NewsQuirks 566

Mensa Reject of the Year (So Far)

When Dwayne Rice, 39, heard noises outside his Philadelphia hotel room, he became frightened and decided the best way to get help was to set off the smoke alarm. He lit a paper bag and held it beneath the alarm but accidentally dropped the burning bag on the bed, setting it on fire. He tried to put out the flames by turning over the mattress, but that only made the fire bigger. Rice tried to escape the burning room by kicking out a window, but he lost his balance and fell 30 feet, fracturing his ankle and knee. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the blaze spread to adjoining rooms and took 75 firefighters and 22 pieces of equipment an hour to bring under control.

Litigation Nation

John and Winifred Strohmeyer filed a $1-million lawsuit against Los Angeles County after their adopted son pleaded guilty to murder, kidnapping and sexual assault. The couple accused the county and several adoption department workers of engaging in "despicable conduct," fraud and breach of contract by not informing them that Jeremy Strohmeyer's birth mother had been diagnosed as a chronic schizophrenic.

Second String

Three Honduran men were caught robbing the home of Supreme Court Judge Hernan Silva after a neighbor called the police. One was shot and wounded and the other two escaped, leaving behind a vehicle full of stolen appliances. Three police officers were assigned to guard the home after the incident, but they decided to break into the house and take things the first thieves had left behind. They were foiled when the same neighbor saw them and again called the authorities.

Make All the Kids Use Walkers

The Lawton, Okla., Evening Optimist Soccer Association booted Ryan Taylor, a 9-year-old with cerebral palsy, after deciding his four-wheeled metal walker posed a safety risk. "We're not picking on the kid," David Dalton, the peewee league's volunteer president, said. "It's just the walker." A month later, a federal judge overturned the ban and ruled the league had to let Ryan play, with his walker.

Every Man's Fantasy

A Japanese district court overturned a school board decision barring a 30-year-old transsexual who graduated from high school in 1987 as a man from re-enrolling after being diagnosed as "very close to a woman biologically," Kyodo news agency reported. "I want to start my life over as a female high school student," the transsexual said after the court's ruling.

Phone Follies

Airman Raymone Sydnor was patrolling the flight line at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., when he dropped his cell phone. While fumbling to retrieve it, he crashed his patrol car into a parked F-15 jet fighter, causing $62,000 in damage.

Cell phones have become popular with scam artists in Japan. One tactic involves a customer at a restaurant finishing an expensive meal, then pretending to get a call on his cell phone and experiencing reception problems that cause him to step outside for a moment. He never comes back to pay the bill. In another ruse, a bar patron claims he can't hear his caller because of the noisy crowd, so he ducks into the coat closet for quiet. While pretending to continue his conversation, he rifles coat pockets for valuables.

Andrea Willingham, 35, lost her job as a 911 dispatcher in Delray Beach, Fla., because she reportedly ignored emergencies while making lengthy personal calls. Noting that Willingham had been suspended five times, reprimanded or counseled nine times and investigated 21 times in nearly nine years on the job, authorities noted she did interrupt a 48-minute personal call to send paramedics to a man who was in shock after severing his finger, but then she went back to her conversation instead of staying on the line as required to give the victim medical advice until the paramedics arrived.

Getting Results

Michael Amos, 30, reported to police in Little Rock, Ark., that his young daughter was sleeping in the back seat of his car when it was stolen. Police found the car in two hours, then learned that Amos has no daughter. He explained he had lied to police so they would work extra hard to find the car.

Perfect Solution

When Karen Frogley, a trauma therapist in Wellington, New Zealand, complained that screams from bungee jumpers outside the office building where she works were upsetting her patients, the thrill seekers began wearing special masks to muffle the sound of their screams.

Curtains Up

Eleven Kurdish refugees at a London community center were rehearsing a Harold Pinter play about state oppression when 50 or 60 police sharpshooters surrounded the building, smashed down the doors and arrested them. Their attorney, Sadiq Khan, said the men were questioned for 4-1/2 hours and prevented from communicating in Kurdish "in scenes reminiscent of the play which they were performing." A week before the rehearsal, Khan said, the group "had hired some plastic weapons from the National Theater. They had gone to the local police station to let them know. The police said �no problem.'" The night of the incident, however, a neighbor reported terrorist activity at the community center, prompting the raid. The police agreed to pay the victims $88,620 in damages.

Mrs. Doubtfire

After the wife of Joshua Marete Mutuma, 32, obtained a restraining order against him in Modesto, Calif., Mutuma went to the courthouse dressed as a woman with a long black wig and speaking in falsetto, pretending to be Mrs. Mutuma and attempting to have the order overturned. The clerk became suspicious after noticing Mutuma's five o-clock shadow.

Just Making a Living

Israeli officials and a Jewish human rights group condemned a South Korean theme bar called "Jae3JaeGuk" (or The Third Reich), which features Nazi flags and propaganda posters, photographs of Adolf Hitler and servers wearing mock Nazi uniforms. Owner Hyun sae-woog said he does not understand why the Seoul bar is causing so much controversy. "There is nothing political about the bar. I only want to attract people's attention for business," Hyun insisted, noting that his knowledge of the Nazi leader is limited to the "killing of some Jews." He added that a few customers, especially Western students from nearby universities, did come to protest and sometimes made scenes, but said he solved that problem: "I decided not to take foreign customers anymore."

After a bucket marked with a swastika and filled with medical waste was found outside a synagogue in Stamford, Conn., police charged Alan Jay Lorenz. The Advocate newspaper reported the 56-year-old Jewish man, who sells medical waste disposal equipment for a living, hoped the incident would draw attention to his product.

Congressional Impunity

U.S. Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) accused an 8-year-old boy of demanding the keys to his 1999 Toyota Avalon outside an Alexandria, Va., community recreation center and threatening to shoot him if he refused. Moran, 54, an ex-boxer, said that after the 4-foot-7, 85-pound second-grader repeated the threat, he restrained the boy and turned him over to recreation center authorities. The boy did not have a gun. The boy's parents said their son made no threat but was merely admiring the car, and accused the congressman of attacking the boy and cursing at him.

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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