NewsQuirks 550

If It Isn't One Thing, It's AnotherMore than 2,000 followers of a Philippine cult that had been hiding in tunnels out of fear that fire would rain down from the sky at the start of the new millennium were forced out into the open two weeks before year's end by an earthquake. The tremor, which measured 4.8 on the Richter scale, weakened the tunnel walls, making the holes unsafe.Several explosions rocked William Marshall's farm in Shickshinny, Pa., two days before the new year when 900 gallons of kerosene and 800 gallons of diesel fuel stored in a truck trailer ignited after flames from a nearby brush fire burned through the fuel containers. "Partially you have to blame Y2K," Fire Chief Bob Bomboy said. "The guy had extra fuel stored up in case they ran out. And he had plenty."Guards at New Hampshire State Prison reported finding an inmate on New Year's Eve covered in baby powder and clutching a Bible. Officials said the prisoner had used dental floss to sew his eyes and lips shut because he feared the new year.Finder's KeepersWhen Susan Madakor, 40, a single mother living in public housing in New York, mistakenly had $700,000 credited to her Chase Manhattan bank account, she immediately quit her $23,000-a-year job, bought a laundry business for $100,000, set up a college savings fund for her 10-year-old son, paid off $30,000 in credit card debt, furnished a new apartment and leased a van. She was negotiating to buy a liquor store when the bank discovered the error and froze her account. The money was intended for a United Nations environmental fund, but the foreign governments who transferred the money used a wrong account number. Even though the money wasn't hers, Madakor, who said she thought it was the jackpot from a lottery she played, asked a judge to let her keep the money.Felonious FoodA jury in Lewes, England, sentenced Howard Allen to life in prison for robbing two stores, using a banana as his only weapon.Police in Blakely, Pa., shut down a two-block section of Main Street when a man trying to get prescription drugs from a pharmacy claimed to have a bomb. After three hours, police determined that the bomb was actually two cans of pork and beans wrapped in tape inside a milk carton.When two tourists parked their car illegally in a loading zone in front of a bakery shop in Epinal, France, the angry baker smeared jam on the door handles of the car. A court fined him $83 for taking the law into his own hands and failing to report a traffic violation.401(k) Is Not a Lucky NumberDespite the booming economy, one-quarter of Americans believe their best chance of building a retirement nest egg is by playing the lottery, not by patiently saving and prudently investing. The Consumer Federation of America and the financial services firm Primerica, which sponsored the survey, said misconceptions about how small amounts of money can grow keep millions of people from taking the steps that could greatly improve their financial picture. Only 47 percent of those surveyed said saving and investing some of their income was the most reliable route to wealth.Sounds of SilenceThe British Broadcasting Corp. reported that it installed a "mutter" machine in its accountants' London offices that pipes in laughter and chatter but is quiet enough that no one will be able to make out actual words. The machine was thought necessary because double window glazing, quiet computers and efficient air conditioning had made the offices so quiet that workers were feeling lonely and stressed.Japanese researchers Naoki Suda and Kaqunari Nawa reported that a mysterious hum emitted by the Earth is the echo of seismic and weather events. According to a report in New Scientist magazine, the 50 notes detected are impossible to hear unaided, and their pitches fall about 16 octaves below middle C. The scientists said the notes sound pleasant enough individually, but combined they sound like someone banging on a trash can.Second-Amendment FolliesJoseph Kubic Sr., 93, tried to add a hole to his belt by using a pointed bullet. When he hit the bullet with a hammer, it fired, bounced off the table and hit him in the neck, sending him to a Stratford, Conn., hospital.Seventh-Commandment FolliesAfter the marriage of Dorothy Mapni, 37, and Effas Ondya, 56, brought forth no children, the Zambian couple accused each other of being infertile. To prove he was not to blame, Ondya encouraged his wife to have sex with other men and bet $200 that she could not conceive a child by February 22. The Times of Zambia reported that when Ondya complained that his wife was accepting the challenge, high court judges Sainet Chiutambo and Joseph Mumba ruled that Mapni was free to be adulterous until Ondya's deadline, decreeing, "The bet remains a bet."Jimmy Watkins, 34, admitted that he shot his wife after finding her in bed with another man, then returned to finish her off when he discovered he had more bullets. Prosecutors in Fort Worth, Texas, sought a life sentence, but the jury recommended he receive 10 years' probation, and Judge Robert Gill sentenced Watkins to just four months in jail. Assistant District Attorney James Cook told the Fort Worth Star Telegram, "This is not how we wanted the case to turn out."Trouble BrewingScientists at the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center announced they successfully transferred DNA from the genes of glowing green jellyfish to the embryos of rhesus monkeys. "When you get to a nonhuman primate, like a monkey, you're getting much closer to people," said biologist Gerald Schatten, who headed the project.About 40 million residents of Luzon Island in the Philippines lost electrical power for an entire evening when thousands of jellyfish were sucked into the water intakes of major power plants north of Manila. As engineers scurried to tap backup power sources, cleanup crews filled at least 50 dump trucks with jellyfish pulled from the generators' seawater cooling pumps.

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