Agnew contract hawked by used-car salesman


Sidney Ferris, a used-car salesman in Portland, Oregon, is asking $6,500 for a Baltimore County roads contract that was a source of one of Spiro Agnew's kickbacks as county executive. (There now, I've finally used the words "used-car salesman" and "Spiro Agnew" in the same sentence.) Ferris has a July 1965 contract in which the county agreed to pay $29,624 to a Baltimore firm that extended roads into the Pikeswood area of Randallstown. It was one of several contracts in the kickback scheme that led, in 1973, to Agnew's resignation from the vice-presidency. Ferris bought the document 13 years ago from Bob Batchelder, a well-known autograph dealer in Ambler, Pa. Good luck getting $6,500 for it, though. Rob White, master collector based in Catonsville, says the demand for Things Spiro is limited. "It's not a name that excites collectors," he says.

Unless you collect history's great bums.

Thirsty squirrels

"No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude," is a line from the opening of Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." Yeah, well, Ernie, we have squirrel road kill up on the Bay Bridge. Explain that one!

Many have tried to explain how a dead squirrel ended up in the middle of the eastbound side of the bridge a week ago Saturday. But wait! This Just In: Long summer drought may explain squirrely fall!

According to a dispatch from Cornell University, "squirrels by the thousands are dying on the streets and highways of the Northeast this year." In a 3-mile stretch of Catskills highway, state officials counted 156 road kill squirrels -- about one every 100 feet.

Zounds! Is this the kind of apocalyptic madness Bill Murray warned of in "Ghostbusters"? Have squirrels gone nuts? Is there a suicide pact in the acorn underground?

"They're certainly not suicidal, but some squirrels seem to have lost what little caution they had in dealing with traffic," says Paul W. Sherman, Cornell University Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior. Sherman and other Cornell scientists think the drought has something to do with this.

Ian A. Merwin, professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, notes that this year squirrels are eating fruit of all kinds as a source of water. As droughts greatly increase the sugar content of fruits, some animals could be experiencing sugar highs. Adds Sherman: "We know that robins and cedar waxwings crash into windows and electric wires after eating over-ripe wild cherries. Their judgment is impaired. The same could be happening to thirsty squirrels." Is this helping?

Profits from misery

Does it bother anyone that TicketMaster, the monster teleseller and frequent target of protests by consumer groups, is making money off the Holocaust? It charges $3.50 per ticket (plus a $1 handling fee for each order by phone) to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, where admission is free if tickets are obtained at the door. At TicketMaster outlets, the charge is $2.50 per ticket. (Though you'd never learn that from the recorded message on the museum's ticket information line.)

Under its contract with the museum, TM charges the service fee for advance tickets. Mary Morrison, spokesman for the museum, says out-of-town visitors apparently don't mind paying for the convenience of a guaranteed ticket. Yeah, well, convenience is beside the point. (You could make that argument about almost )) every museum in the nation's capital.)

This institution, built with private funds on federal land, memorializes one of human history's darkest nightmares. But for all TicketMaster seems to care, it could be King's Dominion. Just another way to make a buck. TM, which often brags about the "vital service" it provides, should donate it to the Holocaust museum. It can afford to. Last year, the company posted earnings of $240 million.

Offbeat music

Note to fellow insomniacs: That's Ed Petrick hosting the weekend overnight show on WRNR-FM, and doing so superbly. This station continues to be wonderfully unpredictable, and relatively fearless when it comes to new music. The other day in morning drive, RNR aired a rockabilly punk number called "Itchy Chicken," and it was a hoot. (The morning host, Debbie Mann, has one of the sexiest voices on local radio, too.)

But, of course, RNR isn't for everyone. "If this station tried to appeal to everyone all the time, we'd be The Colt," says promotions director Ken Kandell.

Money on the run

I've heard from Cyberpuke again: "Ten million dollars currently in the pipeline. Transferred from a bank in Singapore to an Australian bank in Sydney. Was transferred to Panama this A.M. Will transfer to London this afternoon, then to a bank in Rotterdam. Then on to the Caymans and very shortly to its destined account. Having modem problems. Hang in there."

A universal omen

xTC Maybe they know something we don't: The Friday the 13th lecture at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory is entitled, "The Fate of the Universe."

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