NewsQuirks 638

Curses, Foiled Again

Two women and a man who burglarized a house in Ross County, Ohio, started to make their getaway but backed their Buick into a pond. They decided to lighten the car by dumping the stolen items -- including a microwave oven, television set, braided rug, satellite dish and lockbox -- into the water. Homeowner Dorral Cunningham returned from work and spotted the suspects trying to push their car out of the pond. He was about to help them when he recognized some of the items in the muddy water, so he called the sheriff. When deputies Tammy Brunette and Jason Gannon arrived, the three mud-covered suspects asked them for help. "I think they thought they could pretend like the car had been stuck or they had been in an accident," Brunette said after arresting the trio, "but it didn't work."

Cheese Whiz

New York artist Cosimo Cavallaro announced plans to cover a house in Powell, Wyoming, inside and out with melted cheese. A Wisconsin company agreed to provide 5 tons of cheese for the project.

Canada retaliated against a U.S. decision reclassifying breaded cheese sticks as cheese instead of "other food" by effectively closing the border to U.S. breaded-cheese stick imports. Oussamah Tamim, a spokesperson with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, said Washington's move subjected southbound shipments of the snack food -- a $3-million-a-year business -- to tariffs and quotas, thereby impeding the "long-standing free flow of cheese sticks" between the two countries.

Silver Lining

City officials in Nottingham, England, spent $1.5 million to install 215 solar-powered parking meters after studies showed countries in southern Europe that used them had saved a fortune in maintenance costs. Those countries enjoy plenty of sunshine, however, whereas Nottingham's weather is much gloomier. As a result, more than a quarter of the machines have stopped working, providing motorists with free parking. "This is an ill-thought scheme," city councilor Sally McNamara told the Daily Telegraph, adding the council has asked the meters' suppliers to adjust the machines for the dark winter ahead.

Failing Grade

Five hooded gunmen held up a post office in Athens expecting to make off with 220 million drachmas ($546,400) stashed in two bags. Instead, the bags they took contained hundreds of final exams in algebra, Latin and chemistry from three schools on the Ionian island of Zakynthos. The Education Ministry asked the schools to repeat the tests.

Strange Tails

Scientists are working to develop a genetically engineered cat that will not cause allergies. Xiangzhong "Jerry" Yang, the University of Connecticut professor who cloned the first mammal in the United States, said an allergen-free feline could be available for sale by 2003. Transgenic Pets, a start-up biotechnology company that has a contract with Yang to produce the cats, plans to sell the sneeze-free pets for $750 to $1,000 each.

A group of Portuguese-Americans in California's Central Valley engages in bullfighting from May to October, but instead of finishing off the animal with a sword, matadors use paper-frilled lances tipped with Velcro to signify the kill. Rather than pierce the bull, the lances, or "banderillas," stick to a Velcro patch on the bull's shoulder. The New York Times reported the variation is aimed at appeasing animal protectionists and accommodating a state law that prohibits killing the bull.

Second-Amendment Follies

Douglas Provost, 34, told police in Belvidere, Vt., that he was trying to swap a .22 pistol for some marijuana when the gun accidentally fired while four people were passing it around, killing one man. Provost said he then shot the three others in self-defense because he thought they were coming after him. Police said Provost admitted he had been drinking "quite a bit."

Fifty persons in Baltimore accidentally shot themselves in the first eight months of this year, mostly with illegal handguns. Police said the incidents often occur as the victims attempt to pull loaded handguns from their waistbands or pants pockets. Their fingers become stuck on the trigger, and they end up firing a bullet into their leg or groin. "Pulling it out to use it is obviously a problem," police Col. Robert M. Stanton said.

Messrs. Lucky

After Leslie Ann Wallace, 39, shot her 6-year-old son at home in North Fort Myers, Fla., she drove to her family's church and fired her shotgun at her 16-year-old son at close range as he stood outside. The bullet struck Kenneth Wallace's Bible, which deflected it, leaving him with only minor scratches to his arm. Noting that if the Bible hadn't gotten in the way, the teen-ager would have sustained the brunt of the blast and "very well could have died," Lee County Sheriff's Deputy Larry King insisted, "The Bible certainly saved his life."

A 56-year-old carpenter walked into Houston's Ben Taub General Hospital with a 3-inch nail in his head, pinning open his lower eyelid. An X-ray and CAT scan revealed the galvanized nail punched through two sinuses, following the path used by brain surgeons to reach the pituitary gland, but missed by an eighth of an inch the eye itself and half a dozen other vital areas. The nail, which was shot from a coworker's nail gun, broke the board it was fired through, but that apparently slowed it down just enough, according to Baylor College of Medicine radiology professor Dr. Anne Hayman. Indicating that if the nail had continued on, it would have gone through the skull itself and pierced the man's brain, Hayman called him "the luckiest guy in the world."

Criminal Reservations

Thieves in Lagos, Nigeria, have become so brazen that they hand-deliver notices alerting intended victims to have money waiting for them to steal when they return. Robbers frequently operate in groups of 50 or more, hitting not just single houses but entire streets. The Associated Press reported in August that a notice was posted on the wall of an apartment complex warning, "We are coming to Block 31 to rob each flat and no flat will be exempted." Man y tenants fled, but teacher Bolanie Ijikelly prepared an envelope with 650 naira ($5) in it to give to them. The robbers broke through the wall of her apartment with a sledgehammer and carted away her valuables, then ransacked 12 other apartments before police officers finally chased them off, without making any arrests.

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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