NewsQuirks 336

Election Follies Ken Barnett, a candidate for sheriff of Henry County, Va., aired commercials showing his opponent, incumbent Sheriff H. Frank Cassell, side by side with Adolf Hitler and referring to deputies as "goose-stepping Gestapo." Appalled by being likened to Hitler, Cassell won re-election but complained the 3-to-1 margin over Barnett wasn't enough. Battling for the Democratic nomination in the race to succeed Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., Rep. Peter DeFazio accused an opponent, Rep. Ron Wyden, of running over a dog 20 years ago. Wyden acknowledged the deed, explaining, "I felt really bad about it and still remember it to this day." He added: "It's kind of hard to see what this has to do with running for the U.S. Senate." Police in Eagle Lake, Fla., population 1,900, arrested city council candidate Walter Allen Young, 65, and accused him of trying to bug city offices to gather dirt on city leaders and hiring a prostitute to seduce the mayor so he could take over the position. To help with the scheme, Young and a colleague reportedly recruited an officer they thought was crooked, offering to make him chief of police. Instead, the officer told the police chief. "It's bizarre in any scale of politics," said Mayor Marty Kellner, "but it becomes even more so because this is such a small city." In the past two years, more than 300 federal and local legislators in Russia have been investigated for crimes ranging from bribe-taking to murder. None have been prosecuted, according to U.S. News & World Report, because Russian law provides immunity to legislators. Not just office holders, but also office seekers cannot be prosecuted, and suspicion is growing that many candidates in December's elections ran merely to escape the law. When the Duma considered a proposal to annul immunity for candidates who are wanted by the police or awaiting trial, it voted 201 to 7 against the measure.Oil's Well That Ends Well After six months of mysterious calls, one every 90 minutes, to her business phone, Donna Graybeal of Billerica, Mass., finally called police. They traced the calls to the Potomac, Md., home of Theodore and Elizabeth James. The calls were coming from an old, unused heating oil tank in the basement that was equipped with a device to dial an oil company whenever the fuel was low. A spokesperson for Steuart Petroleum told the Washington Post the company installed the re-dialer device eight years ago as part of a short-lived test in a half-dozen homes. Steuart dropped the toll-free number the tank was supposed to call. Last March, Graybeal got the same number for her home business, and the calls began. In the intervening years, the oil tank apparently continued trying to call the number; when it began connecting with Graybeal's phone, the Jameses had no reason to be suspicious because the toll-free calls never appeared on their bill.Torch of Justice To avoid a hearing after being charged with breaking into his accountant's office in Martinez, Calif., Richard Dudley Stevens, 42, set a courthouse on fire. According to Senior Deputy District Attorney Dennis Murphy, the hearing was rescheduled three times; Stevens torched three more courthouses. "Every time he's had a difficulty with the court," Murphy said, "that court has burned."Fruits of Research British scientists have developed tobacco plants that glow in the dark. Noting that the technology involves transferring the genetic material for a luminous protein in certain jellyfish into plants, Tony Trewavas, a professor at the University of Edinburgh's institute of cell biology, said it could lead to crops that alert farmers of attacks by pests and disease or houseplants that glow when they need water. German researchers have discovered how to make tobacco and other plants protect themselves from pests by spraying them to release extra-strong smells when attacked. These attract carnivores, which eat the herbivores that are feeding off and destroying the plant.Seeing Is Believing Lucio Ambroselli, 57, collected $410,000 from his insurance company for two Italian Renaissance paintings that he reported stolen from the bedroom of his California ranch house. The paintings actually never left the Vatican. The only proof of ownership Ambroselli had offered State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. were two amateurish snapshots of the paintings. He told the agent who came to his home that the actual paintings were inside two sealed wooden crates undergoing a chemical treatment to protect them from light and humidity. When Ambroselli reported their theft just three weeks later, suspicious investigators located them hanging in the Vatican Art Museum, which is where Ambroselli had taken the pictures he showed the insurance agent. "Can you imagine State Farm coming to your house and insuring your house without even having an appraiser look at it?" said art professor Phil Hitchcock of California State University in Sacramento. "They should have never insured those."Love Is a Losing Thing After Stephen Perisie hit the Ohio lottery twice, winning $3.1 million, his wife tried to hire a hitman to kill her husband to collect the $107,000 a year her husband is collecting for 20 years. Prosecutor Frances McGee said the couple's 21-year-old son overheard Kim Kay Perisie discussing the idea with her boyfriend in May and called police. An undercover officer posed as a killer-for-hire, and she offered him $500, giving him a $25 down payment. Perisie said despite the affair and the murder plot, he still loves his wife and wants to patch things up. He added that he was, however, offended by the low price she put on his head. When Robert and Rita Lucas divorced in 1989, she had a provision placed in the couple's property settlement saying that she would collect half of his winnings should he receive a Nobel Prize before Oct. 31, 1995. Three weeks before the deadline, Robert Lucas, an economist at the University of Chicago, won the Nobel Prize for Economics. He said he will pay her half of his $1-million award, explaining, "A deal's a deal."Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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