NewsQuirks 648

Curses, Foiled Again

When Officer Laura Tosatto of the San Diego Harbor Police spotted a man wearing an orange shirt with the word "Fugitive" printed on it in large block letters, she stopped him for questioning. The man, Richard Hansen, 25, turned out to be an actual fugitive -- a registered sex offender who was wanted for leaving a halfway house in Chula Vista, Calif. -- so Tosatto arrested him. "It was just a shirt that he had," Lt. Ken Franke said. "It's so bizarre."

Authorities in Evansville, Ind., reported that a masked man entered a bank, pointed a loaded assault rifle at a teller and demanded money. He placed the rifle on the counter, then jumped over it to get the money, but when he retrieved the rifle, he pointed the wrong end at bank employees. According to police Capt. Bill Welcher, while the man was turning the rifle around, it got caught in his boot, knocking off the sights. The robber fled through a back door to his getaway car, but he went only 20 feet when red dye packs in the stolen money exploded, causing him to crash the car. He fled on foot, but was spotted by police Officer Mike Sitzman, who told the Evansville Courier Press the man "dropped all the things he was carrying" and jumped a fence. Meanwhile, a police SWAT unit was training nearby. Team members arrived on the scene within minutes and, after a two-hour intensive search, arrested Timothy Stewart, 28, who reportedly confessed to the robbery.

Over Qualified

After insisting that she is brain damaged, Pennsylvania State Rep. Jane Baker, 56, announced she would run for a second term next year. Baker filed a $7.5 million civil lawsuit in October asserting that she suffers from "multiple cognitive defects" after being hit by a car and that she now "needs help with reading and understanding material and carrying on conversations, especially on a professional level." As a result of her injuries, Baker is "virtually unemployable" outside the Legislature, according to her attorney, Shanin Specter, who pointed out, "If she does not maintain her job in the Legislature, where she receives substantial assistance, then she will have great difficulty finding work."


Just days after the Defense Department announced it was changing the color of food packages being dropped on Afghanistan from yellow to light blue so they wouldn't be mistaken for unexploded cluster bombs, it corrected itself and said blue was out. According to Joseph Collins, deputy assistant defense secretary for peacekeeping and humanitarian affairs, the department was concerned that Afghans might object to the color because it dominates United Nations and Israeli flags. Collins pointed out the Pentagon has rejected every other color being considered for its Humanitarian Daily Ration packages because of concerns of cultural sensitivity.

The U.S. bombardment of Kandahar has provided a source of income for some people, who gather and sell metal bomb fragments as scrap. Mullah Naimattul lah, a staff member of the Foreign Ministry, told the Gulf News that some people would buy a small battery and bulb, then use them to light dummy bunkers, hoping to attract U.S. jets to drop bombs in unpopulated areas. He described one incident where a villager, who had used the little money he had for food to buy a battery and a bulb instead. He lit the bulb, but nothing happened. The next night, "he tied up a dog near the site to show the Americans some signs of life," and succeeded in making the Americans direct their bombs at his light," Naimattullah said, adding, "The next morning, he was several times richer than two days ago."

U.S. intelligence agencies started recruiting psychics to help find Osama bin Laden and predict future terrorist attacks, according to London's Sunday Times newspaper. Prudence Calabrese, whose Transdimensional Systems employs 14 "remote viewers" -- people claiming to be able to visualize distant events by using paranormal powers -- confirmed that the FBI has asked the company to predict terrorist targets. The paper said the FBI and CIA refused to comment but confirmed investigators have been told to "think out of the box."

The Israeli company Apco Aviation has designed a parachute to help workers escape from high-rise buildings in case of a terrorist attack. The backpack-type Executivechute, which is being marketed in the United States and Japan, weighs four pounds and sells for $795. Its ripcord attaches to furniture or a special hook so that the chute opens automatically after its wearer jumps out a window, and the design provides for a reliable but hard landing from a minimum height of 10 stories. "It's unlikely the user will know how to do the standard 'paratroop roll' upon hitting the ground," Anatoly Cohen, Apco's managing director, told Reuters news agency, "but we figure a twisted ankle is a small price to pay for life."

Sex Is Its Own Punishment

Kenneth Wells, 24, of Masontown, Pa., was convicted of third-degree murder after he accidentally shot Joslyn Mickens, 21, in the face while she was preparing to perform oral sex on him. Police said Wells told them he and Mickens had used firearms during sex before.

A 37-year-old Finnish man received five years in jail after shooting his neighbor's wife to death during a sex game when a handgun being used as a prop during their lovemaking accidentally fired. The chief prosecutor said the bullet pierced the woman's head before sticking in the man's thigh.

Bird Brain

When a suspicious U.S. Customs agent at Miami International Airport asked passenger Carlos Rodriguez Avila, who had just arrived on a charter flight from Cuba, to raise his pants legs, the agent found 44 Cuban finches strapped to the man's legs, many of them dead from stress.

Bad Luck Gets Worse

Sandra Pierson, 42, who has a glass eye, was sitting at a table in a tavern in Kennett Square, Pa., when a man sitting at the bar accidentally fired a gun. The bullet struck Pierson in her good eye.

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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