NewsQuirks 365

SMALL CHANGEAfter Telekom Malaysia had 900 of its 3,500 pay phones stolen in the state of Sabah on Borneo Island, investigators discovered that fishermen were using them as bait. Company official Ahmad Zaini Mohammad Amin explained the commercial fishermen cut off the handsets, connected them to high-powered batteries and lowered them into the water. Electricity passing through the microphones produced a high-pitched sound that attracted fish into their nets.Salim Kara, a former transit worker in Edmonton, Alberta, was convicted of pilfering $1.5 million in coins from collection boxes over 13 years. Prosecutor Bill Pinckney explained that Kara used narrow magnet-equipped rods to remove up to $7,500 a week, supplementing his $28,000 salary. He used the money to buy two cars and a $750,000 mansion in British Columbia.CELEBRITY CORNERWilliam Shatner, who gained fame playing Captain James Tiberius Kirk on the television series Star Trek, is remodeling his Los Angeles house, according to Buzz magazine, which reported he has designed his bathroom to look like the bridge of the starship Enterprise.Actor Charlie Sheen paid $5,000 to buy all the seats in one section behind the left-field fence at Anaheim Stadium for the first California Angels home game this season, hoping to catch a ball. "Anybody can catch a foul ball. I want to catch a fair ball," he said, explaining, "I didn't want to crawl over the paying public. I wanted to avoid the violence." He sat with three friends on an aisle about 20 rows back, pounding a glove in anticipation. The Angels won, 4-3, but no ball was hit anywhere near him.ANOTHER CASE FOR THE X FILESAstronomers at Australia's Parkes Observatory were hopeful they had made contact with intelligent life elsewhere in the universe after their radio telescope began picking up a distinctive radio signal every evening about dinner time. They later discovered the signal was coming from their microwave oven downstairs.GUN PLAYPolice in Sandusky, Ohio, charged Lowell Altvater, 80, with negligent assault for firing a shotgun at what he said he thought was a rat in his barn. It actually was his wife's hat, which she was wearing. Three years earlier, Altvater had fired at what he thought was a rat in the barn, but it turned out to be his own leg.In Lancaster, S.C., Richard Gardner, 23, was nailing some molding at his mother-in-law's house but didn't have a hammer, so he used a .25-caliber handgun that he thought was empty. He shot himself in the hand and his wife in the stomach.MEDAL FROM OSHAWorkers at the Delaware Correctional Center preparing an outdoor gallows for the first execution by hanging in 50 years affixed nonskid safety strips to each of the 23 steps so convicted murderer Billy Bailey wouldn't slip as he climbed to the noose.CAT FOODA reclusive man who loved cats was eaten by his 15 pets after he died leaving them without food, according to police in Leiden, Netherlands. Alerted by neighbors who hadn't seen the 69-year-old man for two weeks, officers found the remains of Frans Heemskerk "almost totally eaten up" by his cats, police spokesperson Robert Blom said.GENDER BENDERSActing on a tip, police in Burbank, Calif., arrested Valerie Lee Taylor. Fingerprints identified the woman as Freddy Lee Turner, a man wanted in the 1979 shooting death of Billy Marshall Posey in Gaffney, N.C. Taylor's attorney, Walter Krauss, denied his client had a sex-change operation to avoid arrest, explaining, "It definitely was a lifestyle choice."The strait-laced government of Singapore said it would amend its laws to allow people who have had a sex change to marry, explaining the new policy would allow a person who has "undergone a sex-reassignment procedure" to be identified as being of the "same sex to which he/she has been reassigned."Minnesota's Medicaid program has funded sex-change operations for as many as 10 persons since 1987 and has approved such surgery for several others who have been unable to find a physician to perform it, according to Chris Reisdorf, policy coverage supervisor in Minnesota's Department of Human Services. Noting no other state Medicaid program funds sex-change surgeries, The Washington Times reported the state's Medicaid program covers the operations when they are deemed to be "medically necessary" -- that is, to aid transsexuals who say they are "trapped" in the bodies of the opposite sex and whose lives may be so disrupted by their perception that doctors prescribe surgery.Four youths raised as girls in Amman, Jordan, because of a rare genetic defect underwent surgery in Israel to become boys. Their family first discovered the disorder, which prevents the male genitals descending from the pubic cavity, when their oldest child reached puberty and began to develop facial hair and a male physique. Ariel Ressler, an endocrinologist at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital, said the condition is common among Palestinians in the Gaza Strip's Jebaliya refugee camp due to intermarriage, noting that one in 150 males has the defect.Last December, Utah social services officials reported they had a 12-year-old boy who said he had been left at a bus stop by his stepmother and father. Officials said the youngster provided a birth certificate for Michael Ross, who would be 13 on Christmas, and a letter from his stepmother saying she could no longer care for him because his father has AIDS and his birth mother was dead. After the story was publicized, Vermont officials alerted Utah authorities of a possible deception. An investigation determined the abandoned boy was actually a 25-year-old woman, Birdie Jo Hoaks, who had attempted similar scams in at least 11 other states.Denver sheriff's officials unwittingly placed a 38-year-old female prisoner arrested on a prostitution charge in the men's jail, where she had consensual sex with two prisoners. Fifteen hours later, other prisoners tipped off deputies to 5-foot-7, 130-pound Jimmie Joe McGee's true gender. "I don't think this has ever happened before," Capt. Carlos Jackson said, explaining that McGee's attitude toward being locked up with 60 men was "nonchalant."

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