NewsQuirks 726

Curses, Foiled Again

Federal authorities charged Jonathan Waldon with attempted bank robbery after police said he entered a bank in Cheyenne, Wyo., and demanded $50,000. He was arrested inside the bank, which is in the same downtown building as the local FBI office and across the street from the city police department. "If you rob the bank in the same building as the FBI, it won't take long," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Green said.

Big-Bang Theories

Firefighters were called to a home in Scarborough, Australia, when smoke began pouring from a microwave oven. The unidentified man living in the home explained that he had put his mobile phone battery inside the microwave to recharge it, and it exploded. Fire and Emergency Services district officer Alan Riley added, "It's a timely reminder to people not to put things in the microwave other than food."

Investigators in Lake Worth, Fla., concluded that an explosion behind the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art was caused by a grease fire that started while artist Douglas Ferrin was cooking pork chops near a 5-pound keg of gunpowder. Five loud explosions and 20 smaller blasts rocked the main street, destroying the museum's workshop and a sport utility vehicle. "I heard boom, boom, and a man went flying through a window," Sharon Puhalainen, the owner of a nearby shop, told the Palm Beach Post. "He went back in and there was another explosion, then he came out dazed and staggering."

Kevin Barnes, 20, of Northamptonshire, England, died from an explosion after he put a homemade pipe bomb in his mouth and lit the fuse. Northamptonshire Coroner Anne Pember ruled the death accidental, explaining that witnesses said Barnes was fooling around with the pipe bomb but didn't intend for it to go off.

Authorities in New Bloomfield, Pa., said that a 44-year-old man who died in a fiery explosion in the town square had filled his car with six open buckets of gasoline and was driving toward the pharmacy where his wife worked. Noting that witnesses saw the car on fire for several blocks before it reached the square, Perry County Coroner Michael Shalonis concluded that the driver, whose wife had served him with divorce papers that morning, intended to drive the car into the pharmacy, but "he lit himself off 50 feet too soon." The car exploded in flames 30 feet short of the pharmacy.

Siren's Song

German police responded to complaints from neighbors by confiscating a rooftop air-raid siren from a 73-year-old man who said he used it to silence his wife. "My wife never lets me get a word in edgeways," the man told Mannheim police. "So I crank up the siren and let it rip for a few minutes. It works every time. Afterwards, it's real quiet again.”

Low-Tech Solution

Drug traffickers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are thwarting anti-narcotics task forces using the latest surveillance and interception technology by relying on pigeons. According to intelligence reports, at least 300 pigeons carry about 1,100 pounds of heroin from Afghanistan to Pakistan every year. That's worth $75 million on the European market.

Second-Amendment Follies

Daniel Benjamin Berry, 17, was blinded in both eyes while helping some other teen-agers try to shoot a frog from a potato gun in Denton, Texas. When the gun misfired, Berry looked down the PVC pipe barrel to see what was wrong. The gun went off, and the frog struck him in the face.

Ten-Commandment Follies

A Tennessee ministry that set out to "renew America one child at a time" by paying young people $10 to memorize and recite the Ten Commandments has run out of money. George and Marion Kelley started the Ten Commandments Project in 1997 to help young people understand right from wrong. They gave away about $200,000 and eventually had to dip into their own retirement savings to honor their commitment. "We are victims of success," said George Kelley, 76, who put the project on hold "until the Lord provides additional money."

More Woes

Forests in the Appalachian Mountains risk losing water because the base of clouds that form over the northeastern United States has risen 594 feet over the past 30 years, according to researchers. Andrew Richardson of Yale University told New Scientist magazine that the higher cloud base means that many spruce and fir trees can't scavenge water from the clouds, raising the boundary between deciduous and coniferous trees.

Scientists studying air pollution in Houston, Texas, discovered microscopic bits of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the city's hazy atmosphere. The source, they concluded, is barbecue grills. Matthew Fraser, an environmental engineer who led the Rice University study, said the particles, which are released when grease from meat sizzles on hot coals, can lodge in the lungs, causing heart and respiratory problems.

Divorce harms the environment, according to researchers at Michigan State and Stanford universities, who found the biggest threat comes from the increase in smaller households. "Every time you have fewer people living per house, you end up with another house plowing under another piece of land," said Stanford University professor Paul R. Ehrlich. He said smaller households mean more cars on the road that increase greenhouse-gas emissions. He also pointed out that a large family might buy a 16-ounce box of cereal, while two smaller families might each buy 8-ounce boxes, generating more waste.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Indian lawmakers called for a ban on the use of the national flag in body painting and tattoos and the use of the national anthem as a ring tone in mobile phones.

Good News, Bad News

Honduran authorities announced that only 69 inmates had been killed during a bloody prison riot, not 86 as was originally thought. Investigators lowered the death toll after concluding that some of the corpses had been so badly maimed during the battle between rival inmate gangs that emergency officials originally counted them as two bodies instead of one.

Irony Illustrated

Volunteer firefighters in Cal-Nev-Ari, Nev., responded to an alarm but couldn't get to their equipment because it was the fire house that was on fire. "We stood out here with the most hopeless feeling in the world," Jack McClintock, 73, the town's fire chief, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "It was even more heartbreaking knowing that all our equipment was right inside, and we couldn't do anything about the fire because of that."

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