NewsQuirks 570

Curses, Foiled Again

Alexander Guyster, 28, pleaded no contest to grand theft auto in Largo, Fla., after he paid for a $50,000 sports car with a $50 cashier's check. Investigators said Guyster used scissors and glue to add extra zeros. "It was just one of those stupid things that people do," said Guyster's attorney, Ronnie Crider.

Captive Audience

Police in Kashiwazaki, Japan, charged Nobuyuki Sato, 37, with abducting a nine-year-old schoolgirl and forcing her to live for almost a decade in his room in the home he shared with his mother. Investigators said the mother, now 73, had some inkling that the woman was being held captive but was afraid of her son's violent outbursts. The victim, now 19, told police she did not try to flee because she "feared for her life."

Whom Do You Trust?

Edith Simpson, 50, pleaded guilty in Philadelphia to pocketing more than $3,600 in court-imposed fines. Authorities said that while serving as a volunteer overseeing 24 people convicted of underage drinking, she directed them to pay their fines to her.

Bright Ideas

Inventor Glen Raymond Harden unveiled the Solar Screen, which gives the user washboard abs while lounging in the sun. Its transparent sheet covers the chest and filters the sun's rays to create a tan pattern that mimics a muscular appearance. "I'd defy anybody to look that different after two weeks by any other method," said Harden, who got the idea after he saw someone who had fallen asleep in the sun wearing a vest and awoke with a pattern on his chest.

Keyware Technologies signed a deal to provide the same software that guards nuclear power plants to 15 Dutch nightclubs hoping to ensure that troublemakers who are asked to leave don't return. Patrons will be issued ID cards that must be scanned before the person enters the club. At the same time, a computerized reader and camera will make sure the person's fingerprints and facial features match those of the person to whom the card was issued.

British researchers Steve Maybank of the University of Reading and David Hogg of the University of Leeds said they have discovered that people contemplating shoplifting, mugging, stealing a car or committing suicide behave differently from other people; what's more, their actions can be predicted mathematically. The researchers told New Scientist magazine they plan to incorporate their findings into security monitors to identify crimes before they happen.

Several Japanese companies led by Mitsui & Co. trading house announced they have developed a way of keeping track of forgetful elderly people by combining a satellite-based global positioning system and a cellular phone network. A transmitter attached to the body or clothing beams the oldster's coordinates to a local server, which shows concerned relatives who access the system the person's exact location on a computerized map.

Red Rocket Jeans feature a zipper inside the right-hand pocket that allows discreet probing. Jane magazine reported the jeans' creators, who include a former Calvin Klein model and his partners, got the idea after noticing women needed to "fashionably access" their man's private parts while "dancing or mingling."

William Gorra invented a device that monitors hand washing, primarily by doctors and nurses. It includes a sensor that attaches to soap dispensers and a processor and memory chip that retains information about employees. Users enter identification information before washing their hands. The information is available to administrators who want to check how often each worker washed his or her hands.

The Washington Post reported that Libya's Moammar Khadafy has designed a sleek, five-passenger automobile to be manufactured and assembled totally in Libya, a nation with no history of auto production and little technological infrastructure. Dubbed "Rocket of the Jamahiriya," the car is Khadafy's personal contribution to world peace, according to Dukali Megharief, chairman of the Libyan Arab Domestic Investment Co., who noted the design features a bottle-shaped front and rear to deflect collisions and special safety devices that actively "defend" the car's passengers. It also boasts a "sunlight management" system to enhance its appeal to people in the Middle East.

Great Escape

James Springette, an American being held in a maximum-security prison in Bogota, Colombia, escaped by requesting a new mattress, then wrapping himself in the old one when it was carried away.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

Authorities in Bozeman, Mont., accused Sunrise, Fla., auto shop worker Joseph Sherer, 41, of making as many as 400 random calls to women across the Northwest pretending to be a doctor and asking them to conduct medical tests on themselves. Although most of the women hung up, he persuaded at least six of them to mutilate themselves, including one who, following Sherer's instructions, cut off her nipple and flushed it down the toilet.

Chow Hounds

The British government awarded a $160 grant to Amanda Saxon, 32, of Widnes to help her join a weight-loss club. The 390-pound woman, who enrolled in a government program aimed at getting jobs for people out of work for a long time, insisted her size was preventing her from finding work.

Unemployed chef Peter Johnson, 49, enjoys the food at the All in One carry-out in Brighton, England, so much that he had its name and phone number tattooed on his forehead. Nasser Bander, the restaurant's owner, said he would reward the gesture by his best customer, who eats there five times a week, by letting him move to the front of the line whenever he comes in.

Officials at a soup kitchen for the homeless in Sydney, Australia, said their resources are being strained by foreign backpackers looking for cheap meals. Colin Robinson, who oversees the inner-city Matthew Talbot Hostel, said up to 50 backpackers a day were showing up for the one-dollar (US $0.59) meals, adding he fears the situation will worsen when tourists arrive in September for the Olympic Games.

Hot to Trot

When a commuter train broke down outside Sao Paulo, Brazil, some of the 2,000 passengers became angry that they would be late for work and set fire to three of the train's six cars.

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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