• The Clark County Commission strikes down a proposal that would make feeding pigeons a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.
• Between January 14 and January 29, five people die while in the custody of law enforcement agencies.
• A UNLV microbiologist and his team identify a magnetic bacteria in Death Valley that could potentially contribute to the biotech industry.
Cabdrivers vs. thugs
If you were employed as a cabdriver, 2012 started out stressful. From December 30 to January 16, a group of teenage gangsters embarked on a crime spree in which one would hail a cab, direct the driver to an isolated area, then ambush the driver at gunpoint. No one was killed, and Nigel Hinton, 18, and Jamal Johnson, 19, were arrested after getting identified through video and audio surveillance. The case remains open, but here’s something for would-be thugs to remember: Our cabdrivers are a tough bunch. One driver who picked up Hinton sped off after spotting another man approaching with a gun. The driver was shot at as he left, but rather than call the police, he drove to Hinton’s original destination—then locked Hinton in the cab until he paid the fare.
• Metro police confiscate five handguns in four days from high school students or adults picking up students.
• More than 10 years after 9/11, the New York City medical examiner’s office identifies the remains of Karol Ann Keasler, the daughter of a Las Vegas woman.
A new way to fly
Next time someone tells you Southern Nevada’s schools aren’t so hot, relay this story: Thanks to the efforts of a group of Rancho High School students, the Federal Aviation Administration is considering creating new regulations for an all-electric airplane. The team of students, selected by Gov. Brian Sandoval to represent Nevada in the Real World Design Challenge, designed an environmentally friendly plane that would use an 81-horsepower electric motor, a lithium-ion battery and wings covered with solar panels. The Rancho team finished third at nationals in April, and Angela Nickels, magnet coordinator for the school, says a new team is gearing up for the next Real World challenge: an unmanned vehicle that can find a lost child within a 2-mile radius.
• Dr. Robert Lampert, international man of mystery. According to court papers in the FBI’s case against medical equipment supplier Anil Mathur, Lampert wore a wire from February 2009 to January 2011, recording conversations with health care professionals as part of an undercover kickback investigation. Lampert, whose name had remained confidential until this year, still practices in Las Vegas.
• Much ado about facial hair. Retired Metro detective Ira Carter receives a $40,000 settlement following a federal racial discrimination lawsuit he filed regarding the agency’s beard policy, which says officers must be cleanshaven (mustaches are okay). Carter claimed the policy was unfair, because he suffers from a condition made inflamed by shaving.
• Attorneys involved in the legal battle over construction defects at CityCenter discover that a warehouse manager allegedly sold more than 500 boxes of evidence to a shredder.
• NASA creates a 40-second video charting Las Vegas’ sprawl from 1972 through 2010, using detailed satellite images from the agency’s Landsat program.
• Clark County removes nicknames from its ballots.
• The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announces it will not allow the auction of 11,000 acres of federal land at the Las Vegas Valley’s northern edge, since it contains Ice Age fossils and rare plants.
• State lawmakers dramatically cut Nevada’s funding to help gambling addicts—from 50 cents per capita to 25 cents.
• Derrick Barry, a Britney Spears impersonator, gets turned away at McCarran International Airport, because his silicone chicken cutlet breast enhancers exceed the TSA’s liquid carry-on limit.
• Sixty-six turbines go up at Nevada’s first wind energy project—the $225 million Spring Valley Wind Farm, about 300 miles north of Las Vegas in White Pine County.
• A long line of barbers, some in their 80s, forms at the Legislature’s Sunset Subcommittee in Carson City to protest a move to disband the state Barbers’ Health and Sanitation Board, which regulates some 800 barbers. To date, no action has been taken.
• Harry Reid, quote machine. When asked what should be done in response to the scandal involving Secret Service agents and prostitutes: “Hire more females.”
A guy and a pizza place
Former Metro officer and Clark County Commissioner Lance Malone, best known now for his role in the Operation G-Sting political corruption case, opened a pizza place on the Las Vegas Strip this year. Together with partner and former G-Sting attorney Dominic Gentile, Malone co-owns Pop’s Pizza, across the street from Mandalay Bay. Malone, the convicted bagman for topless bar owner Michael Galardi, received a six-year sentence for his role in the bribery of politicians including Erin Kenny, Mary Kincaid-Chauncey and Dario Herrera. Malone was released from custody in 2011, and while we can’t say whether Malone is truly rehabilitated, we can report that his pizza tastes pretty good.
