NewsQuirks 660

Curses, Foiled Again

British police were able to identify Mark Wharton, 31, of Gateshead as a robbery suspect because shortly after the crime occurred, he approached a woman at a bus stop and tried to make a date. He wrote his name and telephone number on her hand, and she later transferred them to paper. Twelve days later, a video camera taped Wharton mugging a man, and the scenes were shown on a television crime program. The woman whom Wharton had asked for a date saw the show and called police with his name and number. A court convicted Wharton of both robberies.

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Angels, Europe's first brothel for women, declared bankruptcy barely a month after its opening in Leibstadt, Switzerland, near the German border. Officials suggested one reason for its demise was that owner Clemens K., 31, didn't request payment until after providing the service, so women paid only what they thought it was worth, if anything. "If they'd operated like a norma l brothel and made sure they got the money before sex, they would have been all right," police spokesman Peter-Georg Biewald explained after Clemens became so discouraged by the failure of Angels that he mugged an elderly couple with a toy gun and was arrested.

They Love Muddy Waters

Fish can tell the difference between classical music and the blues, according to Ava Chase of the Rowland Institute for Science in Cambridge, Mass. By placing loudspeakers in a fish tank and using food rewards, Chase trained three carp to distinguish between a John Lee Hooker song and a Bach oboe concerto. Afterwards, the fish could then correctly categorize pieces they hadn't heard before, such as Muddy Waters songs or Beethoven sonatas, as either blues or classical. They also could tell whether simple melodies were played backwards or forwards.

Second-Amendment Follies

Philadelphia police Officer Vanessa Carter-Moragne, 39, was attending a career-day program at her son's school when the pupils asked to see her weapon. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the officer removed the clip, then passed the weapon around for the children to handle. When she tried to replace the magazine, the gun accidentally discharged, grazing a 10-year-old boy in the face. Police spokesperson Roland Lee identified the weapon as a Glock 9-mm semi-automatic, which he said many police departments have stopped using because of problems with the safety catch, noting, "They're touchy weapons."

Chaddrick Dickson, 25, of Monroe, La., wanted to feed his dog gunpowder "to make him mean," according to a police report, so he decided to disassemble a .22-caliber bullet by holding it with a pair of pliers and striking it on the ground. The bullet exploded, hitting Dickson just above the ankle.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Georgia Rep. Dorothy Pelote, who introduced bills banning students from having long fingernails and supermarket baggers from licking their fingers, announced she was sponsoring a new measure that would prohibit Georgians from answering their doorbells naked. "The law allows (a person) to come to the door naked. It just doesn't let him go outside," the Savannah Democrat said. "I don't even want him coming to the door naked."

Singular Honor

Britain's National Dairymen's Association named Steve Leech, 35, its "Hero Milkman of the Millennium" for using 320 pints of milk to douse a fire in a store in Cornwall. Firefighters credit Leech with saving the lives of eight people living in apartments above the store. "I saw the row of flats up above and thought, bloody hell, I'd better do something. So I kicked in the door and started pouring milk everywhere," Leech told Reuters news agency. "It was hard work opening all those bottles, especially since they have tamper-proof lids. But it was even harder trying to explain to my boss where all the milk had gone."

Gone but Not Forgotten

Japanese police arrested Yoshiko Nakahara, 52, for failing to report her 92-year-old mother's death in February 2001. For the next year, she left the body on a bed in a small room in the apartment the two women shared. She told police, "I couldn't bear to be parted from my mother."

Hazards of Smoking

Nikki Newberry, 19, of Walled Lake, Mich., was visiting a friend's house when she looked for a place to put out her cigarette. She took a soft-drink can off a bedside stand and dropped the cigarette in it. The can turned out to be full of gunpowder, which exploded, blowing a 14-inch by 10-inch hole in the wall and burning Newberry's hand, hair, face and eyebrows. Oakland County Sheriff's Detective Dan Flynn said the gunpowder was left in the can by the man living in the house, who explained that he and a friend "had been entertaining themselves with the powder," put what was left in the can and forgot about it.

After Joseph Hall, 40, was arrested in Newton, Mass., he was taken to the jail, which does not allow smoking. Officers caught Hall smoking in his cell several times but failed to find any smoking materials, even during a strip search. Then an officer watching a television monitor saw Hall defecate on his cell floor. Officers who went to his cell found him covered in excrement and smoking a cigarette. They also noticed rectal bleeding and took him to the hospital, where authorities concluded he had injured himself by hiding a cigarette lighter and possibly an entire pack of cigarettes in his rectum, then repeatedly removed and reinserted them.

Spelling Counts

North Dakota, where tourist officials last year suggested dropping "North" from the state's name to improve public perception, printed 200,000 state vacation guides before officials discovered that a page with a greeting from Gov. John Hoeven had misspelled "North." It was spelled N-R-O-T-H. Tourism Director Allan Stenehjem said the mistake was caught before the guide was distributed and that the page would be reprinted.

The Western Illinois University men's basketball team was several games into its season before someone noticed that the home uniforms misspelled the school's name as "Illinios." Jason Kaufman, the school's director of Athletic Media Services, said the misspelling "was a manufacturer's mistake" but didn't explain why it took so long to catch. The team even wore the uniforms for its picture in its media guide.

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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