NewsQuirks 692

Curses, Foiled Again

New Orleans homicide detective Bernard Crowden arrested murder suspect Tron Hughes, 22, when Hughes walked up to him at the bus station and asked where he could catch a cab. Crowden, who was off duty working security at the terminal, had, just days earlier, issued an arrest warrant for Hughes. "Out of all the police officers on the job," Crowden said, "probably the only officer who would have recognized his face or known he was wanted for murder was me."

After a man called Dutch police to report that his home in Breda had been broken into while he was out shopping, police noticed that the man's computer bore a sticker from a local school. One of the officers remembered that some computers had been stolen from the school and began a search. After uncovering more computers in a barn near the home in Breda, police arrested the 33-year-old man.

Space Invaders

Engineers at Ball Aerospace said they are building an 800-pound bullet to fire at a comet that is scheduled to pass Earth at 22,300 mph in July 2005. The Boulder, Colo., company is also building a spacecraft to accompany the bullet, which is technically known as an impactor spacecraft, and relay pictures and data from the collision to scientists on Earth. The two craft are part of NASA's $279 million Deep Impact comet mission to blast a crater the size of a football field in 3-mile-wide Comet Tempel I and dredge up ice unchanged since the birth of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago. Since scientists are just guessing about the comet's interior density, however, the bullet could bore a hole through the ice ball and emerge on the other side, according to University of Arizona impact expert Jay Melosh, a member of the Deep Impact science team, or possibly break the comet apart into several big chunks.

In case a comet or asteroid ever threatens to collide with Earth, Oklahoma State University scientist Hermann Burchard recommended sending spacecraft to fly alongside the heavenly menace and inflate a giant bag several miles wide to deflect the asteroid or comet gently but still keep it intact. "It seems a safe, simple and realistic idea," Burchard told New Scientist magazine, although he conceded that details still have to be worked out, including the material to use for the cosmic pillow.

Yo, Canada

Canadian police arrested William Christiansen, 41, for carrying a cupcake. Police said they feared Christiansen might throw the cupcake at Prime Minster Jean Chretien, who was hit in the face with a custard pie two years ago. "We take all the steps we need to ensure the safety of those we're charged to protect," Danielle Efford, the constable who arrested Christiansen, told the Toronto Globe and Mail.

In a related incident, police detained lawyer Cameron Ward because they said he matched the description of a suspected pie-thrower. They also towed his car in case the trunk was full of cakes. "It's outrageous," Ward protested after his release. "I can assure you I have not visited a bakery within the last 48 hours."

Up in Smoke

States hoping to raise revenue by raising cigarette taxes are losing millions of dollars because the taxes drive people to buy cigarettes from Internet vendors, according to a study by the General Accounting Office. The report noted that the online sellers routinely ignore a federal law requiring them to report sales to local regulators, who can then contact buyers to collect the sales taxes.

When North Carolina won a $4.6 billion settlement from tobacco companies, officials vowed to help smokers quit, stop children from starting to smoke and help tobacco farmers switch to other crops. Instead, according to the Charlotte Observer, about $43 million of the $59 million spent so far has gone toward the production and marketing of North Carolina tobacco. The newspaper pointed out that the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, one of three citizens groups appointed by top state officials to control the settlement money, spent $41 million to reimburse tobacco farmers for equipment they need to remain competitive in the tobacco business. The commission consists of 18 members. Eleven are tobacco farmers.

Conjugal Visit

Authorities at Washington's King County jail discovered public defender Theresa Olson, 43, having sex with her client, accused murderer Sebastian Burns, 26, in a prison conference room. After prison guards watched the couple through the room's windows, one of them entered the room and asked what was going on. As the couple "proceeded to cover themselves," according to a summation of official reports, Olson responded, " 'I was just giving him a hug, and it got carried away.' " A judge removed Olson from the case.

Heads Up

After Lithuania took a 1-0 lead against Germany in a European under-21 soccer championship-qualifying match, the Germans bounced back to a 4-1 win. Three of Germany's goals were scored by Lithuania's players, including two from Gerdas Aleksa, who struck the ball past his own goalkeeper in the 60th and 69th minutes.

Tell the Truth

When Christopher Whelan, 28, called 911 to report that he had stabbed his 60-year-old mother to death at their home in Bucks County, Pa., he noticed she was still squirming and groaning, so he interrupted the call, picked up the knife and finished the job. Police said that after Whelan confessed on the 911 tape, he can be heard saying, "Oh, my God, she's still moving."

Driven to Distraction

Iris Jazmin Rangel, 24, pleaded guilty in Tucson, Ariz., to causing the death of her 10-month-old daughter. Rangel was breast-feeding the infant while driving her pickup truck when she rear-ended another vehicle that stopped abruptly. The truck's air bag inflated, striking the baby.

Every Lynch Mob Needs a Dictionary

Police in south Wales confirmed that vandals attacked the home of Dr. Yvette Cloete because they confused her professional title, pediatrician, with the word pedophile. Cloete, who specializes in treating children not molesting them, said she was forced to flee her house after the vigilantes painted offensive graffiti on the front porch and door of the house she shared with her brother in St. Brides.

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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