NewsQuirks 669

Curses, Foiled Again

Tokyo police arrested a 50-year-old Chinese man who broke into a building, which turned out to be a dormitory for police officers and their families. The newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported that after an off-duty officer challenged and pinned-down the would-be burglar, the suspect said, "I'd never have guessed police lived here."

Bad Vibes

Voters in Sausalito, Calif., rejected a proposal to build a $7.8 million police and fire building after a citizens group complained that the facility would destroy the appearance of the city and violate its feng shui, or harmonious energy flow. Testifying before the City Council by invitation of the Citizens for Alternative Public Safety Structures, feng shui expert Sidney Nancy Bennett declared that the proposed design would "cut off the mouth of chi" and compromise "the arrows of sha." Bennett several years earlier advised city officials in San Jose, Calif., on the harmonious construction of their new city hall. "Harmony is important in Sausalito," Mayor J.R. Roberts said after the vote, which means the 30 public-safety employees must continue working out of portable trailers they have used since a 1995 flood destroyed the city's 93-year-old public safety building.

Chew on This

Chewing gum improves thinking and memory, according to a joint study by the University of Northumbria and the Cognitive Research Unit in England. "The results were extremely clear, and specifically we found that chewing gum targeting memory," Andrew Scholey of the university's Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit said, indicating that the act of chewing gum improves short-term and long-term memory by as much as 35 percent. The flavor of the gum doesn't matter, the study concluded; the key is the repetitive chewing motion.

Twice Bitten

When a bank foreclosed on a home in Lunenburg, Vt., owner Aaron Powell, 45, holed up in the residence and defied authorities to take possession. Fearing a violent confrontation, they let Powell remain in the house for the next 2 1/2 years. This spring, he was arrested when officials caught him off the property, having been released from a hospital, where he went to be treated for bites from a dog that he trained to attack law officers.


The Firestone tires that were recalled because of accidents involving Ford Explorer sport utility vehicles are being recycled into artificial turf, which will be used at Ford Field, the new stadium of the Detroit Lions. The football team is owned by William Clay Ford Sr., the father of the chairman and chief executive of Ford Motor Co., which spent more than $2 billion recalling the tires.

Slightest Provocations

A man armed with a machine gun and explosives seized as many as 40 hostages and held them for eight hours in the tallest building in Amsterdam, the former headquarters of Philips Electronics, before finally shooting himself to death. During the siege, the man declared that he was protesting the "arrogant manipulation by the vendors of wide-screen television" and complained that consumers were being misled about the quality of the product.

Police in St. Paul, Minn., arrested John E. Haider, 31, after they said he called a friend to bring a gun to Skinners Pub, then shot a man who was sitting across the bar from him. "The best we can get is that the guy was pissed off because the victim was staring at him," homicide investigator Sgt. Bruce Wynkoop said. "He apparently doesn't like people staring at him."

Know What They Like

When British modern artist Tracy Emim lost her cat, she put up posters near her home in East London asking for information. People tore down the posters, thinking they were valuable. "The posters are not works of art," Emim's agent told the newspaper Daily Mail, "but simply a notice of her missing cat."

Dye Jobs

Anamarie Giambrone, 34, a former secretary at a Wall Street investment firm, pleaded guilty to using disappearing ink to write checks that her manager had requested. After the manager signed the checks, prosecutors said that Giambrone would quickly erase the name of the payee and rewrite the checks for cash. An audit showed that she took more than $800,000, part of which she used for a vacation and to buy her husband a pizza parlor.

Philadelphia police charged Dennis O'Keefe, 51, with robbery after they said he demanded money from a bank teller, stuffed the money in his pocket and ran out of the bank. He went about a mile when a dye pack that the teller had inserted in the money exploded, and red smoke started coming from his pocket. Two maintenance workers who noticed the smoke grabbed the suspect and held him for police. "Instead of the smoking gun," police Sgt. Gary Neill said, "it was the smoking pants."

Yo, Canada!

After Canada bought four mothballed diesel-powered submarines from Britain for $750 million Canadian ($475 million), Defense Minister Art Eggleton insisted that the deal was a bargain. When the first of the vessels, HMCS Windsor, arrived last year, the defense ministry allowed a television crew onboard. During the voyage, the submarine leaked hydraulic fluid, the radar mast leaked and had to be fixed with masking tape and a garbage bag, the sonar broke and another faulty piece of equipment had to be unjammed with a hockey stick. After being refitted, the Windsor embarked on its first training exercise in March. It sprang two leaks. Water leaked into a hydraulic system used to operate a snorkel mast that lets fresh air into the boat. As the submarine headed back to port, someone flipped the wrong switch and let 530 gallons of seawater into a sealed battery compartment, requiring sailors to use yogurt containers and sleeping bags to clean up the mess.

Pay Attention

When a Japanese television show told viewers how to keep their feet warm at night by placing four cups of beans in a cotton towel, heating them in a microwave oven for two minutes and putting them at the foot of a bed, a woman in Takatsuki tried the method on her 58-year-old husband. One of his legs had been amputated several months earlier because he suffers from diabetes. Instead of a cotton towel, however, the woman put the beans in socks made of a synthetic fiber, which became hotter than cotton. According to the newspaper Mainichi Shimbun, the man awoke during the night to find the end of his bed had been scorched and his remaining leg badly burned. He was taken to a hospital, where doctors amputated the leg.

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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