NewsQuirks 626

Curses, Foiled Again

Michael A. Moore stole Michelle Greshak's car but was arrested after he tried to sell it back to her. The Philadelphia woman said Moore called her and claimed to have just bought her car from a man for $600, explaining he traced her through the car's registration. After negotiating, Moore agreed to sell the car for $200, telling Greshak, "I'll take whatever you give me." Greshak notified police, who nabbed Moore when he showed up with the car to claim his money.

Way to Go

John L. Bower, 85, a national defense expert who built his own bomb shelter after the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, was killed while doing electrical maintenance work on the underground shelter. Authorities said a leaky propane tank that fueled the shelter's electrical generator triggered an explosion that ripped through the steel-walled shelter.

Khamurat Berdyev, 41, the head of the railway company in the central Asian state of Turkmenistan, died while crossing a railway line when one of his own trains hit him from behind.

Xu Xiaodong, 18, a zookeeper in Jinan, China, was mauled to death by a tiger after apparently defecating on it. Authorities who found toilet paper, human excrement and a loosened belt at the scene concluded that Xu had climbed on the tiger cage to relieve himself over four Bengal tigers, then either slipped or was dragged in by one of the angry animals.

Wonderful World

Researchers in Croatia discovered that some trees were so badly contaminated from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Ukraine that people spending just 10 hours a day in a cabin made from the wood would receive a dose of cesium-137 equal to one-third the international safety limit.

Vatican Radio agreed to cut its transmission output in half after Italian Environment Minister Willer Bordon gave the papal state two weeks to reduce what he called excessive electromagnetic levels or be shut down. New Scientist magazine said that when the Vatican's radio transmitters were built 50 years ago, their site outside Rome was relatively unpopulated. Now, however, about 100,000 people live nearby, and some residents fear the station's 33 antennas are responsible for leukemia cases. Saying the Vatican was astonished by Bordon's threat, since the territory is a sovereign state, a Vatican spokesperson said Vatican Radio had agreed to reduce its medium-wave transmissions as an act of good faith.

Sperm in the News

Sperm reserves have become so low in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that the Department of Human Reproduction at the Albert Einstein Hospital there launched an aggressive campaign to boost sperm-bank donations. One advertisement shows a baby boy holding a Playboy magazine with the tagline: "Give it a hand so that he can be born."

Recycling's Finest Moment

The McGhan Medical Corp. announced the development of a biologically engineered human collagen that is awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration. The source of the cells for the new collagen is the circumcised foreskins of infant boys.

Going Out in Style

Collegiate Memorials has introduced special burial caskets and urns emblazoned with a university's insignia. The Tuscaloosa, Ala., company said 40 schools have agreed to participate.

Southern Caskets Direct of Atlanta, Ga., offers coffins featuring bright lithographed designs and catchy titles. NASCAR fans, for example, can rest in peace in caskets that announce "The Race Is Over," which show a checkered flag. Golf fans can be buried in one that says, "Fairway to Heaven." Company president Thomas Hicks said, "Typically, the families that buy them are freethinkers and like to do things differently."

Eternal Reefs of Orlando, Fla., suggests memorializing loved ones with underwater reefs made from the ashes of the departed. The cremated remains are mixed with concrete, then molded into "reef balls" and placed on the ocean floor in government-approved areas like the Florida Keys, where reefs are needs. Prices range from $850 to more than $3,000.

The Answer Is Blowing in the Wind

British police said they were investigating a complaint that an officer farted while searching a London home during a drug raid. "An allegation has been received from a person in the house that one of the male officers broke wind and did not apologize to the family for his action," said a letter from Scotland Yard to the officers involved in the raid that was printed in the Daily Mail newspaper. "The complainant felt it was rude and unprofessional."

Two New Jersey men were charged with spraying gas designed to mimic the odor of flatulence inside a Washington Township supermarket. After assistant store manager Rick Calabrese notified police, the two suspects were spotted ordering food at the deli counter. "The police officer asked one of them what he had in his shirt pocket. He had two cans of fart spray," Calabrese said, noting suspects Geremino T. Ranallo, 64, and Warren G. Jacoby, 49, were the same men spotted in the store two weeks earlier carrying what he described as a "fart machine," which merely mimicked the sound of flatulence, not the odor.

Haberdashery Update

Police officers became suspicious when they saw three men with immensely thick legs having difficulty walking out of a retail store in Zurich, Switzerland. The officers stopped the men and discovered they had full suits wrapped around their legs.

The workers who play cartoon characters at Walt Disney World have won the right to wear clean underwear. Many had been wearing Disney-issued jock straps and bike shorts underneath their costumes because regular underwear bunches up and is noticeable. Disney required them to turn in the undergarments at the end of the day, then pick up a different set the next day. But some workers complained of receiving undergarments that were stained or smelly, and at least three workers reported getting pubic lice or scabies. Under a tentative contract worked out between Disney and the Teamsters union, the workers now will be assigned individual undergarments, which they can take home and clean themselves.

Fetishes on Parade

Christopher Simms, 34, of Willow Grove, Pa., was charged with being a Peeping Tom after he set up an elaborate videotaping system to spy on two nursing mothers who used a breast pump in a storage closet while at work. According to Montgomery County prosecutors, the scheme fell apart after the man recorded one of the women but the other spotted the camera, hidden in a trash bag and rigged to his computer.

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