NewsQuirks 551

Holiday FalloutPittsburgh police said that a man who didn't want to drag his Christmas tree down six flights of stairs the day after Christmas tossed it out his apartment window instead. The tree hit a power line, knocking out electricity to about 400 homes and businesses for about an hour. "It was amazing," one police supervisor told the Tribune-Review newspaper. "Here they are worried about Y2K, and I'm worried about trees falling out of the sky."Way to GoSalvatore Rizzuto, 77, of Jersey City, N.J., died after a lighted cigar that he tossed from his car window blew into the back seat, igniting papers and debris, and flames engulfed Rizzuto's 1984 Buick.Brian Milliren, 25, survived an auto accident when his car veered off an interstate highway near Bethesda, Md., but died when he and his passenger set a fire to try to attract rescuers, and the blaze engulfed the vehicle.David Campbell, 34, died from burns caused by using his lawn mower during a late November snowstorm in London, Ontario. Explaining the gas-powered mower either caught fire or exploded, police Sgt. John O'Flaherty said investigators were uncertain why the man was trying to use his lawn mower on a snow-covered lawn.Handyman Colon Vincent, 57, apparently distraught over his wife's death two month's earlier, built a guillotine outside his home in Halifax, England, used pliers to cut a retaining wire for the heavy steel blade and chopped off his own head.Lela Brandon, 74, died when she was accidentally run over by a Christmas parade float towed by her son.Profit MotiveJapan Tobacco, the world's third-largest tobacco company, has bought the rights to lung-cancer vaccines being developed in the United States.Weekend at Bernie'sTwo men and a woman tried to register a dead man for pension benefits in East London, South Africa, by propping him up at the window serving illiterate claimants and holding out his hand to be fingerprinted. The South African Press Association reported the clerk became suspicious, even though the three people insisted the man was just very ill, and notified authorities.Fair Is FairAfter spending six years in a British prison for a murder he did not commit, Eddie Browning, 46, was released and offered $125,000 as compensation for the injustice. A government assessor ordered $8,000 deducted from the award to cover the cost of Browning's room and board while he was behind bars.Wheels of JusticePolice cars in Elizabeth, N.J., are in such bad shape that wheels fell off two of them in the same week while they were being driven. In the first incident, the cruiser became airborne and crashed. In the second, the officer driving lost control when the wheel flew off and crashed into a parked car.When Spartak Poci, Albania's public order minister, drove to Greece to discuss cross-border crime, Greek police confiscated his car after discovering that it had been reported stolen in Italy.A compact car belonging to Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso was stolen in Sao Paulo after his driver parked the vehicle on a city street while running an errand.Sporting NewsPrior to a scheduled heavyweight boxing match between Mike Tyson and Britain's Julius Francis, Francis's manager Frank Maloney disclosed that an advertiser had paid $32,000 to have its name emblazoned on the soles of his fighter's shoes. The only way the name will be seen is if Francis, the underdog, is knocked down; the more often, the greater the exposure. "The consensus is that Julius will be beaten," Maloney said, "and that's clearly what this sponsor is hoping for."When University of Kansas football player Dion Rayford, 24, received his order at a Taco Bell drive-through window in Lawrence, it was short a chalupa. The 6-foot-3, 270-pound Rayford became irate and tried to climb through the 14-by-46-inch window to confront store employees. The window couldn't support Rayford and broke, causing him to become stuck halfway, according to police Sgt. George Wheeler, who explained, "When you take a big guy and put him through a small space, something's got to give."Pedestrian PlotNoting a rash of pedestrian fatalities in the Washington, D.C., area involving immigrants from Central and South America, the Washington Post reported the federal highway safety administration awarded $200,000 to Lisboa, a multimedia communications company, to produce two "steamy" Spanish-language videos, or "telenovelas," similar to the melodramas that captivate millions of Latin Americans, to distribute nationally and air on Spanish-language networks. "Like true telenovelas," the Post reported, "they drip with passion and betrayal, jealousy and intrigue, but with the twist that the plot turns on pedestrian accidents."It's AcademicHarvard University's Center for Russian Studies announced it had acquired 25 million sheets of "previously classified" documents from Communist Party archives, only to be informed that the materials were copies from a $3 million microfilm project undertaken in 1992 by Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Not only that, but Hoover gets a 15 percent royalty on the sale to its academic rival. "Oh, brother," Harvard Russian scholar Marshall I. Goldman, who wrote the press release announcing the so-called scholarly coup, said. "That's embarrassing."Food Takes the RapWhen Rockport, Mass., police officer Robert Hickey stopped a Cadillac that had crashed into his police cruiser, then fled the scene, the driver, Matthew A. Hatch, 20, explained that he lost control of the car after spilling hot coffee on his lap.Truck driver Frank Montgomery ran off Interstate 81 near Christiansburg, Va., and flipped his rig, according to Trooper Steve Fijalkowski, after he choked on a pork rind.Keeping Up with the TimesThe Waukee, Iowa, City Council approved a provision that bans all animals from the town's new community center "except seeing-eye dogs or walking nanny goats." Economic Development Director Joshua Smith explained he added goats because, "I was watching the Discovery Channel and saw a program that said in areas where there is a seeing-eye dog shortage, they use nanny goats to aid the blind. I didn't want to exclude anyone."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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