NewsQuirks 376

RESCUE MEAfter picking up a distress signal, Britain's Royal Air Force scrambled an air-sea rescue team, which spent three hours looking for the source of the emergency signal. Finally, the RAF helicopter landed at a truck stop, where the crew found the distress beacon in a truck. It was on its way to be repaired when a bump in the road apparently triggered it.Norwegian scientists tracking the migratory routes of wild salmon were excited to pick up a radio signal from one fish they had given up for lost. They followed the signal to the city of Stavanger, where they found it -- and the fish -- in a fisherman's freezer.FELONIOUS FOODFrench police announced they were looking for a man who robbed four banks disguised as a giant eggplant. Before making off with the cash, the man left a real eggplant on the counter.A man accused of sticking a zucchini under his jacket and pretending it was a gun to rob a man in New York faces a fourth trial after three mistrials. After the latest mistrial in August, defense attorney Steven Silverblatt said his client, Carlos Diaz, 28, was merely vegetable shopping when he was wrongly accused.WHEN ASPIRIN ISN'T ENOUGHPolice in Chieti, Italy, freed a girl who had been locked in a dark room for more than six years because she had a headache. Carmela Borchetti was 16 when her uncle, a fortune teller, declared that the headache meant she was possessed by evil spirits. The only cure, he explained, was to spend seven years in a dark room, so her parents put her in her bedroom and fastened the shutters. Acting on a tip, police found Borchetti, now 22, who at first insisted that she did not want to be rescued. "Go away," she told police. "I must lie here for six more months and then I can live again."CURB YOUR APPLIANCEIn Christchurch, New Zealand, a woman answered loud knocking at her door at 5:15 a.m. to find a man holding a color television set. He said he was having difficulty finding his way out of her property. She gave him directions, then checked to make sure the TV wasn't hers. Ten minutes later, police called to an unrelated matter at a neighbor's place, found the man, still carrying the TV. He satisfied officers that it belonged to him but couldn't explain why he was wandering around in the dark with it, according to a Sgt. Kortegast, who commented, "It has left us wondering if there are not enough dogs to go around."CHOKING RICHAdam Kane Morris, a 23-year-old paranoid schizophrenic from Kew, Australia, choked to death on a wad of 10 $50 bills he had swallowed during a fit in the bath.Nine days later in Buffalo, N.Y., a robbery suspect who tried to swallow incriminating evidence choked to death on a $50 bill.LITTLE-BANG THEORIESPhil Cram, 42, police chief of Medway, Maine, was fishing with two companions when he tried to put a homemade bomb in the water to stun fish so he could scoop them up when they floated to the surface. Instead, the device exploded prematurely, blowing off his hand from the thumb down.In Denver, a machine that makes detonators for car air bags blew up, causing the small device, called an initiator, to become lodged in the nose of Nicolas Villarruel, 29. The initiator holds a charge equal to five big M-80 firecrackers. Authorities took the worker to a local hospital, where he was operated on partly under water because the initiator is activated by air.In Medina, Ohio, a construction worker brought a homemade 3-1/2-foot-long, double-barreled cannon to work. Co-workers expressed curiosity about how much noise it could make, so the worker loaded it with black gun powder and fired it. According to police Lt. Dave Snows, the explosion caused a piece of the cannon to fly off a considerable distance and hit construction worker Richard M. Houdek, 31, in the head, killing him.ARTISTIC COMPROMISEDuring the shooting of her new movie, "Stealing Beauty," actress Liv Tyler, whose character was supposed to be posing for an artist, refused to bare both breasts, telling director Bernardo Bertolucci it would be "exploitative nudity." She insisted she would reveal only one breast.THE CARNIVAL IS OVERSao Paulo cardiovascular surgeon Roberto Tullii announced that stress, caused by the poor economy, accounts for the sexual problems of 60 percent of men seeking his services, twice the number 10 years ago. Their average age also has fallen to 37 from 47 in 1986, when Brazil began a series of austere, anti-inflation programs. Tullii told Estado de Sao Paulo that professional males are most at risk from stress-related sexual problems, explaining, "It would be hard to find a shoe-shiner suffering from impotence."MAKEOVERAfter laying off more than 200 workers to help close a budget gap, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it was spending $1.3 million to replace bus drivers' brown uniforms with blue ones. "It's a morale booster," MTA spokesperson Andrea Green said, indicating the change was an attempt "to elevate the stature of the bus operators" in neighborhoods so they'll be regarded "like police officers or firefighters."OUT OF FOCUSSeveral hours after a fatal three-car accident on the Massachusetts Turnpike, Peter Nicholas, 61, sold exclusive photographs of the crash scene to a newspaper in Framingham. Later, state police charged Nicholas with running over one of the two victims, then leaving the scene without telling them. Sgt. Larry Gillis told the Boston Globe that two cars collided, throwing the driver out of one of them. When the other driver got out to help, a third car approached and hit at least one of the two, possibly both. That car was Nicholas's, said police, who found hair and skin on it that matched one of the victims. Bill Thompson of the Middlesex New, who bought the pictures from Nicholas, said, "This kind of thing gives photographers a bad name."

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