NewsQuirks 633

Grand Scheme of Things

Thailand's prime minister proposed fixing his country's ailing economy by turning the clocks ahead an hour. The change would put Thailand on the same time as Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. "The economies of these three countries are in good health, and our time adjustment to them would benefit the Thai bourse, which will open and close at the same time as theirs," said Thaksin Shinawatra, an electronics billionaire who was elected by a landslide in January after promising to speed economic recovery.

Things That Go Kaboom

Investigators in Minnesota's Castle Rock Township said four boys between 12 and 16 wanted to see how far they could make a bicycle seat fly, so they stuffed the frame with 64 ounces of gunpowder and ignited it. The seat flew about 120 feet, but the explosion also blew apart the frame, injuring all four boys with flying metal. "When the boys placed the bicycle seat onto the bike, they essentially created a pipe bomb," Dakota County Sheriff Don Gudmundson explained. "When the pipe bomb exploded, it turned into a grenade with multiple pieces of shrapnel."

Police investigating an explosion at an electricity substation in Rock Forest, Quebec, concluded that a crow caused the blast by flying into it. Besides the remains of an electrocuted crow, officers reported finding a rucksack hidden at the scene containing "thousands and thousands of dollars" believed to have been robbed from the Banque Nationale De Rock Forest. "Without the crow's sacrifice," police spokesperson Andre Lemire said, "we would never have recovered the money."

Authorities in Muskegon, Mich., blamed an explosion that blew part of a house off its foundation, started a fire that destroyed the building and damaged two neighboring houses on the homeowner, whom they accused of sniffing propane while smoking marijuana. They said Brian Miller Sr., 40, was in his first-floor bedroom with a 20-pound propane cylinder -- the type used for barbecuing but with a modified valve -- when propane vapors were ignited after he lit up a joint. "If there was a charge for ignorance," prosecutor Tony Tague said, "this would be appropriate."

Australian police blew a hole in a dead whale to keep it from becoming an environmental hazard and a danger to tourists. The carcass of the Southern Right whale had been off the coast of South Australia state for about two weeks. Television pictures showed great white sharks tearing chunks of flesh from the whale while sightseers in boats patted the sharks' snouts and even climbed into the back of the whale as the sharks fed. People's disregard for their own safety prompted state Environment Minister Iain Evans to propose regulations "to protect people too stupid to protect themselves."

Playing to the Stereotype

Off-duty police Officer Mark McGowan was waiting in line at a Chicago Dunkin' Donuts store when one of the three men ahead of him showed the clerk what looked like a handgun and demanded money. McGowan identified himself as a police officer and tried to wrestle the man to the ground. One of the other suspects hit McGowan on the head with a gun, but all three men fled without taking any money. An off-duty detective heading for the store saw the suspects running, followed them and got their license plate number. The three men were in custody within 45 minutes. A manager at the doughnut shop told the Chicago Tribune he couldn't understand why someone would try to rob the shop because police officers often come in for coffee at night. Philadelphia's police union leaders pledged to support striking Dunkin' Donuts drivers and warehouse workers by boycotting the doughnut chain.

There's Never a Porta-John When You Need One

During a meeting of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, Alderman Irene Smith was leading a filibuster to hold up debate on a redistricting plan when she said she needed a restroom break. Acting Aldermanic President James Shrewsbury ruled Smith must yield if she left the floor for a break, so about 40 minutes later, her aides surrounded her with a sheet, tablecloth and quilt while she appeared to use a waste basket to relieve herself. After the board adjourned without voting on the issue, Smith told reporters, "What I did behind the tablecloth is my business."

Authorities in Greene County, Mo., accused prison guards Justin K. Hastings, 21, and Curtis A. Myers, 26, of urinating from a roof onto four inmates who were playing basketball below them. "All of a sudden there was a shower," said prosecutor Darrell Moore, noting samples of the liquid, which ended up on the inmates' faces and bodies, were sent to a lab for testing. "It looks and smells like pee."

Way to Go Six-year-old

Eddie Ness died while playing with a homemade blowgun made from PVC pipe. Police in Levittown, Pa., said the boy was using a pushpin as a projectile, but instead of blowing it through the pipe, he inhaled it.

Six-year-old Michael Colombini died while having an MRI exam to check his progress after an operation to remove a benign brain tumor. Officials at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., said the magnetic resonance imaging machine's 10-ton electromagnet caused a metal oxygen canister that had been accidentally brought into the exam room to fly across the room and hit the boy in the head.

Litigation Nation

Cleveland Merritt, 54, filed a federal lawsuit against Palm Beach County, Fla., claiming the county violated the Americans with Disability Act when it fired him in 1997. The county dismissed the former traffic-light installer because he is colorblind and couldn't distinguish between red and green wires.

Whom Can You Trust?

An Akron couple who campaigned to make Ohio's rape laws tougher was accused of violating those laws by forcibly impregnating the woman's teen-age daughter with a syringe containing her stepfather's semen. The girl said she was 16 when her mother, Narda Goff, forced her to bear John Goff's child because Narda Goff has multiple sclerosis and could no longer give birth. The daughter said the incident occurred shortly after the Goffs persuaded lawmakers to include penetration with any object as constituting rape.

Philadelphia police accused a city block captain of keeping drug pushers off his street so he could keep all the business for himself. Duane E. Coppage, 29, tipped off police about illegal activity and was known to have chased away robbers and drug dealers, but after he was caught in the act of selling drugs, he pleaded guilty. "Every time we would go into the neighborhood, he would always come forward and offer us information," Lt. Michael J. Chitwood Jr. said. "He would always tell us how he kept his eyes out for the kids."

Compiled from the nation's press by Roland Sweet. Send original clippings, citing source and date, to P.O. Box 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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