NewsQuirks 340

Riding the Rails Mike Wright, 17, jumped aboard a train outside Crofton, Ky., in August, hoping for a quick ride into town. By the time his journey ended, he had traveled 2,000 miles. The train did not stop in Crofton but continued on to Evansville, Ind., 65 miles to the north. Wright switched trains and, believing he was on his way back home, fell asleep. He awoke to find someone had closed and latched the door to the insulated produce car. A week later, two railroad workers in Hermiston, Ore., heard Wright calling for help.Oops! When Paul Holloway, a professor at the University of Florida, landed at Orlando in August after a flight from Amsterdam, he pointed out to police that one of his bags was torn. A search yielded explosives in his luggage. Upon further investigation, authorities discovered that Dutch police planted the explosives without detonators to test airport security measures, then forgot to remove them afterward. Dutch Justice Minister Winnie Sorgdrager admitted that police had planted explosives in passengers' luggage daily for the past seven years. The world's first commercial wave-powered electric generator was towed to a site off northern Scotland as the first step in harnessing the power of the seas for cheap, clean and renewable energy. Allan Thomson, managing director of Applied Research and Technology of Inverness, which developed the structure to convert waves into electrical energy said it would produce enough electricity to supply about 2,000 homes. Less than a month later, it sank.Jail Isn't So Bad Spending 20 years in a Delhi jail saved Charles Gurmukh Sobhraj from death. Asia's famed "bikini killer" of the 1970s was facing execution in Thailand for drugging and killing six women at a beach resort, but Thai death warrants expire after 20 years. Hong Kong's Eastern Express reported that during his imprisonment in India, Sobhraj was a pampered prisoner, the only inmate in his jail who had air conditioning, a color television and an electric typewriter. Kiran Bedi, India's former prison inspector general, even commissioned Sobhraj to write her biography. Anthony Sarivola, 40, was charged with earning more than $1 million by selling stock in phony companies. According to a civil complaint filed in November by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sarivola directed the scheme for four months in 1992 while at the federal prison in Allenwood, Pa., for an unrelated mail-fraud conviction.Chew on This According to documents released in August by the Food and Drug Administration, officials of U.S. Tobacco, the largest maker of chewing tobacco, advocated overcoming concerns about the dangers of smoking by marketing edible nicotine. "We must sell the use of tobacco in the mouth and appeal to young people," Vice President L.F. Bantle was quoted in the minutes of one meeting. "We hope to start a fad. The theme will be: 'Tobacco -- too good to smoke.' " When a top scientist suggested creating a "swallowable chew: a confection with nicotine," the company considered the idea for two years before rejecting it.Survey Says A Harris survey commissioned by United Airlines to find out why passengers look out the windows of its airplanes reported that 45 percent try to pick out their homes, but only 29 percent are successful. The survey also learned that 38 percent of air travelers never use the lavatory during a flight, 60 percent do and 2 percent aren't sure.Amazing Feat After winning a seat in the Philippine Congress, former first lady Imelda Marcos announced that, thanks to the kindness of friends and supporters, she has been able to replenish the thousands of shoes confiscated when she and her husband fled the country. "You'd be surprised," she said. "I have more shoes now than before."Being a Teddy Bear Is No Picnic Australia's New South Wales state government announced a ban on koala cuddling in zoos and wildlife parks. "Passing koalas around a crowd of tourists causes unacceptable stress to the animal," said Richard Amery, agriculture minister for New South Wales. Although tourists won't be allowed to hold koalas, the new regulations, which take effect in 1997, allow the marsupials to be stroked and petted. Tourists will also be allowed to put their arms around a koala, so long as it remains on a tree branch. Australia's tourism council urged the state to reverse its decision. It explained that hugging a koala is the ultimate experience for many visitors to Australia.Fruits of Research In France, unemployed mechanic Yves Renault invented a device that automatically opens oysters. It's a steel wire that is inserted into the shellfish before they are sold to restaurants and retailers. Increasing the salt content of the oysters' cultivation tanks stuns the bivalves, which open slightly, allowing the wire to be slipped in. The oyster farmer then returns the salt concentration to normal, and the shells close tightly but with the wire in place.The Price Is Right When a convicted kidnapper in Hull, England, held his former girlfriend and her 20-year-old daughter at gun point in their house, police erected a 12-foot fence, cut off power to the house and evacuated the neighbors. After six day, the daughter walked out. Five days later, the mother walked out. After 14 days, the gunman gave up. Police defended the $160,000 cost of the siege by noting that nobody had been hurt. After a financial report by the clerk of the House of Representatives showed that in the first quarter of 1995 Speaker Newt Gingrich and other top Republicans spent a quarter-million dollars more to run their offices than Democratic leaders spent in the same period in 1994, Gingrich's press secretary, Tony Blankley, observed, "Look at how much legislation we've produced. The per-bill cost is very low."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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