NewsQuirks 361

CURSES, FOILED AGAINPolice in Highland, Ind., arrested Mark Petraitis, 24, for robbing a convenience store after the clerk identified him, even though he was wearing maroon underpants over his head. "He was wearing them sideways, using one of the leg holes to look through to hide his identity," police Lt. Paul Gard said. "That didn't work so well because the clerk recognized him immediately because he had been in there often."SKINNEDA joint venture announced by Britain's Smith & Nephew health care company and the U.S. biotechnology company Advanced Tissue Sciences will produce human skin patches from the circumcised foreskins of babies. Shipped in frozen cassettes ready for surgeons to thaw, rinse and cut to shape, the skin patches are grown inside the cassettes by seeding a synthetic scaffold that later dissolves. ATS said each foreskin generates enough skin to cover six football fields.TAX REFORMCurrituck County, N.C., board of education member Sam Walker insisted the reason he owes the state nearly $10,000 in back taxes is that he assumed he was exempt. "I'm an elected official," he explained. "I didn't know you had to pay taxes." Four years ago, California state Sen. Don Rogers denied that he owed the federal government $150,000 in back taxes, declaring that because of the 14th Amendment he had a "white man's citizenship" and wasn't bound to pay taxes. In April, the Palmdale Republican announced he was rescinding that declaration, explaining that he had taken the position in the first place after receiving some bad tax advice.Thirty-five percent of Americans surveyed in a poll reported in the New Republic said they would favor printing ads on dollar bills if doing so would result in lower taxes.MAMMALS IN ACTIONAuthorities in Mendocino County, Calif., issued a warning to mothers to watch out for a woman who reportedly was grabbing babies from strangers, then breast-feeding them. A Eureka police report said the woman told one shocked mother, "Every child needs lactate nourishment."PERFECT NEIGHBORNobody in Monza, Italy, had seen Gabriella Villa for seven years, but relatives and neighbors assumed she had moved from her apartment to another town because no one ever answered the door. Some even started a rumor that she ran away with another man. When her estranged husband and 26-year-old daughter obtained a court's permission to inspect the apartment for possible sale in April, they found the 47-year-old woman in her bed, dead from natural causes seven years earlier.OOPS!Scientists from Utah State University and Russia worked for two years, spending $7 million from the Defense Department, to build an anti-missile satellite. A day after the 550-pound, 59-inch satellite was launched on its 30-day mission in December, it failed. After a three-month investigation, USU scientists concluded that the Russians had connected solar panels to recharge the satellite's battery backwards. "They were hooked up in reverse polarity," USU engineer James Cantrell said, "and had the effect of discharging the battery instead of charging it." In Carbondale, Ill., Jon Podbielski and Bob Czernik chained themselves to a locked gate to protest construction of an incinerator at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Refuge officials said the blocked gate wasn't the entrance to the incinerator construction site but to a waste-water treatment plant on the refuge. As a result, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials didn't become aware of the two protesters, who had fastened their necks to the gate at 5 a.m., until that afternoon. Then, because Podbielski and Czernik had squirted super glue into the U-shaped bicycle locks so the keys wouldn't work, rescue workers ended up cutting through a brace on the gate to free the men, leaving the locks around their necks.NAVEL MANEUVERSThomas Rizer, 54, a high school math teacher in Hackensack, N.J., resigned after he was accused of photographing dozens of male students' bellybuttons. "He would use his position to gain confidence of kids, take pictures of their torsos, their belly button area, and then use these pictures for his own sexual gratification," prosecutor Charles Buckley said, adding, "It's hard to tell how many different people are involved because a lot of pictures only show the navel area."CHEW ON THISAuthorities in Kanawha County, W.Va., concluded that Mark A. Howell, 31, died when he opened the door of his pickup truck to spit tobacco juice and struck his face on a rock.NUCLEAR FAMILIESEmergency officials in the Ukraine said a fire that engulfed five deserted villages near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant may have been caused by a burning cigarette discarded by picnicking families visiting graves near their former homes.Scientists studying wildlife in contaminated areas around Chernobyl reported that moles are thriving on radioactive pollution. "These are the most contaminated animals I've seen anywhere," Ron Chesser of the University of Georgia said, observing that although a species of the rodent is mutating at an "incredible rate," it is breeding healthily and producing ever-stronger offspring.NON-FATAL ATTRACTIONWhen their parents disapproved of their relationship, Huang Pin-jen, 27, and Chang Shu-mei, 26, attempted suicide by driving a car off a cliff in central Taiwan. Huang was seriously injured, and Chang suffered minor injuries. A month later, according to police in Kaohsiung, they tried to hang themselves in their hotel room with bed sheets. When that failed, the couple held hands and jumped from the 12th floor of their hotel. They landed on the roof of an adjacent five-story restaurant and were hospitalized with bone fractures. "We notified their parents, and they didn't seem surprised at the renewed suicide bid," police officer Chang Fang said. "But they agreed to settle their dispute with the young couple."Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306. Odd-news hounds will enjoy the latest compilation, Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest: True News of the World's Least Competent People, by John J. Kohut and Roland Sweet (Plume/Penguin).

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