NewsQuirks 965

Curses, Foiled Again
Authorities at Philadelphia International Airport arrested David Vassallo, 46, after he walked into the first-class cabin of a US Airways flight shortly before its departure and bragged to a passenger that he was an undercover federal sky marshal. The passenger turned out to be a real sky marshal. When the marshal asked Vassallo for some identification, he explained that he was a postal inspector on loan to the sky marshals, then conceded that he was just a regular postal worker from Virginia.

Sheriff's deputies in Bullitt County, Ky. arrested Richard Crow, 35, after a high-speed chase that began when a Louisville police officer noticed that someone had written in lipstick on the back of the van that Crow was driving, "This is a stolen vehicle." The officer checked the license plate and gave chase after learning that the van had indeed been reported stolen.

Optimists of the Week
Twenty-six banks and credit unions banks in the Springfield, Mo., area decided to combat a rise in robberies by posting signs at their 141 locations in the Ozarks asking visitors to remove their hats and sunglasses as they enter to make identification easier.

Empty Handed
Taxpayers in northwest Kane County, Ill., have been funding an airport authority for 10 years, even though the area has never had a commercial airport and there are no plans to build one. The Northwest Kane County Airport Authority Board has a $32,000 yearly budget supported by property tax bills. "We don't meet," said Gerald E. Neill, the only one of five board members whose term hasn't expired, "and we don't do that much."

When a Scandinavian Airlines System flight tried to land at the Kristianstad airport in southern Sweden, the pilot found no one at the control tower to give him clearance. It turned out that the controller scheduled to be on duty had not returned from vacation when he was supposed to, and no one had noticed that the tower was not staffed. The Dash 8 aircraft carrying 30 passengers circled for 30 minutes while central traffic authorities called in another controller.

Homeland Security
The Justice Department is forwarding incoming Operations TIPS calls to the Fox-owned "America's Most Wanted" television show, according to the online magazine Salon reporter Dave Lindorff said that when he tried to sign up as a volunteer in the planned league of Americans spying on other Americans to uncover terrorists in our midst, the Justice Department told him to call a phone number that had been set up by the FBI. His call was answered by a receptionist for the Fox show, who explained, "We've been asked to take the FBI's TIPS calls for them." The American Civil Liberties Union called the link "surreal." "What's next?" ACLU legislative counsel Rachel King said, "the government hires 'Candid Camera' to do its video surveillance?"

Mensa Reject of the Week
Police in Madison, Wis., reported that a 26-year-old man was hospitalized in critical condition after trying to kill his head lice. The man doused a towel with rubbing alcohol, put it on his head and then lit a cigarette. The towel caught fire and engulfed the man, who suffered second- and third-degree burns on about 50 percent of his body.

Errant Bovines
Four Norwegian motorists near Rogaland told police they saw only a large shadow in the sky before a massive impact shook the ground behind their vehicle. Investigators deduced that the falling object was a cow, which they theorized plunged from a 30-foot cliff overhanging the road.

South African police arrested a man with a stolen cow wearing human clothing after farmer Henrik Rautenbach reported spotting the odd couple. "I saw a man beside the road with someone creeping along a little behind him in the grass," Rautenbach said, adding that he discovered the ruse when he heard the creeping companion moo. The man, who was on the road between Reitz and Petrus Steyn, denied stealing the six-day-old animal, telling police that he found it and dressed it in a shirt, scarf and blanket to keep it warm.

What's on Your Mind?
Officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration told airline security specialists that the agency is developing brain-monitoring devices that could be used to read the minds of airline travelers "to detect passengers who potentially might pose a threat." According to a NASA document to Northwest Airlines, the agency wants to use "noninvasive neuro-electric sensors," imbedded in airport gates, to collect tiny electric signals that all brains and hearts transmit. Computers would correlate these physiologic patterns with data on travel routines, criminal background and credit information from "hundreds to thousands of data sources."

Engineers at Teradata, a division of automatic teller machine manufacturer NCR, are developing ATMs that are more like human beings. By using cameras and computer software to map users' emotions and nonverbal cues and reacting to them, the machines will be "one stage closer to behaving like a good, perceptive teller might so that interactive dialog can start beginning," Teradata engineer Dave Schrader told Tech Live. "The ATM can adapt itself to you instead of you adapting yourself to the technology." The real reason for implementing the new technology, Schrader acknowledged, is cost reduction. "If you can interface with an ATM instead of standing in line for the bank teller, it's good for you, it's faster, more convenient for you, and it's cheaper for the bank, less labor cost," he explained.

Money Makers
According to a list of the world's top 100 economic entities reported by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, only 71 are countries. The other 29 are corporations, led by ExxonMobil Corp., which ranked 45th, just ahead of Pakistan.

Way to Go
Victoria Lampe, 28, died while taking part in a minor-league baseball promotion in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Rick Vaughn, public relations vice president for the home team Orlando Rays' parent Tampa Bay Devil Rays, said the object of the promotion was for 250 women and girls to run across the ballpark to the infield, then search through the dirt for a small box containing a diamond. "Just as she got to the infield," Vaughn said, "she collapsed face first."

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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