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The skinny

The skinny: Thieves cart off St. Louis bricks

beware, floridians

think st. louis bricks are hot? Well, they are

Law enforcement officials, politicians and historic preservationists have concluded that brick thieves are to blame for many of the 391 fires at vacant buildings in St. Louis over the past two years, deliberately torching them to quicken their harvest of St. Louis brick, prized by developers throughout the South for its distinctive character. Where thieves in many cities harvest copper, aluminum and other materials from vacant buildings, brick rustling has emerged as a sort of scrapper's endgame, exploited once the rest of a building's architectural elements have been exhausted. After the fire that devastated much of St. Louis in 1849, city leaders required all new buildings to be made of noncombustible material. That law, along with the rich clays of eastern Missouri, led to a flourishing brick industry. It is estimated that as many as eight semitrailer loads of stolen bricks leave the city each week for Louisiana, Texas and yes, Florida.

rio rembrandt

Chimp a big draw for Brazil zoo

A retired circus chimpanzee is the Cezanne of simians. Trainer Roched Seba said Monday that Jimmy, 26, doesn't like the toys and other diversions most chimps enjoy. So three weeks ago, he introduced Jimmy to painting after reading about animals in zoos elsewhere who enjoyed a little canvas time. Temperamental as great artists can be, Jimmy at times declines to paint if his cage at Rio de Janeiro's Niteroi Zoo is surrounded by too many gawkers. But for at least 30 minutes a day, he dips his brush into plastic paint containers and uses bold strokes to create his art.

trial balloon

Caffeine energizes his defense

The lawyer for a Kentucky man accused of strangling his wife argued Monday that excessive caffeine from sodas, energy drinks and diet pills left the defendant so sleep-deprived and mentally unstable that he falsely confessed. Shannon Sexton said in opening statements at the murder trial of Woody Will Smith, 33, that Smith did not kill Amanda Hornsby-Smith, 28, on May 4, 2009. The argument was a twist on Sexton's previously stated defense as outlined in earlier court documents — that caffeine rendered Smith temporarily insane.

safety in numbers

Pot growers join Teamsters

As organized labor faces declining membership, one of the country's most storied unions is looking to a new growth industry: marijuana. The Teamsters added nearly 40 new members earlier this month by organizing the country's first group of unionized marijuana growers. Such an arrangement is likely possible only in California, which has the nation's loosest medical marijuana laws. But it's still unclear how the Teamsters will safeguard the rights of members who do work that's considered a federal crime.

Compiled from Times wire services and other sources.

The skinny: Thieves cart off St. Louis bricks 09/20/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 5:12pm]
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