Roland Sweet

NewsQuirks 723

Deeper Savings

After a severe winter caused Danville, Va., to exceed its snow removal budget, city Councilman E. Stokes Daniels Jr. proposed digging 5-foot-deep graves at city cemeteries instead of the standard 6 feet. Daniels said that the move would save the cash-strapped city as much as $300 per grave. Mayor John Hamlin responded to the proposal by pointing out, "We can always encourage cremation."

Holy Roller

Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas, a former stunt pilot who was a surprise winner in January's presidential election, drew criticism for declaring his faith in mystic Lena Lolisvili. Lolisvili, whom local media have dubbed a Lithuanian Rasputin, claims that God tells her the future and cures people by wrapping them in energized toilet paper.

Hide and Seek

Police in Stuart, Fla., charged Melissa Anne Nunziato, 28, with leaving the scene of an accident after she caused a fender bender. They said she fled into a K-Mart bathroom and tried to conceal her appearance with hair dye, makeup and a change of clothes stolen from the store. Police found her in the bathroom, along with empty boxes and price tags for the stolen items in the trash.

Looking for Jerome Anthony Dobbey, 24, on drug charges, police went to a house in Burlington, Iowa, on a tip that the suspect might be living there. After a brief search, they found Dobbey hiding in a refrigerator.

Happy Mother's Day

Mary Hill, who killed her daughter and another girl three years ago when she crashed into a tree while driving more than 70 mph, lost custody of another daughter when a sheriff's investigator testified in Sanford, Fla., that Hill told her she wished the surviving daughter had died in the crash instead of her older sister. Investigator Mary Ellen Humes also told Circuit Judge Donna McIntosh that Hill said she wished she could ram her and her daughter, who is now 13, into a tree "and die." The daughter was placed in state custody.

Louisiana District Judge Todd Hernandez sentenced Leteerica Stevens, 23, to two years in prison for torturing her daughter because the child could not spell her name. According to police reports, when the 4-year-old girl misspelled her last name, Stevens and her former fiance, Ebonderell Metoyer, 26, who is not the girl's father, made the girl stay in the push-up position with her hands on the spiked side of a car mat. Next, they bound her legs with a leather belt and blindfolded her, then placed her on a table with her arms outstretched and hit her with another belt. The girl fell from the table several times and broke her leg.

Police in Greeley, Colo., reported that Jennifer Farrell, 33, left her six children home alone while she took a 17-day European vacation with her 60-year-old boyfriend. She left the oldest child, a 14-year-old girl, in charge of the other siblings, ages 12 through 6, and stocked the kitchen with 3 gallons of milk and three loaves of bread. She gave her daughter $7 and a credit card. "She left them some supplies," police Sgt. John Gates said, "but it wasn't enough for two weeks."

Can You Hear Me Now?

Hoping to track the eating habits of 25 moose, researchers at Sweden's University of Agricultural Sciences announced plans to tag the animals with cellphones. The phones, which contain a built-in global positioning system and enough battery power to last a year, will send messages to the researchers seven times a day.

When Dorah Mwambela dropped her wireless phone down an open-pit toilet in Mombasa, Kenya, she offered 1,000 shillings (about $13) to anyone who would recover it. The Daily Nation reported that three men tried but all fell into the pit and died. "The fumes inside must be extremely poisonous considering the short time it was taking to disable the retrievers," acting police chief Peter Njenga said after officers stopped a fourth man from climbing into the latrine, and the search for the phone was abandoned.

Artificial Intelligence

Richard N. Castle, a recent engineering graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, announced that he has developed shoes for the blind. The footwear contains infrared sensors that detect objects up to about a yard away and vibrate to indicate the direction and distance. "When you get used to it, you can feel what's going on around you," Castle said. "You can tell when you're closer to something or farther away."

Scientists James Fogarty and Scott Hudson of Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania said they are developing technology that will let telephones decide when someone is too busy to be interrupted and ask the caller to leave a message. Tiny microphones, cameras and touch sensors reveal body language and activity to determine a person's availability. Hudson told New Scientist magazine that the technology should be "deployed in a couple of years."

The Spanish company Polyphonic HMI said that it has developed software that can predict a song's chances of becoming a hit before it is released. Five major record labels so far are testing it. According to New Scientist, the software, dubbed Hit Song Science, works by matching a song against the musical traits of known hits, searching for patterns in melody, harmonic variation, beat, tempo, rhythm, pitch, chord progression and fullness of sound. These traits were determined by analyzing 3.5 million songs. "There are a limited number of mathematical formulas for hit songs," Mike McCready, Polyphonics HMI's chief executive, said. "We don't know why." McCready added that songs with matching traits don't always sound the same, pointing out that Beethoven and U2 share similar values and that Norah Jones falls into the same cluster of traits as hard-rockers Van Halen.

Sticky War

China's Ministry of Science and Technology has launched a project, dubbed the "863 Program," to develop a chemical weapon over the next 18 months that will dissolve discarded chewing gum. Calling the chewing gum waste problem a "big public sanitation headache," Yu Xichun, director of the Science and Technology Officer, said the project also aims to lower the cleanup cost from 13 cents a piece to 2 cents a piece while creating no new pollution. The China Daily reported that China's 1.3 billion people chew 2 billion pieces of gum per year.

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

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.

NewsQuirks 717

Curses, Foiled Again
Seattle police arrested Kenneth Eric Roys, 18, for robbing a video store after he returned to the same store two weeks later. A clerk who had been on duty during the crime recognized him. When police arrived, they discovered that Roys was holding an empty, plastic videotape case containing a BB pistol.

Police in Colorado Springs, Colo., arrested Walter Cecil Goins and John Marshall, both 18, and accused them of robbing a motel office. Police followed footprints in the snow from the office to a nearby stairwell, where a police dog took over and led them to Room 421. After knocking and getting no answer, officers phoned the room and announced that the room was surrounded. The suspects surrendered. Detective Dale Fox told the Colorado Springs Gazette that he couldn't recall a case in which robbers held up the same place where they were staying.

Homeland Insecurity
Government and transportation leaders planning how to evacuate the Washington, D.C., area in the event of a terrorist attack admitted that it can't be done, at least not quickly and orderly. The reason, officials told the Washington Post, is that the region's road and transit network, already overburdened during a normal rush hour, can't handle a sudden surge. Pointing out that people trapped in traffic could be exposed to an airborne threat or other types of attacks, officials advised that instead of trying to flee or rush to their families, people prepare themselves to "shelter in place."

Keith Martin, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's choice to head the state's Department of Homeland Security, resigned as managing editor and nightly news anchor of a Lancaster television station in 1990 after it was revealed he was consulting for an arms dealer that was illegally funneling weapons to Iraq. The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that some of those weapons ended up being used against American soldiers during the Gulf War. At the time, Martin was also an officer in the Pennsylvania National Guard. After Rendell nominated him to the cabinet-level post, Martin called the controversy "a tempest in a teapot."

Instant Karma
After Raymond Poore, 43, was found dead on the floor of his mobile home in Winchester, Va., next to his 2-year-old Chinese Shar-Pei, police Capt. David Sobonya said that the construction worker was apparently beating the dog on the head with the butt of a rifle-shotgun when it discharged and shot him in the lower abdomen. Debbie Poore discovered her husband's body when she raced home after he called to say the dog had bitten him, and he was going to kill it.

Occupational Hazard
Crematorium workers in Sweden are increasingly at risk from explosions during cremations. The church newspaper Kyrkans Tidning reported that the blasts are sparked by undetected items such as heart pacemakers, whose batteries ignite in the intense heat, and silicone implants in women who had cosmetic breast surgery. But friends and relatives contribute to the problem by leaving such farewell tokens in coffins as bottles of alcohol, bullets and even fireworks.

Think No Evil
A technique that probes the brain to see if a suspect has specific knowledge of a crime has the potential to become a powerful weapon in national security, according to its inventor. Lawrence Farwell of Fairfield, Iowa, who founded Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories Inc. 12 years ago, explained that brain fingerprinting works by recording split-second spikes in electrical activity in the brain when it responds to something it recognizes. For example, a murder suspect who is shown a detail of the crime scene that only she or he would know would involuntarily register that knowledge, whereas a person who had never seen that crime scene would show no reaction.

Dental Plan from Hell
Authorities arrested two flea market jewelers for practicing medicine without a license after an undercover investigation found that they were using Super Glue to attach gold overlays to people's teeth from the back of their 10-year-old Honda. The investigation was prompted by an anonymous call from a customer who claimed that he'd lost teeth after getting a gold cap from Island Gold's Enterprises, run by Ayud Mohammed and Fahimuddin Khan, both 39. Investigators said the men charged from $150 to $1,000 for the cosmetic procedure. "They could give you a whole rack of gold or just cover a few teeth," Broward Sheriff's Department representative Jim Leljedal said. "They even had gold vampire fangs, if that's what you wanted."

Everything You Know Is Wrong
Fish farming, which has been hailed as the solution to depleted stocks of wild fish, actually threaten the wild species, which are being used to feed the farmed fish. "Four kilos (8.8 pounds) of wild-caught fish are needed to produce 1 kilo of farmed fish," according to a report by the Swiss-based World Wildlife Federation. It pointed out that world farmed production doubled in the past decade to 20 million tons a year, increasing demand for oil and fishmeal, made from species such as blue whiting and pilchards. The WWF suggested the solution is feeding farmed fish vegetable proteins, fish offal or fishing vessels' by-catches, which are often dumped at sea.

Recycling household waste actually harms the environment more than burning it, according to leading Swedish environmentalists, who insist that separating household trash is a waste of time and money. The group includes Valfrid Paulsson, a former director-general of the government's environmental protection agency, Soren Norrby, the former campaign manager for Keep Sweden Tidy, and the former managing directors of three waste-collection companies. Writing in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, they said that using incineration to burn household waste, including packaging and food, "is best for the environment, the economy and the management of natural resources." They pointed out that technological improvements have made incineration cleaner, and the process could be used to generate electricity, cutting dependency on oil.

Emissions pollute the atmosphere, but some actually help prevent the build-up of ozone, which is harmful when present in the air near the ground. Randall Martin, an atmospheric chemist at Harvard University, said his discovery that particulates from diesel engines, industry and burning biomass act to lower surface ozone levels by 25 percent over Europe and up to 10 percent over the United States puts regulators in a bind.

Topsy-Turvy World
Albania, formerly a steadfast opponent of U.S. imperialism, announced that it would send troops to join any U.S.-led attack on Iraq. Prime Minister Fatos Nano also offered U.S. forces the use of Albanian territory and airspace.

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

NewsQuirks 716

Curses, Foiled Again

When Janie Sidener came to work at a store in Fort Worth, Texas, she noticed that someone had scattered change from the cash register on the floor, used the store's toilet without flushing it and left a large black pistol on the bathroom counter. Then she heard someone snoring in a big bed that is part of a sales display and called police. They woke the man and arrested him for breaking into the store, which is owned by the wife of the county district attorney. "I think he was a pretty dumb burglar," Sidener said. "Of all the places in town he has to break in to, he picks the DA's wife's shop."

Getting to Know You

Atlanta-area authorities accused Jeffrey Bernard Fuller, 35, of "taking sexual liberties" with men during routine medical exams. DeKalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan said that Fuller performed unnecessary prostate and pelvic exams "for his own sexual gratification" while conducting exams for insurance companies. The screening exams typically involve only drawing blood, taking blood pressure and asking a few health-related questions, Morgan said, telling the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Fuller's victims could number in the hundreds.

Police in Scotland warned people to be on the alert after an Edinburgh woman reported that a man poured baked beans over her feet. The man, whom she said was in his early 30s and had an educated accent, entered a store where she works and claimed to be raising money for charity by performing bizarre stunts. He then poured the beans and other canned goods over her feet, took some photographs of her feet and left. The victim called police after realizing that the man had not brought any witnesses to his charitable stunt. The Charlotte County, Fla., Sheriff's Office reported receiving at least six calls about a short, dumpy man faking choking episodes in Punta Gorda to get attention from women. According to sheriff's representative Bob Carpenter, the man flails his arms, coughs and sputters, then when a woman rushes over to help, he recovers and showers her with gratitude, hugs and kisses. Authorities aren't sure of the man's motives and, beyond alerting the public, aren't investigating the incidents. "There's been no crime," Carpenter told the Charlotte Sun Herald. "Our hands are kind of tied here."


The day after a 60-year-old Australian man who received a liver transplant at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital was sent home, he ate some cashews and developed a life-threatening allergic reaction. His doctors concluded that he had acquired a nut allergy from the new organ, which came from a 15-year-old boy who died of an allergic reaction to peanuts.

After a 20-year-old woman with shellfish allergies went into severe anaphylactic shock, Dr. David Steensma of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., concluded that her reaction was caused by kissing her boyfriend, who had just eaten a few shrimp.

Virtual Crisis

After a maintenance worker at an apartment complex in Boulder, Colo., reported a 32-year-old man screaming threats and waving what appeared to be a handgun in his apartment, police evacuated the man's building, rerouted traffic and called in a SWAT team to help defuse the situation. When police contacted the man, he explained that he was upset at his computer, calling it a "bitch" that he "wanted to kill," and threatened it with a plastic pellet gun. "It was alarming and concerning and expensive for us," Deputy Police Chief Dave Hayes said, "but the man's conduct didn't warrant any criminal charges."

Litigation Nation

Miami's Aventura Hospital and Medical Center filed a lawsuit against a 76-year-old patient who refused to leave. The suit claims that after four months' treatment for respiratory problems, the patient is well enough to go to a nursing-care facility, but he won't budge, and his wife and daughter won't give the hospital permission to discharge him. Insisting the case is not about money, hospital CEO Davide Carbone told the Miami Herald, "It's clear this is not an appropriate use of the hospital."

Making Tracks

Lila M. Smoger, 85, of Kenosha, Wis., was returning from a vehicle emissions test, followed, since she hadn't driven in months, by her family. They lost sight of her and notified the authorities. She was found eight hours later, about 70 miles from where she and her family had been separated, when a police officer in West Bend recognized her car from a missing-person description.

Way to Go

Two ambulance service workers bringing Melvin P. Miller, 67, home from the hospital in a wheelchair were carrying him up the steps to his home in Coal Township, Pa., when one of them lost his balance and fell on him. Miller died less than an hour later.

After professional snowboarder Jeffrey Anderson, 23, of California arrived in Nagano, Japan, for a competition, he was sliding down a spiral staircase at his hotel when he lost his balance and fell about 50 feet. Police said Anderson died from head injuries.


Ashamed of his test grade, a 14-year-old boy in Massapequa, N.Y., set the papers on fire and threw them out a second-floor window. He noticed smoke rising from the ground, then went outside to investigate and saw smoke pouring from the upstairs window. By the time firefighters extinguished the blaze, the second floor was badly charred, and the entire home had suffered extensive smoke and water damage. After investigators concluded that embers from the burning test blew back inside and started the fire, the boy was charged with arson. "His motivations were not to set the house on fire and burn it down to the ground," police Lt. Kevin Smith told Newsday. "But he intentionally set the papers on fire."

Police in Novato, Calif., said that Ulysses Davis, 44, was furious about being jilted when he doused his 1990 Ford station wagon with a flammable liquid, set it on fire and drove the flaming vehicle into his estranged girlfriend's home, hoping she would die in an epic inferno. The car rolled into the woman's bedroom and stopped a few feet from where she was sleeping, but she and three other people in the house escaped uninjured. Davis jumped out of the car and ran off, but police found him nearby, arrested him and took him to the hospital with severe burns on his face and hands.

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

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.

NewsQuirks 714

Curses, Foiled Again

A man who robbed a bank in Port Royal, Va., stuffed the money in his pockets, but as he fled, $100 bills fell out. When he reached his getaway car, he found he had locked the keys inside and tried to break the window with a log. When he failed, he hurled the log at a pickup truck parked nearby. The pickup's owner, Emmett Lowe, saw the incident from inside his store and confronted the man, not knowing of the robbery. After a short conversation, Lowe returned to his store, where bank tellers, who had witnessed the confrontation, called to tell him that the man had just robbed them. According to Caroline County Sheriff's Capt. Scott Moser, Lowe grabbed a gun and, joined by bystander Larry Aguilar, chased and tackled the suspect. The suspect tried to shoot them, but the hammer of his gun got caught up on his pocket. He finally got a round off but shot himself in the leg. He continued struggling, and Lowe shot him in the same leg. Police arrived and arrested Edward Butler Blaine, 61.

Remain Calm

After skepticism, ridicule and panic buying greeted the government's advice to prepare for likely terrorist chemical attacks by stockpiling duct tape and plastic sheeting to create airtight safe rooms, President Bush and Homeland Security boss Tom Ridge insisted that such measures were the best the government could come up with. "We're working overtime to protect you," Bush declared during an appearance at FBI headquarters. Ridge subsequently pointed out that duct tape and plastic sheeting are "appropriately listed as emergency supplies" to have in case of a chemical attack but acknowledged that "we do not want individuals or families to start sealing their doors or windows." A few days later, Ridge, making his third such announcement in 10 days, urged Americans, "Stash away the duct tape. Don't use it, stash it away." Instead, in case of a chemical attack, the Department of Homeland Security's advice (for now) is to run. Its website ( instructs citizens subjected to a chemical attack: "Take immediate action to get away."

Just don't rush to your child's school. School administrators in the Washington, D.C., metro area told parents that, in the event of a biological or chemical attack, they would be strongly discouraged or actually prevented from picking up their children. The Washington Post reported that officials in Loudon County, Va., intend to lock down schools and post signs in Spanish and English warning that nobody will be allowed to enter or exit.

There'll Always Be an England

British police unveiled a new tactic in the war against crime: politely asking criminals to mend their ways. Inspector Geoff Miles sent personal letters to 22 persistent offenders in Wiltshire county, suggesting that the recipient "make it a priority in any New Year's resolutions you make from 2003 onwards, to cease forthwith your criminal activities." Miles said that sending the letters is an experiment that "will not do any harm," but he pointed out that he's being realistic. "These are career criminals," he added, "but we are career police officers."

Running Out of Disguises

Americans who wear Canada's red maple-leaf symbol abroad hoping that it shields them from hostility have been thwarted by Arab reaction to Canada's ban on the Lebanese-based Islamic movement Hezbollah. Anticipating violence, Raymond Baaklini, Lebanon's ambassador to Canada, said that because of the ban, "I am afraid it will be urgent for a Canadian to wear a non-Canadian T-shirt in Lebanon and the Arabic world."

Chicken Little Was Right

A 32-year-old woman was critically injured when a man fell to his death in an apparent suicide leap from a 44-story Waikiki hotel and landed on the roof of her van. James Hagar III, who heard something smash into the van behind him, said that when he saw the man's body and the dent on top of the van, he dropped his moped and headed for shelter "in case anything else fell from the sky."

Not Just Another Pretty Face

Botox shots commonly used to smooth facial wrinkles may also fight smelly armpits by paralyzing sweat glands, according to a German study. The study's author, Marc Kechmann of Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, said that volunteers rated the armpits of 16 people injected with botulinum toxin A lower in smell intensity than before the shots and more pleasant in odor quality. The armpits were also noticeably drier after the shots.

Rewriting the Rules

The government's $397 billion spending bill, which Congress approved Feb. 13, includes among its 3,000 pages a provision that lets livestock producers label meat as "organic" even if the animal has been fed partially or entirely on conventional rather than organic grain. The provision takes effect whenever the Agriculture Department confirms that available organic feed costs more than twice as much as conventional feed. The New York Times reported that Republicans added the provision on behalf of the Fieldale Farms Corp., a poultry producer in Baldwin, Ga., which has been trying since last summer to be permitted to label its chickens as organic while feeding them a mix of conventional and organic feed. A $4,000 campaign contribution to Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., apparently did the trick.

