NewsQuirks 646

Curses, Foiled Again

The New York Post reported in September that police in Suffolk County, N.Y., were seeking Ildiko Varga, 25, a Hungarian woman who fled her job as an au pair in Long Island in May. The article said Varga was accused of locking the 6-year-old girl she was supposed to be watching in the bathroom and ransacking her employer's Nesconset home. The day after the article appeared, the fugitive approached a police officer in New York City and asked if she could sue the paper for printing "something bad" about her. The officer told Varga she could sue the paper for libel if the story was wrong, then suggested she accompany him to the station to talk about the suit. Once there, the officer called Suffolk County police, who arrived and arrested her.

Slightest Provocation

David Monroe Baumann, 30, pleaded guilty in San Jose, Calif., to murdering his 34-year-old wife during an argument that began over what to have for dinner. "She was serving macaroni and cheese and Tater Tots, and he wanted something more healthful," defense lawyer Richard Rosen said. "And it grew into an argument over everything in their lives. They fought off and on through the evening, and finally, shortly before midnight, he strangled her in the bathroom as she was getting ready to take a bath."

An 84-year-old Italian man admitted beating his 72-year-old wife to death with a hammer after she made him a bad cup of coffee. "The coffee was disgusting," he told prosecutors in Bari. "I drank a little, then I picked up a cup and smashed it on the floor."

Aftershocks

The U.S. government announced it was changing the color of Humanitarian Daily Rations food packets being dropped in Afghanistan from yellow to blue so Afghan civilians wouldn't mistake them for unexploded bomblets from cluster bombs, which are also yellow. "It's unfortunate that the cluster bombs -- the unexploded ones -- are the same color as the food packets," Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers told the Washington Post before the switch, indicating civilians "get used to running to yellow."

Officials in Dutchess County, N.Y., removed names from several prominent government buildings in Poughkeepsie to make them harder for potential terrorists to identify, although one expert in security and terrorism said the action wouldn't be a significant deterrent. "If someone wants to do something," said Philip Stern, who works for FTI Consultants in Manhattan, "they're going to figure out which is the big building in Poughkeepsie."

Two South Florida men, David Pitchford and David Bruner, filed a $1.1 trillion federal lawsuit against Osama bin Laden, charging he threatened them with personal injury and intentionally inflicted emotional distress. According to the suit, the plaintiffs had to build and refortify their bomb shelters because of bin Laden's threats. They said the threats also caused them personal injury, including high blood pressure and stomach disorders.

Slovakia experienced a brief scare over a possible anthrax attack when tens of thousands of suspicious envelopes arrived in mailboxes. After receiving dozens of calls, police rushed to investigate but discovered the envelopes contained promotional samples of Procter & Gamble's Maxi-Pad sanitary napkins.

A woman from Washington state, who had become frustrated with the red tape involved in proving her 25-year-old son dead to the company processing his student loans, sent a letter and a plastic bag containing some of his ashes to Sallie Mae's offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Oct. 12. "We treated it as an anthrax scare. It was a gray powdery substance," said company vice president Joseph Bailey, noting the office handles more than 100,000 pieces of mail a day. "People were freaking out and going to the doctor thinking they had handled anthrax."

Hours after the attack on the World Trade Center, fire fighters sweeping areas that had been placed off limits reported a person at an address a few hundred yards from the disaster site who refused to evacuate his smoke and debris-filled apartment. Robert Morgenthau, Manhattan district attorney, recognized the address as the site of a suspected drug ring and issued search warrants to police, who seized 3,000 ecstasy tablets, hashish, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, guns and ammunition from the apartment. "This guy had his priorities in mind despite the fact that the World Trade Center crumbled right across the street," Bridget Brennan of New York's special narcotics unit said. "He didn't leave his post."

Triumph International (Japan) Ltd. announced it is developing a metal-free bra in response to tighter airport security procedures. Instead of metal wires and hooks, the new Frequent Flyers' Bra uses resinous wires and nonmagnetic metal hooks to avoid triggering airport security detectors. The company said the new bra would go on sale with matching panties for $31.40 in December.

Art, Schmart

The same night that British conceptual artist Damien Hirst assembled his latest work in the window of a Mayfair gallery, a cleaning man took it apart and threw it away because he thought it was garbage. The work consisted of half-full coffee cups, ashtrays with cigarette butts, empty beer bottles, a paint-smeared palette, an easel, a ladder, paintbrushes, candy wrappers and newspaper pages strewn about the floor. Heidi Reitmaier, head of special projects for the Eyestorm Gallery, put the work's sales value at "six figures," but the custodian disagreed. "As soon as I clapped eyes on it, I sighed because there was so much mess," Emmanuel Asare, 54, told the Evening Standard newspaper. "It didn't look much like art to me. So I cleared it all in bin bags, and I dumped it."

British "media artist" Matt Rogalsky said he planned to spend 24 hours monitoring the BBC's current affairs channel Radio 4 and collecting the gaps between words. He will transcribe the recorded silence onto 24 audio CDs, which he will sell in a limited edition boxed set for $426. Rogalsky said he got the idea after reading about U.S. radio talk show hosts complaining about the new technology that allows radio station owners to edit out fragments of silence between words to increase the time available for advertising messages.

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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