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See No Evil 

Exploding water? What exploding water?

When the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry examined Cady Road in North Royalton last year, it found drinking water so loaded with natural gas that you could light it with a match. The feds deemed the situation fraught with peril -- as in the fire and explosion kind -- and called it "an urgent health hazard." ["Stonewall," April 23]

So what was the response of Ohio bureaucrats, who insisted for years that Cady Road didn't have a problem? According to a new version of the feds' report, Ohio officials insist on their own correctness, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Their attempts to discredit the report border on the humorous. The Ohio Health Department insists that, because there haven't been any explosions or fires in the last 50 years, the hazard is naturally not urgent. Better to wait until people are actually blown up before taking such drastic measures.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources prefers the ass-covering route, taking umbrage at the conclusion that oil and gas wells near the road have "a history of violations related to maintenance and accidents." This statement "could mislead local citizens to conclude that oil and gas wells are not being adequately regulated," the agency squawked. The ODNR, naturally, is responsible for well regulation.

But this week's Whiner Award goes to North Royalton. The city accused the feds of sensationalizing the report because they used "bold type" in their press release. You heard that right: tyranny through the power of bold type.

It's only a matter of time before the feds stoop to using italics.

Prevention or perverts?

Drug tests are a common condition of employment these days, especially when the work involves machinery. No one wants a dopehead freewheeling around the factory floor on a forklift, lest he accidentally crush everyone's lunch. But as if it isn't hard enough to leak on demand, food packer Sysco in Bedford Heights now wants to watch.

A recent applicant says a staffer at Sysco demanded to monitor the drug test by visually confirming that his penis was in the cup and watching him urinate. The applicant drew the line at the compulsory piddle and, after some harsh words, left without a job.

Seems to Punch that there oughtta be a law, and an attorney we spoke with said there is. While there are definite procedures for monitoring a drug test, the lawyer said this peculiar potty procedure was "well over the line."

Sysco won't comment on the allegations; messages left for plant boss Chris Reasoner were not returned. But a receptionist -- who wouldn't give her name, being a recent hire herself -- opined that requiring applicants to put on a shower show seemed "a little unethical." She's obviously not management material.

Twisted mister

The owner of the music world's most staggering messianic complex has to be Chubby Checker, the one-megahit wonder who's been lobbying not just for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but for a statue in front of the museum.

In a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Checker repeated past assertions that "The Twist," his 1960 hit, "changed the world" by introducing dancing without touching one's partner. Checker seems to suggest that we'd all still be foxtrotting if it weren't for him, and he has gone so far as to compare his contribution to society to the harnessing of electricity and the invention of the telephone.

For the record, Checker didn't actually write "The Twist," nor did he invent the dance. And in a recent FreeVote.com survey on artists who should be inducted, Checker barely made the list, garnering just 5 of the 6,800 votes cast.

So Punch suggests a compromise: make Checker the first segment of a new VH1 special, The Top Wedding Reception Songs of All Time.

PETA rap

A recent stealth campaign by an animal-rights group portrays the Cleveland Clinic as Dick Dastardly in a lab coat. The hospital's crime: interstate pig commerce.

A year ago, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent an undercover spy to a Missouri animal-research facility. The spy worked nine months at the Sinclair Research Center, shooting hidden-camera footage. Highlights included dogs and cats found dead in their cages, experiments carried out on on terrified animals, and inadequate facilities. The spy walked away from the job in February, and PETA went public with her findings.

According to the group, the Cleveland Clinic ordered swine-to-go from Sinclair numerous times during the nine months.

"We don't believe buying animals from a place where a live cat was washed down a drain is responsible," says PETA researcher Peter Wood, who is advised by lawyers to refer to Sinclair only as "that hellhole." "If you're going to be buying animals for experimental purposes and you're going to give money to one of these facilities, at least use one that adheres to the minimal standards of the Animal Welfare Act." (The hellhole has denied that animal cruelty is a systemic problem, and the USDA, which conducts random checks on the operation, backs the claim.)

The Clinic was one of 28 organizations tut-tutted by PETA for its ties to Sinclair. "For the Cleveland Clinic to be doing business with this facility is reprehensible," maintains Wood, who hasn't received a response to his May 19 letter to Clinic CEO Floyd Loop. He shouldn't feel bad. A Clinic spokesman wouldn't talk to Punch either.

It's hipper in Pittsburgh

For months now, the rumors have been reaching Punch's ears, the frenzy growing at each repetition: IKEA is coming to town! IKEA is coming to town!

For the young, poor, and uncommonly hip, the Swedish furniture store is something like Utopia, with a vast array of simple pieces, from bookshelves to bed frames to flower pots, all of it incredibly affordable and oh-so-modern. So, naturally, Punch was thrilled to learn IKEA was coming to Willoughby. Or Lyndhurst. Or wherever this week's rumor had it.

Sadly, it is no more than a rumor. Spokesman Joseph Roth says Cleveland is not on the company's short-term development list. IKEA plans to open its first Boston store next year and just broke ground in Bloomington, Minnesota. Cleveland will have to wait until 2005 at the earliest. "We're hoping to open five stores a year for the next 10 years, but first we're primarily looking for new stores in existing markets," Roth says. And that means we'll just have to keep driving to Pittsburgh.

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