NewsQuirks 579

Curses, Foiled Again

Police in Pleasant Hill, California arrested Steven Augustov Anderson, 30, after he rolled into a Wells Fargo Bank in a wheelchair, placed his black beanie cap on the counter and told a teller to fill it with cash. He was apprehended while wheeling himself through the bank parking lot after the heist by a couple of officers about 200 yards away who were working a traffic incident when the call came in, police Sgt. John Pratt said, adding, "He had bad timing."

Third Time's a Charm

According to investigators, Edward Hall, 50, stole a utility trailer from a Home Depot in Albuquerque, N.M., but a few miles away it came unhitched from his pickup truck and crashed. He returned to the store and stole a second one. It came loose, too, crashing just 75 yards from the first one. Hall went back for a third, which didn't crash but did sideswipe the patrol car of a Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy investigating the first two crashes. The deputy gave chase and easily caught up with Hall, who was driving only 25 mph, "probably," one detective said, "because he knows the trailers, at high speeds, don't stay on very well."

Forty-Ninth Time's a Pain

A safety report for Britain's rail system identified a single traveler as having accounted for 10 percent of all non-collision injuries last year by claiming to have been injured 49 times. "The injuries were reported at stations throughout the rail network, from Penzance to Edinburgh, sometimes twice in one day," the report said. "It was almost always the same reason, a shoulder dislocation." Noting that the man had never made any claims for compensation, a spokesperson for Railtrack, the agency which compiled the report, said the "injuries" would be removed from future safety statistics.

When Garlic Isn't Enough

Police in New York's Rockland County arrested David W. Bolton, 45, after he sneaked into the room of his boardinghouse neighbor, Jeffrey Todd, 22, and tried to drive a sharpened wooden cross through his heart. When Todd awoke and snatched the cross away, Bolton hit him with a hammer. Sgt. Steve Morgan of the Clarkstown police told The New York Times that Bolton explained to police he acted on "instructions from a higher authority."

Bureaucracy in Action

After William Reynolds died of cancer in April, his local government council sent him a letter informing him that his council tax benefit was being stopped "because there has been a change in your circumstances, the change is because you are dead." The letter added Reynolds was welcome to appeal the council's decision.

While Arturo Suspe, 87, waited in a long line at a government office in Colombia's Cundinamarca province to collect an official certificate proving he was still alive so he could continue drawing his monthly pension, he dropped dead of a heart attack.

Litigation Nation

Torrence Johnson filed a lawsuit against the Spartanburg, South Carolina county jail after he suffered a crushed vertebra and was paralyzed while doing back flips off a desk in his maximum-security cell. According to his lawsuit, jail guards should have stopped him before he hurt himself.

Rehabilitation Projects

Noting a sudden rise in thefts of luxury goods from airline passengers' luggage at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, authorities blamed a two-year-old program aimed at creating jobs by hiring juvenile offenders as luggage handlers. Some of the youths were encouraged to take the positions by being offered a choice between a prison sentence or a job at the airport. "For thieves," a police officer said, "the airport has become an Ali Baba's cave."

Britain's Ministry of Defense announced it was considering easing a severe shortage of soldiers by recruiting inmates in youth prisons. "The army is looking for the best new recruits," an army spokesperson said. "We don't exclude potential young applicants who have made mistakes in the past and paid for them."

What a Gas

Canada's largest private electric company, TransAlta, signed a multimillion-dollar deal with Global Livestock Group, a U.S. company, to produce a feed supplement that will reduce cow flatulence in Uganda. If successful, a TransAlta spokesperson said, the decrease in methane gas -- a leading cause of global warming caused by cows farting and burping will be equivalent to 30 million tons of carbon dioxide.

Where's the Beef?

South Africa's Advertising Standards Authority ordered the immediate withdrawal of a television commercial for spicy chicken at Nando's fast-food chain that shows a blind woman being dragged into a light pole by her chicken-hungry guide dog.

Fruits of Research

Jon Hagstrum, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California blamed shock waves from the Concorde supersonic passenger jet for causing thousands of homing pigeons to become hopelessly lost. Investigating why one-third of 60,000 pigeons lost their way while taking part in four races between England and France in 1997, Hagstrum concluded that shock waves from the aircraft may prevent the birds from hearing low-frequency sound that helps them navigate.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said chronic exposure to low-frequency electromagnetic fields may be the reason electric utility workers commit suicide twice as often as utility workers who aren't exposed to electromagnetic fields. One possible explanation, according to Edwin van Wijngaarden, lead author of the UNC study, is that the electromagnetic fields are thought to suppress melatonin levels in the body. The hormone affects a person's sleep cycle and mood.

Another Plus for Bottled Water

Residents of about 60 homes in Pineville, Louisiana drank and bathed in contaminated water for almost three months after city workers mistakenly connected a sewer line to an underground water pipe. Health risks were minimal, city officials insisted, because the water supply had enough chlorine in it to kill most bacteria.

Occupational Hazards

An Australian court awarded $15,600 in damages to Carol Vanderpoel, 52, who claimed she suffered depression after listening to people talk about their problems while she gave them massages. She said she was forced to deal with emotionally disturbed clients at the Blue Mountains Women's Health Center in Katoomba without training as a counselor or debriefing to cope with the resulting stress.

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