NewsQuirks 713

Curses, Foiled Again

Sheriff's Deputy Kelly Calicoat of Eddy County, N.M., was dispatched to help two women and five children whose van ran out of gas. When he found they had already been given gas, he decided to follow them to make sure it was enough to get them to town. On the way, the driver of the van exceeded the speed limit, so Calicoat stopped it. He became suspicious and contacted the drug task force, whose agents discovered why the van had run out of gas. The gas tank contained 72 pounds of marijuana. The two women, Leticia Guadian, 24, and Vanessa Chavez, 22, were arrested.

Police responding to a car fire at a grocery store parking lot in Macon, Ga., became suspicious when the three occupants refused to leave the burning vehicle. After pulling them out and stomping out the flames, Officers Doug LeCompte and Verdelle Grant said they found a working methamphetamine lab and chemicals used to make the drug inside the car. Investigators theorized the three were cooking methamphetamine when several fires broke out while one of the suspects was scraping red phosphate off matches.

Charles Edward Jones was convicted of bank robbery after investigators matched his DNA to gold teeth knocked out during his escape. While running from the Miami bank, Jones stuffed his gun into his waistband, accidentally firing it into his pants. The bullet missed him, but when he stepped into the street, a van delivering school lunches hit him. He stumbled to his getaway car but minus two gold teeth, his gun and his hat. Prosecutors said the DNA match from the teeth proved Jones had been in the bank. That and the sock full of money from the robbery they found stuffed into his trousers when they arrested him a few days later.

The Last Word

Catholic Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, N.J., has banned eulogies during funeral masses, explaining that the personal tributes were getting out of hand. A representative of the archdiocese pointed out that some of the tributes went on for more than an hour and were a distraction from the scriptural message of the mass.

Nowhere Man

British rower Andrew Halsey, 45, set a record for covering the least distance in the most time in a boat. Seventy-two days after leaving Peru trying to row solo across the Pacific Ocean, Halsey was still 8,000 miles from his destination -- no closer than on the day he embarked. Blaming contrary winds and currents for his lack of progress, Halsey told the BBC by satellite phone that not advancing was hard work. "You are rowing every day," he said. "It's not like you're just sitting there."

This is Halsey's second attempt to row across the Pacific. He had to be rescued in 2000 after nearly starving to death.

Slightest Provocations

Police in Buffalo, N.Y., charged Henry Ward Kingsley with strangling a 46-year-old woman who refused his request to help him peel a turnip.

Four male government soldiers in Sri Lanka and three female Tamil Tiger rebels got into a fistfight after they disagreed whether the women fighters should be allowed to wear belts to keep their pants up.

Food Fright

The manufacturer of some 8,700 frying pans sold through television's Home Shopping Network said they were being recalled because they can explode while in use. Innova Inc. of Davenport, Iowa, said there have been two reports of consumers being burned from hot oil and eight reports of property damage involving the Ultrex Thermal/Double Wall pans, which the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission warned "can explode or separate when preheated, used on high heat or used for frying."

Cushioning the Blow

Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Blountville, Tenn., began giving away athletic socks to passengers whose shoes must be checked by security.

Can You Hear Me Now?

The Persian Gulf state of Qatar imported 1,000 frequency jammers to block mobile phone transmissions that disrupt prayers and sermons in mosques. The Peninsula newspaper reported that imams and muezzins (prayer summoners) have been instructed to switch on the pocket-sized Cellular Phone Hunter devices before the call to prayer and keep them on until five minutes after the prayers, five times a day.

Advances in technology have prompted a chain of health clubs in Hong Kong to ban the use of all cellphones in its locker rooms. "Some of these phones can be used as cameras," explained Miran Chan, a representative of Physical, which operates nine gyms in the former British colony. "If someone uses a phone this way and takes a photo and puts it on the Internet, it's not very good for our members and their privacy."

Land of the Setting Sun

When a busy Tokyo business district banned smoking on the street, Japan Tobacco Inc. remodeled a 27-foot-long silver trailer and parked it in front of a big office building as a sanctuary for smokers. Dubbed the SmoCar, the trailer has no seats but has counters equipped with ashtrays and room enough for 20 smokers at a time. Reuters News Service reported the smoking ban, which carries fines of up to $170 for multiple offenses, was enacted in the crowded Chiyoda ward to combat litter and people being burned by passing smokers.

Rites of Passage

Police in Houma, LA, charged Kenneth Patrick Porche Jr., 22, with committing "ritualistic acts" after he was found hiding in a department store women's restroom. When Porche emerged from the locked stall 40 minutes later, a security officer said he discovered four plastic bags hidden in his jacket "containing what is believed to be female urine." Some of the bags were labeled with descriptions like "old woman."

Investigators said they think Porche entered the restroom unobserved, disabled one of the toilets to keep it from flushing, lined the bottom of the bowl with plastic film, then hid in an adjacent stall, emerging after women left to collect samples.

Wide Loads

British lawmaker Chris Bryant told the House of Commons that London's West End theaters are suffering because their 19th-century seats are too narrow. "The seats were built for backsides of a Victorian era," he said, "not of a modern era -- or indeed an American size."

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