NewsQuirks 548

Why 2K?Concerned about a rash of accidental fires greeting the new year, authorities canceled all leave for Britain's fire fighters after the Church of England and other leading churches delivered millions of candles to local parishes in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's appeal to the faithful to "light a candle for the millennium."Pen Is Mightier Than the SwordA 29-year-old man in Buenos Aires trying to make a pen write accidentally shot and killed his mother when the pen turned out to be a miniature pistol. Police said the man's 8-year-old stepbrother had found the pen-shaped gun lying in the street and brought it home.Baby DriversPolice arrested an 11-year-old boy in Alpharetta, Ga., for driving a stolen car at speeds of more than 100 mph to avoid pursuing officers. After the boy was finally stopped, he was also charged with forgery because he was carrying a counterfeit $100 bill.Emmett Ayers II was arrested in Moulton, Ala., for letting his 4-year-old nephew drive him to the sheriff's department to pick up his license, which had been confiscated earlier. Sheriff's department Chief Deputy James McCulloch said deputies in the parking lot saw a 1977 Cadillac DeVille pull up with the boy standing in the driver's seat behind the wheel. Ayers was working the accelerator and brake pedal from the passenger's seat. The two had operated the car that way for six miles, McCulloch said, adding that Ayers explained he made the boy drive because he had already been arrested twice for driving while his license was suspended and did not want to risk a third arrest.Tale of the TapeAfter Gary Horner had thousands of pounds taken from his home in Cambridgeshire, England, he installed security cameras and left 120 pounds on the kitchen table. The cameras showed Horner's childhood friend Neil Bolderson pocketing the cash. "I've spent 18 years trying to keep him out of trouble," Horner said, "and this is how he repays me."Police in Kenner, La., arrested Cedrick Washington, 33, for robbing a sandwich shop after the store's exterior surveillance camera showed the suspect repeatedly rehearse hiding his face by pulling his shirt over his head, just as he did when he finally went inside. "I guess he just wanted to get it right," police Lt. Steve Caraway said, explaining that investigators had no trouble identifying Washington from the videotape.John M. Lu, a college student in Dekalb, Ill., who was arrested on charges of secretly videotaping women undressing, was rearrested just hours later when police said they found him crawling in the ceiling of the police station trying to find his way to his confiscated camera. Police Lt. Jim Kayes explained suspects have been known to crawl into the ceiling tiles of the station to escape custody, but "we usually don't have people breaking in."Nobody Here But Us ChickensPrior to President Clinton's trip to New Zealand last summer, South Auckland chicken processor Saji Philips began receiving top-secret faxes containing details of security measures surrounding the president's visit. When Philips alerted American authorities, he was assured the problem would be fixed. A week later, however, according to the Wellington Dominion newspaper, the faxes continued, identifying code names and security numbers of military officials, as well as details of the installation of "White House communications equipment in a strategic position" in the Auckland Airport control tower.Busy Bees and WallabiesScientists have enlisted honeybees in the war against land mines, between 80 million and 120 million of which lay hidden in the ground of about 70 nations. Research teams at the University of Montana, the U.S. Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee are trying to determine if the bees can be trained to pinpoint the location of land mines and guide mine-hunters to the buried explosives. "The beauty of this approach is that bees are indigenous to every climate on Earth," Sandia Laboratory chemist Susan Bender said, "and there are beekeepers everywhere."To find out how kangaroos can hop up to 27 mph for long distances in the desert, University of New South Wales researchers trained six of the animals to spend 15 minutes a day on treadmills so that scientists can monitor oxygen consumption. "We have to get them used to moving," zoology student Koa Webster said, "and not going anywhere."Boaters rescued a wallaby, a small relative of the kangaroo, that they found swimming four miles off the Australian coast. Noting the animal had evaded sharks and saltwater crocodiles, Queensland state wildlife officer Dianne Maujean pointed out that the feat was all the more remarkable because wallabies are poor swimmers. "If I was on the boat and I looked over the side and saw a wallaby 7 kilometers out to sea," she said, "I'd severely wonder what I'd had to drink the night before."Fat ChanceWhile awaiting trial on charges of drug trafficking, Jose Martinez, 22, filed a motion in federal court in Santa Fe, N.M., to ban all references to his nickname at the trial and in court records. The 350-pound Martinez insisted the nickname "Fat Jose" is derogatory, insulating and serves no purpose other than to embarrass him. "He's had a weight problem all his life," Martinez's attorney, Jerry Danile Herrera, said, "and he's not proud of it."Jose Manuel Barros, the mayor of Porrino, Spain, was named the world's fattest mayor by the Guinness Book of Records. "I did nothing to deserve this except eat non-stop," the 394-pound Barros, who has a penchant for tripe, told the newspaper El Pais. "I would have preferred to be named Mister Universe."Get Up and GoThe Nascar team Eel River Racing signed a deal with the anti-impotence drug Viagra as its primary sponsor. The Charlotte Observer reported the Viagra name will be placed on Eel River's No. 27 Pontiac, driven by Jeff Fuller.Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to P.O. Box 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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