Victim's Rights

A judge in Auburn, Wash., dismissed charges of being an accomplice to reckless driving against Teresa Hedlund, 30, whom prosecutors accused of encouraging Thomas Stewart, 22, to drive recklessly while drunk, in part by videotaping a ride that ended in a crash that killed everyone in the car except her. At one point in the video, Stewart says, "Watch me driving. You gotta record this shit." Judge Patrick Burns called Hedlund's behavior "abhorrent" but said, "I think being in an automobile and having your car wrapped around a pillar and spending months in rehabilitation constitutes being a victim." He ruled that state law does not allow a victim of a crime to be charged as an accomplice.

Picky, Picky

When a man walked into a bank in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and handed the teller a note demanding "hundreds, tens, twenties from both drawers, top and bottom," the teller explained that she had only a few $20, $10 and $5 bills but could give him $600 in $1 bills. Orange County sheriff's representative Jim Amormino said the robber declined the $1 bills and settled for only the loose twenties.

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

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."

NewsQuirks 712

Pre-Frontal Dispatches
Despite threats of a U.S. invasion, Iraq doubled exports of oil to U.S. refineries, helping them cope with the most chronic shortage of oil stocks in 27 years and offset the loss of 1.5 million barrels per day from Venezuela because of that country's strike. The report by London's Observer newspaper said that the shipment, which involved diverting oil bound for European and Asian customers, is legal under the terms of the United Nations' oil for food program.

U.S. sperm banks began offering servicemen being deployed to the Middle East free storage and discounts on sperm processing. Lab managers explained that the men making inquiries are concerned less about dying in combat than about returning to discover they're infertile from exposure to anthrax and smallpox vaccinations and chemical and biological agents. "You wouldn't believe the interest we have gotten," said Dr. Cappy Rothman, medical director of California Cryobank, which advertises up to a year's free storage. "We now have about 40 troops in the past two or three weeks who have gone out of their way to store their sperm before they go to war."

Why They Call It Dope
After someone called police in Surrey, British Columbia, then hung up, officers responded to the house from which the call was placed. According to the Vancouver Sun, an unnamed 60-year-old woman who answered the door told the officers that she had heard that if she dialed 911 she would get a recording informing her if the police were tapping her phone. After assuring her that such wasn't the case, the officers found "a reasonably sized marijuana-growing operation" in the house, and arrested the woman and three men.

Crime in Search of a Motive
Authorities in Davenport, Iowa, reported that a man wearing a 12-can beer box over his head with eyeholes cut into it walked into a food store and sprayed produce with a fire extinguisher. Tony Fuhrmeister, the store's assistant director, said that the 13-second assault cost nearly $20,000 because all the produce had to be destroyed, and extra store personnel worked eight hours to clean up the mess.

Fringe Benefits
Italian prosecutors charged 67 air traffic controllers with regularly leaving their posts at Milan's Linate airport to play soccer, shop or attend parties. The prosecutors conceded that no crashes or other incidents resulted from the controllers' absences.

Drooling in Anticipation
Anti-bacterial chemicals formed by the saliva of nursing calves could become essential ingredients of toothpastes and antiseptic creams, according to researchers at Westgate Biological of Dublin. Director Mike Folan told New Scientist magazine that the chemicals, which help protect newborn calves while their immune systems develop, create a protein residue that when added to toothpaste slowed the build-up of dental plaque by two-thirds.

Necktie Party
Paul Connick Jr., the district attorney for Jefferson Parish, La., reprimanded two assistant district attorneys for attending a hearing in a capital murder case wearing ties decorated with a hangman's noose and the Grim Reaper. Defense attorney Clive Stafford Smith accused Donnie Rowan and Cameron Mary of making light of the possibility that his client could get the death penalty if convicted. "They were a joke," Connick explained, "although a poor joke."

Little Things Mean a Lot
Police in the Philippines accused Arnel Orbeta of shooting Eduardo Cristomar, 40, who challenged the men at a drinking party in Antipolo City to show their penises to determine whose was the biggest. Officer Joseph Pueblo said that Orbeta immediately unzipped his pants and showed his organ, but Cristomar responded by laughing at Orbeta and refused to show his penis. Orbeta pulled a gun and shot Cristomar several times.

Cracking Down
California's Valley College imposed a speed limit of 4 mph for wheelchairs on campus. "It's a safety issue, pure and simple," said Tom Jacobsmeyer, vice president of administration, who proposed the rule after seeing a student nearly hit by a woman "going very fast" in a wheelchair. Violators will receive a warning, but repeat offenders risk being cited, suspended or expelled.

Airport Security to the Rescue
Four months after having abdominal surgery, a Canadian woman was suffering from persistent stomach aches, but doctors didn't know why until she set off a metal detector at the airport in Regina, Saskatchewan. Despite repeated scans, security guards couldn't find any metal on her body. A few days later the woman had an X-ray, which revealed a 12-inch long surgical retractor that had been left in her abdomen during the operation.

Beating Alzheimer's
Engineers at Microsoft's Media Presence lab in San Francisco said they are developing multimedia databases that chronicle people's life events and make them searchable. "Imagine being able to run a Google-like search on your life," Gordon Bell, one of the developers, told New Scientist magazine. The venture, dubbed the MyLifeBits project, aims to create a surrogate brain that will overcome the whims of human memory and become an accurate repository for most of our experiences. "Users will eventually be able to keep every document they read, every picture they view, all the audio they hear and a good portion of what they see," said Microsoft's Jim Gemmell. The system will require abundant computer memory, but the researchers calculate that within five years, a 1,000-gigabyte hard drive -- enough to store four hours of video every day for a year -- will cost less than $300.

Gotta Dance
Authorities fined a British pub chain $7,850 after undercover inspectors caught patrons at two of its popular bars violating licensing laws that forbid "rhythmic moving." Another pub was served two written warnings when customers were observed "swaying." The movements were determined to constitute dancing, which is banned in pubs without public entertainment licenses. "We have spent ages trying to stop people dancing," insisted Derek Andrews, a representative of the owners of the Pitcher & Piano chain, which pleaded guilty to the offenses in London. "We have signs up everywhere. Managers instruct customers. We turn the music down, rearrange the furniture and so on."

Not in Our Back Yard
Asbestos was found at the headquarters of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle, N.C. The federal agency helped educate the world about the dangers of asbestos.

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

NewsQuirks 711

Curses, Foiled Again

Police in the Russian city of Vladimir apprehended a thief who stole a television off the shelf of an electronics store under the noses of sales clerks because he returned to demand the set's warranty, remote control, antenna and instruction manual. According to the news agency ITAR-Tass, the clerks recognized the man and called the police, who found the stolen TV set at his apartment.

Aaron Bell, 19, was convicted of robbing a Kentucky Fried Chicken store in Philadelphia where he was working. He showed up without a mask or other disguise, then tried to force his boss to open the safe at 9:15 p.m., even though Bell, as an employee, should have known it has a time lock set for 9 p.m. After he and his accomplice fled without any money, Bell showed up at the restaurant three days later to work his next shift, only to be arrested. "He was acting like nothing had happened," Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney M.K. Feeney said. "It's just like you basically have to ask yourself what was he thinking."


The Los Angeles Police Department announced that it intends to ignore automated burglar alarms, explaining that they waste too much time to investigate and nine times out of 10 are false. Chief William Bratton said that the new policy would free his officers to deal with serious crime.

Austin, Texas, which proclaims itself the "live music capital of the world," is considering an ordinance to limit the hours and decibel level on the strip of music houses downtown. The measure was prompted by complaints from nearby residents.

Idea Whose Time Has Come

China's only privately owned automaker, China Geely Group, announced that it has begun production on the world's first karaoke car. The karaoke-equipped Geely Beauty Leopard goes on sale in April for $18,000.

The Truth Hurts

Fletcher Vredenburgh, 36, was forced to resign as director of New York City's Mayor's Action Center after he admitted calling New Yorkers "griping, often whining, often stupid" in an essay posted on the FightLikeApes website. In the unsigned essay written after his appointment to the $44,000-a-year job heading the center, which handles complaints about City Hall, Vredenburgh wrote, "I take painkillers, sleep a lot and think about killing every citizen and employee of New York City every minute I'm awake."


Australian authorities accused a blind man of lighting a device in his apartment, which contained enough hazardous material to blow up the entire building. Sydney police said that Andrew James Neems, 24, accessed bomb-making information from the Internet at a public library and had it translated into Braille. He was arrested after the device sparked a small fire in his kitchen, prompting discovery of the explosive material.

Instant Karma

After forcing another driver to stop abruptly during a road-rage incident outside Weatherford, Texas, B.J. Justin Lindin, 20, got out of his car, kicked and pounded the other car and threw a rock at the driver. While Lindin was returning to his car, Department of Public Safety investigator Roger Smith said, he was struck and killed by an oncoming car as it crested a hill. "To me, it was a big case of the brain not functioning," Peaster volunteer fire Capt. Mike Norris said. "Road rage is that way."

After quarreling with his girlfriend, Louis Rogers, 24, set fire to their 25th-floor apartment in Philadelphia's well-to-do Society Hill section, then leaped to a balcony one floor below. He set fire to that apartment as well. He jumped to the next floor, where a police officer confronted him as he hung from the balcony talking on his cellphone. He threw the phone at the officer, who tried to grab him before he slipped off the balcony and plummeted to his death. A next-door neighbor said Rogers kept loud birds, played music all night and sometimes leaned out his window and set things on fire.

Keeping Track

Police in Kenosha, Wis., arrested a man who reportedly used a Global Positioning System tracking device to stalk his girlfriend. The woman told investigators that her ex-boyfriend would just show up, no matter where she was, even in random places such as bars or on the highway. Police found the device attached under the hood of her car.

Moments after a woman in Dingwall, England, told her companion on the phone that her neighbor, Blair MacKay, was probably listening to their conversation, MacKay burst into her apartment and insisted, "I don't listen to phone conversations." A court fined MacKay, 32, $600 for invasion of privacy.

Nixon's Super-Duper Secret

Classified documents released in December revealed that in 1969 President Nixon ordered U.S. forces into a posture for nuclear conflict as part of a bluff that he hoped would scare the Soviet Union into forcing concessions from North Vietnam. The bluff, which Nixon described as part of his "madman" strategy, failed, the documents show, because the Soviets failed to react because they didn't care, might not have had that much influence over the North Vietnamese as Nixon believed or, like the rest of the world, might not have noticed.

Put on a Happy Face

After Britain's Royal Free Hospital claimed that facial transplants are now possible, thanks to microsurgery, the London Observer reported that a survey of 120 people, including doctors and nurses, found that although some would be willing to receive a face transplant, "not one would donate their face in the event of their death."

Third Time's a Charm

After Wilma Bennett, 79, was twice asked to leave a supermarket in Akron, Ohio, for complaining about having to wait in line to pay for her groceries, she complained a third time. Security guard Richard Shaver, 31, tried to escort her from the store, but Bennett smacked his face, then pulled a gun and threatened to shoot him. Believing it to be a toy gun, Shaver wrestled with the woman, who began kicking him. When police arrived, Bennett kicked at the officers and kicked the window frame of the cruiser door so hard that she bent it. The gun turned out to be a loaded .22-caliber revolver. "She's got a bad attitude," Shaver said, "but I'd never believe she'd go that far."

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

NewsQuirks 710

Curses, Foiled Again

Police in Edmonton, Alberta, arrested two youths who accosted a pizza delivery man and demanded the four pizzas and cash that he was carrying. The robbers, ages 17 and 18, then decided to take his car instead. Their getaway was thwarted because they didn't know how to drive a standard transmission. "It was a toss-up between pizzas and the car, and they knew how to operate pizzas," Edmonton Police representative Wes Bellmore said, adding that the suspects were apprehended after officers arriving on the scene spotted one of them entering the home where the pizzas were to be delivered.

Support Group

Thailand's health ministry announced it is dispatching a troupe of dancers to show women how to boost their bust sizes. Thai women who have been bombarded by media images of big-busted women often feel inadequate and resort to wearing ill-fitting brassieres, according to Pennapa Subcharoen, deputy director-general of the ministry's department of traditional medicine.

"Many women are not aware that wearing an appropriate size of bra and regularly taking bosom-firming dance can make their wish come true," she said. "So we are training 12 pairs of instructors to teach women how to take care of their breasts, and we plan to launch them on Valentine's Day nationwide." Pennapa added that each dance team would consist of one small-chested instructor and one large-chested instructor.

Worth the Risk

Increased cellphone use has led to more car accidents, but the value users place on being able to call from the road roughly equals the accidents' cost, according to the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. The center's study concluded that the yearly cost of accidents caused by cellphones, including medical bills and property damage, equals $43 billion. This figure is virtually the same as researchers arrived at for the value that drivers placed on the benefits of having cellphones, such as security and peace of mind, increased productivity, privacy and quicker crime and accident reporting.

First Things First

Minnesota resident Tyler Bratsch, 25, was sentenced to a year in jail after he admitted visiting pornographic, sports and music Internet sites and checking e-mail instead of watching his 13-month-old son, who drowned while taking a bath unattended.

Police in Placentia, Calif., charged Janet Chen, 31, with leaving her two young children home alone for nearly three weeks while she went to North Carolina to visit a man whom she met on the Internet. Officers, who discovered Chen's 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son after neighbors reported hearing them crying inside the apartment, said the children had been living on frozen meals, Bagel Bites and cold cereal. Chen told investigators that she had a falling out with the man but slept in her rental car for the next week rather than come home because she didn't want to pay for a new airline ticket.

Are We There Yet?

Glen and Eleanor Milligan, both 78, left their home in Stark County, Ohio, for a one-hour drive to a relative's home. When they didn't arrive, their family reported them missing. Twenty-eight hours later, Cleveland police investigating reports of a suspicious car on the city's southeast side discovered it was the missing Milligans. "They kept driving around the same neighborhood over and over again," Stark County Sheriff's Sgt. Mark Maskaluk said. "He thought he was still in Canton, Ohio."

Dorothy Woodman, 80, headed out Monday evening for a shopping trip to Washington, D.C., about 15 minutes from her home in McLean, Va. While driving home, she made a wrong turn, drove all night and wound up 250 miles away in Baden, Pa. A man at a gas station directed Woodman to a motel, where several employees offered to drive her home. She declined and decided to drive herself home. She got lost again. Tuesday afternoon, she found herself in Edgeworth, Pa. She flagged down Edgeworth resident Nancy Merrill, who noticed she seemed exhausted and drove her to the police station. She spent the night at a motel, then made the five-hour trip home Wednesday afternoon in a limousine hired by her son.

After a Greyhound bus ran into heavy traffic outside Philadelphia, the driver began taking several alternate routes looking for less congested roads. When several passengers questioned whether he knew what he was doing, the annoyed driver yelled back at them, "I'm taking you to the Taliban." The remark prompted some passengers to call police on their cellphones. Within moments, according to the Bucks County Courier Times, 18 police cars surrounded the bus and pulled it over outside Marlboro, N.J. Officers pointed their guns at the bus and ordered everyone off, then took the unidentified driver for questioning. The 30 passengers were allowed to resume their trip several hours later.


Paul Smith, 37, survived his van rolling down an embankment outside Moosic, Pa. After climbing back to the highway and walking a half-mile along the shoulder, however, he was killed by a hit-and-run driver.


A group of French chefs, writers and media celebrities announced it would petition Pope John Paul II to remove gluttony from the list of seven deadly sins. Members of the Association for the Gourmand Issue explained that the question is essentially linguistic. The word for gluttony, "la gourmandise," meant eating to excess when it was added to the French version of the Roman Catholic Church's seven sins, but today it connotes conviviality and good living. The association wants to replace it with another word, "gloutonnerie," which it said translates gluttony more accurately.

Hoping to wipe out France Telecom's $70 billion debt, union officials representing workers for the state-controlled firm in the Alsace region began selling mops for a dollar each.

A 42-year-old French motorist who drove through a police roadblock, triggering a high-speed chase that ended in a crash, told officers in Marseilles that he was being "chased by Martians." A breathalyzer test for alcohol proved negative.

Rite of Passage

The Rev. Filip Velisavljevic, the pastor of a Serbian Orthodox church in Lebanon, Pa., shot himself in the foot during a struggle with Frederick Pantelich, the church's incoming council president. "He threatened to shoot me," Pantelich said, explaining that he was trying to wrestle a semiautomatic pistol away from Velisavljevic when it fired.

When Guns Are Outlawed

Police in Calhoun County, Ark., charged Joseph D. Jefferson, 29, with bludgeoning his wife to death with a bowling ball.

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

NewsQuirks 709

Welcome Home

Vermont State Police charged Stewart Fuller, 41, of Cavendish with burglarizing his neighbor's home, then holding a three-day yard sale to sell about $30,000 worth of goods. The sale netted $547.90, police said. The investigation began after Roger and Shirley Labelle returned from a two-month absence to find their home ransacked and various neighbors in possession of their property. The couple said they thought Fuller was looking after their dog while they were away.

Another Weapon in Saddam's Arsenal

Researchers have identified a new after-effect of the first Gulf War: burning semen syndrome. Among the military veterans who suffer from the condition, semen causes burning, pain and swelling at the tip of their penis and in the vaginal areas of their partners. It also can cause severe allergic reactions in some female partners, including hives, wheezing, dizziness and unconsciousness. Dr. Leonard Bernstein of the University of Cincinnati medical school, who helped conduct a study funded by the Army, speculated that veterans might have been exposed to chemicals that changed the proteins in their semen. Noting that condoms provide protection in fewer than half the cases, Bernstein reported that in some couples, the pain is so severe "they just don't want to have sex or as much sex as they used to have."

Slightest Provocation

An unidentified 25-year-old woman attacked a cookie-stand clerk at a shopping mall in Ann Arbor, Mich., after being told that kind of cookie she wanted was unavailable. Police Sgt. Andrew Zazula said that the woman "exchanged words" with the clerk, then hit her in the face with a 2-pound box of tissue wrappers, went around the counter and punched the clerk.

Follow the Money

Police in Northampton, Mass., arrested Nikita Santor, 27, after they smelled marijuana in the car she was driving, and a search turned up marijuana and $12,000. When her parents showed up at the Hampshire County Jail to bail her out, they presented $50,000 in $20 bills. Claiming the money smelled like marijuana, police said that it might be the proceeds of drug deals and confiscated it. They also kept Santor in custody.

Expecting to receive $4.5 million promised her in a fax from the Ministry of Mining in South Africa for her help in transferring money to America, bookkeeper Ann Marie Poet, 61, paid $2.1 million in fees requested by the perpetrators of the so-called Nigerian Fraud. Since she didn't have any money of her own, the FBI said, she embezzled what she needed from the small law firm in Berkely, Mich., where she worked, wiping out the company. "She took all of our money, all of our money," Jules Olsman of Olsman Mueller & James said.

Although an FBI investigator handling the Poet case said it was "unbelievable that she fell for this," law enforcement agencies have estimated that victims of the widespread con are losing $100 million a year as a result of it. The average victim, motivated by greed, hands over $342,000 to the scammers to keep the bogus money-transfer scheme in play.

Family Values

After receiving word that the bank was going to foreclose on their home in Barnegat Township, N.J., 14-year-old twins Alicia and Chelsea Jones donned ski masks and armed themselves with a silver pellet gun. Their mother, Kathy Jones, 34, drove them to a nearby bank, then waited outside in her idling vehicle while the girls robbed the bank of $3,200, according to Ocean County prosecutor Gregory Sakowicz. Three days later, police arrested the girls and their mother, along with her husband Kelvin Jones, 37, and an unidentified 16-year-old stepdaughter.

