees told the Democratic Policy Committee they objected to internal agency documents that direct employees to talk about the system’s problems and a need for reform.

“That is a political message, and it’s not my job as an agency employee to project a political message,” said Debbie Fredericksen, who works in the Minneapolis field office and is a union representative.

Bush hopes to let younger workers divert a portion of their Social Security taxes into private retirement accounts that supporters hope would be more profitable than traditional government bonds because they could be invested in the stock market.

Drawbridge opened underneath woman

Hallandale Beach, Fla. A 79-year-old woman suffered only bruises after a drawbridge opened beneath her as she walked across it, leaving her dangling from the structure.

Helen Koton said she did not hear any warning signals before the bridge began to open with her nearly halfway across. She said she was able to grab the railing.

“I was holding onto the railing, and I went up in the air,” Koton told television station WSVN.

As the bridge rose to its full height, people got out of their cars and told the bridge attendant, who lowered the span after several minutes. “Finally, I came down. When I came down, I fell on my face, so I bruised my forehead and my nose,” she said.

Brian Scott, the bridgetender’s supervisor, said the incident is under investigation.

Stun gun used on 75-year-old woman

Rock Hill, S.C. A police officer used a stun gun on a 75-year-old woman who was distraught when she could not find a sick friend at a nursing home, according to an internal report.

Officer Hattie Jean Macon received a verbal warning and was required to attend a Taser retraining course after the investigation found she acted prematurely when she used the 50,000-volt Taser, according to the report released Thursday.

Macon was called to the nursing home after Margaret Kimbrell refused to leave. Kimbrell has said she was distraught after the staff would not disclose the location of her sick friend, and she became concerned the friend had died.

Kimbrell jerked away from the officer and swung her arm at Macon, according to a police report. The officer then fired the Taser, police said.

Kimbrell, who has claimed she did not swing her arms or threaten Macon, was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest.

Robots locate source of downtown stench

Las Vegas Pipe-probing robots fitted with cameras have discovered the source of the awful smell that has plagued downtown Las Vegas for a decade.

Construction debris that got backed up in the storm-drain system trapped water and rotting trash, creating what has been called the “Stench of Fremont Street,” city officials said.

“It was critical that we find this for business and tourism,” Mayor Oscar Goodman said Thursday.

After years of trying to cover up the stink with deodorizer, officials conducted a $97,000 investigation to track down the source of the smell. Now they have to find the best way to remove the trapped bits of concrete, gravel and trash.

The junk could be blasted with high-pressure water jets or cleared by snaking cables.

City Engineer Charles Kajkowski said the narrow width of the pipes keeps maintenance workers from clearing them by hand. They are also dissuaded by the overpowering odor.

“It just doesn’t smell very good,” Kajkowski said.

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