NewsQuirks 588

Sounds Like a Winner

A British national design competition inviting students to "tell a convincing lie" suffered a setback when one of the contestants convinced participating universities that the contest had been canceled. Professor George Hardie of Brighton University said the student notified the schools on fake letterhead stationery that he created using the logo from the competition poster.

More, Please

Confessed drug abuser LeAnn Demsey, 18, plea-bargained for a sentence of 11-1/2 to 23 months in a Philadelphia jail, but when the time came for her sentencing, she told Common Pleas Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper she's tired of being coddled by the courts and asked to be sent to a state prison for a longer term. "Send me up," she urged. "I want to be as far away from my self-destructive lifestyle as possible."

Fernando Screnci, 31, returned to Philadelphia after serving a 10-year prison sentence, but couldn't adjust to life on the outside, especially after his mother died and he couldn't find a job. Eager to return to jail, Screnci phoned a federal appeals court and told the clerk he had planted a bomb, then two days later turned himself in. He was returned to prison for 30 months.

Money Lenders in the Temple

The Church of England is considering installing automatic teller machines in some of its churches. The Right Rev. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper he got the idea for adding ATMs in naves and church halls to fill the vacuum left by the closings of post offices and bank branches in rural areas. "There is nothing wrong with money per se," James said. "After all, we make collections during services."

Dismayed by a drop in attendance, the Rev. Wilbert Gough, 82, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Hampton, N.H., announced he would pay $1 to the first 100 people who attend services. "It pays to worship God," he said. "We're not asking people to give anything. We want to give."

Going Nature One Better

When stewards found one of the sheep being shown at the Kent County Show, near Maidstone, England, had died, they propped it up to make it look as if it was merely sleeping. They explained they wanted to avoid upsetting spectators.

CBS Sports admitted dubbing recorded bird sounds into the background of televised golf tournaments after bird enthusiasts watching the P.G.A. Championship on television said they thought some of the bird calls they were hearing belonged to birds that were not normally found in Louisville, Ky., in August. The network explained it was experimenting with using a compact disc of bird sounds to provide ambient sound but promised not to do it again, although a source at CBS told the New York Times technicians still scatter birdseed around microphones on the ground to attract genuine ambience.

Where the Money Is

Two armed men walked into a police station in South Africa's Northern Cape province, held up two officers and made off with $50,570 in pension funds.

After telling a security guard he was visiting his wife and new baby, a man and an accomplice gained admission to a maternity hospital in Tirana, Albania, then broke into the accountant's office and stole a safe containing around $13,000 in staff wages. Koha Jone newspaper reported the men carried the small safe past the guard to their car and drove off.

Way to Go

Peter Gruber was in the Klausmann Museum of Art in Bonn, Germany, after hours when a security guard spotted him. While fleeing, Gruber ran around a corner and impaled himself on a 4-foot-long sword held by a statue of a blindfolded soldier. The exhibit is titled "The Weapon of Justice."

Thai police officer Jirawat Sangworn, 25, was about to sing the same song for the fourth time in a row at a Bangkok night club when two men at a front-row table began heckling him. The officer drew his service revolver and fired six shots, killing one of the hecklers and seriously wounding the other.

Authorities in Harris County, Texas, charged Larry Larnail Gray, 49, with the shooting death of Shannon Alonzo Pitre, 29, in a dispute over funeral arrangements for Gray's father, the Rev. Fred Gray. Sheriff's Lt. Richard Picks said Larry Gray admitted shooting Pitre, the son of Fred Gray's estranged wife, because he objected to Larry Gray and his uncles not notifying Pitre's mother of the death and not including her in the funeral plans.

Before You Go

Gil Bernardi, the mayor of the French Riviera town of Le Lavandou, issued a municipal decree forbidding anyone to die within the town limits who doesn't already have a burial plot. The town's small cemetery is full, 19 bodies are awaiting burial, and a third of the 5,500 residents are over the age of 65, but when a regional court rejected a proposal for a new cemetery because it violated a ban on sea shore construction, Bernardi said he had no choice. Explaining he hoped the measure would attract official attention to Le Lavandou's problem, the mayor noted, "No one has died since then, and I hope it stays that way."

Size Matters

Circuit Judge Wyatt Saunders Jr. sentenced Sunday school teacher Kevin Tucker, 27, to 12 years for having sex with one of his students in Spartanburg County, S.C., then cut the sentence in half when he learned the 14-year-old female victim was more than 6-feet tall and weighed more than 200 pounds. Noting the girl's size "had not been brought to my attention during the original plea hearing," Saunders said her "unusual stage of maturity" influenced his decision.


City officials in Diyarbakir, Turkey, said the reappearance of trash cans after 20 years is a sure sign that peace is returning to the capital of the mainly Kurdish region. The government banned the containers before a 1980 military coup, fearing the rebels would use them to hide bombs. By August, sanitation department officials had placed more than 1,000 small trash cans on the city's main streets and said their ultimate goal is 10,000 containers.

After officials in Michigan's Redford Township encouraged absentee voters to drop their ballots in a box behind Township Hall rather than mail them, some voters deposited the ballots in a new trash can 12 feet away. Township officials stopped other voters who were about to put their ballots in the trash, then posted two orange signs stating, "This is a garbage can." Part of the problem is the new green rubberized garbage can doesn't look trashy enough, said City Clerk Marilyn Heldenbrand, who observed, "It looks so good I'm surprised they're not putting mail in it."

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