NewsQuirks 644

Think Big

Authorities charged Dorothy Marie Livingston, 24, of Millerstown, Pa., with depositing a phony $1 million bill at a bank machine, then transferring the money to other accounts. The largest bill in general circulation is the $100 bill.

Aftershocks

The passengers and crew of a US Airways flight from Pittsburgh were held at the gate at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for more than two hours while airport police and hazardous material crews investigated a passenger's complaint of a powdery substance on board the plane. Investigators concluded the substance was crushed potato chips.

New York authorities accused Sandra Miranda, 35, of going on a $4,600 shopping spree with the credit card of a friend who died in the World Trade Center collapse. Miranda is charged with taking the credit card when she went to the victim's apartment after the Sept. 11 attacks to feed her cat. Miranda reportedly spent $600 on clothes, $2,000 on jewelry and $2,000 on religious statues.

No Place to Hide in Today's Flag-Waving America

After David H. Stout, 49, was accused of burning an American flag in Noblesville, Ind., Judge Wayne Sturtevant ordered that as a condition of his release he stay away from all U.S. flags.

Dark Cloud

Air pollutants resulting from burning fossil fuels could hinder the efficiency of solar energy cells by as much as 60 percent, scientists at Iran's University of Tehran reported after noticing the drop in output of their solar arrays during high-pollution days. When Daryl Myers, a research scientist for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., questioned their findings, the Iranian scientists acknowledged the energy output of some of the solar panels had been affected by "a residue of bird droppings" covering them.

Handcuffed

Law enforcement agencies in Oregon have been unable to conduct undercover operations as a result of a state Supreme Court ruling that all attorneys must abide by state ethics rules barring the use of deceit. The ruling includes prosecutors. As a result, the U.S. attorney's office in Portland suspended all undercover operations to avoid facing disciplinary action by the Oregon State Bar. Beth Anne Steele, an FBI spokesperson in Portland, said that according to the ruling, if the FBI wanted to arrest a drug dealer, "we'd have to walk up and say: 'I'm an FBI agent. Here's $10,000. I'd like to buy some coke.'"

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Swedish authorities investigating a wave of graffiti on local buildings charged the owner and three former employees of a company that specializes in cleaning up graffiti. The owner of the firm from Orebro said he came up with the idea when business began falling off in the mid-1990s. "It all began as a bad joke," he told the newspaper Orebro-Kuriren, "but after a few quiet months it became a reality. We used to get drunk in the evening and then go spray the buildings. The following day we used to contact the building's owner and offer them our services."

Politically Correct

Authorities in India's Jammu and Kashmir state have banned the use of the word "widow" in official records. They insist the word only adds to the women's depression. Instead, according to a government statement, "the government has ordered that all government offices use the expression 'wife of late' ... in official records."

Way to Go

Peter John Robinson, 28, of Reefton on New Zealand's South Island, slipped on ice while walking down his back door ramp to feed his cat. He hit his head on the concrete ramp, landed face down in the cat's water bowl and drowned in 2.6 inches of water.

Gary Turpin, 36, of Manchester, England, slipped on a footpath near his front door and landed on his back in a 6-inch-deep puddle. The impact sent a rush of water down his throat, and the shock of it stopped his heart. He was found dead with his nose sticking out of the water, a victim, authorities said, of dry drowning.

Janice L. Ruetz, 52, of Purcellville, Va., was killed while horseback riding when she was stung by a bee and fell from her horse. While her riding partners went for help, Ruetz, who was allergic to bee stings, used a mobile phone to summon a neighbor to assist her. Loudoun County Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson told the Washington Post that the neighbor did not see Ruetz laying in the tall grass on the private road and ran over her.

No. 1 Solution

A chemical in urine might reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel engines by up to 80 percent, according to researchers at the Dutch national laboratory TNO. Their system injects a urea solution into the engine's catalytic converter, where heat converts the urea into ammonia, which transforms the harmful nitrogen oxides into harmless nitrogen and water vapor. Trucks would need 13 gallons of urea for every 234 gallons of diesel fuel.

Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

Richard Schwartz, 50, thought he was in his home in Boulder, Colo., but he had actually entered the house two doors down, which was the same style and color. Homeowner Robert Tracy heard noises, got his gun and went to investigate. A struggle ensued, during which Schwartz was shot in the head and Tracy was wounded in the shoulder.

A man in Aix-en-Provence, France, suspected burglars were in the house next door while his neighbors were on vacation, so he grabbed his rifle and broke into their house. Le Figaro newspaper reported the man heard a strange voice coming from upstairs, ordered the burglar to surrender and fired a warning shot. Hearing the shouts and the shot, Andre Mazmanian, 61, and his family, who had just returned from vacation and were watching television, grabbed their guns and opened fire on the neighbor, whom they presumed to be an intruder. An exchange of gunfire followed, during which Mazmanian was fatally wounded.

Foot-in-Mouth Disease

Swedish politician Zaida Catalan came under fire for remarking in a newspaper interview that pigs are as intelligent as mentally retarded children. She explained she wasn't trying to degrade the retarded but to call attention to the plight of animals by upgrading them to the level of humans. "I stand by what I said, that pigs can be as intelligent as children," the spokesperson for the Green Party's youth organization said. "There is nothing scientifically controversial about that."

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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