NewsQuirks 664

Curses, Foiled Again

After Michael LaRock, 22, was indicted for stealing from a motel room in Essex County, N.Y., he fled. He eluded authorities for a year, then called police in Ticonderoga, N.Y., and boasted that he would never be caught. He pointed out he would hang up within three minutes because he knew how phone numbers could be traced. Apparently he didn't know how Caller ID works. Police almost immediately tracked LaRock to a number in Auburn, Ga., and notified local police, who got the address from the number. Then LaRock called back. "I was on the phone with him when I heard the doorbell ring," Ticonderoga police Officer Daniel Charlton said. "He got up to answer it and then I heard a scuffle. It was the police."

A man showed up at the home of C.L. Norwell in Port St. Lucie, Fla., saying that his car had broken down. Norwell handed him a portable phone, and the man walked into the front yard to make a call. He returned and asked to borrow some toilet paper, then threw his coat at Norwell and announced, "This is a robbery." Norwell, a former St. Lucie County sheriff, showed the man his .38-caliber pistol, sending him running. Later, a woman called Norwell, whose number appeared on her Caller ID, and asked to speak to "Travis." Norwell also had Caller ID and noted the number the woman was calling from. It turned out to belong to Travis Suomi, 23, whom police arrested and Norwell identified as the man who tried to rob him.

Three men were in the middle of a hold-up in Burnaby, British Columbia, when a cell phone one of them had in his pocket was jostled and automatically redialed the last number called. The number was hooked up to an answering machine, whose owner gave a tape of the call to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who identified the suspects. On the tape, the three can be heard telling the victim "you're being jacked" and later arguing how to divide the more than $100 in cash they took.

John Bernard Smith, 36, was arrested for stealing a cell phone from a desk in the lobby of the Charles County Sheriff's Office when he accompanied a woman who surrendered for failing to appear for a traffic citation. The phone belonged to a retired police officer, who reported it missing shortly after Smith left to drive the woman's car to the detention center. The clerk remembered Smith had been acting strangely before he left and dispatched Sgt. R. Foster to the detention center, then called the number of the missing phone. The sergeant heard a phone ringing in the glove compartment of the car Smith was exiting and found its Caller-ID display had the number of the communications office.

Homeland Security

Louisville International Airport had to be cleared of passengers, and 25 flights were delayed for at least two hours after a National Guardsman noticed that a screener operating the x-ray machine at the security checkpoint was asleep. The incident caused between 1,000 and 1,500 passengers to be re-screened, according to airport spokesperson Rande Swann. The security worker was fired.

Authorities evacuated two concourses at the New Orleans international airport after a suspicious package was found in a men's restroom. The concourses were reopened about five laters after a bomb squad found containers of gumbo in the box.

Airline security workers at Phoenix's international airport detained Joseph J. Foss, 86, when he tried to board an America West flight with his Medal of Honor. "I was held up for 45 minutes, while they decided what to do about the medal," said Foss, who received the nation's highest military award as a Marine fighter pilot in World War II. He was also a governor of South D akota, the president of the National Rifle Association and commissioner of the old American Football League.

When a Defense Department worker informed Henry Marek of Ludington, Mich., this winter that the World War I-era cannon Marek has used as a lawn ornament since 1947 is government property and could be seized and destroyed, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., ridiculed the government's sudden interest in the weapon. "At a time when the Defense Department is fighting a war against terrorism," he said, "it seems strange they would want to fight Mr. Marek over an 80-plus-year-old cannon that was long ago disabled."

When Guns Are Outlawed

Authorities in Madeira Beach, Fla., charged Frank J. Ashmus, 46, with stabbing Garth Spacek, 42, in the stomach with the bill of a swordfish. The attack took place at Spacek's apartment after an earlier argument, according to Pinellas County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Marianna Pasha, who said, "We don't see this kind of thing very often."

The Marine Corps unveiled the latest weapon in its arsenal: a whitish, highly viscous gel, about the consistency of syrup. As slick as ice, the slime, which was developed by scientists at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, can be sprayed on roads, lawns, even the walls and windows of buildings to make it impossible for vehicles or pedestrians to get traction.

Pig and a Poke

Shortly after Keaton Lynch Brown, 18, was voted "Miss Congeniality" during Georgetown College's "Belle of the Blue" beauty and scholarship pagean t, she told police that she was attacked during a rehearsal by Kathy Wallace, director of student activities at the Lexington, Ky., school. Brown said the incident stemmed from her talent presentation, which consisted of a dance routine based on her love of horses and included a lasso demonstration that ended with her roping a stuffed pig. Contestant Suzanne Lunsford, 20, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that tensions between Brown and Wallace had been building throughout the week before the incident, explaining, "There was some controversy over whether her talent was ladylike."

The Little Fruit That Couldn't

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will attempt to ease a prune surplus by paying California farmers $17 million to remove thousands of acres of plum trees, from which prunes are produced. This is the prune industry's second attempt in as many years to deal with its surplus. Last year, it successfully petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to improve the appeal of its product to younger consumers by changing the name from prunes to "dried plums."

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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