NewsQuirks 582

Curses, Foiled Again

A Russian fugitive trying to cross illegally from western Ukraine to Slovakia by wearing a disguise was caught when his fake ears fell off while officials were checking his passport. The Ukrainian newspaper Den reported the surgeon who attached the artificial ears had economized by using a cheap Russian-made medical glue instead of a quality Western product.

Thanks for Nothing

Lynne Fisher, 51, was informed that she had to report in person to the main post office in Norwich, England, to pick up a letter that was sent to her without postage. Fisher, who is disabled, traveled clear across town, only to discover that the letter was a notice from the city council advising her that because she is handicapped she could vote by mail to avoid the inconvenience of having to leave home.

Spoil Sports

Peace Village day camp in Lincoln City, Ore., discourages children from building sand castles, explaining they are symbols of violence. Camp leaders prefer the children, ages 6 to 14, build sand villages instead because they are less militaristic. The British government has urged teachers to ban the game of musical chairs because it encourages aggression. "A little bit of competition is fine, but with musical chairs the competition is not fair because it is always the biggest and strongest children who win," said Sue Finch, the author of a booklet by Britain's Labor government calling for the ban. "Musical statues is better because everybody wins."

Democracy in Action

Even though Rodney Dobbs died two months before a runoff election this spring for the Board of Education, voters in Dover, Okla., still elected him, 104-63, over his opponent, Shirley Turner. After Douglas Couvertier began his campaign for city council in Southwest Ranches, Fla., this summer, he learned that if he won by finishing among the top four vote-getters, he would have to resign his job as a fire chief in nearby Maimi-Dade County. Doing so would mean forfeiting his pension, which he is three years away from collecting. Election officials told Couvertier he was too late to remove his name from the ballot, so the week before the election he began begging people not to vote for him. Backed by his longtime friend, mayoral candidate Vince Falletta, who vowed to "make every effort to see that he's not elected," Couvertier lost by a landslide. Nathalie Van Loock, 102, announced she will run for a six-year term in municipal elections this October in Keerbergen, Belgium, as a member of the Gembel Party. Party founder Erik Moris noted that besides being in good health, Van Loock "has her own transport and hearing aid, so she could take up her seat just as well as anyone else."

Chicken Little Was Right

Shinya Obata, 27, was seriously injured while walking in downtown Tokyo in May when a 39-year-old man jumped to his death from an eight-story building and landed on him. Yang Shu-hui, 26, was killed in March while walking past a seven-story building in Taichung, Taiwan, when Hsu Tzu-jung, 36, jumped to her death and fell on him. Hida Yochikata, 37, sustained major injuries while standing in front of an apartment building in a Paris suburb in August when a small dog lost its balance and fell to its death from the ninth floor, hitting the man.

Change of Heart

When Pennsylvania state Rep. Tom Druce was arrested for the hit-and-run death of a 42-year-old Harrisburg man, he was charged under a state law calling for a one-year minimum prison term for hit-and-run offenders. Druce, who told authorities he didn't stop because he thought he had hit a traffic sign and not a person, was among the lawmakers who voted for the measure. His attorney, Matthew R. Gover, filed a court motion protesting the law as unconstitutional.

Food for Thought

Antonio Laurenco Lopes, who died at his home in New Bedford, Mass., was said to be the last of the whalers to sail out of that famous whaling port. Despite describing his career as "dirty, lonesome and dangerous," he lived to be 103. He attributed his longevity to his love of hamburgers. Stuart Wilkinson of the University of South Florida in Tampa has invented a robot that runs on meat. The 12-wheeled "gastrobot," dubbed Chew Chew, runs on a microbial fuel cell, which breaks down food with bacteria and converts it into electrical energy. "The ideal fuel in terms of energy gain is meat," Wilkinson told the magazine New Scientist. "Vegetation is not nearly as nutritious." Researchers at England's Nottingham University have concluded that women who are vegetarians are likelier to give birth to girls. "The birth ratio in Britain is that for every 106 boys born there are 100 girls," said Pauline Hudson, one of the researchers. "That's pretty constant. In our sample group of vegetarians there were 81.5 boys born for every 100 girls.

Planet of the Apes

When three water trucks arrived at a trading center in Takaba, Kenya, monkeys attacked the villagers who had gathered to draw the water, clawing and biting them and forcing them to flee. The villagers regrouped and counterattacked with axes and machetes. When the two-hour battle ended, eight monkeys were dead and 10 people wounded.

Life and Death

George Story was featured in the inaugural issue of Life magazine 64 years ago as a newborn baby under the headline "Life Begins." He became known as "the Life baby," and the magazine covered him as he married twice, became a father and retired. He appeared in the magazine's final issue this May under the headline "A Life Ends." A few days after the publishers announced that the magazine was ceasing publication, Story died from heart failure, the article said, calling the coincidence "sad and altogether strange." A rise in the deaths of aging World War II veterans and a shortage of buglers has caused the Department of Defense to turn to compact discs to sound taps at funerals. Families of honorably discharged veterans are entitled to a two-person uniformed honor guard, the folding and presentation of the U.S. flag and a rendition of taps. With the downsizing of the military, however, the number of bands and thus buglers has dwindled, according to Defense Department spokesperson Lt. Col. Catherine Abbott. When Congress was made aware of the bugler shortage, it passed a law allowing "a recorded version of taps using audio equipment" if a live bugler is not available. "As the number of active duty military is decreasing, the number of deaths is increasing," Abbott said, "so it's a significant challenge."

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