NewsQuirks 622

Curses, Foiled Again

When police Officer Greg Tucker heard loud music blaring from a 2001 Toyota Camry parked at a convenience store in Tallahassee, Fla., he pulled alongside to tell the driver to turn down the music, then noticed it was parked in a handicapped spot. Tucker told the driver to move, but the man said he would only be there a few minutes. Tucker ran a check and discovered the car was stolen. After arresting Alonzo Lamar McMillan, 20, on several felony charges, Tucker declared, "He's not exactly a criminal mastermind."

Bad-Neighbor Policy

Police charged Keziah E. Stahl, 20, of Mount Pleasant, Pa., with racking up $2,275 in psychic hot-line phone charges on her neighbors' phones while pretending to make emergency calls. Johanna Shingle said she let Stahl use her phone after Stahl said her phone wasn't working and asked to make an emergency call. Shingle later got a telephone bill listing $445 for calls Stahl made. Another neighbor, Philomena Grohal, told police Stahl made $1,830 in psychic hot-line calls from her phone when Grohal and her husband let Stahl stay overnight after she told them she was locked out of her apartment. "We thought we were helping her out," Grohal said, "and then she did this to us."

Optimists of the Week

Carl and Debbie Prewitt, owners of the Eastwood Texaco Service Center in Birmingham, Ala., sued the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in federal court for price-fixing and won. The Wall Street Journal reported that Senior U.S. District Judge Charles Weiner granted the couple a one-year injunction barring OPEC from crafting, implementing or enforcing agreements on crude-oil production. How the court will enforce the injunction isn't clear, although the Prewitts' lawyer, Michael Straus, said he "assumes a lawful order of the U.S. district court will be obeyed."

At Least He Wasn't in the Middle Seat

Donna Beaulieu, her daughter and son-in-law complained to Continental Airlines that while on their way home to British Columbia after vacationing in Bali, the airline seated a man next to them who was unconscious and hooked up to IVs and oxygen. "We looked at each other and said, 'This guy isn't going to make it,'" she told the Houston Chronicle, noting that several times during the five-hour flight to Hawaii, he stopped breathing, only to be roused by flight attendants until he finally frothed at the mouth and died. The airline said it was only performing a humanitarian mission, adding that it normally tries to give ill passengers their privacy but was unable to in this case because the flight was virtually full.

Cow-a-Banga

The Austrian province of Vorarlberg announced it is ending the practice of blowing up dead cows in order not to upset tourists. Because of the rugged terrain, when cattle die on the province's Alpine pastures, helicopters have usually been needed to remove the remains. They cost $956 a trip, however, so farmers began hiring demolition experts to place explosives inside the cadavers and blow them up for $32. "I will put a stop to these blasts," said Erich Schwaerzler, a local member of parliament in charge of environmental and agricultural issues. "I never even knew they were taking place."

Yo, Canada

The electronic Millennium Clock outside Ottawa's National Research Council (NRC), which cost $40,000 Canadian and is designed to be accurate to within a few millionths of a second a year, has been plagued by problems since its installation in June 1999. The latest glitch occurred in April, when the clock began losing an hour every Sunday. Although NRC officials cannot explain why the loss occurs, they insist it is a software problem. "The clock itself is not losing time," Jean-Simon Boulanger, the NRC's group leader of frequency and time, said. "The problem is a display, which doesn't display time properly." To add to the embarrassment, the display features a plaque boasting that the Millennium Clock "celebrates Canada's rich history of leadership in timekeeping."

Nagged to Death

A British company has developed a talking cigarette pack able to warn of the hazards of smoking -- or deliver an advertising message. According to the patent filed by the engineering firm Molins, opening the lid triggers a microchip, which delivers its message through a miniature loudspeaker hidden in the base.

Way to Go

Arthur P. King Sr., 41 died either from suffocation or starvation when he became trapped in the ductwork at a factory in Racine, Wis., apparently while trying to burglarize the place. After his body was found three months later by a worker who opened a vent door, Thomas Cloyd, the deputy chief medical exa miner, said it appears that King removed an exhaust fan from over a chimney, then slipped his 5-foot-11, 167-pound body into the 14-by-14-inch square opening. He dropped about 10 feet, but once he got past the roofline, the chimney narrowed because it was lined. "It's a smooth tile," Cloyd told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "There's nothing to grab and pull yourself up with. The more you struggle, the farther down you slip."

Convicted murderer Sebastian Stephanus Bridges, 37, was executed in Carson City, Nev., after pleading with prison officials to let him live, even though he could have stopped the execution at any time just by asking for an appeal. In fact, prison officials twice brought defense attorney Michael Pescetta into the execution chamber and urged Bridges to ask for an appeal. "He died protesting his innocence and the unfairness of the process," Pescetta said, "yet he was unwilling to stop it."

Richard Collins, 46, a toll collector on Interstate 95 near Newark, Del., died while collecting snow for a friendly snowball fight with another toll collector, according to state police. Surveillance videotapes show Collins leaving his booth and gathering snow from the side of an empty car-carrier as the driver of the tractor-trailer paid the toll in the adjoining lane. Collins became caught on the rig and was dragged 40 feet.

Drinking-Class Heroes

Britain's hedgehogs have been helping themselves to tubs of beer that gardeners leave out overnight to trap slugs, according to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. Kay Bullen, a trustee of the animal welfare group, said her members are concerned because the animals get so drunk they forget to roll themselves up into a protective ball before falling asleep.

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