NewsQuirks 647

Go Ahead, See If Anyone Cares

Police in Ogden, Utah, arrived at the scene of a robbery in progress to find the suspect, a man in his early 40s, aiming a handgun at himself and threatening to shoot himself unless residents turned their vehicles over to him. Police Lt. Marcy Korgenski said that when police tried to talk the man into surrendering the weapon, the situation escalated, and officers had to shoot the suspect with a non-lethal weapon.

Paul Morgan, 33, who was paralyzed below the knees after falling out of a truck, announced he would amputate his feet with a homemade guillotine and broadcast the procedure live on the Internet (www.cutoffmyfeet.com) to raise money for new prosthetic legs. Morgan, a resident of Lumberton, Miss., said he needed about $150,000 to cover the cost of the prosthetics, follow-up surgery and rehabilitation. The broadcast, originally scheduled for Oct. 31, now is slated for Nov. 30.

Riding the Waves

After Beatrice Muller's husband died in 1999, she spent the entire next year as the couple had planned aboard the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2. When the year ended, the 82-year-old British subject decided to stay at sea. She sold two of her three homes and most of her possessions to pay for her shipboard life, which she said costs no more than living in a retirement home. She travels the world playing bridge, dancing with handsome stewards and stopping at sunny destinations. She enjoys films from the ship's theater and communicates with her family by e-mail from the computer room. "This is where I live, and I love it," she told the Sunday Express newspaper. "I don't need to do any shopping. I don't need a car, and there aren't any gas or phone bills."

Never Notify the Authorities

Lawrence Lynch, 41, called 911 in Fort Worth, Texas, and said he was changing a tire when he found a baby in the bed of his pickup truck. Under questioning, however, Lynch admitted he was the father of the 8-month-old girl, explaining that the mother happened upon him while he was changing the tire and left the baby with him so he would spend more time with his daughter. Lynch was arrested for filing a false report. "He made the false report because he has another family, and they were not aware the baby existed," police Lt. Duane Paul said. "He made extremely poor judgment in calling 911."

Role Model

Police in Sarasota, Fla., arrested Trevor Harvey, 34, for punching a referee during his 7-year-old son's flag football game. The 270-pound assistant coach of the Little Apaches was penalized twice for unsportsmanlike conduct, then complained the game was getting too rough and charged onto the field. "He was going crazy," referee Tony Kormansek said. "I didn't even get the time to spit out that he was ejected. He just came out swinging." Harvey is the president of the local chapter of the anti-violence group MAD DADS.

Suicide Watch

A man in his 60s fastened a 3-foot pole to his car's dashboard, aimed it at his neck, then attempted to impale himself on it by driving into a pillar on the Orange Freeway near Diamond Bar, Calif. According to Sgt. Randy Lascuraim of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the metal bar missed, but the impact caused the man to hit the steering wheel, which killed him. "It was a little bizarre," Lascuraim said. "I don't think it worked out quite the way he intended."

Nineteen months after his older brother committed suicide, Gregory Kochman, 17, killed himself in Swanzey, N.H., shortly before appearing in the starring role of his high-school play, "Ordinary People." The play is about a suicidal teen-ager, who is tormented by guilt over the death of his older brother. "When I heard about the play, I thought it was a sick joke," Gregory's father, David Kochman, told the Boston Globe. "I couldn't believe it. I blame myself for not stopping it outright."

Starring Roles

Some members of New Zealand's Parliament want cameras covering sessions to be repositioned to eliminate unflattering views of the lawmakers. The cameras are located 15 feet above the debating chamber and point downward, creating the impression of "a press conference from the ceiling," according to Richard Prebble, leader of the ACT Party, who explained the angle "just means you see pictures of bald heads."

A hearing by the Waltham, Mass., Zoning Board of Appeals was cut short because of a dispute over the television camera covering the session. Bob Kelly, executive director of Waltham's public access channel, told the camera operator the law allows him to pan and zoom as long as the camera's tripod is stationary. Board chairperson Christopher Curtin, who wanted the camera operator to leave the camera in one position, called a 5-minute recess. He went to the rear of the auditorium and engaged in what the Daily News Tribune described as "an animated discussion" with Kelly, then returned and requested that the meeting be adjourned until he could get a ruling from city's law department. "At the next meeting," Kelly threatened, "there will be two cameras."

Short-Sighted Solutions

In South Africa, which has the world's highest incidence of sexual assault, two insurers began offering low-cost rape insurance. For $1.58 per month, the policy promises to help victims deal with the trauma of being raped, especially by an attacker suspected of being HIV-positive.

Croatian inventor Vladimir Markov, 35, has developed jeans specifically to help women defend themselves against potential rapists. Markov told the newspaper Jutarnji List that instead of a top button, the jeans have a coded steel buckle whose number is known only to the wearer. To thwart a persistent attacker who tries to tear open the jeans, the belt contains a thin steel wire. Markov calls his invention "the Grizzly."

Beating Capitalists at Their Game

Celia Reyes claimed that Mexico's Banco del Atlantico owes her more than $46 billion, thanks to the country's sky-high interest rates. According to her lawyer, Mario Alberto Canales, Reyes deposited $24,000 in February 1988, when the annual interest rate peaked at 149.35 percent, and never changed the terms of her investment. Despite the bank's insistence that the most it owes her is $150,000, the 82-year-old widow has won one court case and an appeal by the bank. The $46-billion figure was determined by a court-appointed accountant. "The nominal figure may be unreal, but the obligation to pay is absolutely real, just as in the 300,000 cases where banks have won judgments condemning debtors to pay far more than the total of their assets," Canales said.

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

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