NewsQuirks 676

Hot Money

Firefighters responding to an apartment fire in Mount Vernon, N.Y., quickly extinguished the blaze but called police when they learned the source. "We found out it was U.S. currency that was burning," Fire Chief Ed Bruno said. "A lot of it." After finding $10,780 and some ashes in the oven, police said that the boyfriend of the woman who lived in the apartment apparently hid $20,000 in cash, which caught fire from the pilot light. "We are trying to determine if there is a criminal element to this," police detective Capt. Robert Kelly said.

Police in Penrith, Australia, reported that someone backed a stolen 11-ton truck through the window of a service station, attached chains to an automatic teller machine, dragged it from the building and took off. As the metal safe scraped along the road, however, heat generated by the friction eventually ignited the ATM. "The joke is on the offenders," Inspector Bruce Ritchie said after police found the blazing ATM attached to the abandoned truck, "because the cash all went up in flames."

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Shawn Sullivan, 33, took first place in the heavyweight belly-flopping contest during Red Belly Day festivities in Fanning Springs, Fla., this Memorial Day, winning a trophy and $100. After a picture of his winning flop appeared in the Gainesville Sun, however, he was arrested for violating a court order to "remain confined to your approved residence except for an hour before or after your approved employment, public service work or any other special activity." "I guess belly flopping doesn't count," Sullivan said.

Sheriff's deputies at a music festival in Pasco County, Fla., spotted Korey Bradd Henderson, 25, wearing a bright orange uniform marked "Polk County Jail." They contacted the jail, which said the uniform was stolen, apparently when Henderson was released earlier this year. The deputies confiscated the uniform and let Henderson go. When his probation officer saw the report, however, he ordered Henderson arrested because he was supposed to be on home detention and had sworn that he stayed home that weekend.

When police in Miami Beach, Fla., showed up to arrest a 19-year-old man in connection with a shooting, they learned that he was already at the courthouse, having reported for jury duty. Detectives summoned the suspect to the front desk, then arrested him. "He went there to do his civic duty," Capt. Tom Hunker said. "We followed him and did ours."

When Louis Papakostas, 35, spotted assistant district attorney Mark Skurka at a restaurant in Corpus Christi, Texas, he introduced himself as a defendant whom Skurka had convicted of burglary in 1987. He fled before his sentencing, joined the Greek army and started a family. Skurka notified the police, who arrested Papakostas. According to his lawyer, Bill May, "He thought that the case had just gone away."

Jeffrey Price Barber, 44, decided to play a joke on his wife, so he smeared ketchup all over himself, grabbed his .22-caliber rifle, fired a shot and lay down on the floor of their home in Richburg, S.C. His wife heard the shot, found his body on the floor and called 911. When sheriff's deputies responded, Barber explained what had happened, but they checked and found out that he had a police record. They arrested him for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

After a sergeant at Savannah, Ga., Police Precinct 3 told beat officers during roll call to be on the lookout for a stolen green Honda Accord, officers headed for their patrol cars. Officer Harry Henderson spotted the Honda next to his. "Thinking this too good to be true, Henderson went back in the precinct to check the lookout information," police representative Bucky Burnsed said, explaining that the driver had parked the stolen car to go inside the station to talk with his girlfriend, who was there on another matter. Officers arrested Terrance Frazier, 17.

Tasty Concoctions

A Japanese company has developed a snack for dogs made from "bovine windpipes." The Hiroshima manufacturer said that the chewy product strengthens teeth and fights canine bad breath. An Osaka university research team announced that it has "enhanced the healthful properties of pork fat by transplanting a spinach gene into a pig."

Mensa Rejects of the Week

Bartenders at a club in Iowa City, Iowa, decided to entertain their customers by performing a stunt they had learned in Acapulco: setting the bar top on fire with rum. They sent a stream of rum down the bar, then ignited it. Customers scattered, but not before the flames raced up the arm of a young woman, setting her hands and face on fire. Witnesses said the fire burned another woman's arm and spread to a man's shirt. In all, six people were injured.

Homeland Security

A man who arrived at San Francisco airport as part of a tour from Shanghai was detained while trying to board a connecting flight to New York when authorities spotted a pair of suspicious shoes in his carry-on bag. The shoes had wires and batteries, but the passenger speaks little English and could not explain what the shoes were for or how to disconnect the batteries. Although police determined that the shoes were not dangerous and contained no explosives, they confiscated them and blew them up anyway. Afterward, airport representative Ron Wilson explained that the shoes were designed to heat up and keep the wearer's feet warm.

Reality Check

After the German manufacturer Siemens won a contract to build 785 railway cars for Britain's South West Trains, it announced it would spend $14.5 million to duplicate the dilapidated condition of British commuter train lines to test the cars. Modifications to the company's test track include deliberately inserting gaps between sections of tracks, making track heights and gauge widths uneven and installing an erratic electrical supply. "It's a step backwards for them in technical terms," SWT Managing Director Andrew Haines said, "but the result should be better for our passenger."

Philippe De Coene, a city councilor in Kortrijk, Belgium, proposed building a portable forest to show citizens the advantages of having trees. The plan involves loading several hundred trees into a 40-foot container and wheeling it to different areas of the city. "I'm convinced it won't be expensive," De Coene said. "Crazy ideas aren't always expensive."

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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