Lowered Expectations

If jet airliners flew lower, their engines would emit more carbon dioxide, but researchers at London's Imperial College suggested that the overall effect would be to reduce the impact on global warming. Their findings indicated that if aircraft reduced their altitude from about 33,000 feet to between 24,000 feet and 31,000 feet, they would stop producing contrails, comprising water vapor and ice, that form in an aircraft's wake. Persisting for several hours, contrails trap heat in the atmosphere. An earlier study of the effect on climate by the three-day grounding of aircraft following Sept. 11, 2001, concluded that contrails add more than 1 degree Celsius to the atmospheric temperature.

Best-Laid Plans

Army Spc. Jonathan Meadows, 20, was charged with attempted murder after police in Fayetteville, N.C., said he tried to stage his own disappearance to get out of the Army by searching the Internet for a man who looked like him. According to sheriff's Detective Barbara Davenport, Meadows found Stephen "Jeremy" Bowen, lured him to his home, tied him up and cut his throat, assuming authorities would mistake Bowen's body for his. Instead, the victim survived. He pulled the 8-inch blade from his throat, cut ropes around his hands and feet and ran to a nearby house. Meadows surrendered shortly after.

Word Play

Lionel Letizi, a goalkeeper for the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team, missed two of his team's games because of injuries he suffered while playing Scrabble. Bloomberg News reported that Letizi dropped one of the letter tiles, then hurt muscles in his back when he reached down to pick it up.

Carry-on Baggage

Robert Cusack was undergoing a routine inspection after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport from Thailand when customs agents opened his suitcase, and a bird of paradise flew out. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns said the agents found three more birds in his bags, tucked into nylon stockings, along with 50 rare orchids. Asked by agents if he had anything else to declare, Cusack responded, "Yes, I've got monkeys in my pants." Agents confiscated two pygmy monkeys. Cusack was sentenced to 57 days in jail after pleading guilty to smuggling.

Timing Is Everything

Two men wearing ski masks and carrying at least one AK-47 assault rifle ambushed two armored car guards who had just arrived to pick up deposits from an automated teller machine at a bank in Berkeley, Calif. The gunmen opened fire, killing one of the guards and wounding the other, before fleeing with the guards' bank bag, which was empty. "They shot us before we had a chance to open the ATM," Brinks guard John Buzzard, 36, said from his hospital bed. "It was all for nothing."

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

NewsQuirks 708

Slightest Provocations

Sharif Cook, 27, of Camden, N.J., was indicted on charges that he fatally shot his boss because he failed to pick Cook up for work.

Milwaukee police said they were looking for a 13-to-15-year-old suspect who shot Tyrone Turnage, 17, twice during a basketball scrimmage at a church recreation center after a dispute over a foul.

A charity fund-raiser in Revere, Mass., hosted by New England Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest ended in a brawl involving 300 people. Police said the fight was caused by tensions over long coat-check lines as people left. Police in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., reported that Irving Rosenberg, 74, died when he fell and hit his head on the sidewalk after being punched by Seymour Schuss, 68. Witnesses said that Schuss's wife complained that Rosenberg was taking too long to buy movie tickets. Rosenberg told her to shut up, and Seymour Schuss attacked him.

Police in St. Paul, Minn., who arrested Richard Brian Bruestle, 38, for murdering his 50-year-old aunt said that he told them he shot and stabbed the woman after an argument over the way her chili tasted. When he complained, she ordered him to leave and tried to call 911. He stopped her, then chased her to a neighbor's house, where he stabbed her about 15 times in the back, chest and stomach with a butcher's knife. According to the criminal complaint, Bruestle told police "he decided to 'finish this right,' so he went back to the house and got the gun and went back to the neighbor's house and fired it repeatedly at the victim."

Career Move

Koko, the 31-year-old lowland gorilla who is famous for using sign language to communicate with humans, has written lyrics for a musical album. According to Koko's keepers, the album, titled "Fine Animal Gorilla" after Koko's term for herself, runs the musical gamut, from lullabies to rap to reggae. Producer Skip Haynes explained that although Koko doesn't perform on the album, she approves the lyrics sung by human vocalists and "actually listens to different mixes and tells us what mix she likes."

The Price of Free Speech

Two years ago, the town of Virgin, Utah, passed a law requiring every home to have a gun for self-defense. The ordinance was later declared a violation of state law. Last year, Virgin Mayor Jay Lee decided that Town Council meetings were too long, so he began charging residents that wanted to speak at them $25. In October, dozens of people packed the council chamber for a meeting, only to have Lee announce that this time he was canceling the public comment period to save time.

Homeland Security

Richard H. Barnes Jr. bolted a trailer with a 100-gallon fuel tank to his Mazda sedan, then set off from San Antonio, Texas, determined to make it to New York City without refueling in honor of Veterans Day. On the way, Barnes stopped in Washington, D.C., where Capitol police spotted his rig in a no-parking zone outside the U.S. Capitol. After seeing the sign on the trailer, "One 100 gal tank on all way to NYC," and noticing decals mentioning the Fire Department of New York and the World Trade Center, officers summoned fire department officials, who declared it a "potentially very dangerous situation." Police confiscated the trailer and ticketed Barnes for operating an unsafe vehicle.

Thanks for Nothing

New Orleans police accused Herbert Toney, 36, and Latisha Washington, 29, of instructing their 8-year-old son to steal groceries and beer from a supermarket, then when he was caught denied knowing him. The boy set off a security scanner alarm when he tried to leave the store with a shopping cart containing the stolen items, but he said his father, who was outside the store, had a receipt. Toney and Washington told store security officers they didn't know the child and walked away. Sheriff's deputies brought them back to the store, where they said they recognized the boy from their neighborhood. After more questioning, the mother admitted he was their son.

Siren Song

Government Acquisitions LLC of Charlotte, N.C., has begun selling advertising space on patrol cars owned by cash-strapped police departments around the country. Departments that agree to put ads on its patrol cars, usually on the hood or on the side and rear, receive new patrol cars for $1 from the company, which replaces them every three years and keeps the ad revenue. So far, 20 mostly smaller municipalities have signed up. "Due to a lack of government funding and tight budgets, police departments across America don't have the equipment they need," Ken Allison, president of Government Acquisitions, said. "If you're home at night with your wife and kids, and some maniac breaks into your house, you call 911 and you want a police car there. You don't care if there's Burger King logo on the trunk.

Lesson Learned

When an armed man broke into the home of Theodore and Marion Golden of Chatham, Mass., he demanded $10,000 in cash. The couple, both in their 80s, told him they only had $450 but offered to write a check for the balance. Police said Theodore Golden deliberately filled out the check wrong, listing the payee as "Ten thousand dollars" and never filling in an individual's name. Vadin S. Kharichkov, 21, was arrested the next day when he tried to cash the check. The Russian citizen told Detective David R. Hagstrom that he wasn't familiar with U.S. banking procedures.

Instant Karma

Two days after Evelyn Krzeminski, 82, of Adams, Mass., was convicted of vehicular homicide for running down a 61-year-old woman in a pedestrian crosswalk, she was knocked to the ground in a parking lot by a car driven by a 74-year-old man who had stopped to close his trunk but neglected to put the transmission in park. The fall seriously injured Krzeminski's left hand.


Louisiana oyster distributor Leroy "Lee Lee" Chauvin, 70, received complaints after he perfected a process for purifying oysters and began advertising them as "Certified Kosher." Shellfish, he learned, cannot be kosher. Chauvin explained that he labeled his oysters because he remembered a Jewish cook he met in the 1950s telling him that kosher meant food was pure.

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

NewsQuirks 707

A Year to Remember (Already)

The nation's official "First Baby of the Year" was a 5-pound 2-ounce girl born one minute after midnight on New Year's Day at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital in Fairfax County, Va. The infant girl was conceived through artificial insemination and has two mothers: Helen Rubin, 33, who gave birth, and Joanna Bare, 35, her partner. The biological father is a family friend whom the couple declined to name.

The first baby of the year in Hernando County, Fla., was a 7-pound 10-ounce girl born to Cynthia Colon and her fiance, David Jose Orama. When the newspaper reported the milestone event, Sheriff's Deputy Neil Sullivan recognized Orama's name, drove to the hospital and arrested the 23-year-old construction worker for violating his probation on a DUI charge and failing to appear in court for driving with a suspended license.

Forty-six people were injured during a New Year's celebration in the Hillbrow district of Johannesburg, South Africa, by falling beds, televisions, bottles and rocks. "It is customary in Hillbrow," a police representative said, "for people to celebrate the New Year by throwing objects off their balconies."

Mensa Reject of the Week

Matt George, 21, was hospitalized in critical condition in Yacolt, Wash., after kissing his new rattlesnake while showing it to friends. "I said, 'OK, man, you're being stupid, put it away,'" Jim Roban recalled. "He said, 'It's OK, I do it all the time.'" After the second kiss, the 2-foot snake bit George under his mustache.

Let Them Eat Cake

New York officials, faced with a record 37,000 homeless people seeking access to city-run shelters every night, said they are considering turning cruise ships into temporary shelters. The ships would be ones that have been retired from service and would be tied up at city docks, according to a representative of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who explained, "We are thinking outside of the box."

One Way or Another

When Philadelphia police arrested Alex Torro, 28, on rape charges and placed him in a holding cell, he set himself on fire. Prosecutors dropped the rape charges but ordered Torro to stand trial for arson.

After Georgia authorities commuted the death sentence of Alexander Williams, 34, to life in prison, the inmate at the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville used the shirt from his prison uniform to hang himself.

Bless the Homeland--Or Else

The Defense Department confirmed that its Total Information Awareness program, authorized by the homeland security bill, will develop a centralized data-collection system to let the federal government monitor e-mail, Internet use, credit-card transactions, airline ticket purchases, and phone and bank records of anyone it suspects of posing a terrorist threat. The program falls under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is headed by retired Adm. John Poindexter, the national security adviser during the Reagan administration who was convicted (later unconvicted) of lying to Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal. Following word of his hiring, Internet activists set up a website to track and post all of Poindexter's personal transactions.

Digital Evolution

Video games, cellphones and other electronics devices with small keypads are altering the form and function of the human hand, according to a study of mobile-phone users in nine cities worldwide. "The younger generation has taken to using thumbs in a completely different way," the study's author, Dr. Sadie Plant, said. "They are instinctively using it where the rest of us use our index fingers."

Fatal Attraction

Sisters Sheila Wentworth, 45, and Doris Jean Hall, 51, were on their way t o visit each other, driving Jeeps in opposite directions on a rural highway 35 miles south of Birmingham, Ala., when one of their vehicles crossed the center line and collided head-on with the other. Both women were killed, as was Hall's husband.

Comfort and Joy

Churches are moving away from rigid, wooden pews, replacing them with roomy, padded chairs with cup holders, according to manufacturers. Les Lundberg, worship sales manager for Irwin Seating Co., said that theater-style seats are especially popular in large, new Christian churches, Southern Baptist churches and synagogues. "For many first-timers, the only way they make contact with the church is on their behind," said Steve Korn, a teaching pastor at CedarCreek Church in suburban Toledo, Ohio. "If they're comfortable, like the service and the building, they'll probably come back."

Churches are also installing better sound systems to amplify the word of God. Bigger churches have used such systems for years, but the Washington Post reported that even smaller churches are joining in, featuring dozens of microphones and high-performance speakers, as well as elaborate video systems that use strategically placed cameras to project pastors, choirs and worshippers on wall-size screens. "Worship is a form of entertainment," said Al Perry, technical adviser for media ministry at Fort Foote Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md., which included a $300,000 audiovisual system as part of its new $6 million sanctuary. "If people are not entertained, they don't feel like they're participating."

Occupational Hazard

Scott A. Winner, 36, a dairy farmer in Darke County, Ohio, drowned when his tractor slid into a manure lagoon. Relatives and farm workers were unable to rescue Winner, according to the sheriff's office, because of the force applied to the outside of the tractor cab by the liquid.

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

When Mark Vaughn found his family had been locked out of their home in Fort Worth, Texas, he decided that rather than listen to his mother-in-law, who told him to call a locksmith, he would try climbing down the chimney. After he got wedged in the chimney and had to be rescued, he explained that he got the idea from the chimney sweep character played by Dick Van Dyke in the movie "Mary Poppins," which he had just seen.

Trucker's Delight

Wolo Manufacturing of Deer Park, N.Y., has developed a solution to the problem of truck air horns burning out if used too long and too loud. Using digital-sound technology, a powerful amplifier and a heavy-duty speaker, the company's device plays a recording of an air horn at a rate and volume that mimics a honking driver.

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

NewsQuirks 705 Year-end Review

The slumping economy, preparation for war with Iraq and the elections dominated media coverage this year. There were plenty of less noticed stories, however, which perhaps were even more indicative of what's really going on in, not just in the United States but the world over. Here are the quirkiest news dispatches that crossed our desk in 2002.

Asstrologist of the Year

Ulf Buck, 39, a blind German psychic, claimed to be able to tell people's futures by feeling their naked buttocks.


When Levi Strauss & Co. introduced a new line of its Dockers pants fitted with "anti-radiation" pockets for protection against cellphones, company spokesperson Cedric Jungpeter insisted, "We're not implying in any way that mobile phones are dangerous."

Japanese cell-phone maker NTT DoCoMo said it is developing a lip-reading phone to rid public places of noise caused by rude users shouting into handsets.

Curses, Foiled Again

Fugitive Michael LaRock, 22, eluded authorities for a year before calling police in Ticonderoga, N.Y., to boast that he would never be caught. He pointed out he would hang up within three minutes because he knew how phone numbers could be traced. He forgot about Caller ID, however. Police almost immediately tracked LaRock to a number in Auburn, Ga., and notified local police, who got the address from the number and arrested him. Los Angeles police arrested Tyrone Jermaine Hogan, 20, after he tried to carjack a vehicle carrying a judo club from Florida International University. Hogan jumped into their minivan at a gas station and started to drive off. The students piled on the suspect and hit him several times, then put him in a body hold until police arrived.

Adam J. Kelly Jr., 34, an employee of the Dragon Garden Chinese Restaurant in Houma, La., broke into the restaurant after it had closed but found the owner and another worker still inside. He grabbed a meat cleaver and threw it at them, causing minor injuries but leaving himself without a weapon. The victims grabbed Kelly, pounded him with a chair and a pipe, then called the police.

Federal agents in San Antonio, Texas, arrested Humberto Perez, 31, for falsely claiming that his truck was stolen and receiving cash for a new one after he called a radio show to brag about the crime. FBI agent Steve McGraw was listening to the Spanish-language program "What Is Your Biggest Lie?" when the caller recounted details of his scam. He also supplied the time and place of the incident, enabling McGraw to check stolen vehicle reports and identify Perez.

When police showed up at a Boston pizza restaurant where two armed men were holding several employees hostage while waiting for the time lock on the safe to open, the gunmen ditched their weapons and pretended to be hostages. The real hostages quickly pointed them out. When police in Tulsa, Okla., chased burglary suspect Edward Jerome McBride, 37, to the Arkansas River, he jumped in hoping to evade capture. Instead, he drowned because his pockets were stuffed with jewelry, and he wouldn't let go of a duffel bag full of stolen goods that weighed nearly 50 pounds.

Altruists of the Year

Workers at Romania's ARO Campulung car factory volunteered to help the plant erase its $20 million debt by selling sperm after they learned that a fertility clinic in Timisoara was offering donors $50 a visit. Trade union leader Ion Cotescu hailed the solution as "one that even the best economists have never thought of."

When Guns Are Outlawed

Authorities in Madeira Beach, Fla., charged Frank J. Ashmus, 46, with stabbing Garth Spacek, 42, in the stomach with the bill of a swordfish after an argument.

Pig and a Poke

Keaton Lynch Brown, 18, a contestant in Georgetown College's "Belle of the Blue" beauty and scholarship pageant, told police that Kathy Wallace, director of student activities at the Lexington, Ky., school, attacked her during a pageant rehearsal because her talent presentation included a lasso demonstration that ended with her roping a stuffed pig. "There was some controversy," fellow contestant Suzanne Lunsford, 20, said, "over whether her talent was ladylike."


Workers had already built two sections of a new 7,500-foot runway at Tokyo's Narita international airport when local farmers refused to sell land located at what was to have been the center. Airport officials lengthened one completed strip by 2,400 feet and abandoned the other. To prevent planes from mistakenly landing on the 1,290-foot-long unusable section, the New Tokyo International Airport Authority covered the concrete strip with green paint and camouflage netting to make it look like a field.

Optimists of the Year

Twenty-six banks and credit unions banks in the Springfield, Mo., area decided to combat a rise in robberies by posting signs at their 141 locations in the Ozarks asking visitors to remove their hats and sunglasses as they enter to make identification easier.

Official Findings

After the body of University of Colorado at Davis student Andrew Wieman was found in his fraternity house bedroom with 29 stab wounds, Yolo County coroner's officials concluded that the wounds were self-inflicted and ruled the death a suicide.

Second-Amendment Follies

Police in Largo, Fla., said that 300-pound Clinton H. Williams, 39, died while sitting on his couch when his weight caused a .45-caliber handgun that he kept hidden in the cushions to fire accidentally. Police in Colorado Springs, Colo., reported that a suspect who was running away from an officer attempted to fire a gun at the officer. He shot himself in the face.

Kimberly Fennessey saw her friend Anthony Milazzo cleaning his .22-caliber pistol at his home in Bryan, Texas, and asked to see if it worked. Milazzo suggested she test it by firing at a Teflon-coated frying pan. The bullet ricocheted off the pan and struck her in the head. Robert E. Slay Sr., 55, accidentally shot himself in the leg while trying on pants at an outlet store in Gonzales, La., when a .38-caliber derringer fell out of his hip pocket and discharged.

Role Model

After inviting former Suffolk, Va., businessman Mark Grethen, 44, to Washington, D.C., to accept a Republican of the Year award, GOP officials quickly rescinded the invitation when they learned that Grethen is serving a 26-year prison sentence for sex crimes involving children.

United We Stand

New York authorities charged 22 people with falsely reporting the deaths of family members in the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks to try to collect more than $760,000 in government and private relief funds. Leading the fraud perpetrators was a Lansing, Mich., man who collected $272,000 after reporting that his brother had been at a meeting at the World Trade Center. In fact, the brother never existed.

City prosecutors also indicated that as many as 4,000 municipal workers used automated teller machines to steal $15 million from their credit union after its computer system was damaged in the attacks. As word of the computer glitch spread, the suspects repeatedly withdrew as much as $500 a day from ATMs, even if their accounts didn't have the money, including one woman who took out $18,000 more than she had in her account.

Fifth-Commandment Follies

Allan O'Keefe III, 45, received 90 days in prison for selling all his parents' possessions while they were out of the country on an extended business trip. "We had given Allan everything growing up," said the man's mother, Carol O'Keefe, "and he left us with nothing."

Silver Lining

Researchers at Belgium's Royal Observatory said that global warming is going to make days longer, adding a millionth of a second over the course of a year.

Slightest Provocations

Authorities in Johnson County, Texas, charged Clayton Frank Stoker, 21, with fatally shooting Johnny Joslin, 20, while the two men argued over who would go to heaven and who was going to hell. Police charged Kevin E. French, 45, of Horseheads, N.Y., with shooting his neighbor Nicholas Lanzillotto, 53, because he was upset over how often Lanzillotto mowed his lawn. Police in Mansfield Township, N.J., charged Emmanuel Nieves, 23, with using a knife to slash his friend, Erik Saporito, 21, after the two men argued over which one of them had the hairiest butt.

