July 15, 2008

The Morning Jolt

Diner charged in rat plot

APPLETON, Wis. A woman accused of planting a dead lab rat in restaurant food and demanding $500,000 to keep quiet was charged Monday with one count of extortion.

Debbie R. Miller, 41, of Appleton also faces misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and resisting an officer.

Miller claimed to find the rat in her lunch April 17 as she ate at the upscale Seasons Restaurant in Grand Chute, according to the criminal complaint.

She threatened to alert the media unless the owners paid her $500,000, the complaint said.

The owners turned the rat over to their insurance company. Investigators there determined the rodent was a white laboratory rat, the complaint said.

Tests also suggested the rodent had been cooked in a microwave oven; the restaurant doesn't use microwaves in cooking.

Miller said the incident caused her to seek unspecified medical treatment. She was being held Monday in the Outagamie County jail on $1,500 cash bond.

Court Commissioner Brian Figy said the bond amount reflected Miller's lack of a criminal record.


Gray hair has a silver lining

The General Social Survey has interviewed 50,000 people since 1972 to enable researchers to detect trends and to make comparisons among groups and to see how the same people changed over time. One asks whether they are very happy, pretty happy or not too happy.

"One important finding was people who were biologically older are happier than younger adults," said Tom W. Smith of the University of Chicago, who is the director of the General Social Survey.

The study, conducted by researcher Yang Yang at the University of Chicago, used the granular detail of the survey to eliminate the possibility that older people seemed happier because they were raised in a generation that was taught from an early age to be content with its lot. Rather, Yang found, in research published in the American Sociological Review, those older than 65 had not always been happy. It was being older that conferred the contentment that many of them reported.

"It is counter to most people's expectations," said Smith, who spoke about Yang's paper because she was not available. "People would expect it to be in the opposite direction you start off by saying older people have illnesses, deaths of spouses they must be less happy."

From news service reports

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