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Battle of the Bulge Spills Into the Street

Thank ODOT for another scourge on the landscape: Blubber-butts. For a long time now, we Clevelanders have blamed our weather, our beer, and our ethnic eatin' for our gelatinous physiques. But a new study shows that our own streets may be responsible for packing the ugly pounds onto our sturdy midwestern frames. According to the Surface Transportation Policy Project, Cleveland is the 41st most dangerous area for pedestrians. And according to the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club, Cleveland's risky routes are "discouraging people from walking and may be contributing to the rise in obesity." The project's researchers -- who undoubtedly kept trim crunching all those numbers -- found out that more than 33 percent of us are overweight. Elsewhere, study results yielded few surprises, with 5 of the top 10 danger zones found in Florida ("America Dies Here"), where tortoise-footed geriatric types surely skewed the data.

Loopholes to liberty! The ACLU has swooped in to save the Green Party volunteers banned from petitioning at Ohio City's Open-Air Market. Two Saturdays ago, operatives for the Ohio City Near West Development Corporation tossed the Greens from the outdoor bazaar, worried that their signature-gathering would compromise the NWDC's political neutrality and endanger its grant funding. But a determined ACLU attorney discovered that NWDC's permit covers only the park at West 25th and Market streets -- not the sidewalk around it. The Greens should be back in front of the market this weekend to further the presidential push of Ralph Nader in Ohio. It's all in a summer's work for the ACLU, says Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. With election season fast approaching and activists greasing crowds at countless events, Link says there are affronts to political campaign rights each week in Ohio. "Civil liberties is a seasonal business," she points out, "mangers at Christmastime, prayer at graduation, and in the summer, free speech." And plenty of hot air.

Stanley Howse, rapper Flesh-N-Bone of the Grammy-winning Cleveland band Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, is doing his part to preserve the band's image from his cell in Los Angeles. Already on probation for a conviction in a 1998 assault with a deadly weapon, the 27-year-old native Clevelander was found guilty last week of assault with a firearm and for being an ex-convict in criminal possession of a firearm. The guilty verdict, which could lead to almost 20 years in jail time, came in response to a December incident involving two men, an assault rifle, and an infant's bed. Seems a visit by friend Tarrance Vickers prompted Howse to pull an AK-47 from his crib -- his baby crib -- and point it at Vickers. After packin' baby's arms in December, Howse was arrested again in January for, among other things, waving a loaded shotgun at a relative's L.A. home. Those charges rendered Howse in the flesh once more in an L.A. courthouse Tuesday and cast further shadows on the future of Cleveland's most popular music group. "Stanley's been locked up before," says Sean Williams, the band's publicist at Ruthless Records. "To be honest, it really doesn't affect their performance that much." While Howse lives the thug life, his bandmates will handle the updated harmonies on a tour later this summer. "We're fortunate there's five people in the band," says Williams. "It'd be different if there were only two or three, but they can cover for one another. They do it all the time."

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