NewsQuirks 678

Curses, Foiled Again

When a man tried to steal a tray of jewelry from a street vendor in Ogden, Utah, the vendor's cries attracted the attention of nearby out-of-town police officers attending the 12th annual Police on Bikes Convention. "We heard someone screaming, 'Thief, thief, stop him,' and looked up, and the owner was running about 30 yards behind the guy," said Officer Frank Zdankiewicz of Woodhaven, Mich., one of several officers who hopped on their bikes and quickly caught up to the suspect.

Computer Virus

Computer workstations have up to 400 times more bacteria than toilets, according to University of Arizona microbiologist Chuck Gerba. In fact, the average office lavatory turned out to have the lowest level of germs of all the surfaces he tested. The telephone had the highest bacteria counts, followed closely by the desktop itself and the computer keyboard. Gerba explained that workstations are hardly ever cleaned and can "sustain millions of bacteria that could potentially cause illness."

It's a Pig's Life

Officials in Germany's sausage-producing North Rhine-Westphalia region implemented measures to improve the life of farm pigs. They are required to have adequate stall space, straw or rubber mats and designated playtime with toys. In addition, a farmhand must spend at least 20 seconds a day looking at each pig.

The Dutch company Schippers Bladel BV introduced a vibrator that relaxes sows during artificial insemination to increase their chances of fertilization. Once the vibrator is inserted in the vagina, the sow's ears stand up to indicate she is ready to be serviced.

When Guns Are Outlawed

After Toshimi Kuwabara, 55, staggered into his mother's house in Hiroshima, Japan, with several stab wounds in his face and throat, investigators who spoke with witnesses theorized that the man was killed with an umbrella during an argument over a parking space. Ryuji Sakamoto, 32, confessed to using an umbrella to kill Takayuki Niimi, 32, in Sakuragi, Japan, during a dispute over manners. "It appears," a police representative said, "that Sakamoto harbored resentment of Niimi for quite some time because Niimi did not use an honorific when speaking to him."

The Colorado Supreme Court decided that a foot can be a deadly weapon. The ruling came in the case of Christopher Saleh, who was convicted of reckless assault with a deadly weapon for kicking his girlfriend down a flight of stairs.

Not-So-Great Escape

When convicted murderer Raymond John Tudor, 48, was reported missing from Alberta's medium-security Drumheller Institution in March, prison officials suggested the escape was the result of years of planning. Soon, Tudor was being hunted across North America and featured on "America's Most Wanted." Seven weeks later, Tudor was spotted -- in the prison workshop. Alerted guards used a sniffer dog, thermal-imaging gear, remote cameras and sound-sensing equipment to locate Tudor in the ventilation ductwork 20 feet overhead. After they cut Tudor out of his hideout and noted that he had lost 30 pounds, prison representative Darlene Haines said, "There's every indication he's been down there the whole time."

Bad News for Picnics

Scientists have discovered a supercolony of ants stretching almost 4,000 miles from the Italian Riviera along the coastline to northwest Spain. The colony consists of billions of Argentine ants living in millions of nests, all related closely enough to recognize each other, despite being from different nests with different queens, the Swiss, French and Danish researchers reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. They noted the supercolony is the largest cooperative unit ever recorded.

From Hero to Zero

As downtown Lanesboro, Minn., filled with fire and smoke, Police Chief John Tuchek, 34, raced to an upstairs apartment and rescued his girlfriend and her daughter. Four days later, after witnesses said they saw Tuchek behind the building shortly before the fire started, he admitted setting the fire, which caused an estimated $500,000 in damage and displaced 10 residents of the girlfriend's apartment building. Authorities said she had broken up with him, and he was trying to play hero to win her back.

Ambitious Undertaking

When a man and a woman robbed a Starbucks in Monroe, Wash., they not only took cash from the safe, but also forced one of the store's employees to help them make coffee, which they sold at the drive-through window, pocketing the money. Monroe police representative Jan O'Neil said the armed pair served as many as 25 customers in the 30 minutes they were in the store.

Hazards of Stud Banging

Tongue studs can ruin wearers' teeth and gums, according to Dimitris Tatakis, professor of periodontology at Ohio State University. Almost half the 52 subjects in his study who had worn a barbell-shaped stud for more than four years had chipped teeth, and 35 percent had receding gums. "It's caused by the stud banging against the gum," Tatakis explained, adding, "The longer you have it, the greater the likelihood of complications."

Double Dose for Safety

Someone who combines alcohol and cannabis may drive less recklessly than a person who is simply drunk, according to a study by British transportation researchers. Volunteers drinking the equivalent of a glass of wine fared worse on psychomotor tests than those who smoked a joint, and those who were given both alcohol and cannabis performed even worse; however, the drivers on cannabis tended to be aware of their intoxicated state and drove more cautiously to compensate. The findings by the Transport Research Laboratory in Crowthorne are in line with other research. "Whereas alcohol promotes risk taking like fast speeds and close following, cannabis promotes conservative driving," said Nicholas Ward, technical adviser to a European Union project quantifying crash risks of drivers after taking various drugs and medicines.

Little Things Mean a Lot

Detroit police reported that a 31-year-old man suspected of raping a 36-year-old woman fled after the victim ended the attack by biting and lacerating his penis. Police apprehended the suspect after following a trail of blood to his home, where they found a large puddle of blood in his dining room.

Colorful Relief

After the new sod at an auto park in drought-stricken Santa Fe, N.M., died because of outdoor watering restrictions, the four automobile dealerships that own the park solved the problem by painting it. "It's not a whole lot of grass," George Woolard of Santa Fe Chevrolet said. "But now it's green."

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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