Newsquirks 401

NEXT TIME, WEAR A DISGUISE Michael Coulter, 32, was arrested in Ireland for shoplifting after clerks told police to be on the lookout for a man who was so tall that he had trouble entering the shop. At 7-foot-5, Coulter also claims the distinction of being Ireland's tallest man. Clarence Payne, 32, tried to rob a Syracuse, N.Y., bank in 1992 but left empty-handed when a teller turned on a security camera. He was quickly caught and sentenced to two to four years in state prison. In January, city police said, Payne walked into the same bank and handed the teller a holdup note. He fled with $63 in marked bills, only to be arrested less than an hour later. In both cases, tellers were able to identify Payne because he regularly cashed checks at the bank.DO-GOODER OF THE WEEK (TIE) After undergoing surgery to remove a lump of cholesterol from a neck artery, Philippine President Fidel Ramos announced he would auction off the lump to raise money to help the poor. For people on the go who have to go but have no toilet paper, Japan's Matsushita Battery Industrial Co. Ltd., introduced a portable bottom washer that slips into a purse or a hip pocket. Weighing just 10 ounces, the battery-powered bidet holds 7 fluid ounces of water, which squirts out through a collapsible nozzle. It features adjustable water pressure and cost $91. The device isn't Japan's first portable bidet, but that version, made by Toto Ltd., is bigger, needs assembling, involves detachable nozzles and costs about 50 percent more.OOPS! Project Heavy West, a Los Angeles agency paid by the city to coordinate graffiti removal, admitted an overzealous cleanup crew made a "tragic error" when it painted over Venice Beach's "Graffiti Pit" in January. The sunken concrete arena, where spray-can artists and muralists have displayed their work since the psychedelic era, had become a tourist attraction, as well as a popular setting for movie, television and commercial producers. Also in January, anti-graffiti crews in Albuquerque, N.M., painted over a mural on the wall of a water retention pond, unaware that the city paid $15,400 for the artwork in 1993.REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONE The Swedish telephone company Gratistelefon has begun offering its customers free calls. It supports the service by selling advertising. Clients pay 64 cents for each 10-second commercial. Callers hear a commercial before being connected, then a minute into the conversation a warning beep sounds and both parties hear another commercial. Calls are then interrupted every three minutes.ULTIMATE COUCH POTATOES Police in Bakersfield, Calif., reported finding the "mummified" body of Elizabeth Wilcher, 77, in her apartment, propped up on a couch in front of the television with her eyes wide open. A tub had been placed at her feet to collect body fluids. The Kern County coroner's office said the woman died of natural causes months earlier, although Wilcher's 44-year-old daughter and 22-year-old grandson, who shared the apartment, told investigators they didn't believe the woman was really dead, just "demonically depressed." Laurence Baker, 47, serving a life sentence in a Pittsburgh penitentiary for murder, defied the rules by making his own headphones to watch television in his cell. He plugged them into the set, then sat down on the stainless-steel toilet for an evening of viewing and was immediately electrocuted.SWITCHING CHANNEL Four years ago when Portugal's Channel 4 was launched as a station with "humanistic and Christian values," priests and church organizations urged people to buy shares and make contributions. Now many of its 12,000 Roman Catholic investors are upset because the station is trying to boost revenue and lure viewers with broadcasts featuring sex and violence. One promotional campaign announces "We've changed," then shows topless women and violence.AMSCRAY After residents of fashionable neighborhoods on South Africa's Cape Peninsula complained that scores of Jackass penguins had invaded their neighborhood, street cleaners climbed through thick brush to remove some 200 of the birds from their hiding places. The penguin colony, which grew from two pairs brought to the area in 1982, had become a popular tourist attraction, although their noise and smelly droppings made them less welcome with residents.MISSING THE POINT Officials canceled a winter survival-skills workshop scheduled for the Delta Marsh university field station outside Portage La Prairie in southern Manitoba because of blowing snow and temperatures as low as 13 degrees below zero.WHEN GUNS ARE OUTLAWED Julie Meadows, 32, was charged with using a Scrabble game board to hit her husband the day before Thanksgiving. The Washington County, Md., woman also threw the family's Thanksgiving turkey into the yard.THE NOSE KNOWS To reduce pollution, Amsterdam's glass-topped pleasure boats are switching from diesel to rapeseed oil. Because fumes from the rapeseed fuel smell like french fries cooking, boat owners are adding a vanilla and strawberry fragrance. Fumes from a cigarette betrayed a peeping Tom in Colmar, France. The smoke drifted into the next-door bedroom through the hole he had bored in the wall, alerting the occupants.WHAT EVIDENCE? While serving an eight-year sentence in an Argentine prison, Marcelo Adrian Mendoza, 33, was brought into court to answer some new charges. He responded by tearing out several pages of evidence against him and eating them before shocked guards could stop him. He was given a one-year sentence for obstructing evidence.WAY TO GO When Ernie Bailey, 63, won $18.6 million in the lottery, he quit his factory job and announced he intended to enjoy himself. He spent the next 20 months indulging in cigarettes, liquor, take-out food and video movies. His 310-pound body was recently found dead in his London apartment. "He was told time and again to give up fags because of a heart condition and cut out drink to lose weight," a friend said, "but he loved his pleasures."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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