Litigation Nation

Laren Sims, 36, a murder suspect who hanged herself while being held in a Hernando County, Fla., jail, left a suicide note asking her lawyer to sue the jail because it failed to prevent her from killing herself. Richard Goddard Jr. and David Winkleman sued Davenport, Iowa, radio station KORB after they had the station's logo permanently tattooed across their foreheads expecting to receive $150,000. Instead, they learned the offer by disc jockey Benjamin Stomberg was a joke.

Bad Vibes

Voters in Sausalito, Calif., rejected a proposal to build a $7.8 million police and fire building after a citizens group complained that the facility would destroy the appearance of the city and violate its feng shui, or harmonious energy flow. "Harmony is important in Sausalito," Mayor J.R. Roberts said.

Land of the Setting Sun

Six Japanese high school students were disqualified from a judo tournament in Utsunomiya because their shaved eyebrows gave them an unfair advantage. "We have banned thin eyebrows because they are intimidating to opponents and cause displeasure," tournament organizer Tatsuo Kakizaki said. To help commuters relax during the summertime heat and humidity, the Japanese train company Fuji Kyuko began serving its Friday night passengers all the locally brewed beer they can drink during the two-hour trip, even though the trains have no restrooms.

Rescue Me

A 73-year-old woman spent 20 minutes trapped in a newspaper vending machine outside a Wal-Mart store in Geneseo, Ill., because no one would put 50 cents in the machine to unlock the spring-loaded mechanism that was holding her.
A woman in Montebello, Colo., phoned for help when tumbleweeds piled up 16 feet high against the door to her home. Four firefighters took 30 minutes to clear a 25-foot path through the tumbleweeds, which were mostly about 3 feet in diameter and filled the yard. "We probably moved 200 tumbleweeds, and there were thousands there," Lt. Angela Cook of the Denver Fire Department said. "We barely made a dent."

What's on Your Mind?

Officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration told airline security specialists that the agency is developing brain-monitoring devices that could be used to read the minds of airline travelers "to detect passengers who potentially might pose a threat."

Side Effects

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta credited catalytic converters, which are designed to convert automobile exhaust into harmless gases, for the decline in the number of people who killed themselves by inhaling carbon monoxide from automobiles from 10 per million in 1975 to 4.9 per million last year.

Candid Camera

Police in Brighton Township, Pa., arrested Donald W. Barto, 53, for secretly videotaping his wife and children for nearly eight years.

Get the Message?

AT&T Universal Card Services responded to a credit card application from Dallas Hill Jr. of Telford, Tenn., by sending him 2,986 letters of rejection.

Off-Road Adventure

Lon Ungerman, 48, of Grand Junction, Colo., caused more than $60,000 in damages after he ran into three houses and through two fences while trying to back out of his driveway. After one homeowner confronted Ungerman and told him he needed to drive forward, Ungerman said he thought he had been going forward.

Wide Loads

After losing 800 pounds over the past 10 years, Jeanette Standard of Pendleton, Ore., declared that she is grateful to weigh just 435 pounds. "I can go to Wal-Mart and buy clothes off the rack," the 5-foot-2 woman said after surgeons removed 110 pounds of lap that hung down to her shins. "And I can go out with pride without worrying about people saying, 'Look at that fat person.'"

Science to the Rescue

An Osaka university research team announced that it has "enhanced the healthful properties of pork fat by transplanting a spinach gene into a pig." Thailand said it hopes to reduce dependency on imported fossil fuels by turning the excrement of its prison population into energy. North Korea's government awarded its top science prize to an herbal medicine for constipation that combines marijuana and rhubarb. Traffic engineers, anticipating that drivers will be confused by a 9-mile elevated, reversible-lanes bridge connecting Brandon and Tampa, Fla., scheduled to open in 2004, announced they will install a giant net to snare errant vehicles. The device, dubbed the Dragnet, will be similar to equipment used on aircraft carriers to prevent landing planes from overshooting the carrier deck.

In case a comet or asteroid ever threatens to collide with Earth, Oklahoma State University scientist Hermann Burchard recommended sending spacecraft to inflate a giant bag several miles wide to deflect the heavenly menace gently but still keep it intact. Calling his idea "safe, simple and realistic idea," Burchard conceded that details still have to be worked out, including the material to use for the cosmic air bag.

Out on a Limb

Two days before Rodolfo Hernandez, 52, was scheduled to be executed in Huntsville, Texas, state prison officials turned down his request for an artificial leg. He had told them he wanted to "walk like a man" to the death chamber.

Trash Talking

The Taiwanese city of Tainan equipped its garbage trucks with loudspeakers to teach citizens English while picking up their trash. "Even grandmothers and grandfathers will be able to speak the most basic conversational English after listening for a few dozen times," Mayor Hsu Tain-tsair said, crediting his wife with the idea. "This is Tainan's first step toward internationalization."

Irony Illustrated

Susie Stephens, 36, regarded as the world's leading expert on road safety, was attending a conference in St. Louis on how to cut road deaths when she dashed across a street and was killed when a tour bus struck her.

The Last Laugh

Deciding to play a joke on his wife, Jeffrey Price Barber, 44, smeared ketchup all over himself, grabbed his .22-caliber rifle, fired a shot and lay down on the floor of their home in Richburg, S.C. His wife heard the shot, found his body and called 911. When sheriff's deputies responded, Barber explained what had happened, but they checked, found out that he had a police record and arrested him for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Waste Not, Want Not

The Saskatoon Star Phoenix reported that drug-addicted women at a Saskatchewan jail were drinking each other's vomit to get high off methadone administered by the jail.

Bad News for Picnics

Scientists discovered a supercolony of ants stretching almost 4,000 miles from the Italian Riviera along the coastline to northwest Spain.

Only the Lonely

People who watch certain television programs think they have more friends than they actually do, according to a study by sociologist Satoshi Kanazawa of Indiana University. He said the brain's mechanisms for recognizing friends evolved long before TV was developed, so the subconscious mind regards any face it sees regularly as a real-life friend, even if it's on TV.

The Wheels on the Bus Go Thud and Thud

Rear wheels fell off Baltimore city buses once in January, three times in February, twice in March, four times in April and six times in May. Some of the runaway 200-pound wheels rolled into cars, buildings and a natural-gas tank, which ruptured and leaked. After transit officials announced they had taken steps to solve the problem by retrofitting 400 buses with new equipment and revised maintenance standards, one of them lost two rear wheels.

Easy Money

Coinstar, a 10-year-old company in Bellevue, Wash., whose machines charge 8.9 percent to count people's loose change, projected its second-quarter earnings at $36.5 million.

Better Red Than Dead

Hoping to reduce the number of koalas killed by cars each year, authorities in the Australian shire of Redland began painting dead koalas red and leaving them beside the road to alert motorists to drive more carefully.

In Columbus's Wake

Spanish count Alvaro de Marichalar Saenz de Tejada became the first person to cross the Atlantic on a personal watercraft, making the 5,200-mile journey from Rome to Miami in 117 days aboard a 9-foot Bombardier Sea-Doo.

Peerless Panels

Charged with possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, Roderick B. Carter, 24, won a new trial in Miami after his lawyer argued that too many potential jurors had last names starting with the letter "G." The second jury acquitted Carter.

Heads Up

After Lithuania took a 1-0 lead against Germany in a European under-21 soccer championship-qualifying match, the Germans bounced back to a 4-1 win. Three of Germany's goals were scored by Lithuania's players, including two from Gerdas Aleksa, who struck the ball past his own goalkeeper.

Tell the Truth

When Christopher Whelan, 28, called 911 to report that he had stabbed his 60-year-old mother to death at their home in Bucks County, Pa., he noticed she was still squirming and groaning. He interrupted the call, picked up the knife and finished the job.

Driven to Distraction

Iris Jazmin Rangel, 24, pleaded guilty in Tucson, Ariz., to causing the death of her 10-month-old daughter. Rangel was breast-feeding the infant while driving her pickup truck when she rear-ended another vehicle that stopped abruptly. The truck's air bag inflated, striking the baby.

Every Lynch Mob Needs a Dictionary

Police in south Wales confirmed that vandals attacked the home of Dr. Yvette Cloete because they confused her professional title, pediatrician, with the word pedophile.

Tell It Like It Is

Evangelist Orlando Bethel followed other ministers to the microphone at his wife's uncle's funeral in Loxley, Ala., but instead of echoing their assurances that the deceased had gone to a better place, he declared that Devan Taylor, 56, had gone to hell. Glenita Andrews, a cousin of Taylor's, said, "Orlando and Devan had some problems."

Positive Energy

Italian priests at a Milan church noticed when a young South American couple started sitting in front of a Madonna statue for an hour each day before silently departing. The priests assumed the couple was seeking spiritual guidance until they discovered that the visitors were using the electrical outlet used to light up the Madonna to charge their cell phone.

Bucket Brigade

Twice in June, firefighters in Washington, D.C., had to resort to borrowing ordinary garden hoses to battle house fires because their official equipment was inoperative.

Auto Erotica

When Ontario police stopped a car south of Barrie, the officer said he was "astonished" to discover that the couple was having sex while they were driving.

Election Follies

More than 27,000 people voted for former Ohio Rep. James A Traficant Jr., who ran his re-election campaign from a Pennsylvania prison cell, where he is serving eight years for bribery and racketeering. Montana Republican Mike Taylor announced he was quitting his race against Democratic Sen. Max Baucus because a Democratic Party commercial implied he was a gay hairdresser. The ad used footage from a Colorado TV beauty program that Taylor hosted in the 1980s, showing him massaging another man's face. Another of Baucus's opponents, Libertarian Stan Jones, 63, turned blue during the campaign. He said his new skin color resulted from taking colloidal silver, a natural anti-bacterial supplement, in 1999 because he feared that year-2000 disruptions might lead to a shortage of antibiotics.

Ultimate Protection

The Uttar Pradesh Cow Protection Commission, a Hindu nationalist group, began advising people to smear themselves with cow dung in the event of a nuclear war, insisting that it will protect them against radiation. The group also recommends daubing buildings with dung for protection against fallout.

Fatherland Security

German security officials at Berlin's Tegel airport detained a passenger aboard a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt when he emerged from the lavatory. "He was on the toilet for quite some time," Lufthansa representative Thomas Jachnow said. "That was enough reason to alert the federal border police."

Chow Down

The New Jersey medical company Transneuronix developed an electric shock device intended to control appetites. The implant zaps the stomach with a tiny 10-milliampere current for 2 seconds, 12 times a minute, slowing down peristalsis to control hunger and restricting the amount of food that enters and leaves the stomach. The company said that the device can be switched on whenever a patient feels the urge to binge or left on all the time. Scientists announced the discovery of an enzyme in muscle that, when activated, can mimic the effects of exercise. Lead researcher R. Sanders Williams of Duke University suggested that the finding could one day lead to "exercise in a bottle" pills.

Guilty with an Explanation

When Charles Digiglio, 34, pleaded guilty to crashing into a school bus in Jim Thorpe, Pa., he explained that he had fallen asleep at the wheel because he worked late the night before making counterfeit checks. Theodore Maher, 44, admitted setting a fire that killed two people in Monaco but insisted that the deaths would have been averted if police had not blocked firefighters from trying to rescue the victims.

You Snooze, You Lose

Refco Group, a Chicago futures trading firm, fired two clerks whose job was to sort completed orders after the Chicago Sun-Times published a photograph of them sleeping at their desks just a few feet from frantic trading in a stock index futures pit at the Chicago Board of Trade. Nearby, paper streamed from a printer onto the floor.

Sky-High Antics

Weeks after introducing its newest planes, the $200 million Airbus A340-600, Virgin Airlines said it is having to replace plastic tables intended for changing diapers in its "mother and baby room" because passengers have broken them while having sex on them.

It's Not Unusual

Singer Tom Jones complained that even though women still throw their underwear at him, it usually hasn't been worn. When the tradition began in the 1960s, Jones said, "the whole thing was authentic. Nowadays they bring along a plastic bag with their underwear in it."

Got to Admit It's Getting Better

On Nov. 4, officials lowered the death toll from the Sept. 11, 2001, collapse of New York's World Trade Center to 2,795 after locating five persons who had been reported missing and feared dead and discovering one victim who had been listed twice. The initial estimate had been more than 6,000 deaths.

Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press.

NewsQuirks 706

Curses, Foiled Again

German authorities arrested two postal workers for stealing high-tech equipment from the mail after they tried to sell the gear to a second-hand dealer in Nuremberg. Police representative Peter Schnellinger said the dealer recognized the package as the same one he had taken to the post office that morning.

A German bank robber was arrested after holding up a bank in Giessen because he forgot to cut eyeholes in the burlap bag that he pulled over his head to disguise his identity. Bumping into bank customers on his way to the teller, he pulled out a plastic knife and a toy pistol. He then lifted the front of his mask to look at the teller and demand money, but when the teller told him the safe couldn't be opened, the robber fled. Authorities easily identified him from the security cameras behind the teller. "He was a real amateur," Giessen police representative Gerald Frost told the newspaper Bild. "He lifted the mask and looked straight into the camera."

South African police arrested an 18-year-old man in East London after they saw him rob a woman at gunpoint. She told officers the thief took her cellphone, but when they searched the suspect, they didn't find it. "While they were in the charge room, one of the officers decided to call the number," police representative Michelle Matroos told Reuters news agency. "They heard the phone go off, and when they searched the suspect they found it in his underpants."

Don't Let Them Bite

Bedbugs are making a comeback after being virtually wiped out in the 1950s and 1960s. Some scientists blame their return on yard sales. "They're traditionally transferred between premises in furniture," Ian Burgess, director of the British-based company Insect Research & Development Ltd., told New Scientist magazine. "It could be anything from a bed frame or architrave to a hi-fi, anything that has cracks and crevices."

Quiet Time

Two British mental health workers told an inquest that when they visited patient Patricia Harris, 43, a paranoid schizophrenic, she sat in the kitchen with her back to them the whole time and didn't respond when they talked to her. "She didn't seem to want us there," one worker said. After they left, a subsequent investigation determined that Harris didn't answer because she was dead.

The Emperor's New Clothes

When a man walked into a bank in Tehran and began snatching banknotes from the hands of customers, they immediately overpowered him and handed him over to authorities. Appearing in court, the thief declared that he had paid $625 to a man who promised to make him invisible so he could rob banks. The newspaper Jam-e Jam reported that police were looking for the phony sorcerer.

Occupational Hazards

When English soccer star Jeff Astle died last year at age 59, the coroner's report ruled it "death by industrial disease." Consulting neurological pathologist Dr. Derek Robson explained that Astle suffered from a degenerative brain disease caused by heading the heavy leather ball so many times during his pro career.

Stranger in a Strange Land

A Gambian man who had recently moved to Germany called police in the town of Hildesheim to report that vandals had painted his car white overnight. Investigators determined that the African immigrant had looked down from his apartment window and seen snow covering the car. "To him it looked like paint when he was looking down on the car from the fifth floor," police representative Walter Wallott told Reuters.


South African police charged mechanic Willem Koen, 78, with murdering his helper, Nketu Motsei, after Motsei was shot in the back by a shotgun that Koen had rigged to protect his business from burglars. "These two had standing arrangements that they switch on and off this shotgun when they came into and left work," police representative Rosa Benade said. "It seems this employee forgot to switch off the shotgun on the day in question."

Rolling Back the Clock

Nestle announced the development of a drink that can reverse aging in both people and pets. The beverage, which consists of antioxidants, rice carbohydrate and fish protein, mimics the effects of starvation to stimulate the mitochondria found in most cells to produce more ATP, the fuel that powers cells. Nestle claimed the concoction "restored age-related deficits" in dogs and has similar rejuvenating effects on people.


Swedish doctors treated a 50-year-old scientist whose laptop computer burned his genitals. According to a letter in The Lancet medical journal from Claes-Gorn Ostenson of the Karolinska Institute, the man remembered feeling a burning sensation after he had been writing a report at home for about an hour with the computer on his lap. An examination showed that "the ventral part of his scrotal area had turned red, and there was a blister with a diameter of about 2 centimeters," wrote Ostenson, who noted that although the computer manual did warn against operating it directly on exposed skin, the patient had lap burns even though he had been wearing pants and undershorts.

No Time Like the Present

Convicted robber John Ndirangu Njuguna, 40, waited until his 21-year sentence in a Kenyan jail was just five months from ending to escape. After changing into a shirt and pants that had been left for him under a tree, he headed to Nairobi, the capital, using money his fellow convicts had raised for his journey. On arriving at Nairobi, he went to see Commissioner of Prisons Abraham Kamakil to complain that guards and some inmates at Embu jail were endangering prisoners' lives by selling their food rations. The Daily Nation newspaper reported that Kamakil served Njuguna cold drinks and promised to investigate the allegations.

Knit Fit

New Zealand's Parliament has banned government ministers from knitting while overseeing debates. The rule was prompted by the appearance of Associate Commerce Minister Judith Tizard, who pulled out her knitting needles while lawmakers debated a trade bill she was there to answer questions about. After opposition leader Bill English accused Tizard of showing the "contempt and arrogance" of the Labor-led government toward Parliament, Speaker Jonathan Hunt ruled that "knitting is permitted in the house but is not permitted from the minister's chair."

Retired lawmaker Marilyn Waring admitted to knitting 32 garments during her nine years in Parliament. She wrote in her autobiography that it was her only productive accomplishment.

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

NewsQuirks 704

Curses, Foiled Again

Police in Las Vegas, Nev., said that a man attempting to rob a tobacco shop with a sawed-off shotgun stole a pack of cigarettes, removed one cigarette, started smoking it. Then he accidentally shot himself in the head. In Taunton, Mass., police arrested bank robbery suspect Joaquim Grace, 28, after he popped into a bar two blocks from the bank and ordered a beer. Police searched the bar after witnesses said they saw a man running there. The bar manager told the officers that Grace, a regular customer, had appeared to be sweating before he called a cab and left. They went to his last-known address, where they found him and some of the stolen money. "He stopped to have a beer after robbing the bank," Detective Dennis M. Smith told the Brockton Enterprise, "and that's what did him in."


Sean Gifford, director of campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and an unidentified man in a cow suit showed up at a school in Aberdeen, Scotland, expecting to educate the pupils about the perils of drinking milk. Instead, about 100 children, armed with cartons of milk and shouting "milk for the masses," surrounded the pair and pelted them both with milk for about 10 minutes until police intervened. "I think they just got a bit over-excited," Gifford said after his rescue. "I'm sure they will still go home and think about our message."

Crime Pays

A computer error at three Florida prisons added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the canteen accounts of 186 inmates for at least 10 months, enabling them to go on a spending spree and order cigarettes, candy, vending machine cheeseburgers, tennis shoes, radios, cookies, chewing tobacco, even television sets. The glitch was discovered when the 41 inmates whose accounts the money was coming from complained about the mysterious disappearances. The Department of Corrections decided to correct the error by taking money from the accounts of the 186 inmates who benefited from it. Since they already spent their windfall, however, the payback is coming from whatever money their families send them. "We've replaced $20,000 so far," Department of Corrections representative Sterling Ivey said in October. "We've got a long way to go."

And One for Good Luck

New Orleans police reported that a 20-year-old man was walking along the street when an armed man walked up to him and began firing a handgun. "Once that weapon emptied, he produced a second weapon and continued to fire," police Sgt. Paul Accardo said. "When the second weapon emptied, he produced yet a third and continued to fire." Although the victim was hospitalized after being shot 25 times, he survived.

Who Needs the Middle East?

Welsh police announced they have formed a special unit to track down motorists who use cooking oil to fuel their cars so they can avoid paying high government gasoline taxes. The authorities said the waste oil is coming from restaurants specializing in deep-fried fish and chips.

