NewsQuirks 718

Coises, Furled Agin

Posing as a baseball player for the Minnesota Twins, Dewitt Alonzo Davison, 21, tried to buy a $1.495 million home, but seller Robert Griggs became suspicious when Davison produced a letter from the ball club stating that he had recently signed a $17 million contract. "It was full of misspellings and grammatical errors," Mark Naylon of the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office said. "It wasn't even on Twins letterhead." When confronted, Davison insisted he was just trying to impress his fiancee and her family, but he was arrested for being a military deserter.

Police in Hickory, N.C., reported that two men tried to pass a $498 payroll check from Broyhill Furniture, but the clerk rejected it because the company's name was misspelled "Boryhill Furmiture." Hickory Police Capt. Steve Wright noted that the quality of the check was otherwise impressive, pointing out, "There's a good possibility that if the name on the check had been spelled correctly, they would have gotten away with it."

Homeland Insecurity

While Japanese tourist Atsushi Ishiguro, 45, was traveling from Jamaica to the Bahamas, a layover at Miami International Airport aroused the curiosity of security agents, who discovered that an 11-ounce metal canister he was carrying contained gasoline. Ishiguro, who also had a barbecue grill and two boxes of matches in his possession, was taken into custody when he refused to give up the gas can.

When security agents at Philadelphia International Airport asked a 22-year-old Saudi Arabian man about a container of liquid in his luggage, he explained it was cologne but inadvertently sprayed two of the guards. Authorities summoned FBI agents, city police officers and hazardous materials specialists, then sent the two guards to a nearby hospital, which quarantined the emergency room for three hours until the substance was identified as cologne. Officials also closed a doughnut shop for 45 minutes when they learned that two city police officers had gone there after coming in contact with the cologne while examining its container.

Size Matters

According to a survey by the New York City-based Diamond Information Center, of the 2.1 million women who received diamond engagement rings last year, 82 percent were disappointed by the size of the stone. "The first thing someone says when you tell them you got engaged is, 'Let me see your finger,'" said Darcy Miller, editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, ""so I think that is part of it."

Hot Time

Police in Cypress, Calif., arrested Luis Chavez, 33, who they said ignited aerial fireworks in a condominium bedroom, causing a fire that did $135,000 in damage and forced the predawn evacuation of occupants from four nearby condos. "We're not talking about little bottle rockets here," Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Miller told the Los Angeles Times, "we're talking pyrotechnics."

More Woes

Droppings from seabirds could be introducing radioactive isotopes into the food chain, according to Norwegian researchers, who found unusually high concentrations of hazardous radiation in soil, vegetation and guano samples collected on a remote island close to the Arctic. Mark Dowdall, who led the team from the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority, told New Scientist magazine that he believes the birds eat contaminated fish and crustaceans, and the radioactive material is then concentrated in their feces, which fertilizes plants that make up the diet of reindeer. "We're talking about a very vulnerable environment," Dowdall said, "and when reindeer eat the vegetation, it's in the food chain."

As many as 80 percent of the 40 million obsolete computers being discarded in the United States each year are winding up in dumps in China, where their toxic components, such as lead, mercury and beryllium, poison the water and soil and ultimately the people who earn meager livings breaking them apart to reclaim materials. Mark Dallura, head of Chase Electronics Inc. of Philadelphia, told the Washington Post that he buys discarded computers from recyclers scattered across the United States, who pick them up from well-intentioned citizens and businesses cooperating with cities and counties aiming to keeping electronic waste out of landfills. The company then ships them to China via Taiwanese middlemen based in Los Angeles. Each container holding 45,000 pounds of waste brings him a fee of $2,600. "I could care less where they go," Dallura said. "My job is to make money."

Citing a report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that between 5 million and 50 million birds are killed each year when they slam into towers used by cellular telephones, pagers, televisions and radios, three environmental group filed a suit against the Federal Communications Commission to force it to reduce the risk. The groups -- the American Bird Conservancy, the Forest Conservancy Council and the Friends of the Earth -- specifically targeted towers that are higher than 200 feet on land near the Gulf of Mexico, where many birds stop during spring and fall migrations. The suit demands that the FCC install devices on existing towers to keep birds away.

Last Meal

Popular French chef Bernard Loiseau, 52, shot himself to death after an influential dining guide downgraded his restaurant. Although Loiseau's Cote d'Or restaurant in the Burgundy region retained its top three-star rating by the Michelin Red Guide, the guide GaultMillau lowered its rating of the restaurant from 19 to 17 on a 20-point scale. Top chefs castigated the rating system. "These critics are like eunuchs," Paul Bocuse said. "They know what to do, but they cannot do it."

Musical Arsenal

Reflecting on the current tension with the United States, North Korea's communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun urged all citizens to redouble their courage and sing the song "Long Trip for Army-based Leadership" louder than ever before. The paper assured readers that if North Korea is attacked, the country would resound to a song that has the power to fill "imperialists and enemies with mortal terror."

No Home Should Be Without One

An octopus at the Hellabrunn Zoo in Munich, Germany, has learned how to open jars of seafood snacks by positioning its body over the jar, grasping the sides with the suckers on its tentacles, then wrenching the lid off with a full-body twist. "All we did was open a jar underwater where she could see us," a zoo attendant said. "We did that repeatedly, and at some point she made the connection and decided to try it for herself."

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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