NewsQuirks 667

Desperate Measures

Jane White, 35, told police she had finally had enough of Jehovah's Witnesses bothering her at home every month for more than 12 years when she interrupted Sunday services at the Kingdom Hall in East Sussex, England, by banging loudly on the church door and offering the congregation free magazines. "I've never done anything like this before," she said after spending 30 minutes on the church steps until police asked her to move along. "But I had a visit from the Jehovah's Witnesses the day before, and that was the straw which broke the camel's back."

A man went into the Banco Balsud branch in Tandil, Argentina, and asked to withdraw money from his savings account to pay for medicine. The bank refused because only small amounts may be withdrawn during Argentina's economic crisis. The man left but returned with a grenade, made several threats and finally left with his money. Bank officials called police, who arrested the man awhile later.

A man called a restaurant in Edmonton, Alberta, to order an extra-large vegetarian pizza but became angry after being told delivery would take 30 minutes and got into a heated argument with a restaurant employee. Twenty minutes later, according to police, a man armed with a handgun walked into the restaurant looking for the employee. After finding he wasn't there, the gunman ordered a vegetarian pizza. The man and two acquaintances ate the pizza and helped themselves to some liquor and $400, while the armed man kept the gun aimed at two employees and a customer for nearly an hour. The siege ended when a delivery driver returned, fled upon seeing what was occurring and flagged down a taxi driver, who called police. Officers arrested Jahanzeb Babur, 26, of Edmonton, and two teen-agers from Baton Rouge, La.

Fifth-Commandment Follies

Allan O'Keefe III, 45, received 90 days in prison for selling all his parents' possessions while they were out of the country on an extended business trip. The man's wife, Susan O'Keefe, was given a suspended sentence and probation. Police said the couple sold the parents' Connecticut house, worth nearly $900,000, and their Mercedes sedan, then held a tag sale for the home's contents, raising about $200,000. The man's mother, Carol O'Keefe, said that the couple returned a few months later to find they had not even a change of clothing. "We had given Allen everything growing up," she said, "and he left us with nothing."

Police in Oakland, Calif., said Jose Salinas, 20, told them he beat his father to death after the 49-year-old father criticized his repair work on a motorcycle. ""I don't think anybody does something like this based on one verbal dispute," police Sgt. Louis Cruz said. "Obviously, this was pent up."

Silver Lining

Global warming will make the days longer, according to researchers at Belgium's Royal Observatory. Calculating the effect of a 1-percent rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, they found that changes in wind speed, ocean currents and atmospheric pressure would slow its rotation, increasing the length of a day by around a millionth of a second over a year.

Lest We Forget

Although many people insist the death toll from the Sept. 11 collapse of the World Trade Center was between 5,000 and 6,000, the actual number of victims has dwindled to nearly half that. The initial estimate was 6,700, then 5,000, then 4,500, then 4,000. By early December, The New York Times reported the official figure was 3,300 and still falling. As a result, the bloodiest day in U.S. history remains September 17, 1862, when at least 3,650 soldiers were killed at the Battle of Sharpsburg.

The deadliest friendly fire incident of the U.S. war in Afghanistan occurred because of a dead battery on a Global Positioning System receiver being used to target a Taliban outpost. A senior Defense Department official told The Washington Post that a U.S. Special Forces air controller had programmed the Taliban position when the battery died. He changed the battery but forgot that the GPS unit was programmed to come back on showing the coordinates of its own location. He relayed this position to a B-52, which fired a 2,000-pound, satellite-guided bomb that killed three Special Forces soldiers and injured 20 others.

Bless the Homeland

Maryland's Hagerstown Suns minor league baseball team announced it was considering an Osama bin Laden bobblehead doll giveaway at a game this season, then canceled the promotion after an Internet poll showed 72 percent of the fans who voted thought the idea was "way out of line."

Not-So-Funny Money

A member of the European Central Bank warned that eating more than 400 new euro notes, worth $660, could make a person ill. "There is a product in the ink which, if you ingest 400 notes, becomes toxic," Eugenio Domingo Solans said after examining the bill's technical specifications with an expert. "So, besides being expensive, it is not recommendable to eat euro notes."

Just handling the newly issued 10-euro notes caused Wolfgang Fritz, 55, to become impotent. The Berlin resident is one of thousands of Germans claiming to have been struck by ailments and allergies after handling the note. They blame tributyltin, which is applied to the 10-euro notes during printing to stop them bleaching when exposed to sunlight. Fritz said he plans to sue the German government for free Viagra to restore his libido. "I'm dead in the bedroom," Fritz declared. "I haven't had a spark down there since I started using the notes. I'm OK with other denominations. It's just the 10-euro."

Two days after the euro notes were put into circulation, three men in Friedersdorf, Germany, used a stolen van to pull out the window of a bank to gain access to the freshly stocked cash machine. When police arrived, they discovered the cash machine was still in place and that the thieves had driven off with another machine, which dispenses account statements.

Honest Mistake

Police in Anderson, Ind., arrested Matthew Tyrone Zachary, 37, for the stabbing death of a man who was hugging his mother. According to public information officer Mitch Carroll, the three were drinking together when the victim, Jay Harmon, 40, began hugging Zachary's mother, Sandra Scroggins, 61. Zachary told police he thought Harmon was trying to assault Scroggins, so he yelled at him to stop. The two men argued, then Zachary grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed Harmon in the chest.

Try Switching to "Frere Jacques"

Worried that its young people are forgetting their national anthem's catchy tune, France is distributing thousands of compact discs featuring traditional and wacky variations of the "Marseillaise" to schoolchildren. The compilation by the Education Ministry includes a Brazilian samba version, a rendition in Arabic and Serge Gainsbourg's controversial reggae version.

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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