Use No. 101

Researchers at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., announced that duct tape helps get rid of warts more effectively and less painfully than the most common treatment, freezing them. Lead researcher Dr. Dean "Rick" Focht III said he believed that the tape works the same as most other wart treatments: by irritating the skin, stimulating the immune system and wiping out the viral infection causing the wart.

Loaded Gun

After Jack Smith of Bethel Park, Pa., suffered blackouts while driving that led to two accidents in two years, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation cleared him to drive. Six months later, he blacked out again, causing a crash that killed a 54-year-old woman and her pregnant 27-year-old daughter. In August, Allegheny County Judge Bob Coville dismissed criminal charges against Smith and reaffirmed his right to drive. Not a week later, Smith blacked out again while behind the wheel, this time colliding with two other vehicles and injuring a woman and her daughter.

Gone with the Wind

BBC Top Gear magazine revealed that the average British driver emits more than 912 pints of flatulent gas inside a car during his or her lifetime. Further statistics show that the average driver will swear or blaspheme 32,025 times behind the wheel, honk the horn 15,250 times and be locked out of the car nine times. The average woman driver will throw two-thirds of her body weight out the window as trash, while men will throw out their entire body weight.

Land of the Setting Sun

Japan's Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. unveiled two model "houses of tomorrow," which are filled with gadgets aimed at making life easier. One is a toilet that analyzes homeowners' urine and automatically sends suspicious re sults to the doctor via the Internet. Another is a closet that selects clothes according to weather forecasts.

Tire maker Bridgestone Corp. was awarded a patent to turn scrap tires into bouncy sidewalks. The idea is to make walking easier on the feet. Bridgestone said the mix of rubber and binder is cured into slabs, which can be laid over existing paving.

Second-Amendment Follies

U.S. Park Police arrested David Michael Keene, 21, in a road-rage shooting, charging him with firing into the window of a Mercedes and missing the driver by "just inches." The suspect is the son of a prominent Republican Party political action chairman and gun activist, who sits on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association.

First Things First

Teamsters Local 988 had its new meeting hall in Houston built by nonunion construction workers and contractors. Officials told the Houston Chronicle that union labor was too expensive.

Stinky Sex

Researchers at Detroit's Wayne State University found that people can recognize the smell of their close family members, and they don't like it. This aversion, the scientists speculated, may help prevent incest.

Queen Indeed

After a 12-bedroom house in Bloomfield Township, Mich., owned by Aretha Franklin burned down in October, the Detroit Free Press reported that the singer did not live there. Franklin, who owns two other residences in the neighborhood, had been using the 10,000-square-foot home, valued at more than $1.6 million, as a storage unit for boxes and furniture.

Compiled from the nation's press by Roland Sweet. Send clippings, citing source and date, to PO Box 8130, Alexandria VA 22308.

NewsQuirks 703

Curses, Foiled Again

Police investigating reports of a front-end loader hauling away an automated teller machine from a theater complex in Saint-Eustache, Quebec, were able to pursue the vehicle because it left tire tracks in the fresh snow. Unable to persuade the driver to stop, however, the 16 officers taking part in the low-speed chase fired 28 bullets, first at the construction vehicle's tires, then at its radiator. It continued. According to Inspector Robert Green, the chase ended only after the driver took a shortcut through a field, and the front-end loader toppled over. Police arrested Steve Lemieux, 32.

Two plainclothes police officers in Arlington, Va., witnessed Fernando Javier Arraya, 34, trying to steal a license plate from a parked car. One of the officers was inside the vehicle at the time. The other was parked next to it. Both had their windows rolled down and their police radio turned on while they discussed strategies for catching car thieves when they spotted the suspect. They said he looked around to see if anyone was watching, then walked to the front of one of the unmarked cruisers and began unscrewing the license plate. "My partner wanted to jump out and grab him," Officer Chris Feltman said. "I said, 'Hold on, let's see how far this goes. This is interesting.'" The officers arrested Arraya when he was unable to get the plate off and went back to his car for another tool.

Carpal-Tunnel Epidemic in the Making

Workers at a debt-ridden Romanian car factory offered to sell sperm to help the plant regain solvency. "Our feasibility study shows that if 1,000 workers donate their sperm for several months, we can get enough funds to pay part of the plant's debts," Ion Cotescu, trade union leader at ARO Campulung, said. Calling the solution "one that even the best economists have never thought of," Cotescu explained that the idea for the fund-raiser followed news that a fertility clinic in the western city of Timisoara was offering donors $50 a visit. The ARO Campulung plant, which makes Jeep-style four-wheel-drives, has debts of $20 million.

United We Stand

Michael Childress, 36, who was hired to process mail and donations to the Los Angeles Times's Sept. 11 Disaster Relief Fund, pleaded no contest to stealing more than $67,000 from the fund. Los Angeles County prosecutors said the thefts were discovered after several donors complained about grammatical and spelling errors in the thank-you notes that they received from the Times. Childress reportedly wrote the notes.

Little Feat

Seeking to establish once and for all the relationship between a man's shoe size and penis length, British researchers gently stretched and measured the flaccid penises of 104 urology patients, then recorded their shoe sizes. They concluded there was "no statistically significant relationship" between the two. When asked if any other body part might predict penile size, lead researcher Jyoti Shah of St. Mary's hospital, London, said studies suggested that hand span, finger lengths or nose size "may be predictive."

Way to Go

Gardner Memorial Chapel in Nashville, Tenn., Sullivan Brothers Mortuary in Spartanburg, S.C., and Junior Funeral Home in Pensacola, Fla., recently installed windows to allow mourners to pay their respects from their cars. "A lot of people aren't comfortable with coming into a funeral home," Andrew Gardner Sr. said. "So when I designed the building, I wanted a window big enough so people could view the body from outside."

When Ed Headrick, the creator of the modern Frisbee and designer of toy ma ker Wham-O's first "professional model" flying disc, died this summer at age 78, his family honored his wishes and molded his ashes into memorial flying discs for family members.

A Chicago company announced it has developed a process for turning cremated human remains into diamonds that can be worn as jewelry. Greg Herro, the head of LifeGem Memorials, explained that carbon recovered from the ashes is subjected to heat and pressure to become a blue diamond. Adding that the diamonds are of the same quality that "you would find at Tiffany's" and cost $22,000 a carat, Herro said he expects the company's biggest market to be Japan, where 98 percent of the people choose cremation, compared with only 26 percent of Americans.

Paper or Plastic?

In September, Mexico began replacing its 20 peso bills with plastic notes to foil counterfeiters and increase the life of the bills. Officials said the new plastic bills are paper thin, the same size as their paper counterparts and work in automated teller machines. Since Australia began using plastic money in 1988, some 20 countries have followed its lead.

Mike Tyson Bite-a-Likes

Police in Port St. Lucie, Fla., reported that a spectator at a baseball tournament for teen-agers bit off the earlobe of Tim Scott, the father of one of the players, during a scuffle that started when players from the losing team yelled obscenities at the winning team. The attacker fled before he could be identified.

John Everett Barbara, 49, was sentenced to a year in jail for biting off part of his neighbor's ear during a fight that broke out after the victim flashed his car lights at Barbara to warn him he was driving erratically. "This is so barbaric," Oakland County, Mich., Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth E. Frazee said.

Everything You Know Is Wrong

Obesity ranks only 10th on the list of risk factors causing disease and death worldwide, according to a report by the World Health Organization. First, the WHO said, is being underweight.

This Old House

Researchers in Taiwan reported they have developed a way to transform solid waste into homes. Spurred by the need to find new uses for the 670,000 tons of sewage sludge the island produces each year because landfill space is running out, Chih-Huang Weng, leader of the team at I-Shou University, said that sludge from waste-treatment plants can be used to bulk up ordinary house bricks. The "biobricks" contain as much 30 percent sludge, and, Weng insisted, they don't smell.

An out-of-the-way tourist attraction in Rockport, Mass., is the Paper House, whose walls are made from 215 layers of newspaper. Edna Beaudoin, 61, told the Boston Globe that her great uncle Elis Stenman built the summer cottage in the 1920s. He originally intended to use the newspapers as insulation but never got around to building the outer walls, so he varnished them in place. He also spent 18 years furnishing the home with items made from tightly rolled newspaper logs, including a writing desk made of newspapers chronicling the transatlantic flight of Charles Lindbergh. "It's a family heirloom," said Beaudoin, who lives next door and maintains the Paper House.

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

NewsQuirks 702

Curses, Foiled Again

When two armed men demanded cash from two aides to Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Ill.), the victims had no money, so the muggers took the aides to an automatic teller machine. The Washington Post reported that one of the aides deliberately entered the wrong PIN, making the ATM appear to be broken. The other aide suggested returning to his office at the Longworth House Office Building, where he had left his wallet. Upon arriving, the aide told the mugger accompanying him that his gun would set off the metal detector, so he hid it in some bushes. As the two men entered the building, the aide told guards what was happening, and they nabbed the mugger. Then they apprehended the other mugger, who had remained outside in a parked car with the other aide.

Fruits of Research

Following studies suggesting that cellular phones cause brain tumors, Levi Strauss & Co. has introduced a new line of its Dockers pants fitted with "anti-radiation" pockets for protection against cellphones. "We're not implying in any way that mobile phones are dangerous," Cedric Jungpeter, Levi's European communications manager, told the Reuters news agency. "Our intention is not to cash in on consumer fears but provide the consumers with what they want."

Mistaken Identity

Authorities in Hillsdale County, Mich., discovered that 16-year-old Brian Andrew Newman, who carried on a year-long relationship with a 14-year-old girl, was actually 22-year-old Valerie Charles. She used a back brace to hide her feminine features and three socks rolled up in a condom to have sexual contact with the teen-age girl, whom she met through an Internet chat room.

Sounds of Yesterday

Lamenting the disappearance of "endearing and unique audible sound signatures" of classic cars of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, inventors Jay and Jason Plugge of Sunnyvale, Calif., have received a patent for a car radio that recreates the "rumble and throaty sound" of what they call the "muscle cars" and hot rods, such as early Corvettes and Ferraris. The inventors said the sounds could be stored on memory chips, using recordings of classic cars kept in collections around the world, or synthesized.

The Department of Defense announced that it is testing digital bugles to play taps at military funerals. The change is necessary because only about 500 U.S. military buglers are available to perform at the 1,800 daily funerals for veterans. A National Defense Authorization Act authorizes the playing of taps at military honors funeral ceremonies, but the shortage of live buglers prompted Congress to authorize recorded versions, played on boomboxes. The new cone-shaped device, which is waterproof and has its own volume control, preserves the image of a live bugler, who merely has to push a button and hold the bugle to his or her lips. "This will add more dignity to the burial service," Bob Manhan of the Veterans of Foreign Wars said. "The survivors can physically see a bugler playing a nice rendition of taps. Nothing is ever going to be perfect, but this is nearly a fail-safe method."

All Bark, No Bite

After someone broke into the Stevenses' home in Swansea, Wales, and stole three children's bicycles, the family bought a guard dog. Someone stole the dog. "He is scary looking but dull," Sharon Stevens told the Western Mail newspaper. "He is valuable, and it looks like he was deliberately taken."

Lost Worlds

Astronomer Gregory Henry of Tennessee State University reported that a huge planet believed to be orbiting a distant star is actually an optical illusion. The planet had been announced with great fanfare two years ago as a far-off world that might be capable of supporting life. Henry's findings could throw into doubt the existence of several more of the 101 so-called extrasolar planets that astronomers have discovered. "This is not waving a flag and saying all of these planets are going to disappear. Far from it," he said. "Ninety-five percent of them are absolutely secure, but there could be a small number of planets that have been announced which haven't been checked in enough detail to make sure they are real."

Stepped in It Big Time

Police charged Jacob Smith, 26, with robbing a betting shop on Australia's Gold Coast after they used enhanced photos from a security camera to match the pattern of dog excrement found at the crime scene to that on Smith's shoe. "It's not rocket science. It's as plain as poo on your shoe," said police Sgt. Alan Piper, who admitted to also doing a smell test to confirm the match.

The Honeymoon Is Over

Police in Modesto, Calif., accused Kelli Pratt, 45, of attacking her 65-year-old husband, holding him down and biting him to death because he refused to have sex with her. Investigators discovered that Arthur Pratt's skin was covered with more than 20 deep tooth marks. "He was able to dial 911 that night," police Sgt. Al Carter told the Modesto Bee newspaper. "We have a tape recording of him screaming while she was biting him. When officers arrived, he was screaming that he'd been assaulted. She fought with the officers and tried to bite them, too."

When Mechanization and Nature Team Up

Dozens of thirsty wild camels in Australia have been hit and killed by trains. The magazine New Scientist reported the camels were seeking relief from the country's severe drought by licking dew from railroad tracks.

Dr. Trouble

The Massachusetts state medical board suspended the license of orthopedic surgeon Dr. David C. Arndt, 45, after a July 10 incident when he abandoned an anesthetized patient with an open incision six hours into surgery in order to deposit a check. He returned 35 minutes later and successfully completed the spinal fusion operation. He explained to colleagues that he had to get to the bank before it closed because of "a financial crisis."

On Sept. 4, a law enforcement official disclosed a possible connection between Arndt and a drug dealer arrested at a downtown Boston hotel in June. The official indicated that investigators found prescription slips signed by Arndt at the arrest scene.

On Sept. 10, authorities charged Arndt with raping a 15-year-old boy. According to Middlesex County prosecutors, Arndt lured the youth into his car, then repeatedly assaulted him.

Believable Lies

The Branch County, Mich., sheriff's department issued a warning about fraudulent telemarketers, advising that "some of these telemarketing programs are believed to be operated by Al-Qaeda. The CIA has announced that they acquired a videotape showing Al-Qaeda members making phone solicitations for vacation home rentals, long distance telephone service, magazine subscriptions and other products." Subsequently, Detective Dan Nichols, who wrote the bulletin, explained that he collected the information about Al-Qaeda's involvement from The Onion, not knowing it is a satirical newspaper and that the story was tongue-in-cheek.

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

Newsquirks 701

NewsQuirks 701

November 28, 2002

Curses, Foiled Again

Chicago transit police easily nabbed two men who tried to burglarize a minivan in a railroad commuter parking lot because an undercover surveillance officer was inside the van. When the suspects opened the van's sliding side door, Officer Jessie Watts Jr., who had been assigned to watch the lot because of previous break-ins, jumped out with his gun drawn and apprehended Robinson Morales, 25, and Fiore Petrassi, 20.

Losing Streaks

After pulling into a gas station with three friends just before midnight in Sheboygan, Wis., Devon Jones, 18, a freshman football player at Lakeland College, muttered "Jesus" a few times, ran into a field, took off his clothes and dashed naked onto Interstate 43. He died after two cars hit him.

During a hockey game in Calgary between the Flames and the Boston Bruins, a man wearing only a pair of red socks scaled the glass near the penalty box.

As soon as his feet touched the ice, he slipped and landed hard on his back, knocking himself unconscious. "It's a shame," Calgary's Bob Boughner said after the man was carried off on a stretcher. "It's never a girl."

Three weeks later, the would-be streaker, Tim Hurlbut, 21, explained that he had accepted two strangers' offer of $200 because he needed money to buy textbooks. Instead of collecting the money, the college student racked up $400 in ambulance bills and faces mischief charges. "I was going to be up $200," he said, "but it kind of backfired on me."


Swaziland's King Mswati III ordered a $51 million luxury jet, then dismissed political opposition and criticism by insisting that the expenditure, representing about one-fourth of his kingdom's national budget, was necessary to combat starvation in his impoverished kingdom. "The king needs the plane to get food for you," Natural Resources Minister Magwagwa Mdluli told drought victims at rural Macetjeni.

Anthony Flowers, 49, admitted escaping from South Dakota's Minnehaha County Jail, driving a newspaper editor to Sioux City against her will and taking $84 from her, but he claimed he was "a victim of circumstances." Flowers insisted that his escape was justified because he was assaulted in jail and because of a $500,000 extortion threat. "I had to escape to protect myself and find the person who tried to extort a half-million dollars and forced me to rob banks," he told a court in Sioux Falls.

Lost Focus

Police in Knoxville, Tenn., reported that a man walked into a bank, placed a small box in front of a teller and said the box was full of explosives, which he would detonate if he didn't get money. He handed the teller a threatening note and began checking his pockets, then suddenly ran out of the bank before the teller had time to hand over any cash.

A man held three people at gunpoint and torched a convenience store in Leesville, La., but left without robbing either the people or the store. After James Ludwigs, 31, turned himself in 90 minutes later, Chief Investigator Marvin Hilton of the Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office explained that the suspect apparently meant to rob the store, but "in the heat of the moment forgot to take anything."

Fruits of Research

North Korea's government awarded its top science prize to a herbal medicine for constipation that combines marijuana and rhubarb. The concoction "gives no harmful effect to internal organs but activates their functions and promotes digestion by dissolving bile well," the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported. The story pointed out that the medicine made by Pyongyang Hospital of Koryo Medicine "completely cured" 97 percent of the thousands of constipated patients who tried it.

Researchers at Boston's Forsyth Institute announced that they have succeeded in growing pig teeth in rat intestines. Dominick DePaola, president and CEO of the research institute, declared that the bioengineering feat "has the potential to revolutionize dentistry."

It's a New Jersey Thing

Police in Mansfield Township, N.J., charged Emmanuel Nieves, 23, with using a knife to slash his friend, Erik Saporito, 21, in an apartment complex parking lot after the two men argued over which one of them had the hairiest butt.

Easy Targets

Pedestrians 65 and older crossing at intersections with painted crosswalks are three times likelier to be hit by cars than at unmarked crossings, according to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. People aged 65 and older made up 21 percent of the nation's 4,739 pedestrian deaths in 2000. Dr. Thomas Koepsell, a University of Washington epidemiologist and lead author of the study, concluded, "Marked crossings may give older pedestrians a false sense of security," which combined with their slow pace makes them especially vulnerable.

Good Luck Tops Bad

When Jacqueline Boanson of Cheltenham, England, noticed a mysterious $445 deposit to her bank account from a bookmaker, she called the bookie for an explanation. The London Times reported that apparently someone stole Boanson's debit card and used it to bet on horse races. The thief won but "would have needed complete ID matching the card to get paid in cash," according to a representative of the bookmaking firm Ladbrokes. Instead, the winnings were deposited in the debit card account.

Getting a Jump

Giovanni Greco, 63, of Lascari, Italy, was making his regular visit to the construction site of his future mausoleum in a small cemetery when he climbed a ladder to get a better view of the top. Reuters news agency reported that Greco slipped, hit his head on a marble step and fell dead into his own tomb.

Better Than Memory

Hewlett-Packard announced the development of a device that helps people identify someone whose name they can't recall. New Scientist magazine explained that it uses a small camera hidden in a normal telephone or cellphone's headset. The camera, which always points to where the wearer is looking, uses the phone to connect to the wearer's computer via a microwave link. By scanning the computer's database of photos and names, it identifies a face and sends a voice prompt into an earpiece, telling who the person is. It also can transmit personal details about that person to get small talk started.
Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

NewsQuirks 700

Curses, Foiled Again

Police in Jackson, Miss., charged Caleb Laforrest Pete, 41, with robbing a bank and bringing along his 3-year-old son. After leaving the bank with a duffel bag full of money, Pete prodded the boy to keep up, but the youngster slowed him down long enough for passersby to notice him hop into a waiting cab to make his getaway. Police quickly caught up with the cab, which was also carrying Pete's wife and their 5-month-old daughter.