• A UNLV study finds that 46 percent of incoming Clark County kindergartners are either overweight or underweight.
• U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar flips the ceremonial switch on the nation’s first large-scale solar power plant, to be built on public land near Primm.
• As if our government didn’t have enough headaches, the Las Vegas Constable’s office says it has lost an average of $500 every day for a decade because of a computer glitch. The office that serves court papers claims it has shortchanged itself about $2 million over 10 years. According to Clark County spokesman Erik Poppa, the software vendor delivered a fix in November, and the original figure was “overstated.” It’s “no more than $100,000,” he says.
• A 1,527-foot steel tower 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas—once used to test radiation for the Bare Reactor Experiment, Nevada—comes crashing down in a planned detonation.
• Seventy inmates are released from the North Las Vegas Jail after an unusually high number of corrections officers call in sick.
• Casino mogul Steve Wynn buys a $15 million share of Pie Face USA, an Australia-based chain known for meat pot pies. All the pies have faces piped onto them denoting the flavors of the fillings. No word yet on whether we’ll ever see a pie with Wynn’s face on it.
• A Public Policy Polling survey reveals that 23 percent of Nevada voters believe in UFOs.
• Harry Reid, quote machine. When asked about the DREAM Act, Reid channels Las Vegan Bryce Harper, now a member of the Washington Nationals: “I don’t want to answer that question. That’s a clown question, bro.”
• The State Health Division reports that 3,430 Nevadans have permission to use medical marijuana, up 1,143 from the previous year.
• Harry Reid, quote machine. Referring to Nuclear Regulatory Commission member William Magwood, Reid calls him a: “first-class rat,” “miserable liar,” “sh*t-stirrer” and “tool of the nuclear industry.”
Veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder could soon have a medicine-free option. A research team at the Las Vegas Navy Operational Support Center announced that it’s testing out a PTSD treatment technique called Accelerated Resolution Therapy (or ART), an attempt to integrate traumatic memories into a “normal memory” through conversation and back-and-forth eye movement. Studies on ART began at the University of South Florida in 2010, and Las Vegas is the study’s first satellite. Mental health professional Carrie Elk says further funding for ongoing research is all but guaranteed, thanks to Outback Steakhouse co-founder Chris Sullivan, and Elk hopes to soon establish up to 10 satellites across the country to help prove ART works. Elk and Lt. Cmdr. Raul Rojas, who leads the support center in Las Vegas, will attempt to win more support for the program at the sixth annual Warrior Appreciation Night, January 17 at the Palazzo.
• A four-year legal battle by the Reno Gazette-Journal to make public 104 emails sent by former Gov. Jim Gibbons reveals … basically nothing. Except that Gibbons liked gin.
• In the first commercial fishing operation at Lake Tahoe since the 1930s, a company begins harvesting crayfish, a non-native species that causes algae to grow and clouds the water with excrement.
• An early lung cancer detection program becomes available to former Nevada Test Site workers for the first time. The same program was rolled out 12 years ago at other sites around the country.
• Shelley Berkley and her husband obtain franchise rights to operate frozen yogurt shops in New Mexico—Las Vegas’ own U-Swirl, to be exact.
• Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, 95, gets engaged to longtime friend Lu Beard.
• The World Meteorological Organization announces that Death Valley is now officially the hottest spot on Earth, unseating the previous record holder, El Azizia, Libya. Suck it, other deserts!
• Sixty desert tortoises, equipped with radio transmitters, are released at the southern end of the Nevada National Security Site. Researchers will track them over the next year, in an effort to increase their numbers.
• A Las Vegas man and his cat survive a small plane crash in Nye County … but knock out power to the town of Beatty for about 14 hours.
• Theresa Faiss, who this year had the distinction of being half of the longest-married couple in America, passes away at age 97. She and Wilbur Faiss had been married 79 years.
• Voters in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race select “none of these candidates” 44,700 times, accounting for 4.5 percent of the vote. That’s close to the amount received by Independent American Party candidate David Lory VanderBeek—48,000 votes, or 5 percent.