With both Valentine’s Day and snow moving into the South, here are a few things in the news to think about — all, oddly, involving food.

When Connie Taylor of Byron, Georgia, went to make potato salad, she discovered that the 5-pound bag her boyfriend had bought at Freshway the day before contained not one but two heart-shaped potatoes.  According to macon.com, the Idaho Potato Commission reports at least two single heart-shaped potato finds in recent years, but there’s no record of a previous double-whammy.  “Maybe we’ll have a ribeye and a baked, heart-shaped potato on Valentine’s Day,” she told a reporter but said she’s leaning more toward pickling them to save.

Cheryl Freeman of Loris, South Carolina, had no magic Valentine potatoes when she walked inside Food Lion late one recent evening to buy milk and bread, the Southern staples for snowy weather.  Nobody, she says, mentioned the store was closing, but “when I got up to the front I thought I saw people leaving in a car in the parking lot” — and the door was locked.  She didn’t have her cellphone with her, but, while trying unsuccessfully to find a phone in the store, she set off the burglar alarm.  That brought police and rescue.

If you can’t afford groceries, well, Charlotte, North Carolna, may be the place to be.  Among the items donated during the annual Loaves & Fishes food drive so far:  Dale’s Wild West Cajun Style Alligator, canned quail eggs and 5 pounds of ripe Brie.  “We get a lot of jars of caviar in our February food drive,” director Beverly Howard told the Charlotte Observer. “I have deduced that people get it for Christmas and either don’t like it or don’t know what to do with it.”

What if she says something important? The Arkansas Republican Party has told media outlets that no video or audio recordings will be allowed at Verizon Arena when former Alaska governor Sarah Louise Palin headlines a North Little Rock fundraiser next week, according to ArkansasOnline. State GOP Executive Director Chase Dugger said the rule was requested by the Washington Speakers Bureau, which arranged the event.

More evidence that smoking is dangerous: A 65-year-old Powell, Tennessee, woman died after oxygen in the tube to her oxygen mask was ignited, apparently by a lit cigarette.  Fire investigators found a cigarette butt in the woman’s bathroom … In more bad news for smokers, a researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University says electronic cigarettes aren’t delivering as much nicotine as they promise and that users may be modifying them to deliver more toxic nicotine.  E-cigarettes use small heaters to vaporize a mix of nicotine and alcohol, usually propylene glycol, a common ingredient in antifreeze, for a smoker to inhale. Because e-cigarettes do not burn tobacco leaf, users believe they avoid the toxins and cancer-causing compounds in cigarette smoke … but not, necessarily, the toxins that kill cats that drink antifreeze.

Gambling on gambling legislation: The Alabama Legislature has been considering bills to curtail casino raids by Governor Bob Riley. Our contributor Gita M. Smith reports that one proposal by the Senate Judiciary Committee would strip Riley of his power to direct “any civil or criminal investigation for the state,” leaving only the attorney general with that ability.  Immediately, various district attorneys protested the language of the bill, saying the bill gives the Attorney General the authority and control not only of criminal and civil cases,  but investigations that are the purview of district attorneys. Senators as well as other state officials believe Riley has overstretched the powers given to him in mounting his anti-gambling task force, which has sent state troopers to conduct raids at bingo operations across the state. “You subpoena if you want a machine, you don’t come in with 120 people,” Senator Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said.

Dew Droplets: The new Flying Squirrels baseball team in Richmond, Virginia, introduced the new mascot, Nutzy … Democratic state Senator Doug Jackson of Dickson, Tennessee, has introduced a bill to ban late-night “Girls Gone Wild” commercials … Trying to protect his 10-year-old brother, a 3-year-old Kenner, Louisiana, boy stabbed a 15-year-old boy in the back with a kitchen knife … Police in Tampa, Fla., say a 73-year-old grandfather robbed three banks to get money to pay his mortgage … Andrew Young, a former aide to former North Carolina Senator John Edwards testified under oath that he has turned over all copies of a sex tape allegedly showing Edwards with his naked mistress … At a concert in Nashville, Tennessee, singer John Mayer publicly apologized for using the N-word in a Playboy interview …  and for calling his relations with ex-girlfriend Jessica Simpson “sexual napalm.”

Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor was born and raised in Georgia and worked more than 40 years at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a reporter and editor and as an online producer for ajc.com and AccessAtlanta. He served for a time as the newspaper's regional editor, overseeing coverage of the South. He is co-author, with Dr. Leonard Ray Teel, of Into the Newsroom:  An Introduction to Journalism and has conducted workshops in the Middle East on feature writing.