Medium Is the Message

Stray dogs are being used as mobile billboards in the Russian city of Penza. The Molodoy Leninets newspaper reported that shopkeepers lure the animals with cutlets or sausages, then spray-paint them with their shop logo and the goods they stock. Workers of rival stores often catch each other's dogs and repaint them in their own colors.

Huge rocks in the Indian Himalayas are being defaced by hand-painted advertisements. New Scientist magazine reported that some 300 ads are visible along a 35-mile stretch of the Manali-Rohtang Pass, touting a variety of international and local products, including Coca-Cola and Pepsi, a Punjab-based publisher and a local car repair shop. Scientists fear the paints are destroying the existing rich diversity of microflora and fauna on the rocks, but they point out that removing the paints with thinners could do more harm than good. Local officials said there is no law against the ads, which businesses see as a cost-effective marketing strategy.

Number One with a Bullet

Marcos Vinicius dos Santos, 27, the vocalist for the Brazilian rock group ACC, held a gun on the disc jockey at a radio station in Porto Alegre and forced him to play the group's debut album, "Phases of Life." The incident ended after about 70 minutes when dos Santos surrendered to police, who had evacuated the offices at Atlantida FM.

Witness Protection Program

A man who witnessed the slaying of two friends in Arapahoe County, Colo., was left beaten and bloodied after a jail deputy overlooked a court order and placed him in a cell with the suspect. A judge, concerned about potential violence, had prohibited all contact between witness, Martin Brewer, 21, who had been arrested for a probation violation, and the suspect, Edward Brown, 21, who is serving life sentences for two fatal shootings. "It was an error on the part of one of our deputies," Sheriff Grayson Robinson told the Rocky Mountain News.

The August incident was the second of its kind in six months. In February, a 16-year-old girl was placed in an Arapahoe County jail cell with a serial rape suspect.


Theodore Maher, 44, admitted setting a fire that killed two people in Monaco but insisted that the deaths would have been averted if police had not blocked firefighters from trying to rescue the victims.

Kung-Fu Fighting

After several officers of Hong Kong's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department were attacked while trying to ticket litterbugs, the government offered a voluntary three-day course in Japanese aikido to sharpen the officers' self-defense skills. "We will be providing coaches," a government representative said, "and we hope all our enforcement officers will join the classes."

Los Angeles police arrested Tyrone Jermaine Hogan, 20, after a series of crimes that ended when he tried to carjack a vehicle carrying a judo club from Florida International University. The co-ed team was sightseeing when Hogan jumped into their minivan at a gas station. The students piled on the suspect and hit him several times, then put him in a body hold. "He was detained, to say the least," police Sgt. Alan Hamilton said, explaining that a bloodied Hogan was treated at the scene before being taken to police headquarters.

Bad Seed

Sidney Trimble, 42, pleaded guilty to holding his 68-year-old mother at knifepoint and forcing her to withdraw money from her bank account. A teller at a bank drive-through window in Largo, Fla., noticed Edith Trimble acting strangely and saw her turn toward her and mouth the words, "Call the police." Officers arrived moments later and arrested Trimble.

Second-Amendment Follies

John Matson, 55, died after being shot in a hog-butchering accident in Frazee, Minn. According to the Becker County sheriff's office, when one of the men doing the butchering shot the hog with a .22-caliber rifle, the animal fell backward but then jumped forward, knocking the shooter down and causing the rifle to discharge.

Sky-High Antics

Weeks after introducing its newest planes, the $200 million Airbus A340-600, Virgin Airlines said it is having to replace plastic tables intended for changing diapers in its "mother and baby room" because passengers have broken them while having sex on them. "Those determined to join the Mile High Club will do so despite the lack of comforts," a Virgin representative said.


Egyptian newspapers reported that a woman set fire to her Cairo apartment after arguing with her husband because he refused to buy dried fruit and nuts to eat during the holy month of Ramadan. The blaze caused an estimated $6,500 worth of damage before firefighters brought it under control.


A German driver who got out of his car on a hill to relieve himself forgot to apply the parking brake, and the car rolled down the hill and into a river. "At first he tried to claim his car was stolen, but the police immediately found this wasn't the case," Birgit Hoehn of the Leipzig police said, adding, "He can expect a fine for parking on the sidewalk and not securing the car properly."

A man and a woman heading to an anti-war rally in San Francisco were critically injured when they stuck their heads through the sunroof of the vehicle they were riding in and hit the top of a low tunnel. "It sounded like a gunshot," said Warren Deming, 47, one of the other passengers in the former school bus. "It was a very loud impact."

More Fallout from the Wright Bros.

After a new airport opened in Munich, Germany, children's scores on reading and memory tests improved near the old airport and went down near the new one, according to a study reported in the journal Psychological Science. After a Montana couple built a home directly in the flight path of a private airstrip, they filed a lawsuit in Park County District Court charging airport owner Duane Hodgkinson with harassing them. "Hodgkinson and his planes have continued to 'buzz' within 100 feet of the home, at all hours of the day, and numerous times daily," according to the suit by Brian and Chris Markey.
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Curses, Foiled Again

Two armed men tried to rob a Boston pizza restaurant but couldn't open the safe because it had a time-delay lock. They tied up the lone employee in the bathroom while they waited, then tied up a second and third employee when they arrived. When a fourth employee showed up, the robbers took him to the men's room, but he told them his girlfriend was waiting for him outside. They let him go but warned him not to alert the police. As soon as he reached the parking lot, he called 911. Meanwhile, two other employees showed up. Then the police knocked on the door.

The gunmen began pleading for their victims to show mercy and ditched their weapons to try to pose as hostages, too. "They were telling us, 'Oh, please help us. Tie us up,'" manager Orlando Reyes, 20, told the Boston Herald. "I said, 'I'm going to go outside and tell the police officers the bad guys left and you guys were tied up with us.'" Once the police were inside, Reyes pointed out Johnathan Ortega, 23, and Miguel Angel Correa, 27, as the robbers.

Getting Better

On Nov. 4, officials lowered the death toll from the Sept. 11, 2001, collapse of New York's World Trade Center to 2,795 after locating five persons who had been reported missing and feared dead and discovering one victim who had been listed twice. The initial estimate had been more than 6,000 deaths. Ellen Borakove of the New York chief medical examiner's office predicted the death tally would continue to fall by small increments.

Litigation Nation

A group of people is suing the U.S. government for losses they think that global warming will cause them in the future. New Scientist magazine reported the litigants include a couple that fears their coastal home will be lost to storm surges resulting from climate change, a Vermont syrup maker who insists that he'll go out of business if his maple trees die and a marine biologist who's worried that he'll lose his job if corals become extinct. "This is a lawsuit that we intend to win," co-litigant Will Toor, the mayor of Boulder, Colo., said.

Edition Peters, publishers of the late American composer John Cage, sued British musician Mike Batt, claiming that a recording of a minute's silence by Batt's rock group the Planets plagiarized Cage's 1952 composition "4-33," which consists of four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. After agreeing to pay an undisclosed six-figure sum to the John Cage Trust, Batt speculated that the avant-garde composer "would have loved the spectacle of the Planets being all over the press protesting that their silence was original and not a quotation from his silence." He insisted, however, that his silent piece was superior, explaining, "I am able to say in one minute what took Cage four minutes and 33 seconds."

Fooled Again

More than 27,000 people voted for former Ohio Rep. James A Traficant Jr., who ran his re-election campaign from a Pennsylvania prison cell, where he is serving eight years for bribery and racketeering. Traficant had appealed to voters to re-elect him to show they don't fear the government. "I believe I can do a better job than half the people down in Washington," Traficant said in a low-budget campaign ad filmed the day before he was sentenced in July.

In Orbit

Bart Sibrel, 37, told police in Beverly Hills, Calif., that Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, 72, punched him in the face after he asked the astronaut to swear on a Bible that he had been to the Moon. Sibrel, an independent filmmaker from Nashville, Tenn., said he believes that the Apollo 11 astronauts faked their July 1969 lunar expedition to fool the Soviet Union into thinking the United States had won the space race. He said he was trying to confront Aldrin about the lunar mission when Aldrin swung at him. "He has a good punch. It was quick, too," Sibrel said. "I didn't see it coming."

The persistence of skepticism that NASA's six Apollo moon landings were faked prompted the space agency to spend more than $15,000 to hire James E. Oberg, a former aerospace engineer and the author of 10 books on space, to write a 30,000-word monograph refuting conspiracy theorists point by point. "Ignoring it only fans the flames of people who are naturally suspicious," Oberg said.

It's Not Unusual

Singer Tom Jones complained that even though women still throw their underwear at him, it usually hasn't been worn. When the tradition began in the 1960s, "the whole thing was authentic," Jones told the German magazine Bunte. "Nowadays they bring along a plastic bag with their underwear in it. It has nothing to do with enthusiasm anymore. I actually take it as an insult. I give it my all onstage because I want to fill the crowd with enthusiasm, but that which comes from the heart and not out of a plastic bag."

Hello Again

After Morgan Taylor, 16, was injured in a hit-and-run incident in Fergus Falls, Minn., he accused an 18-year-old emergency medical technician who helped transport him to the hospital of being the one who hurt him. Morgan said that as he lay on a stretcher in the ambulance, "I looked at him. I think he looked at me. It was kind of weird."

Do-It-Yourself Cryogenics

In Stockholm, Sweden, a 14-year-old boy and his friend were looking for ice cream in the boy's freezer when they discovered the bodies of two newborn babies. After they notified authorities, the boy's 31-year-old mother admitted putting the infants in cold storage after killing them in 1993 and 1999.

Role-Model Justice

After state Rep. John S. Martinez, Connecticut's deputy House majority leader, was killed in a car crash, the state Department of Motor Vehicles disclosed that Martinez did not have a valid driver's license. DMV spokesperson Bill Seymour said that Martinez's license had been suspended at least six times since 1996, most recently this August for failing to appear in court in connection with a drunk-driving charge.

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Curses, Foiled Again

Sheriff's deputies in Columbia County, Ga., charged Michael Steven Pavlich, 48, with trying to rob a convenience store while wearing a plastic foam cooler over his head to cover his face. The clerk said she heard the man say something but couldn't make out the words because of the cooler. A witness said it sounded like the robber said, "Everybody get your hands up," but when he saw the man was armed with only a pellet gun, he grabbed it away from him and pushed him out of the store.

New Mexico authorities arrested four men who spent the past year pulling over people for speeding in the Santa Teresa area near the Texas border, then letting them go with verbal warnings. The men were caught after they called police for backup and identified themselves as members of a federally funded search-and-rescue squad. Prosecutor Susana Martinez said officials have been unable to determine the men's motive.

The Future Is Looking Up

Researchers at Harvard Medical School announced that they have succeeded in growing penis parts in the laboratory. The parts were successfully used to rebuild the penises of rabbits, which were able to use them to mate. The next step, head researcher Anthony Atala told New Scientist magazine, is to recreate the entire organ from scratch. Ultimately, Atala said, the technique could be used to reconstruct the penises of men who have suffered injuries and those of children born with genital abnormalities, as well as provide an alternative to crude methods currently used to enlarge the organ.

Weighty Matters

Virgin Atlantic airlines paid passenger Barbara Hewson $20,289 as compensation for being squashed by an obese person on a transatlantic flight. Hewson, who is from Swansea, Wales, suffered a blood clot in her chest, torn leg muscles and acute sciatica. The obese passenger had been able to fit in her seat only by raising the armrest, meaning that her body parts weighed down on Hewson for the entire 11-hour flight in economy class. When Hewson first complained about her ordeal, the airline offered her "a small basket of goods" worth about $25.

Many obese adults may have trouble losing weight by sticking to diet or exercise plans because they suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Research by behavioral psychiatrist Jules Altfas of the Behavioral Medical Center for Treatment and Research in Portland, Ore., found that 27.4 percent of the obese adults he studied had ADHD, compared with only 4.7 percent of the general U.S. population. What's more, when Altfas put a group of the most obese people on a weight-loss plan, those with ADHD lost only half as much weight as the others. "The ADHD sufferers couldn't remember their diet plans," Altfas explained. "They were disorganized and ate compulsively."

Weightless Matters

American astronaut Peggy Whitson looked forward to spending months in space as the science officer aboard the International Space Station by planning more than 40 shrimp meals. Whitson reported on her 130th day in space that she ended up giving most of the meals to her Russian crewmates, Valery Korzun and Sergei Treshcvev. "Sometimes, when you come to space, your tastes change," she said. "One of my favorite foods on the ground is shrimp, and up here I can't stand it."

Second-Amendment Follies

Michael Murray, 42, was shot by his year-old English setter while hunting pheasant near Brooklyn Park, Minn., after placing his loaded 12-guage shotgun on the ground. "He stepped on the gun, and it went off," Murray said. "At first I didn't know what happened. I got that blinding flash of pain, and I sat down."

Robert E. Slay Sr., 55, accidentally shot himself in the leg while trying on pants at an outlet store in Gonzales, La. Slay was removing his pants to try on a pair of slacks when a .38-caliber derringer fell out of his hip pocket and discharged. After being treated at the hospital, Slay was booked for illegally carrying a weapon and illegally discharging a firearm.

Randall Lewis, 40, of Jefferson County, Mo., was teaching his 12-year-old son about gun safety when he shot himself in the head with a .22-caliber revolver. "He was demonstrating how to make sure the gun was unloaded -- kind of how not to -- and the gun was loaded," Maj. Mark Tulgetske of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department said, explaining that the gun fired when Lewis pointed the loaded weapon at the right side of his head and pulled the trigger.

When a woman in Lake City, Fla., who heard something outside her home, reached across her toilet to open the bathroom window for a look, she knocked her 9 mm handgun into the commode. It discharged on impact, wounding her in her left buttock.

A 2-year-old boy in New Orleans was critically injured after his 24-year-old aunt shot him, apparently accidentally, while arguing with his 21-year-old mother over how to discipline children. The aunt "left the room briefly and returned with the handgun," police Sgt. Paul Accardo said. "She fired one time and struck the child in the head."

A robber, brandishing a semiautomatic handgun, entered a bank in North Miami Beach, Fla., and told a teller to fill a bag with cash. He grabbed the bag and was putting his gun into his pocket when it accidentally fired. The shot startled the gunman, who ran out the front door and straight into the path of an oncoming van. The driver, unaware that the man had just robbed the bank, pulled him from underneath the van. Still shaken, the robber limped to his getaway car and fled with the cash. "He was pretty banged up," FBI representative Judy Orihuela said, noting the collision knocked out two of the robber's teeth. "There was blood everywhere."

Price of Chatter

The latest environmental menace is discarded cellphones, according to a study financed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Phones typically are used for 18 months before being replaced by a newer model. By 2005, the report said, 130 million cellphones will be thrown away each year. Counting the phones, batteries and chargers, that amounts to 65,000 tons of waste a year, much of it toxic. "These chemicals accumulate and persist in the environment," said Eric Most of Inform, the environmental group that conducted the study on old phones. "They get in the plants, soil, water, and then move up the stream to humans."
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Curses, Foiled Again

Adam J. Kelly Jr., 34, an employee of the Dragon Garden Chinese Restaurant in Houma, La., broke into the restaurant after it had closed, but found the owner and another worker still inside. He grabbed a meat cleaver and threatened the two. He backed up his threat by throwing the cleaver at them, causing minor injuries but leaving himself without a weapon. The victims pounded Kelly with a chair and a pipe, then called the police.

Election Follies

After Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura complained about the nation's "pathetic" voter turnout and encouraged young voters to go to the polls during the Sept. 10 statewide primary, he failed to cast his own ballot. Ventura explained that he was too busy with official business, although the Pioneer Press reported that he found time to play a round of golf at his home course on election day.

Montana Republican Mike Taylor announced he was quitting his race against Democratic Sen. Max Baucus because a Democratic Party commercial implied he was a gay hairdresser. The ad, which questioned Taylor's ethics in handling student loans at a beauty school he once owned, was accompanied by footage from a Colorado TV beauty program that Taylor hosted in the 1980s, showing him massaging another man's face. "Mike Taylor," the announcer said. "Not the way we do business here in Montana."

Another of Baucus's opponents, Libertarian Stan Jones, 63, turned blue. He explained that his new skin color results from argyria, which is permanent but not serious. The condition was caused by colloidal silver, a natural anti-bacterial supplement that Jones began taking in 1999 because of fears that year-2000 disruptions might lead to a shortage of antibiotics. When his skin began turning blue last year, he stopped taking the supplement but continued his campaign. He noted that some voters have asked "if I'm dead."

No Surprise

Following the arrest of John Allen Muhammad, 41, in connection with October's Washington, D.C., ambush shootings, the New York Times reported that Muhammad purchased the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice he converted into a snipermobile from a Trenton, N.J., dealership named Sure Shot Auto.

Limited-Time Opportunity

Days after the so-called Washington sniper claimed his eighth victim in Stafford County, Va., authorities received an anonymous 911 call that a hooded gunman was on the roof of a store in a Stafford County shopping plaza.

Sheriff's deputies and state troopers stormed the area but found nothing. Meanwhile, dispatchers traced the call back to a cellular phone, which led them to Richard L. Jones, 25, manager of a Burger King store in the same shopping plaza. Jones told Deputy George Hernandez that he made the call hoping authorities would close his store because he had been working long hours and was living out of his car and "wanted the day off so he could find a place to live."

When Arthur L. Schroen, 37, called police during the middle of the sniper's shooting spree to say someone had shot at him near Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Maryland State Police, agents from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency, and about 30 Anne Arundel County police officers rushed to the scene. Investigators who examined the evidence concluded that Schroen had made up the story, and he eventually acknowledged that he tried to cover up breaking the window of his employer's van by reporting it as a shooting.

Instant Karma

Parole violator, Margie Stevens, age 35, was fleeing police in Wilmington, Del., in a rented van, which she used to plow a path through stopped cars at an intersection. Surrounded by police cars on Interstate 495, she braked, jumped out and ran toward a bridge over the Christiana River. Police said she was preparing to escape by jumping into the water 1,000 feet below when she was struck by her rolling van, which she had forgotten to put into park.

After volunteer firefighters Daniel Dreisbach and Ryan Campbell, both 18, used stolen road flares to set fire to an abandoned trailer home in Effort, Pa., they rushed back to the firehouse and drove off in a pickup truck to fight the blaze, according to Monroe County prosecutors. On the way, they crashed into a pole. Dreisbach died instantly, and Campbell suffered leg injuries.

Belgian police investigating the shooting death of an 80-year-old former chemical engineer in Aiseau-Presles concluded that the death resulted from booby traps, which the unidentified man had set throughout his house to keep out his children following a family dispute. A police officer told the RTBF television network that the hunting rifles and explosives were rigged to go off with the opening of a door or some other makeshift trigger.

Drinking-Class Heroes

Suspected drunk driver Kelly Faith Dougherty, 33, was arrested in Bainbridge Island, Wash., after she punched one officer, kicked another in the stomach and kicked out a patrol-car window, injuring a third officer. Detective Scott Anderson noted that the incident occurred as Dougherty was leaving an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

When Michael Kocur, 39, of Port Byron, N.Y., admitted driving a riding lawn mower on a public street while drunk, Cayuga County Judge Peter E. Corning ordered him to perform community service and avoid alcohol while serving a year's probation. Corning changed the sentence to a year in jail after Kocur showed up for his community service intoxicated.

Fire Power

When a passing police officer saw Sandra Petriello, 50, outside her home in Moosic, Pa., with a rifle and a stun gun, he said the woman threatened his life, so he called for backup. Officers noticed Joseph Petriello standing in the window with his hands in the air. He told them that his wife was holding a gun on him. After police resolved the situation and arrested Sandra Petriello, they entered the home and found more than 60 guns, 5,000 rounds of ammunition, Russian night vision goggles and other items. The husband told police that his wife spent more than $100,000 on her arsenal. "Some of these weapons I've never even seen before," Police Chief Charles Mauer said. "I can't imagine what she'd want to do with all this stuff."

