NewsQuirks 706

Curses, Foiled Again

German authorities arrested two postal workers for stealing high-tech equipment from the mail after they tried to sell the gear to a second-hand dealer in Nuremberg. Police representative Peter Schnellinger said the dealer recognized the package as the same one he had taken to the post office that morning.

A German bank robber was arrested after holding up a bank in Giessen because he forgot to cut eyeholes in the burlap bag that he pulled over his head to disguise his identity. Bumping into bank customers on his way to the teller, he pulled out a plastic knife and a toy pistol. He then lifted the front of his mask to look at the teller and demand money, but when the teller told him the safe couldn't be opened, the robber fled. Authorities easily identified him from the security cameras behind the teller. "He was a real amateur," Giessen police representative Gerald Frost told the newspaper Bild. "He lifted the mask and looked straight into the camera."

South African police arrested an 18-year-old man in East London after they saw him rob a woman at gunpoint. She told officers the thief took her cellphone, but when they searched the suspect, they didn't find it. "While they were in the charge room, one of the officers decided to call the number," police representative Michelle Matroos told Reuters news agency. "They heard the phone go off, and when they searched the suspect they found it in his underpants."

Don't Let Them Bite

Bedbugs are making a comeback after being virtually wiped out in the 1950s and 1960s. Some scientists blame their return on yard sales. "They're traditionally transferred between premises in furniture," Ian Burgess, director of the British-based company Insect Research & Development Ltd., told New Scientist magazine. "It could be anything from a bed frame or architrave to a hi-fi, anything that has cracks and crevices."

Quiet Time

Two British mental health workers told an inquest that when they visited patient Patricia Harris, 43, a paranoid schizophrenic, she sat in the kitchen with her back to them the whole time and didn't respond when they talked to her. "She didn't seem to want us there," one worker said. After they left, a subsequent investigation determined that Harris didn't answer because she was dead.

The Emperor's New Clothes

When a man walked into a bank in Tehran and began snatching banknotes from the hands of customers, they immediately overpowered him and handed him over to authorities. Appearing in court, the thief declared that he had paid $625 to a man who promised to make him invisible so he could rob banks. The newspaper Jam-e Jam reported that police were looking for the phony sorcerer.

Occupational Hazards

When English soccer star Jeff Astle died last year at age 59, the coroner's report ruled it "death by industrial disease." Consulting neurological pathologist Dr. Derek Robson explained that Astle suffered from a degenerative brain disease caused by heading the heavy leather ball so many times during his pro career.

Stranger in a Strange Land

A Gambian man who had recently moved to Germany called police in the town of Hildesheim to report that vandals had painted his car white overnight. Investigators determined that the African immigrant had looked down from his apartment window and seen snow covering the car. "To him it looked like paint when he was looking down on the car from the fifth floor," police representative Walter Wallott told Reuters.

Oops!

South African police charged mechanic Willem Koen, 78, with murdering his helper, Nketu Motsei, after Motsei was shot in the back by a shotgun that Koen had rigged to protect his business from burglars. "These two had standing arrangements that they switch on and off this shotgun when they came into and left work," police representative Rosa Benade said. "It seems this employee forgot to switch off the shotgun on the day in question."

Rolling Back the Clock

Nestle announced the development of a drink that can reverse aging in both people and pets. The beverage, which consists of antioxidants, rice carbohydrate and fish protein, mimics the effects of starvation to stimulate the mitochondria found in most cells to produce more ATP, the fuel that powers cells. Nestle claimed the concoction "restored age-related deficits" in dogs and has similar rejuvenating effects on people.

Yikes!

Swedish doctors treated a 50-year-old scientist whose laptop computer burned his genitals. According to a letter in The Lancet medical journal from Claes-Gorn Ostenson of the Karolinska Institute, the man remembered feeling a burning sensation after he had been writing a report at home for about an hour with the computer on his lap. An examination showed that "the ventral part of his scrotal area had turned red, and there was a blister with a diameter of about 2 centimeters," wrote Ostenson, who noted that although the computer manual did warn against operating it directly on exposed skin, the patient had lap burns even though he had been wearing pants and undershorts.

No Time Like the Present

Convicted robber John Ndirangu Njuguna, 40, waited until his 21-year sentence in a Kenyan jail was just five months from ending to escape. After changing into a shirt and pants that had been left for him under a tree, he headed to Nairobi, the capital, using money his fellow convicts had raised for his journey. On arriving at Nairobi, he went to see Commissioner of Prisons Abraham Kamakil to complain that guards and some inmates at Embu jail were endangering prisoners' lives by selling their food rations. The Daily Nation newspaper reported that Kamakil served Njuguna cold drinks and promised to investigate the allegations.

Knit Fit

New Zealand's Parliament has banned government ministers from knitting while overseeing debates. The rule was prompted by the appearance of Associate Commerce Minister Judith Tizard, who pulled out her knitting needles while lawmakers debated a trade bill she was there to answer questions about. After opposition leader Bill English accused Tizard of showing the "contempt and arrogance" of the Labor-led government toward Parliament, Speaker Jonathan Hunt ruled that "knitting is permitted in the house but is not permitted from the minister's chair."

Retired lawmaker Marilyn Waring admitted to knitting 32 garments during her nine years in Parliament. She wrote in her autobiography that it was her only productive accomplishment.

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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