NewsQuirks 615

Curses, Foiled Again

When a man claiming to be a supporter of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein hijacked a Yemen Airways plane, pilot Amer Anis immediately realized the hijacker did not speak English. Anis then began giving instructions in English to the copilot and flight engineer, telling them that as soon as the plane landed at Djibouti airport, they should open the emergency doors and evacuate the 91 passengers, starting with the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine. Anis told Reuters news agency that the hijacker was furious when he opened the cockpit door and saw the plane was empty. He waved a miniature pistol and threatened to shoot the crew, but one crewmember grabbed a fire extinguisher and fired foam in the hijacker’s face while another wrestled him down.

Better Than Burning

The University of Western Sydney, one of Australia’s largest universities, admitted it buried 10,000 books, including some rare and antique volumes, to save money on storage costs. "Instead of being stored, which would have been most appropriate, some idiot got rid of surplus books by burying them," university spokesperson Steven Matchett said, adding that as a result, the books "are not in terrific shape."

Give It Up

Police in The Hague who stopped a 37-year-old man from leaping into a waterway near the city center in February discovered that he had already jumped three times trying to commit suicide. As a result of the repeated dunking, he was suffering from hypothermia, police said after taking him to a psychiatric hospital.

Better Safe Than Sorry

After falling from a truck in 1986, Herbert Scott of Crawshawbooth, England, was taken to Burnley General Hospital, where doctors suspected a broken neck and gave him a neck brace to wear. Now 74, Scott said that whenever he went to the Crawshawbooth Clinic for follow-up visits, he was told to continue wearing the brace for a few more weeks. This February, he saw a visiting doctor, who told him he should have worn it for only four weeks, not 14 years. Scott said he is considering legal action.

Do Your Duty

Jenny Shipley, the leader of New Zealand’s opposition National Party, urged New Zealanders to have more children because the birth rate has dropped below the level needed to maintain the current population. Her deputy, Bill English, responded to Shipley’s challenge by noting he has six children. "I’ve been worried about the decline of the population for several years now and have made my own contribution fairly significantly. Some of us are just ahead of the times."

The Ultimate Foot Fetish

Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines, opened a shoe museum in Manila. Among the hundreds of pairs of shoes on display at the Marikina City Footwear Museum are some of the 1,200 pairs reportedly found in the presidential palace after Marcos and her late husband, ex-President Ferdinand Marcos, fled the country in 1986. She said the museum is a creative way of turning a negative perception into something positive, explaining, "Filipinos are very good in recycling problems into assets."

Land of the Setting Sun

After a two-car accident in Aizuwakamatsu, Japan, the driver of a station wagon and her 7-year-old daughter, who was riding in the passenger’s seat, were taken to the hospital with mild head injuries. Their wrecked car was towed to a junkyard. Six hours later, the driver’s relatives came to pick up some belongings that had been left in the vehicle and found the body of a 66-year-old friend of the driver’s who had died in the collision. Investigators told the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper they could not explain how the four police officers and three paramedics on the scene failed to notice the woman lying face down in the back seat.

Police in Nagano, Japan, said Junsei Kajioka, 23, tried to kill himself by releasing deadly fumes from a propane gas container in his apartment but failed because there was no carbon monoxide inside the tank. When he awoke five hours later, he had forgotten about the gas and lit a cigarette. In the resulting explosion, Kajioka received burns to the face, his next-door neighbor suffered a broken hip when the wall collapsed and fell into his apartment, and an 18-year-old in an adjacent building had his fingers injured.

Test of Faith

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston told the family of Jenny Richardson that the girl cannot substitute a rice communion wafer for the traditional wheat one, even though she suffers from celiac disease, which causes her to get sick from eating gluten, a protein in wheat. "I believe Jesus would have made an exception," Janice Richardson, the girl’s mother, said, explaining that as a result of the decision the family now worships at a Methodist church.

Dangers from Above

A 200-pound refueling hose fell off an Air Force Reserve plane and crashed through the roof of a house on an Indian reservation near Warm Springs, Ore. The house was empty at the time.

A German jet fighter on a routine training mission accidentally opened fire on a Dutch military flight tower on the North Sea island of Vlieland. Three people inside the tower escaped injury when it was hit by seven 27-millimeter rounds from the fighter’s wing cannons.

The Price of Principles

Instead of paying a $117 speeding ticket issued in 1996, Doug Stead has spent $120,000 fighting the ticket, even though he admits he was speeding. Stead objects to British Columbia’s photo radar system, insisting it is unfair because it presumes a person’s guilt. The money has gone for two lawyers, their research assistants and other costs as the case has progressed through provincial court, the B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeal. "I got myself in a corner and had to keep defending my principle and my belief, and if I let it go, I wouldn’t feel good," Stead said, adding, "As a Canadian, I am proud of my country and didn’t want to see us go down a road that makes us look like a Mickey Mouse, Third World government."

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