Ultimate Protection

The Uttar Pradesh Cow Protection Commission, a Hindu nationalist group, began advising people to smear themselves with cow dung in the event of a nuclear war, insisting that it will protect them against radiation. The group also recommends daubing buildings with dung for protection against fallout.

Occupational Hazards

Yoni Cordon, 19, died after falling into a 1,200-gallon vat of liquefied milk chocolate at a factory in Hatfield, Pa. "It was just like quicksand," said Jim Viscusi of the Volunteer Medical Service Corps of nearby Lansdale.

A 34-year-old man died in the Vietnamese town of Phan Thiet when he and three coworkers at a fish-sauce factory tried to rescue a colleague, who fell into a 7-foot-deep vat of fish sauce, and all fell in themselves. The state-run newspaper Tuoi Tre reported that the five workers lost consciousness after inhaling gas from the fish being fermented to make the pungent sauce.

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Mensa Rejects of the Week

Police arrested Daniel Villafane, 24, in West Rockhill, Pa., after they found 2 pounds of marijuana in his car. Officers initiated the search only because they responded to reports that Villafane and his girlfriend, Evelyn Torres, 24, were having sex on the car in a neighbor's driveway around 7 a.m. Villafane told police they were traveling from Allentown to Philadelphia when they stopped for their impromptu tryst.

Josh Stevens, 16, died while riding in a friend's car when he suddenly pulled the emergency hand brake as a joke, causing the car to swerve into oncoming traffic and collide with another car.

Federal authorities arrested Utah auto mechanic Kevin S. Jackson, 51, for trying to cheat financial institutions by redeeming a counterfeit Federal Reserve bearer bond dated 1934 that showed a face value of $100 million. With interest, it was supposedly worth $200, according to Jackson. Authorities pointed out that no denomination greater than $1 million has ever been printed.

Nasad Alesky, 35, was riding between subway cars in New York City around 2:30 a.m. when he decided to climb onto the roof of the moving train and go "subway surfing." Police said that Alesky was critically hurt when he hit his head on an overhead tunnel beam, tumbled to the tracks and was run over by the wheels of the train.

An unidentified man in his 20s or 30s was siphoning gasoline from a mini-van with an electric shop vacuum, then pouring it into another mini-van when an electric spark from the appliance ignited fumes in the first van's gas tank. Fire Marshal Joel Kuhnhenn of Woodinville, Wash., said that flames quickly leaped to the open gas tanks of the two vehicles, causing intense heat that shattered their windows, then spreading inside them. Noting that both vehicles were destroyed and a Chevy Malibu parked nearby was damaged, Kuhnhenn declared, "This was an accident waiting to happen."

Lest We Forget

After a morning headlight parade in Sydney, Australia, to honor Sept. 11 victims, the National Roads and Motorists Association reported receiving at least 400 calls from drivers heading home from work that evening whose batteries were dead from leaving their lights on all day.

Also this Sept. 11, German security officials at Berlin's Tegel airport detained a passenger aboard a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt when he emerged from the lavatory. "He was on the toilet for quite some time," Lufthansa representative Thomas Jachnow said. "That was enough reason to alert the federal border police."

Pavlov's Pig

The New Jersey medical company Transneuronix has developed an electric shock device intended to control appetites. The implant zaps the stomach with a tiny 10-milliampere current for 2 seconds, 12 times a minute, slowing down peristalsis to control hunger and restricting the amount of food that enters and leaves the stomach. The company said that the device can be left on all the time or switched on whenever a patient feels the urge to binge.

Slightest Provocations

Police charged Kevin E. French, 45, of Horseheads, N.Y., with shooting his neighbor Nicholas Lanzillotto, 53, because he was upset over how often Lanzillotto mowed his lawn. In fact, State Police Investigator Jeffrey Gotschall noted, Lanzillotto was on a riding lawnmower when French shot him in the head.

Twins, Chris and Gary Sullivan, 16, and their brother, Charles R. "Bobby" Call, 21, told police in Kettering, Ohio, that they strangled their mother to death because she complained about not getting a bacon cheeseburger with the milkshake that Gary Sullivan brought her from Wendy's. Chris Sullivan said the day after his mother's death that the brothers were "all so sick" of Kathy Call's screaming fits.

Robert M. Luttrell Jr., 18, of Frederick County, Va., admitted fatally shooting his friend, Travis Hott, 13, after the two argued over whether to watch Cinemax on television or switch to the news to check on the weather report.

Verona Smith, 35, of Hilton Head Island, S.C., was charged with stabbing her roommate during a dispute over Internet use. According to the police report, Kay Lyons, 25, was trying to connect to the Internet when Smith pulled the cord out of the wall in Lyons's room because Smith had been waiting for a phone call.

Also in Hilton Head Island, authorities accused Troy Lamont Chisolm, 21, of shooting Tyrone Robinson, 25, in the back shortly after 6 a.m. at Chisolm's home while the two men argued over the last bottle of beer.

Police charged Lorenzo Barrios, 37, with murdering Odon Perez Sanchez, 40, during a quarrel over when they should return home from fishing at a pond in Highland Park, Ill. According to Lake County Assistant State's Atty. Matthew Chancey, Barrios said he wanted to leave, but Sanchez didn't, so "they started calling each other names, and the fight started." Barrios then "held the victim's head under water until the victim stopped moving."

Homeland Security

The Border Patrol disclosed that drivers for a Mexican smuggling ring have been thwarting authorities by driving on the wrong side of California's Interstate 5 at high speeds at night with their lights out. William Veal, Border Patrol chief in San Diego, said that the smugglers' vehicles are modified with reinforced bumpers and high-powered headlights, which blind drivers of oncoming cars. To defeat spike strips, tires are filled with a gel designed to repair flat tires. Veal said his agency didn't learn about the tactic, which has been used at least 16 times within the past year, until a head-on collision in June killed six persons.

No Easy Rider

After Everett Harbour, 61, won the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle given away by the Illinois State Lottery, the Pawnee resident also became the first person to crash his prize bike into a tree and end up in a coma. "It's so ironic," said Harbour's daughter, Janet Smith, 32. "Something good that happens can turn into something so horrible."

About to turn 60, Jim Zimmerman bought a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle. After the dealer delivered the bike to Zimmerman's home in Saginaw, Mich., he climbed aboard to go for his first ride. Ten seconds later, he struck a neighbor's utility trailer at 40 mph, breaking several ribs.

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Curses, Foiled Again
Authorities at Philadelphia International Airport arrested David Vassallo, 46, after he walked into the first-class cabin of a US Airways flight shortly before its departure and bragged to a passenger that he was an undercover federal sky marshal. The passenger turned out to be a real sky marshal. When the marshal asked Vassallo for some identification, he explained that he was a postal inspector on loan to the sky marshals, then conceded that he was just a regular postal worker from Virginia.

Sheriff's deputies in Bullitt County, Ky. arrested Richard Crow, 35, after a high-speed chase that began when a Louisville police officer noticed that someone had written in lipstick on the back of the van that Crow was driving, "This is a stolen vehicle." The officer checked the license plate and gave chase after learning that the van had indeed been reported stolen.

Optimists of the Week
Twenty-six banks and credit unions banks in the Springfield, Mo., area decided to combat a rise in robberies by posting signs at their 141 locations in the Ozarks asking visitors to remove their hats and sunglasses as they enter to make identification easier.

Empty Handed
Taxpayers in northwest Kane County, Ill., have been funding an airport authority for 10 years, even though the area has never had a commercial airport and there are no plans to build one. The Northwest Kane County Airport Authority Board has a $32,000 yearly budget supported by property tax bills. "We don't meet," said Gerald E. Neill, the only one of five board members whose term hasn't expired, "and we don't do that much."

When a Scandinavian Airlines System flight tried to land at the Kristianstad airport in southern Sweden, the pilot found no one at the control tower to give him clearance. It turned out that the controller scheduled to be on duty had not returned from vacation when he was supposed to, and no one had noticed that the tower was not staffed. The Dash 8 aircraft carrying 30 passengers circled for 30 minutes while central traffic authorities called in another controller.

Homeland Security
The Justice Department is forwarding incoming Operations TIPS calls to the Fox-owned "America's Most Wanted" television show, according to the online magazine Salon reporter Dave Lindorff said that when he tried to sign up as a volunteer in the planned league of Americans spying on other Americans to uncover terrorists in our midst, the Justice Department told him to call a phone number that had been set up by the FBI. His call was answered by a receptionist for the Fox show, who explained, "We've been asked to take the FBI's TIPS calls for them." The American Civil Liberties Union called the link "surreal." "What's next?" ACLU legislative counsel Rachel King said, "the government hires 'Candid Camera' to do its video surveillance?"

Mensa Reject of the Week
Police in Madison, Wis., reported that a 26-year-old man was hospitalized in critical condition after trying to kill his head lice. The man doused a towel with rubbing alcohol, put it on his head and then lit a cigarette. The towel caught fire and engulfed the man, who suffered second- and third-degree burns on about 50 percent of his body.

Errant Bovines
Four Norwegian motorists near Rogaland told police they saw only a large shadow in the sky before a massive impact shook the ground behind their vehicle. Investigators deduced that the falling object was a cow, which they theorized plunged from a 30-foot cliff overhanging the road.

South African police arrested a man with a stolen cow wearing human clothing after farmer Henrik Rautenbach reported spotting the odd couple. "I saw a man beside the road with someone creeping along a little behind him in the grass," Rautenbach said, adding that he discovered the ruse when he heard the creeping companion moo. The man, who was on the road between Reitz and Petrus Steyn, denied stealing the six-day-old animal, telling police that he found it and dressed it in a shirt, scarf and blanket to keep it warm.

What's on Your Mind?
Officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration told airline security specialists that the agency is developing brain-monitoring devices that could be used to read the minds of airline travelers "to detect passengers who potentially might pose a threat." According to a NASA document to Northwest Airlines, the agency wants to use "noninvasive neuro-electric sensors," imbedded in airport gates, to collect tiny electric signals that all brains and hearts transmit. Computers would correlate these physiologic patterns with data on travel routines, criminal background and credit information from "hundreds to thousands of data sources."

Engineers at Teradata, a division of automatic teller machine manufacturer NCR, are developing ATMs that are more like human beings. By using cameras and computer software to map users' emotions and nonverbal cues and reacting to them, the machines will be "one stage closer to behaving like a good, perceptive teller might so that interactive dialog can start beginning," Teradata engineer Dave Schrader told Tech Live. "The ATM can adapt itself to you instead of you adapting yourself to the technology." The real reason for implementing the new technology, Schrader acknowledged, is cost reduction. "If you can interface with an ATM instead of standing in line for the bank teller, it's good for you, it's faster, more convenient for you, and it's cheaper for the bank, less labor cost," he explained.

Money Makers
According to a list of the world's top 100 economic entities reported by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, only 71 are countries. The other 29 are corporations, led by ExxonMobil Corp., which ranked 45th, just ahead of Pakistan.

Way to Go
Victoria Lampe, 28, died while taking part in a minor-league baseball promotion in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Rick Vaughn, public relations vice president for the home team Orlando Rays' parent Tampa Bay Devil Rays, said the object of the promotion was for 250 women and girls to run across the ballpark to the infield, then search through the dirt for a small box containing a diamond. "Just as she got to the infield," Vaughn said, "she collapsed face first."

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

NewsQuirks 694

Autocratic Ups and Downs

Valentine Strasser, who became the world's youngest head of state at the age of 25 when he seized power in Sierra Leone in 1992, was discovered broke and living with his mother on the outskirts of Freetown, the capital.

Strasser, now 35, was an army captain -- known for winning disco contests -- when he led a coup by young officers, known as "the boys" because they were in their 20s. His No. 2 man, Julius Maada Bio, overthrew him in 1996 and forced him into exile. He returned in 2000, but because angry soldiers had burned down the house he built, he moved into his mother's two-story house across the street. The government denied him benefits because he took power by force, but last year did ask citizens not to throw stones at Strasser, who lacks a car and has to travel on foot. "I'm basically living off my mother now," Strasser told the Associated Press. "She's very supportive."

Saparmurat Niyazov, the president of Turkmenistan, proposed changing the name of January to Turkmenbashi, the name by which he is commonly known. It means "Chief of all Turkmen." September will be renamed after his spiritual testament, the "Rukhnama," which the official media praised as on a par with the Koran and the Bible. April will be called "Mother," a tribute to Niyazov's late mother, the object of a personality cult second only to her son's. A week after his announcement, the leader of the central Asian desert state of 4.5 million people, decreed a new system for dividing life into 12-year cycles. It extends adolescence until age 25 and postpones old age until 85.

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

Authorities in Sweeny, Texas, removed four children from the home of Theodore Moody, 27, after he used an electric stun gun to discipline his 8-year-old stepson for missing the school bus.

Former adoption caseworker Sally Schofield, 41, was convicted of manslaughter in Wiscasset, Maine, for suffocating her 5-year-old foster daughter by using 42 feet of duct tape to cover the child's face and bind her to a highchair during a disciplinary "time out" because the girl woke up from a nap in a rage. Noting that Schofield wrapped 10 layers of tape around the girl's body, four layers over the top of her head and under her chin and three strips around her head and mouth, prosecutor William Stokes said, "This woman was so committed to shutting this kid up and imposing her will on this child that she lost control."

Side Effects

After a 550-pound squid washed up in Tasmania this summer, researchers at Hobart's Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies concluded that global warming is turning the world's squid into giants. The scientists said that a rise of 1 degree C in the world's oceans is causing juvenile squid to grow to twice their normal size.

Catalytic converters, which are designed to benefit the environment by converting carbon monoxide from automobile engine exhaust into harmless gases, are also preventing suicides. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the number of people who killed themselves by inhaling carbon monoxide from automobiles fell from 10 per million in 1975 to 4.9 per million last year.

Occupational Hazards

When road laws were revised to crack down on drunk driving, an unidentified vice district attorney from the northern Japanese prefecture of Yamagata spent the day testing breathalyzers by drinking sake and checking how the machines registered his blood alcohol level. He took a cab home, but had become so drunk during the testing that he lost his wallet and couldn't pay his fare. The angry cab driver turned him in to police.

True to Form

While Kevin Donaldson, 23, was being taken to court in Burlington, Vt., to be arraigned on escape charges, he escaped. Donaldson, whose record includes three prior escape convictions, asked the sheriff driving the car to lower the window of the police cruiser because the pepper spray on his clothing from his arrest the night before was making breathing difficult. He reached out the window and opened the door from the outside. Chittenden County Sheriff Kevin McLaughlin noted that Donaldson removed double-locked handcuffs and leg restraints, then slipped out of the moving cruiser and fled.

Not-So-Great Escapes

A 52-year-old French convict tried to break out of Brest prison by gluing broken glass to his hands, razor blades to his clothes and scissors to his shoes, hoping that guards would be unable to grab him. The attempt failed when six guards managed to hold on to the inmate.

After a woman reported a stolen vehicle, police in Bethlehem, Pa., spotted it cruising down the street and gave chase, although at a very slow speed since the vehicle in question was a child's Fisher Price Power Wheels car. When eventually pulled over, the 30-year-old suspect, who smelled of alcohol, explained that he was trying to get to a relative's house.

Like Father, Like Son

Chicago police arrested William Ligue Jr., 34, and his 15-year-old son at a White Sox baseball game after the shirtless duo jumped from the stands at Comiskey Park and attacked Kansas City Royals third-base coach Tom Gamboa, 54. "I felt like a football team had hit me from behind," Gamboa said. "Next thing I knew, I'm on the ground trying to defend myself." Even though the entire Kansas City team rushed to his aid, jumping on the attackers and beating them, the Ligues were uninjured. Gamboa suffered cuts and bruises and had to leave the game.

The previous Sunday, Pittsburgh police charged Douglas Olszewski, 36, with letting his 14-year-old son drink so much beer at a Steelers football game that the boy had to have his stomach pumped. Olszewski, who was also drunk, was arrested after he and his son were removed from the stands at Heinz Field when he tried to stop paramedics from taking the boy to the hospital.

Cool Drug

Authorities in York, Neb., asked residents to be alert for pre-teen children inhaling fumes from air-conditioning units after a 12-year-old girl was found unconscious. Police Officer Mike Hanke said that several pre-teens apparently have been huffing Freon from air conditioners to get high.

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

NewsQuirks 693

Curses, Foiled Again

Federal agents in San Antonio, Texas, arrested Humberto Perez, 31, for falsely claiming that his truck was stolen and receiving cash for a new one. Perez tipped off the authorities by calling a radio show to brag about the crime. FBI agent Steve McGraw was listening to the Spanish-language program "What Is Your Biggest Lie?" and heard a caller recount how he had given a friend a duplicate key to steal the truck so he could get $7,000 and a new pickup from his insurance company and a company that sold him a truck alarm.

When the caller also supplied the time and place of the incident, McGraw checked stolen vehicle reports and easily identified Perez.

Swedish police quickly tracked down a 47-year-old man who robbed a post office in Halmstad. After the cashier handed him a bag of cash, the robber demanded that she also deposit $37.2 million in his bank account and gave her a piece of paper with his account number written on it.

When three men broke into a Chicago restaurant and pried an automatic teller machine from its bolts, they discovered the ATM wouldn't fit in their 1993 Cadillac DeVille. They managed to get the machine partly into the back seat and prepared to take off with the rear door half open, but a passing police officer spotted the men, who fled. The officer managed to catch one of them, Cory Pickett, 32.

Even if the men had been successful, the Chicago Sun Times reported, the ATM contained no money. It has been out of order for two years, and was unplugged and unlit when the burglars snatched it.

Something's Fishy

When Norwegian soccer forward Kenneth Kristensen switched teams from Vindbjart to rival Floey, Vindbjart's officials demanded compensation: Kristensen's weight in shrimp. "No problem," Floey president Rolf Guttormsen said. "We have enough shrimp."

Doctors at the Pentagon's DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that members of the military's Special Forces obtain antibiotics without prescriptions by buying them at pet stores, which stock them to treat fish. Available drugs include penicillin, tetracycline, erythromycin and sulfa, which are commonly prescribed to combat human infections. The drugs also require a veterinarian's prescription for cats, dogs and other animals. Because of a legal loophole, however, fish antibiotics -- used to treat tail rot, body slime and other piscine maladies -- do not require a veterinarian's prescription. The Washington Post reported that fish drugs do not have to meet the same standards as those prescribed for people. As a result, some may contain impurities or other substances that are harmful to humans. "Certainly a person should not assume that a product sold to treat a condition in fish would work for a different condition in a person," Linda Grassie, a spokesperson for the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, warned.

Sperm in the News

Following a 60-percent decline in sperm donations in Britain during the past 10 years, the 20 commercial sperm banks in the United States have targeted the United Kingdom to boost their slumping sales. The Boston-based New England Cryogenic Center became the first U.S. sperm bank to seek permission from the British government to export "bulk shipments" of donor sperm. Other U.S. sperm banks report increasing online sales to Britain. The U.S. companies rely on aggressive marketing, offering more details about the appearance, personality and family history of their donors than British companies do. "Intelligence and figures of authority are what most of our customers seek," Christopher Arnone, marketing director for the New England center, told USA Today.

The paper attributed the drop in British donor sperm to growing concerns that children born from donated sperm will be able to trace their biological father, thanks to the application of a "children's rights movement" in European law. In addition, British sperm banks pay only about $23 per deposit, whereas U.S. donors typically earn $50.

