NewsQuirks 703

Curses, Foiled Again

Police investigating reports of a front-end loader hauling away an automated teller machine from a theater complex in Saint-Eustache, Quebec, were able to pursue the vehicle because it left tire tracks in the fresh snow. Unable to persuade the driver to stop, however, the 16 officers taking part in the low-speed chase fired 28 bullets, first at the construction vehicle's tires, then at its radiator. It continued. According to Inspector Robert Green, the chase ended only after the driver took a shortcut through a field, and the front-end loader toppled over. Police arrested Steve Lemieux, 32.

Two plainclothes police officers in Arlington, Va., witnessed Fernando Javier Arraya, 34, trying to steal a license plate from a parked car. One of the officers was inside the vehicle at the time. The other was parked next to it. Both had their windows rolled down and their police radio turned on while they discussed strategies for catching car thieves when they spotted the suspect. They said he looked around to see if anyone was watching, then walked to the front of one of the unmarked cruisers and began unscrewing the license plate. "My partner wanted to jump out and grab him," Officer Chris Feltman said. "I said, 'Hold on, let's see how far this goes. This is interesting.'" The officers arrested Arraya when he was unable to get the plate off and went back to his car for another tool.

Carpal-Tunnel Epidemic in the Making

Workers at a debt-ridden Romanian car factory offered to sell sperm to help the plant regain solvency. "Our feasibility study shows that if 1,000 workers donate their sperm for several months, we can get enough funds to pay part of the plant's debts," Ion Cotescu, trade union leader at ARO Campulung, said. Calling the solution "one that even the best economists have never thought of," Cotescu explained that the idea for the fund-raiser followed news that a fertility clinic in the western city of Timisoara was offering donors $50 a visit. The ARO Campulung plant, which makes Jeep-style four-wheel-drives, has debts of $20 million.

United We Stand

Michael Childress, 36, who was hired to process mail and donations to the Los Angeles Times's Sept. 11 Disaster Relief Fund, pleaded no contest to stealing more than $67,000 from the fund. Los Angeles County prosecutors said the thefts were discovered after several donors complained about grammatical and spelling errors in the thank-you notes that they received from the Times. Childress reportedly wrote the notes.

Little Feat

Seeking to establish once and for all the relationship between a man's shoe size and penis length, British researchers gently stretched and measured the flaccid penises of 104 urology patients, then recorded their shoe sizes. They concluded there was "no statistically significant relationship" between the two. When asked if any other body part might predict penile size, lead researcher Jyoti Shah of St. Mary's hospital, London, said studies suggested that hand span, finger lengths or nose size "may be predictive."

Way to Go

Gardner Memorial Chapel in Nashville, Tenn., Sullivan Brothers Mortuary in Spartanburg, S.C., and Junior Funeral Home in Pensacola, Fla., recently installed windows to allow mourners to pay their respects from their cars. "A lot of people aren't comfortable with coming into a funeral home," Andrew Gardner Sr. said. "So when I designed the building, I wanted a window big enough so people could view the body from outside."

When Ed Headrick, the creator of the modern Frisbee and designer of toy ma ker Wham-O's first "professional model" flying disc, died this summer at age 78, his family honored his wishes and molded his ashes into memorial flying discs for family members.

A Chicago company announced it has developed a process for turning cremated human remains into diamonds that can be worn as jewelry. Greg Herro, the head of LifeGem Memorials, explained that carbon recovered from the ashes is subjected to heat and pressure to become a blue diamond. Adding that the diamonds are of the same quality that "you would find at Tiffany's" and cost $22,000 a carat, Herro said he expects the company's biggest market to be Japan, where 98 percent of the people choose cremation, compared with only 26 percent of Americans.

Paper or Plastic?

In September, Mexico began replacing its 20 peso bills with plastic notes to foil counterfeiters and increase the life of the bills. Officials said the new plastic bills are paper thin, the same size as their paper counterparts and work in automated teller machines. Since Australia began using plastic money in 1988, some 20 countries have followed its lead.

Mike Tyson Bite-a-Likes

Police in Port St. Lucie, Fla., reported that a spectator at a baseball tournament for teen-agers bit off the earlobe of Tim Scott, the father of one of the players, during a scuffle that started when players from the losing team yelled obscenities at the winning team. The attacker fled before he could be identified.

John Everett Barbara, 49, was sentenced to a year in jail for biting off part of his neighbor's ear during a fight that broke out after the victim flashed his car lights at Barbara to warn him he was driving erratically. "This is so barbaric," Oakland County, Mich., Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth E. Frazee said.

Everything You Know Is Wrong

Obesity ranks only 10th on the list of risk factors causing disease and death worldwide, according to a report by the World Health Organization. First, the WHO said, is being underweight.

This Old House

Researchers in Taiwan reported they have developed a way to transform solid waste into homes. Spurred by the need to find new uses for the 670,000 tons of sewage sludge the island produces each year because landfill space is running out, Chih-Huang Weng, leader of the team at I-Shou University, said that sludge from waste-treatment plants can be used to bulk up ordinary house bricks. The "biobricks" contain as much 30 percent sludge, and, Weng insisted, they don't smell.

An out-of-the-way tourist attraction in Rockport, Mass., is the Paper House, whose walls are made from 215 layers of newspaper. Edna Beaudoin, 61, told the Boston Globe that her great uncle Elis Stenman built the summer cottage in the 1920s. He originally intended to use the newspapers as insulation but never got around to building the outer walls, so he varnished them in place. He also spent 18 years furnishing the home with items made from tightly rolled newspaper logs, including a writing desk made of newspapers chronicling the transatlantic flight of Charles Lindbergh. "It's a family heirloom," said Beaudoin, who lives next door and maintains the Paper House.

Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.