Newsquirks 701

NewsQuirks 701

November 28, 2002

Curses, Foiled Again

Chicago transit police easily nabbed two men who tried to burglarize a minivan in a railroad commuter parking lot because an undercover surveillance officer was inside the van. When the suspects opened the van's sliding side door, Officer Jessie Watts Jr., who had been assigned to watch the lot because of previous break-ins, jumped out with his gun drawn and apprehended Robinson Morales, 25, and Fiore Petrassi, 20.

Losing Streaks

After pulling into a gas station with three friends just before midnight in Sheboygan, Wis., Devon Jones, 18, a freshman football player at Lakeland College, muttered "Jesus" a few times, ran into a field, took off his clothes and dashed naked onto Interstate 43. He died after two cars hit him.

During a hockey game in Calgary between the Flames and the Boston Bruins, a man wearing only a pair of red socks scaled the glass near the penalty box.

As soon as his feet touched the ice, he slipped and landed hard on his back, knocking himself unconscious. "It's a shame," Calgary's Bob Boughner said after the man was carried off on a stretcher. "It's never a girl."

Three weeks later, the would-be streaker, Tim Hurlbut, 21, explained that he had accepted two strangers' offer of $200 because he needed money to buy textbooks. Instead of collecting the money, the college student racked up $400 in ambulance bills and faces mischief charges. "I was going to be up $200," he said, "but it kind of backfired on me."

Justifications

Swaziland's King Mswati III ordered a $51 million luxury jet, then dismissed political opposition and criticism by insisting that the expenditure, representing about one-fourth of his kingdom's national budget, was necessary to combat starvation in his impoverished kingdom. "The king needs the plane to get food for you," Natural Resources Minister Magwagwa Mdluli told drought victims at rural Macetjeni.

Anthony Flowers, 49, admitted escaping from South Dakota's Minnehaha County Jail, driving a newspaper editor to Sioux City against her will and taking $84 from her, but he claimed he was "a victim of circumstances." Flowers insisted that his escape was justified because he was assaulted in jail and because of a $500,000 extortion threat. "I had to escape to protect myself and find the person who tried to extort a half-million dollars and forced me to rob banks," he told a court in Sioux Falls.

Lost Focus

Police in Knoxville, Tenn., reported that a man walked into a bank, placed a small box in front of a teller and said the box was full of explosives, which he would detonate if he didn't get money. He handed the teller a threatening note and began checking his pockets, then suddenly ran out of the bank before the teller had time to hand over any cash.

A man held three people at gunpoint and torched a convenience store in Leesville, La., but left without robbing either the people or the store. After James Ludwigs, 31, turned himself in 90 minutes later, Chief Investigator Marvin Hilton of the Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office explained that the suspect apparently meant to rob the store, but "in the heat of the moment forgot to take anything."

Fruits of Research

North Korea's government awarded its top science prize to a herbal medicine for constipation that combines marijuana and rhubarb. The concoction "gives no harmful effect to internal organs but activates their functions and promotes digestion by dissolving bile well," the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported. The story pointed out that the medicine made by Pyongyang Hospital of Koryo Medicine "completely cured" 97 percent of the thousands of constipated patients who tried it.

Researchers at Boston's Forsyth Institute announced that they have succeeded in growing pig teeth in rat intestines. Dominick DePaola, president and CEO of the research institute, declared that the bioengineering feat "has the potential to revolutionize dentistry."

It's a New Jersey Thing

Police in Mansfield Township, N.J., charged Emmanuel Nieves, 23, with using a knife to slash his friend, Erik Saporito, 21, in an apartment complex parking lot after the two men argued over which one of them had the hairiest butt.

Easy Targets

Pedestrians 65 and older crossing at intersections with painted crosswalks are three times likelier to be hit by cars than at unmarked crossings, according to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. People aged 65 and older made up 21 percent of the nation's 4,739 pedestrian deaths in 2000. Dr. Thomas Koepsell, a University of Washington epidemiologist and lead author of the study, concluded, "Marked crossings may give older pedestrians a false sense of security," which combined with their slow pace makes them especially vulnerable.

Good Luck Tops Bad

When Jacqueline Boanson of Cheltenham, England, noticed a mysterious $445 deposit to her bank account from a bookmaker, she called the bookie for an explanation. The London Times reported that apparently someone stole Boanson's debit card and used it to bet on horse races. The thief won but "would have needed complete ID matching the card to get paid in cash," according to a representative of the bookmaking firm Ladbrokes. Instead, the winnings were deposited in the debit card account.

Getting a Jump

Giovanni Greco, 63, of Lascari, Italy, was making his regular visit to the construction site of his future mausoleum in a small cemetery when he climbed a ladder to get a better view of the top. Reuters news agency reported that Greco slipped, hit his head on a marble step and fell dead into his own tomb.

Better Than Memory

Hewlett-Packard announced the development of a device that helps people identify someone whose name they can't recall. New Scientist magazine explained that it uses a small camera hidden in a normal telephone or cellphone's headset. The camera, which always points to where the wearer is looking, uses the phone to connect to the wearer's computer via a microwave link. By scanning the computer's database of photos and names, it identifies a face and sends a voice prompt into an earpiece, telling who the person is. It also can transmit personal details about that person to get small talk started.
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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