NewsQuirks 434

Keeping TimeAustralian paramedics stood by helplessly while transport officials let rush- hour trains keep running over the body of a 21-year-old woman who threw herself on the tracks on the Sydney Harbor bridge after an argument with her boyfriend. "It was obvious after a few trains ran over her that she was dead,'' said Ambulance Service spokesperson Graeme Field, explaining that a state rail inspector denied requests to stop trains so they could retrieve the body because he didn't want passengers to be kept waiting. State Rail chief executive David Hill admitted later, "I think it would have shown greater sensitivity, notwithstanding it would have further delayed more people, had the trains been stopped."Curses, Foiled AgainAfter a burglar stole food, drink, a radio, compact discs and the telephone from the Lint soccer club cafeteria in northern Belgium, authorities were clueless until the club's phone bill arrived a month later. They spotted a $110 call to Hungary on the date of the crime. According to the Belga news agency, authorities traced the call to a girl who admitted having a Hungarian boyfriend in Brussels. When confronted by police, he confessed.After ransacking a home in Bakersfield, Calif., a burglar took off his shoes, climbed into bed and fell asleep. Vernon Poochigian, 18, arrived home and found Jeffrey Abbott, who only moaned when Poochigian tried to wake him. He called the police, who woke the snoring man and arrested him.Food FolliesThree months after receiving a new liver and kidney, a 35-year-old French man complained of a skin rash and trouble breathing. Doctors at Necker Hospital in Paris determined that the man suffered an allergic reaction to peanuts, even though he previously enjoyed the nuts without complications. According to their report in the New England Journal of Medicine, the man's mysterious allergy was caused by the transplanted organs, which came from a 22-year-old man who was allergic to peanuts and in fact had died after mistakenly eating some in a sauce at a Chinese restaurant.Club-wielding riot police waded into a crowd of 300 Yugoslav students who tried to hand President Slobodan Milosevic a banana. Protesters explained that the fruit was intended to signify that Milosevic was running a banana republic. A group of Texas cattlemen has sued Oprah Winfrey, charging the talk-show host with violating a state law that protects agricultural products from slander. During a broadcast last year, a guest on Oprah's show said that 100,000 cattle in this country drop dead each year for no known reason and are ground up and fed to other cattle, putting people at risk of catching "mad-cow disease." The plaintiffs insist that their income dropped as a result of that show. Amarillo cattle feeder Paul Engler put his loss at $6.7 million.After three mistrials, Carlos Diaz, 29, finally was convicted in New York City of robbing a man with a concealed vegetable by pretending a zucchini under his jacket was a gun. Noting Diaz is a persistent felon, Justice Randall Eng sentenced him to prison for 18 years to life, declaring, "You added to the climate of fear we have to live in."Globe TrottingThe Norwegian company ResidenSea announced it is selling apartments on a ship, which will cruise the world in search of good weather or special events, beginning with the Sydney Olympics. Annual service charges start at $60,000.Post-Socialist WorldTax dodging has become such a serious problem in Russia that collection efforts have escalated from persuasion to coercion. According to the European, new television commercials show members of a 500-member SWAT team that has been assigned to assist the state Tax Police, brandishing AK-47 assault rifles, sniper rifles, tear gas, grenades, shotguns, bulletproof body armor, heavy-duty saws and mountaineering equipment. "The tax police have guns," the voice-over says. "And they know how to use them."At the same time, a recent investigation by Russia's parliament into the State Tax Service found that the tax police do not have their own house in order, the newspaper Argumenti i Facti reported. Top tax officials have been illegally using tax money to buy and renovate luxury apartments, while lower- level officials have been using budget funds to pay their own income tax bills.Bulgaria's economic crisis has grown so acute that government hospitals struggle to afford basic supplies. To save money on food and staff, the National Oncology Center sends all but its most gravely ill patients home on weekends. "Every day is a drama," the center's director, Dr. Ivan Cherndzemsky, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We select one out of 10 patients who we can afford to give medicine to."Wrong Arm of the LawSix inmates escaped from New Mexico's Bernalillo County jail by cutting through a thin metal wall. They covered up their actions, according to jail director Mike Sisneros, by turning on the television and escaping while other prisoners distracted guards by "hooting and hollering at the women on 'Baywatch.'"A blurry fax sent from a public fax machine at a grocery store in Augusta, Ga., was good enough to convince a supervisor at the Richland County jail to release inmate Richard Foster, 23. The letter stated that Georgia authorities have "no criminal interest" in him. After Foster left, jail officials noticed that the fax, despite its official-looking letterhead, had a line on the top indicating it had been sent from a Kroger supermarket. The supervisor was demoted.Special DeliveryResidents of an apartment unit in Zurich, Switzerland, were not home to receive a parcel delivered by their local mail carrier, who simply placed it on top of their mail box and left. The parcel fell and somehow jammed the doorbell, causing an electrical short circuit that in turn sparked a major fire, causing $33,000 worth of damage.When Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor returned to her home in Chevy Chase, Md., in May, security guards spotted a package by her front door with no mailing label. Authorities evacuated five neighboring homes, called in a bomb-sniffing dog and a bomb-proof robot before a bomb-squad technician wearing protective gear turned over the package and saw a United Parcel Service label. An investigation determined the package contained tennis shoes that O'Connor had ordered.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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