NewsQuirks 670

Curses, Foiled Again

Police in Fayetteville, N.C., were serving a murder warrant to a student in a dormitory at Fayetteville State University when they received a radio call that five men were at the same dorm, going from room to room with a gun, demanding DVDs, microwave ovens and video games. The officers confronted the intruders and arrested two of them.
Police in Rochester, N.Y., said that Brittany Bell, 16, botched a bank robbery because the teller couldn't decipher her holdup note and had to pass it to another teller to read. By the time anyone knew what Bell wanted and handed her a bag of money, the bank was getting ready to close and other employees were locking the doors. Bell wound up trapped with the cash in the foyer, where police captured her.

Trash Talking

The mayor of Tainan announced that the Taiwanese city will equip its garbage trucks with loudspeakers to teach citizens English while picking up their trash. "Even grandmothers and grandfathers will be able to speak the most basic conversational English after listening for a few dozen times," Hsu Tain-tsair said, crediting his wife with the idea. "This is Tainan's first step toward internationalization."

Missing the Point Cirrus

SR-20 light aircraft come equipped with an innovative emergency parachute system, which is designed to deploy to let the plane float to a safe landing. In its first real-life test, when Paul Helfin and Ben Ditty experienced trouble while flying over Lexington, Ky., they pulled the lever to deploy the parachute, but nothing happened. The men made an emergency landing -- after which the chute opened. The Port Arthur, Texas, school district canceled the performance of an anti-violence play after fighting broke out among some of the 300 high school students watching it a day earlier. Authorities couldn't explain why the fights broke out during the performance, which was part of a week-long program to encourage peaceful solutions to problems, but deputy police chief Raymond Clark said that at one point the students "became excited, irritated and disruptive, and this transferred into the assaults."

Rescue Me

A 73-year-old woman spent 20 minutes trapped in a newspaper vending machine outside a Wal-Mart store in Geneseo, Ill., because no one would put 50 cents in the machine to unlock the spring-loaded mechanism that was holding her. One passerby went inside to the store's service desk but was informed the store had a policy against tampering with the machine. A few minutes later, a store employee came out to inform the trapped woman that she had called someone from the newspaper to come open the machine. "I told her I just wanted someone to come and put some quarters in the thing," the woman said, "and that's when they told me that they weren't responsible for making refunds for the machine." When the store employee came back out to tell the victim that she hadn't been able to contact anybody from the newspaper yet, the woman said, "I told her that if she would just put some money in the machine, I would pay her back as soon as I could get some change." Finally, the employee agreed to place two quarters in the machine, freeing the woman.

Second-Amendment Follies

Police in Colorado Springs, Colo., reported that a suspect who was running away from an officer attempted to fire a gun at the officer. Instead, he shot himself in the face. Authorities in Milton Township, Mich., said that a household member who found a loaded Glock .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol in the kitchen placed the weapon inside the broiling compartment of an oven to get it out of the way, then forgot about it. Later, when the oven was turned on to cook a pizza, the heat caused the gun to fire, sending a bullet through the back of the oven and into the living room, where it struck and killed a 5-month-old boy.
Investigators in Grand Rapids, Minn., said that Brett Lessard, 24, was posing for a photograph with a loaded Glock handgun when he pointed the weapon directly at student photographer Angela Joyce Aho, 20. The weapon accidentally fired, striking Aho in the left eye. After Lessard left the scene, a friend of Aho's called police and paramedics, who found Aho dead. According to police in Lakewood, Colo., three pranksters were illegally shooting paintballs at pedestrians from their pickup truck when one of the victims fired back with a real gun, hitting one of the paintball shooters in the head.

Serenity Now

Neighbors of a yoga club in London have complained that it is too noisy. Simon Low, the director of the Triyoga center, said that local residents are upset by the sounds of chanting and relaxing music. They also complained about the voices of instructors, especially in summer when the center's windows are open.

United We Stand

New York authorities charged 22 people with falsely reporting the deaths of family members in last September's World Trade Center attacks to try to collect more than $760,000 in government and private relief funds. Leading the fraud perpetrators was a Lansing, Mich., man who collected $272,000 after reporting that his brother had been at a meeting at the World Trade Center. In fact, the brother never existed. A New York City man received $190,867 by claiming that a nonexistent child died while accompanying him on a job interview at the World Trade Center. Other cases include a New York woman who claimed that her brother was killed when he went to the trade center to cash in a winning lottery ticket, when in fact the man is alive and has been hospitalized for the past six years; a Chinese man who reported that his wife had died, when she was actually alive and living in Japan; and a Bronx woman who reported her mother had been killed in the twin towers, when she had actually been cremated in 1998. "Our investigations showed that con artists from New York and around the nation took advantage of the country's generosity after the attacks on the World Trade Center," Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said. "This outrageous conduct will be met with the full force of the law."

Problems with Literacy

When the Crestridge Elementary School in Omaha, Neb., held its "Dress Like Your Favorite Book Character," one 11-year-old boy dressed as Jesus, wearing a tunic and carrying a staff. After school, police said, a 12-year-old boy from a neighboring middle school taunted the boy, calling him "Little Bo Peep" and "Heidi." A fight resulted, and the pretend Jesus came away with a black eye.

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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