NewsQuirks 715

Curses, Foiled Again

Four men who abducted Edward S. Lampert, 40, in Greenwich, Conn., released their victim 30 hours later after he assured them that he would pay them $5 million, but only if they let him go first. They did, he didn't. While the kidnappers had Lampert in custody, they used his credit card to have a pizza delivered to the motel where they were holding him. The transaction alerted the authorities, who got the motel's address from the pizza place and found three of the suspects still there a few days later.

Police in Marked Tree, Ark., arrested Michael Brown, 33, after he smashed a bank's glass door, then looked directly at the security cameras and activated an alarm. When he found that all the money had been stashed away because the bank was closed, investigators said he left with a clock radio and fistfuls of candy. He ate the candy as he made his getaway, leaving a trail of candy wrappers that police followed to his home in a nearby trailer park. "It was almost like he wanted to be caught," Patrolman Jerry Lung said, noting that the name of the candy was "Dum-Dums."

Mother of the Year (So Far)

Virginia C. Ramsey pleaded guilty in King County, Wash., to selling her 4-month-old son for $2,000, which she used to pay off a traffic ticket, fund a trip to a casino and buy two Sony PlayStations and a VCR. Prosecutors said Ramsey told a neighbor that she was giving up the baby because he was "getting on her nerves."


When President Bush went to St. Louis to tout his economic stimulus plan, encouraging small business and American-made goods, he spoke from a warehouse in front of a backdrop showing shelves lined with pictures of boxes labeled "Made in the USA." Surrounding the president were hundreds of actual boxes, each with a piece of paper covering the label "Made in China." White House representative Claire Buchan attributed the cover up to an "overzealous volunteer" on Bush's advance team.

No News Is Good News

Fearing that forecasts of no early end to Zimbabwe's drought would heighten public discontent, President Robert Mugabe took control of the Meteorological Office and ordered it not to reveal any long-range weather forecasts. "The government does not want any information on the weather to be leaked," a Met Office official told the London Telegraph. ""All our forecasts are to be sent to the president's office, and only then can they be released."

Little Things Mean a Lot

A 47-year-old patient of a cosmetic surgeon in Manchester, England, paid $5,000 for a "triple technique dual increase male organ enhancement," expecting the procedure to add 1 to 3 inches to the length of his penis and 30 to 90 percent to its thickness. The man complained to Britain's General Medical Council that the three-hour operation, which involved injecting fat from the stomach and thighs into the shaft of the penis, failed to increase its length, instead leaving it shorter and disfigured. Pointing out that the patient "had a perfectly sized penis to begin with," David Enoch, the GMC's counsel, accused cosmetic surgeon Dr. Ravi Kant Agarwal of "taking advantage of vulnerable people for operations they did not need for large quantities of cash for a very short procedure that does not work."

Good Intentions Backfire

Antifur campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s have hurt the livelihoods of thousands of Canadian Natives, prompting them to welcome oil, gas and mining interests into unspoiled areas to provide them with income. The New York Times reported that trappers who once alerted environmental groups when logging companies were clear-cutting forests or told the Canadian military when low-flying jets were disrupting caribou herds are no longer in a position to perform these roles. Instead, native groups have negotiated royalty agreements letting oil companies intensify activities in the Mackenzie River valley, threatening vital wildlife habitats. Impoverished Inuit settlements in northern Quebec reached an agreement to promote offshore gas drilling in waters still teeming with seals. Nine Cree settlements around James Bay voted to allow the provincial government to flood 115 square miles of traditional hunting lands for hydroelectric development in exchange for millions of dollars in aid. "The collapse of the fur trade was a disaster for people who are guardians of the environment," said Elizabeth May, executive director of Sierra Club Canada.

In the early 1990s, conservationists trying to save the endangered rhino from poaching promoted the use saiga horns in traditional Chinese medicine as a substitute for rhino horn. The campaign was so successful that the antelope is on the verge of extinction. New Scientist magazine reported that in 1993 more than a million saiga roamed the steppes of Russia and Kazakhstan. Today, fewer than 30,000 remain, mostly females since so many males have been shot for their horns. Noting that it is the most sudden and dramatic population crash of a large mammal ever seen, biologists warn that without an emergency appeal to rescue the remaining wild herds, the species has no more than two years to live. "The trouble is, most people have never heard of the animal," zoologist Abigail Entwistle said, "so it is hard to raise funds."

What'd I Say?

New York Yankees pitcher David Wells became the latest pro athlete to insist that he misquoted himself in his autobiography, disputing the book's claim that he was "half drunk" when he pitched his perfect game. Wells explained that he should have taken a closer look at the draft of the book he wrote with Chris Kreski. "I'm not going to rip the guy," Wells said. "It's my fault for not going through it with a fine tooth comb."

When Guns Are Outlawed

Despite Germany's strict regulations against firearms, authorities in several German cities reported that youths have begun firing potatoes from "bazookas" made from drainage pipes and masking tape. Authorities said the so-called Kartoffelkanone have a range of 200 meters. The Times of London reported they could split open a person's head at 15 meters and penetrate a wooden wall at 90 meters. German police said they are worried that the youths will turn to more lethal ammunition than potatoes.

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

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