NewsQuirks 420

CURSES, FOILED AGAINWhile escaping from a work program in Genoa, Italy, prisoner Luigi De Chirico, 36, lost his wallet, which contained his cellular telephone number. The police called De Chirico to let him know they found his wallet and that he could claim it at the police station. When De Chirico showed up -- riding a stolen moped -- he was promptly arrested.SURPRISESeattle pickpocket Walter Poppe, 43, learned that his wife was unfaithful when he found her photo and a love letter in a victim's wallet. "Being caught thieving is the least of my problems," he told police who arrested him.TREE IS MIGHTIER THAN THE PENChilean police officer Hector Zapata Cuevas, 33, became a national celebrity last fall after he cheated death when a bank robber shot him, but a pen inside his pocket deflected the bullet. Cuevas died this spring in a Santiago suburb when a eucalyptus tree fell on top of his squad car.FIRED UPThroat cancer victim Abraham Mosley, 64, accidentally set himself on fire while trying to light a cigar but couldn't call for help because his illness had destroyed his vocal cords. Confined to a hospital bed in his kitchen, the Gainesville, Fla., resident apparently ignited strips of paper on a stove burner to light the cigar, since his cancer left him unable to manipulate matches or a lighter. The flaming paper lit the gauze bandages around his neck, then the flames spread to his pajamas. "I don't ever want to witness anything like I witnessed this morning," said Mosley's sister, Katie Brown. "He was a walking torch when I woke up."High school athlete Christopher "Chip" Kaup, 18, of Columbus, Neb., was celebrating a soccer championship at a bonfire party when he apparently fell asleep in his car. Officials said the car rolled into the embers and became engulfed in flames, killing Kaup.LICENSE TO ROAMA 3-year-old boy in Watertown, N.Y., climbed in his father's pickup, shifted it into drive, turned left, drove up the wrong side of the street, forced a police chief and other motorists to veer out of his way and ended up hitting a gas line in front of a judge's house. "It could have been a real tragedy," said Judge John Cox. "One spark and that truck with the boy, and my house would have all blown."A 10-year-old boy wanted to play basketball in his driveway in Wichita, Kan., but his mother's car was in the way. The 28-year-old woman told her son that he could move the car himself. Reluctant at first, he then agreed to try. While the mother stood behind the car, helping guide the maneuver, she stumbled after walking backwards into a bush alongside the driveway. The boy then apparently panicked and hit the accelerator instead of the brake pedal, backing over his mother and killing her. The car then veered into the front yard and came to a halt after hitting the house.CHICKEN LITTLE WAS RIGHTAll 12 passengers died when two small planes collided at 1,000 feet in Brazil's Santa Catarina state during ceremonies marking the 55th anniversary of the local airport. The collision also killed a woman on the ground, who officials said died of a heart attack when the body of one of the air casualties fell on top of her.THE VERY REAL THINGThe Ocean City, Md., city council voted to declare Coca-Cola the summer resort's official soft drink. Under the terms of the five-year, $1.1 million marketing deal, Coke would be poured exclusively at all city-sponsored functions and festivals and served in municipal buildings. Coke could also use the city's name to promote its products. In return, the city would receive free advertising and cash up front. "It's a novel approach to generating money," Mayor James Mathias said, explaining the deal would help the city balance its $36 million-a-year budget without raising taxes. Mathias denied that the city is selling its image, insisting, "We're not going to paint the ocean red and white or carve the beach into a big Nike swoosh."Postmaster General Marvin Runyon denied he did anything wrong in connection with a marketing proposal to put Coca-Cola machines in 40,000 post offices while he owned stock in Coca-Cola. His voice trembling with emotion, Runyon told the House Government Oversight postal subcommittee, "I am not in government service to make money."THANKS FOR NOTHINGJoe Solino Jimero was publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia for stabbing and beating surgeon Rashid Abu Jabal to death after the doctor reattached his penis. Authorities said Jimero had cut off his penis himself because he wanted to become a woman.REACH OUT AND TOUCH SOMEONEA study of the effect of mobile phones on people, conducted by four Finnish institutes funded by Finland's telecommunications industry, concluded that mobile phones pose no health threat to users. The researchers' report did mention that the phones convert radio waves into heat, which is then transmitted to people's brains but at less than hazardous levels.Meanwhile, an Australian study, funded by a leading provider of cellular phone services, found that mice exposed to radio transmissions similar to those used by cellular phones developed lymphoma, a form of cancer, at twice the rate of other mice.The Grameen Bank is financing a $70 million cellular telephone network in Bangladesh designed to bring phone service to poor villagers. Under the plan, Grameen will pay to hire thousands of village "telephone ladies," who will take the handsets from house to house when anyone calls. The Sydney Morning Herald noted the cost will still be cheaper than the current way of calling: taking a bus from the village to the nearest town and using a pay phone.In Japan, where 20 percent of the people have portable phones, the country's largest railroad, the East Japan Railway Corp., announced it would bar the use of portable phones on its trains. "We're telling people: 'Please don't make yourself a nuisance,'" a railroad official said.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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