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Drunk New Mexicans 

Another great moment in Columbus bungling.

Jennifer Sinyella noticed the cops as soon as she arrived in Kent. "The first week I was here, I was followed the whole week," she says. "I didn't know why."

She chalked it up to profiling. As a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe from Albuquerque, she's familiar with suspicion. "It's the same reason I'm followed in department stores when I go shopping."

The Kent cops would soon go away, but every time she left the city, there seemed to be a patrol car in her rearview mirror. Then Sinyella took a trip to Michigan. A cop followed her for a mile outside Toledo, finally pulling her over. But when he neared her car, he realized his mistake. "Oh, you're from New Mexico," he said, and let her go.

Only then did her traveling companion explain the problem: New Mexico license plates are nearly identical to those Ohio gives to DUI offenders.

Anyone convicted of a DUI must sport the handsome plates, which feature scarlet lettering on a yellow background. The law has actually been around since 1967, but it seems judges weren't too big on public humiliation. So beginning this year, the legislature made it mandatory.

What the fine minds in Columbus didn't do is check with other states to ensure that visitors wouldn't be mistaken for drunks, and thus be harassed by the good men and women in blue. That would have taken an extra half-hour of work, and since the legislature was busy ruining the state, there was no time to spare.

Sinyella isn't seeing the humor in this. The Kent State student has only been in Ohio for six months and has yet to find the mirth in our patented brand of serial bungling. Nor are her friends back home impressed by her tales from this exotic locale. "They think you're a little ignorant," she says.

Ouch.

Make us proud, boys
If you were worried about our withering ability to garner negative publicity, consider this: When the New York Press recently ran its annual list of the "50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers," two men with Northeast Ohio roots beat 8 million New Yorkers in the battle for ignominy.

The best showing came from Chuck Klosterman, former music critic for the Akron Beacon Journal, who finished at 38th. Klosterman's ironic meanderings on pop culture won him venom from the Press, which cited his self-absorbed prose and obsession with thong-wearing teenyboppers. Last year, it called Klosterman an "ass-creature" who "looks like a sex offender." Punch isn't quite sure what an "ass-creature" is, but we're fairly certain it's not good.

Bruce Ratner, scion of Cleveland's all-powerful Ratner family, also made the final cut at No. 49. Ratner recently agreed to pay $300 million for the New York Nets and promised the team's move from New Jersey to Brooklyn would be "almost exclusively privately financed." But in a move stolen from his family's Cleveland playbook, Ratner waited barely two weeks before begging the cash-strapped city for millions in welfare. "The people of Brooklyn are just diorama props for investor display, pouring soda and serving hot dogs at minimum wage," wrote the Press. That sounds a lot like the family's view of Cleveland.

News from Pravda
Channel 19's Action News continues to bill itself as the city's "fastest growing newscast" and "Cleveland's choice for late news." But as is often the case with the station one city official calls "Pravda," that's not quite true.

The results from the February ratings sweeps are in, and 19 still looks like the runt of the litter. Action News's 11 p.m. show finished with a 4.2 rating, miles behind market leader WKYC (6.5) and runner-up WJW (5.6). In fact, 19 barely escaped last place, which went to WEWS (4.1).

Moreover, its morning, noon, and early evening newscasts are still getting slaughtered, finishing dead last in each slot. Which means it may be time to revise the station's slogan of "Honest. Fair. Everywhere." Punch suggests "Last Place, But Still Kicking the %$#@ Outta Cable Access!"

We can be heroes
Metal stars are known for taking themselves way too seriously. And they're not exactly happy with budding Brit band the Darkness, whose members have committed the unpardonable sin of actually being happy about making it big and getting to hang in bars for a living. But now the Darkness has perpetrated the ultimate sin: It's been caught being nice to its fans.

When 13-year-old Taylor Netzler heard about the band's CD signing at the Rock Hall last week, he brought along his guitar. The leader of the Horace Mann Middle School supergroup Mollusk was hoping to get it signed by real, live rock stars.

Unfortunately, Rock Hall security, suffering from terminal sphincterization, said the guitar was a no-go. So by the time it was Taylor's turn in line, he had nothing for the band to sign. Darkness Guitarist Dan Hawkins promptly pulled a $10 bill from his pocket, signed it, and gave it to the kid. The band also signed his guitar and posed for pictures. "I didn't think they'd be so nice," says Taylor. "This is $10 I'm never going to spend."

After hearing of the incident, Staind's Aaron Lewis, Godsmack's Sully Erna, and Korn's Jonathan Davis announced that they would bring the Darkness up on heresy charges for showing improper levels of glee and insufficient angst.

Denny has left the planet
From the Great Moments in Delusions of Grandeur File:

"I also know if I had a fraction of the coverage these other candidates have had, I'd be running away with the nomination."

--Dennis Kucinich, whining about media coverage to the Boston Globe.

Can you say "stubborn"?
Bob Cangemi, a retired carpenter with 33 years in the union, wanted some assurances that his pension was safe. So he asked Wayne Waldron, administrator of the Ohio Carpenter's Pension and Annuity Fund, to sign a notarized letter stating that all fund employees were bonded, as required by law.

The union produced a letter from attorney R. Byron Wallace, its Baker and Hostetler mouthpiece, verifying that all employees are indeed bonded. Since the guy has an initial for a first name, you know it had to be true.

But that wasn't good enough for Cangemi. You might say he's old-school; he wants to hear it straight from Waldron. "I want the man's word and signature on my piece of paper. There's a lotta shady stuff goin' on nowadays, and that money's my bread and butter," he says. Cangemi believes there's rampant mismanagement in the shop and just wants to know that Waldron is a stand-up guy. In the meantime, he's refused to sign a certificate of receipt for his benefits, which means he's been without them for three months.

But the union isn't interested in budging either. Local 21 bosses referred Punch to Waldron, who didn't want to talk. Nor did Wallace return our calls; he was busy polishing his initial.

So Cangemi will have to content himself with picketing outside the union's Chester Avenue headquarters. Given the two sides' stubborn willingness to fight over much ado about nothing, Punch believes they both have promising futures in Congress.

The day the music died
"Unspecified illness" was the official reason for the cancellation of Britney Spears's concert last Thursday, but sources inside Clear Channel, the show's promoter, say the real reason was low ticket sales. Curiously, the concert has been rescheduled for June 29 -- the day after Christina Aguilera is scheduled to rock the Gund. May the singer with the most exposed cleavage win.

Drained Brains
To do our part to fight the Quiet Crisis™, Punch will be conducting exit interviews with the growing number of young professionals fleeing Cleveland like Prospect whores at a crackhouse raid.

This week: Darius Miles, age 22

Old gig: Nascent basketball legend

New gig: Latent basketball legend, on the West Coast

Career highlight: Notched a dandy arm tattoo that reads "King of East St. Louis"

What he learned: Local market was oversaturated. "What I do is the same thing as LeBron does, which is why they didn't want to keep me," he says of his former employer, a top area basketball team.

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