NewsQuirks 702

Curses, Foiled Again

When two armed men demanded cash from two aides to Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Ill.), the victims had no money, so the muggers took the aides to an automatic teller machine. The Washington Post reported that one of the aides deliberately entered the wrong PIN, making the ATM appear to be broken. The other aide suggested returning to his office at the Longworth House Office Building, where he had left his wallet. Upon arriving, the aide told the mugger accompanying him that his gun would set off the metal detector, so he hid it in some bushes. As the two men entered the building, the aide told guards what was happening, and they nabbed the mugger. Then they apprehended the other mugger, who had remained outside in a parked car with the other aide.

Fruits of Research

Following studies suggesting that cellular phones cause brain tumors, Levi Strauss & Co. has introduced a new line of its Dockers pants fitted with "anti-radiation" pockets for protection against cellphones. "We're not implying in any way that mobile phones are dangerous," Cedric Jungpeter, Levi's European communications manager, told the Reuters news agency. "Our intention is not to cash in on consumer fears but provide the consumers with what they want."

Mistaken Identity

Authorities in Hillsdale County, Mich., discovered that 16-year-old Brian Andrew Newman, who carried on a year-long relationship with a 14-year-old girl, was actually 22-year-old Valerie Charles. She used a back brace to hide her feminine features and three socks rolled up in a condom to have sexual contact with the teen-age girl, whom she met through an Internet chat room.

Sounds of Yesterday

Lamenting the disappearance of "endearing and unique audible sound signatures" of classic cars of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, inventors Jay and Jason Plugge of Sunnyvale, Calif., have received a patent for a car radio that recreates the "rumble and throaty sound" of what they call the "muscle cars" and hot rods, such as early Corvettes and Ferraris. The inventors said the sounds could be stored on memory chips, using recordings of classic cars kept in collections around the world, or synthesized.

The Department of Defense announced that it is testing digital bugles to play taps at military funerals. The change is necessary because only about 500 U.S. military buglers are available to perform at the 1,800 daily funerals for veterans. A National Defense Authorization Act authorizes the playing of taps at military honors funeral ceremonies, but the shortage of live buglers prompted Congress to authorize recorded versions, played on boomboxes. The new cone-shaped device, which is waterproof and has its own volume control, preserves the image of a live bugler, who merely has to push a button and hold the bugle to his or her lips. "This will add more dignity to the burial service," Bob Manhan of the Veterans of Foreign Wars said. "The survivors can physically see a bugler playing a nice rendition of taps. Nothing is ever going to be perfect, but this is nearly a fail-safe method."

All Bark, No Bite

After someone broke into the Stevenses' home in Swansea, Wales, and stole three children's bicycles, the family bought a guard dog. Someone stole the dog. "He is scary looking but dull," Sharon Stevens told the Western Mail newspaper. "He is valuable, and it looks like he was deliberately taken."

Lost Worlds

Astronomer Gregory Henry of Tennessee State University reported that a huge planet believed to be orbiting a distant star is actually an optical illusion. The planet had been announced with great fanfare two years ago as a far-off world that might be capable of supporting life. Henry's findings could throw into doubt the existence of several more of the 101 so-called extrasolar planets that astronomers have discovered. "This is not waving a flag and saying all of these planets are going to disappear. Far from it," he said. "Ninety-five percent of them are absolutely secure, but there could be a small number of planets that have been announced which haven't been checked in enough detail to make sure they are real."

Stepped in It Big Time

Police charged Jacob Smith, 26, with robbing a betting shop on Australia's Gold Coast after they used enhanced photos from a security camera to match the pattern of dog excrement found at the crime scene to that on Smith's shoe. "It's not rocket science. It's as plain as poo on your shoe," said police Sgt. Alan Piper, who admitted to also doing a smell test to confirm the match.

The Honeymoon Is Over

Police in Modesto, Calif., accused Kelli Pratt, 45, of attacking her 65-year-old husband, holding him down and biting him to death because he refused to have sex with her. Investigators discovered that Arthur Pratt's skin was covered with more than 20 deep tooth marks. "He was able to dial 911 that night," police Sgt. Al Carter told the Modesto Bee newspaper. "We have a tape recording of him screaming while she was biting him. When officers arrived, he was screaming that he'd been assaulted. She fought with the officers and tried to bite them, too."

When Mechanization and Nature Team Up

Dozens of thirsty wild camels in Australia have been hit and killed by trains. The magazine New Scientist reported the camels were seeking relief from the country's severe drought by licking dew from railroad tracks.

Dr. Trouble

The Massachusetts state medical board suspended the license of orthopedic surgeon Dr. David C. Arndt, 45, after a July 10 incident when he abandoned an anesthetized patient with an open incision six hours into surgery in order to deposit a check. He returned 35 minutes later and successfully completed the spinal fusion operation. He explained to colleagues that he had to get to the bank before it closed because of "a financial crisis."

On Sept. 4, a law enforcement official disclosed a possible connection between Arndt and a drug dealer arrested at a downtown Boston hotel in June. The official indicated that investigators found prescription slips signed by Arndt at the arrest scene.

On Sept. 10, authorities charged Arndt with raping a 15-year-old boy. According to Middlesex County prosecutors, Arndt lured the youth into his car, then repeatedly assaulted him.

Believable Lies

The Branch County, Mich., sheriff's department issued a warning about fraudulent telemarketers, advising that "some of these telemarketing programs are believed to be operated by Al-Qaeda. The CIA has announced that they acquired a videotape showing Al-Qaeda members making phone solicitations for vacation home rentals, long distance telephone service, magazine subscriptions and other products." Subsequently, Detective Dan Nichols, who wrote the bulletin, explained that he collected the information about Al-Qaeda's involvement from The Onion, not knowing it is a satirical newspaper and that the story was tongue-in-cheek.

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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