NewsQuirks 731

Curses, Foiled Again

After Suzanne Johnson, 47, murdered her boyfriend by shooting him in the back and head in her apartment in Collinsville, Ill., she cut up his body, then tried to cover up evidence of the crime. She rented a carpet cleaner, painted the bloodstained walls, took her bloody clothes to a coin-operated laundry and threw away the gun. Police arrested Johnson anyway after her downstairs neighbor reported that blood was seeping through her bedroom ceiling from Johnson's apartment above. While investigating, Officer Dan Arvizu accidentally knocked the lid off a 30-gallon trashcan in Johnson's apartment, revealing a sock-covered foot. The body was inside, wrapped in a vinyl shower curtain. The victim's head was in Johnson's freezer. Johnson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Everything You Know Is Wrong

One in three Americans believes that U.S. forces have already found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, according to a poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. Two out of 10 said Iraq actually used chemical or biological weapons. "It's a striking finding," Steve Kull, the program's director, said, noting that the mistaken belief that weapons have been found "is substantially greater among those who favored the war."

Reporting that 28 percent of Hispanic voters support the nomination of lawyer Miguel Estrada for an appeals court seat, Miami-based pollster Sergio Bendixen commented that based on listening to some of the poll interviews, it is clear many of those who support Estrada are confusing him with actor Erik Estrada, who starred in the 1977-1983 television police drama "CHiPS" and is now a popular Spanish-language soap-opera star. "Many of them think President Bush nominated Erik Estrada," Bendixen said. "I'd say a good third think that way." He added that he heard one person say Estrada should be confirmed because he did such a good job playing a police officer.

He the Man

When Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan visited a middle school in Washington, D.C., to teach students about "financial literacy," he was introduced as an "honorary black man" by the head of Operation Hope, a nonprofit group that teaches inner-city residents how to be self-sufficient. Telling the students and school officials that everybody knows Greenspan is chairman of the Fed, Bryant, who is black, declared, "What you don't know is that he's also what we call in my community 'a bad brother.'"

The King and We

Thailand's King Bhomibol Adulyadej has patented a way to make rain. The technique targets specific areas for rainfall by seeding warm and cold clouds at different altitudes. In 1993, the 75-year-old monarch became the first member of any royal family to receive a patent, for the Chaipattana water-aerator, which cleans water used in farming.

In May, Nongnuch Paynguleaom was crowned Thailand's Miss Jumbo Queen. The 25-year-old nurse, who won $1,162 in prize money, weighed in at 209 pounds, making her a lightweight compared to last year's winner, 420-pound Lalita Songlath. Besides exhibiting the characteristics of an elephant (grace, elegance and size), contestants had to demonstrate talent and field questions from hosts Ornapa Krisadee, Thailand's leading transvestite actress, and actor Tanongsak Supagam. The pageant was held at the Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo. Most of the 20 contestants, according to pageant organizers, regard the event as a way to make new fat friends, who understand the stigma that fat people face in society and make ideal shopping partners for full-figured fashions.

A month later in Bangkok, Saowapa Thephasidin, 37, claimed the title of first-ever Miss Spinster. She beat out 127 other contestants, ages 28 to 51, who competed in sportswear, short dress and evening gown categories during the two-week pageant. The winner, described as "a private entrepreneur with a talent for sign language," received $1,190. "The contest is to show that single females who are old can live happily even if they don't get married," pageant representative Withan Kamutchat said.

Will Work for Food

A pizza chain based in Portland, Ore., began hiring homeless people off the street to promote its product. For carrying a sign reading, "Pizza Schmizza paid me to hold this sign instead of asking for money," the erstwhile panhandlers receive pizza, soft drinks and a few dollars. Pizza Schmizza's founder, Andre Jehan, said he got the idea after feeling guilty passing homeless people begging for money. "I got tired of not being able to make eye contact with these people," he said. "I thought, 'What skills could they have.' Holding a sign was an obvious one."

Instant Karma

Roger Nelson, 48, the owner of a skydiving business in Ottawa, Ill., whose fatality rate is eight times the national average, died in a parachuting accident. Nelson's death was the 11th at Skydive Chicago in the past five years.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Authorities in Lock Haven, Pa., charged Shonda D. Walter, 23, with murdering her 83-year-old neighbor and stealing his car and $500 in quarters. Walter's mother testified at a preliminary hearing that her daughter was unemployed and deep in debt, including court payments for an insurance fraud conviction. "She was worried if she didn't make a payment, they would take her back to jail," Judith Walter said.

Fringe Benefits

After the Taunton, Mass., fire department laid off nine firefighters to reduce a city budget deficit, it paid them $1,400 in overtime to pick up their official layoff notices. Each was paid the required minimum four hours.

Food Fights

After a couple at a Burger King restaurant in Hampton, Va., complained twice to cashier Chiquita Gennell Oliver, 19, that their order was wrong, police said Oliver met them outside with her 37-year-old mother, another woman and a 17-year-old boy armed with a handgun. The three women took turns beating one of the customers, while the boy attacked and robbed the other.

A man ordered a Whopper Jr. at a Burger King drive-through in Chandler, Ariz., then returned to complain because he had ordered it without pickles, but it had them. Police said that after voicing his objection, the man produced a gun, demanded cash and drove off.

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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