Costly Gesture

Pop singer Ricardo Abarca, 16, who recently joined the teen group Mageneto, was hospitalized in Guatemala after he stepped off a helicopter at a Guatemala City airport and raised his hand to greet fans. The helicopter's still-whirling rotor severed his index finger, middle finger and little finger. Doctors were able to reattach them.

United We Stand
Mark Allen, a Missouri official responsible for keeping the state secure since Sept. 11, 2001, was placed on unpaid leave after he was charged with taking a riding lawn mower from a dealership and not paying for it.

Guilty with an Explanation

When Charles Digiglio, 34, pleaded guilty to crashing into a school bus in Jim Thorpe, Pa., he explained that he had fallen asleep at the wheel because he worked late the night before making counterfeit checks. "I was up all night," Digiglio told Carbon County Judge Roger N. Nanovic, who sentenced him to two to four years, to run concurrently with an 18-month federal sentence for taking part in a ring that used stolen computers to create $500,000 worth of phony payroll and personal checks that were cashed at grocery stores.

Authorities in drought-stricken Catawba, S.C., issued Lisa Meyer, 33, a summons on a charge of misdemeanor larceny for attaching a makeshift device to a fire hydrant and pumping 100 gallons of city water into her above-ground pool. "It was an accident," Meyer told the Herald newspaper. "I just didn't realize it was city water. I thought it was ground water."

You Snooze, You Lose

Refco Group, a Chicago futures trading firm, fired two clerks whose job was to sort completed orders after the Chicago Sun-Times published a photograph of them sleeping at their desks just a few feet from frantic trading in a stock index futures pit at the Chicago Board of Trade. The color photograph showed the men in their chairs with their heads down and eyes closed, wearing blue trader jackets with the name Refco clearly visible on one sleeve. Nearby, paper streamed from a printer onto the floor.

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

NewsQuirks 692

Curses, Foiled Again

New Orleans homicide detective Bernard Crowden arrested murder suspect Tron Hughes, 22, when Hughes walked up to him at the bus station and asked where he could catch a cab. Crowden, who was off duty working security at the terminal, had, just days earlier, issued an arrest warrant for Hughes. "Out of all the police officers on the job," Crowden said, "probably the only officer who would have recognized his face or known he was wanted for murder was me."

After a man called Dutch police to report that his home in Breda had been broken into while he was out shopping, police noticed that the man's computer bore a sticker from a local school. One of the officers remembered that some computers had been stolen from the school and began a search. After uncovering more computers in a barn near the home in Breda, police arrested the 33-year-old man.

Space Invaders

Engineers at Ball Aerospace said they are building an 800-pound bullet to fire at a comet that is scheduled to pass Earth at 22,300 mph in July 2005. The Boulder, Colo., company is also building a spacecraft to accompany the bullet, which is technically known as an impactor spacecraft, and relay pictures and data from the collision to scientists on Earth. The two craft are part of NASA's $279 million Deep Impact comet mission to blast a crater the size of a football field in 3-mile-wide Comet Tempel I and dredge up ice unchanged since the birth of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago. Since scientists are just guessing about the comet's interior density, however, the bullet could bore a hole through the ice ball and emerge on the other side, according to University of Arizona impact expert Jay Melosh, a member of the Deep Impact science team, or possibly break the comet apart into several big chunks.

In case a comet or asteroid ever threatens to collide with Earth, Oklahoma State University scientist Hermann Burchard recommended sending spacecraft to fly alongside the heavenly menace and inflate a giant bag several miles wide to deflect the asteroid or comet gently but still keep it intact. "It seems a safe, simple and realistic idea," Burchard told New Scientist magazine, although he conceded that details still have to be worked out, including the material to use for the cosmic pillow.

Yo, Canada

Canadian police arrested William Christiansen, 41, for carrying a cupcake. Police said they feared Christiansen might throw the cupcake at Prime Minster Jean Chretien, who was hit in the face with a custard pie two years ago. "We take all the steps we need to ensure the safety of those we're charged to protect," Danielle Efford, the constable who arrested Christiansen, told the Toronto Globe and Mail.

In a related incident, police detained lawyer Cameron Ward because they said he matched the description of a suspected pie-thrower. They also towed his car in case the trunk was full of cakes. "It's outrageous," Ward protested after his release. "I can assure you I have not visited a bakery within the last 48 hours."

Up in Smoke

States hoping to raise revenue by raising cigarette taxes are losing millions of dollars because the taxes drive people to buy cigarettes from Internet vendors, according to a study by the General Accounting Office. The report noted that the online sellers routinely ignore a federal law requiring them to report sales to local regulators, who can then contact buyers to collect the sales taxes.

When North Carolina won a $4.6 billion settlement from tobacco companies, officials vowed to help smokers quit, stop children from starting to smoke and help tobacco farmers switch to other crops. Instead, according to the Charlotte Observer, about $43 million of the $59 million spent so far has gone toward the production and marketing of North Carolina tobacco. The newspaper pointed out that the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, one of three citizens groups appointed by top state officials to control the settlement money, spent $41 million to reimburse tobacco farmers for equipment they need to remain competitive in the tobacco business. The commission consists of 18 members. Eleven are tobacco farmers.

Conjugal Visit

Authorities at Washington's King County jail discovered public defender Theresa Olson, 43, having sex with her client, accused murderer Sebastian Burns, 26, in a prison conference room. After prison guards watched the couple through the room's windows, one of them entered the room and asked what was going on. As the couple "proceeded to cover themselves," according to a summation of official reports, Olson responded, " 'I was just giving him a hug, and it got carried away.' " A judge removed Olson from the case.

Heads Up

After Lithuania took a 1-0 lead against Germany in a European under-21 soccer championship-qualifying match, the Germans bounced back to a 4-1 win. Three of Germany's goals were scored by Lithuania's players, including two from Gerdas Aleksa, who struck the ball past his own goalkeeper in the 60th and 69th minutes.

Tell the Truth

When Christopher Whelan, 28, called 911 to report that he had stabbed his 60-year-old mother to death at their home in Bucks County, Pa., he noticed she was still squirming and groaning, so he interrupted the call, picked up the knife and finished the job. Police said that after Whelan confessed on the 911 tape, he can be heard saying, "Oh, my God, she's still moving."

Driven to Distraction

Iris Jazmin Rangel, 24, pleaded guilty in Tucson, Ariz., to causing the death of her 10-month-old daughter. Rangel was breast-feeding the infant while driving her pickup truck when she rear-ended another vehicle that stopped abruptly. The truck's air bag inflated, striking the baby.

Every Lynch Mob Needs a Dictionary

Police in south Wales confirmed that vandals attacked the home of Dr. Yvette Cloete because they confused her professional title, pediatrician, with the word pedophile. Cloete, who specializes in treating children not molesting them, said she was forced to flee her house after the vigilantes painted offensive graffiti on the front porch and door of the house she shared with her brother in St. Brides.

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

NewsQuirks 691

Curses, Foiled Again

Authorities in Warren County, Ohio, charged Lois English, 47, with receiving stolen property after she rented a U-Haul truck in California the year before but never returned it. A co-worker contacted police after noticing that English regularly drove the rental truck to work. "The co-worker had worked at U-Haul before or something like that," county prosecutor Tim Oliver told the Dayton Daily News. "One thing he knew is that U-Haul didn't rent vehicles out so that people could go to work every day."

Hole of Dreams

After a $170,000 facelift five years ago, officials reopened a natural pothole at Pennsylvania's Archbald Pothole State Park, hoping it would become the attraction that it had been in the early 20th century. Instead, officials admitted, the 42-foot-wide, 38-foot-deep hole has become a prime location for trash dumping, vandalism and loitering.

Ain't Nobody Here but Us Chickens

Hong Kong officials reported that financial problems are forcing more people to move into so-called cage rooms, which consist of a bed in an enclosure that is barely high enough to sit in. Fifty people share a kitchen and bathroom. The latest estimate is that 10,000 city residents pay $100 a month for a cage room.

What's My Line?

Brian Root, 44, makes his living entering contests that require contestants to keep their hands on an automobile. Root told the Wall Street Journal that since quitting his job as a produce manager in a health-food store in the mid-1980s, he has won or tied for first in 16 hands-on contests, collecting about $160,000 by selling the cars and trucks he claimed as prizes. Root, who lives with his mother in Mobile, Ala., attributes his success to his vegetarian diet, wearing sunglasses (they unsettle his opponents) and his sidekick, Paul Rathe, who tends to Root's needs during breaks in exchange for a cut of the winnings. "I've never really liked working, doing the 8-to-5," he said. "I knew it would give me the freedom to go to the beach." He added that his long stands--up to 225 hours--are "like a spiritual experience. Your mind goes to places it's never gone before. You see a part of yourself you never see otherwise."

Tell It Like It Is

Evangelist Orlando Bethel followed other ministers to the microphone at his wife's uncle's funeral in Loxley, Ala., but he disputed their assurances that the deceased had gone to a better place. Instead, he declared that Devan Taylor, 56, had gone to hell. He also called Taylor's 100 or so mourners "fornicators" and "whoremongers." When the microphone was abruptly disconnected, Bethel reached into his gym bag for what apparently was a bullhorn. Some thought he was going for a gun, however, and fled. Bethel's wife Glynis, who insisted that her uncle was "so mean he would toss shotgun shells into a burning fire and yell, 'Run,'" defended her husband, adding that he was dragged from the church and mobbed by "unbelievers." "The Taylor family is large," Glenita Andrews, a cousin of Taylor's, said. "Orlando and Devan had some problems."

Waste Not, Want Not

In September 1986, the cargo ship Khian Sea left Philadelphia hauling 14,855 tons of ash from one of the city's municipal trash incinerators to a manmade island in the Bahamas. Before the ship docked, however, the Bahamian government changed its mind and turned the ship away. According to the Washington Post, over the next two years, at least 11 countries on four continents also rejected the ship's cargo. The Khian Sea was able to offload 4,000 tons of the incinerator ash on a beach in Haiti before protests forced it to leave with the remaining 10,855 tons. In November 1988, the ship finally docked in Singapore, having illegally dumped the ash into the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Meanwhile, the 4,000 tons of ash in Haiti remained on the beach. Finally, in 2000, the Haitian government, the U.S. State Department, the city of Philadelphia and the New York City Trade Waste Commission worked out an agreement enabling the ash to be shipped back to the United States. Five states and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma refused to take it, however, so it sat on a barge in Stuart, Fla., until this summer, when it was accepted by a private landfill in Upton, Pa., which is only 120 miles from where the waste's 16-year odyssey began. "It was generated by Pennsylvanians," said Dennis Buterbaugh of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, "and we feel it's only proper that it should be disposed of in Pennsylvania."

Holding a Grudge

Hava Rexha, who turned 122 in August, making her the oldest woman in Albania, said that her one regret was her marriage in 1894. She was 14 and said she was forced to marry a man who claimed to be 30 but was "about 60 and married twice before." Adding to her misery, he didn't die until 1950. "I didn't love my husband," she said 108 years after the wedding. "He was an old man."

Positive Energy

Italian priests at a church in Milan noticed that a young South American couple had become regulars and spent an hour each visit sitting in front of a Madonna statue before silently departing. The priests assumed the couple was seeking spiritual guidance until a cleaning person noticed an electrical cable behind the statue, Closer examination revealed the visitors were using the electrical outlet used to light up the Madonna to charge their cell phone. Parish priest Don Antonio Colombo said the couple would not be barred from the church, telling the Corriere della Sera newspaper that "letting them charge their mobile phone is a bit like giving them a glass of water."

No Pulitzer Prize Here

New Jersey's Trentonian newspaper published a story about a fire at a state psychiatric hospital. The story was headlined "Roasted Nuts." Copy editor Tony Persichilli apologized for the headline, which was not only insensitive, but also technically inaccurate since none of the 450 patients at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital were injured.

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

NewsQuirks 690

Curses, Foiled Again

Police in Gainesville, Fla., charged David Christopher Lander, 51, with breaking into a 1994 Infiniti after they found him inside. "He was trying to hide, all scrunched down in the back seat. I guess he thought deputies couldn't see him," said Sgt. Keith Faulk of the Alachua County Sheriff's Department, explaining that the vehicle is equipped with an anti-theft device that automatically locks the doors when the car alarm is triggered. "Had he pushed the button on the driver's side door, he could have gotten out." Faulk added, "Maybe he needs a new line of work. He's not very good at what he's doing now."

Homeland Security

After suspending mail deliveries because anthrax spores were detected in 16 congressional offices last October, the U.S. Postal Service began treating all mail addressed to Congress and federal agencies with large doses of nuclear radiation. A report by the general counsel of the Office of Compliance noted that shortly after mail deliveries resumed in January, a substantial number of congressional employees experienced long-term health problems, which have been linked to the irradiated mail. The report traced some of the problems--headaches, burning eyes, itching skin and nausea--to "overdoses" of radiation and irritant chemical byproducts caused by irradiation of the mail, probably as a result of the breakdown of cellulose in the paper mail during the irradiation process.

King of Fat

The Wall Street Journal reported that Ulf Ellingsen, 51, owns Europe's largest stockpile of whale blubber, having hoarded 600 tons in colossal freezers 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle. He said that he would like to sell his blubber, but Norwegians, who prefer lean whale meat, won't touch it. He also can't sell it to Japan, where whale blubber is a delicacy and his stash would fetch around $10 million, because of the global embargo on trade in whale products. Meanwhile, he spends around $100,000 a year to store the blubber, keeping the freezers running year-round at 22 degrees below zero.

Pandering to Passion

Hoping to stop giant pandas from becoming extinct, researchers at the China Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center in Sichuan province have begun requiring all adult males to watch videos of wild and captive pandas having sex. "Through this kind of sex education," the center's director, Zhang Heming, said, "we expect to arouse the sexual instincts of giant pandas, enhance their natural mating ability and raise their reproductive capacity."

Tripped Up

When police Officer Chip Ridgeway noticed a van with three men inside parked in front of a business in Englewood, Ohio, early one morning, he slowed to investigate. The van tried to ram Ridgeway's cruiser, but swerved at the last minute and sped away. Ridgeway and other officers chased the van to a residential cul-de-sac. "The van sideswiped a tree, so the only person able to flee was the driver, Michael Ford, who took off on foot with the officers in pursuit," Detective Mike Lang said. "He only made it as far as the back yard as he had a prosthetic leg, which came off when he was running and decreased his mobility."

Great Escape

When a 27-year-old convicted murderer was sent to Germany's Waldeck prison, he was assigned to work in the prison's box-folding department. After he turned up missing, Christian Pegel of the justice ministry of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state said, "It appears he got into a box." A truck driver unwittingly transported the box out of the prison, and the inmate jumped off the vehicle unseen.

Good News, Bad News

To help commuters relax during the summertime heat and humidity, the Japanese train company Fuji Kyuko began serving its Friday night passengers all the locally brewed beer they can drink during the two-hour trip. Company representative Naotaka Nishiyama reported the trains have been "almost completely booked up," even though they have no restrooms.

Second-Amendment Follies

After a 45-year-old woman complained to the authorities about someone smashing a bottle outside her home in Ozaukee County, Wis., she told the deputies who responded that she had fired her .22-caliber handgun into the air as a warning to the occupants of the passing car. The deputies seized the weapon and took the woman to the Sheriff's Department, where she was booked. "I thought I was going there to tell my story," she said, "and then they started saying I had committed a crime." When two men robbed a sheet-metal business in Philadelphia, the workers began chasing them. One of the robbers turned and fired shots at the workers but hit his accomplice in the head. The accomplice collapsed and died, while the other robber escaped with the money. "It's a robbery that got sloppy," police Capt. Lou Campione said.

Why They Call It Dope

A 32-year-old man complained to police in Saanich, British Columbia, that someone had stolen the marijuana that he was growing at home. Officers responded and found that the thieves had left behind just enough of the marijuana to charge the victim with possession. "It's surprising," Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Peter Lane said, "what some people will report to police."

Police in Middlefield, Ohio, arrested James J. Bowers, 27, outside a bar at 3:30 a.m. after finding him asleep and snoring in his pickup truck with a bag of marijuana on his lap. When asked about the bag, Bowers told police Sgt. Mark Clark, "OK, you got me. It's mine. It's my weed," then explained he must have drifted off while "getting ready to roll a joint." Authorities charged Vivian Frazier, 32, with passing 2 grams of methamphetamine in a balloon to her new husband, Jeremy Guinther, 32, when she kissed him at the conclusion of their wedding ceremony at Indiana's Vigo County Jail. According to a police report, a guard became suspicious after noticing that inmate Guinther had a slight bulge in his cheek after the kiss. The guard ordered Guinther to open his mouth, but the inmate swallowed. Guinther was taken to the hospital, where the drug was recovered awhile later.

Nor Iron Bars a Prison Make

After authorities in Cole County, Mo., placed convicted murderer Michael Kempker II, 20, under house arrest while awaiting sentence, he notified them that he wanted to go to jail instead. According to Sheriff John Hemeyer, Kempker explained that he had had enough of his parents and wanted to leave home before the situation escalated.

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

NewsQuirks 689

To the Rescue

Twice in June, firefighters in Washington, D.C., had to resort to borrowing ordinary garden hoses to battle house fires because their official equipment was inoperative. In the first incident, a valve on the first pumper truck to arrive on the scene did not work. In the second incident, a fire broke out in a house directly behind a firehouse, and firefighters responded on foot because their regular pumper truck was being serviced and their reserve truck was unusable because two of its valves were severely leaking. The blaze caused $50,000 worth of damage when firefighters were unable to control it because, according to Lt. Patrick Kelly, who was in command at the scene, it "had gotten so big that the garden hose was doing very little."

Slightest Provocations

Police investigating the shooting deaths of Pearle Cogswell, 66, and Eugene Cogswell, 75, in Milo, Maine, concluded that the incident was a murder-suicide resulting from an argument that began over a blueberry pie. Pearle Cogswell called a relative to report that her husband objected to her plans to give the freshly baked pie away. Later, she called police to report that she was a victim of domestic assault after her husband threw a glass of wine in her face. Stephen McCausland of the Maine Department of Public Safety said the dispute over the pie apparently escalated to the wine incident and then to the shootings. Investigators found a handgun beside Eugene Cogswell and the uneaten pie on the kitchen counter.

Denver authorities charged Michael Nunez, 30, with stabbing Corina Martinez 40 times, then stuffing her body in a trash bin because she discovered that he liked to wear women's lingerie. Martinez, 59, a security guard at the shopping mall food court where Nunez worked, found Nunez in a back room removing women's panties, pantyhose, a burgundy camisole and slip and a white nightgown with spaghetti straps that he wore to work under his regular clothing. He attacked her to make sure she wouldn't tell anyone "the secret he kept for 10 years," prosecutor Katie O'Brien said, then went back to work "making sandwiches and waiting on the public."

Authorities in Johnson County, Texas, charged Clayton Frank Stoker, 21, with fatally shooting Johnny Joslin, 20, while the two men argued over who would go to heaven and who was going to hell. Sheriff Bob Alford said that, according to a witness, the men began arguing while sitting at a table outside a trailer park after a night on the town. Stoker declared he would settle the argument. He went into a house and returned with a shotgun, loaded it and placed the barrel in his mouth. "The victim Joslin then took the gun out of Stoker's mouth, saying, 'If you have to shoot somebody, shoot me,'" Alford said, adding that the shotgun went off, hitting Joslin in the chest.

A judge in Bucks County, Pa., ruled that Daniel Strouss, 19, will stand trial for trying to kill a friend because the friend had given him a wedgie. Prosecutors said Strouss was attending a Phish concert when his friend Eric Kassoway, 19, sneaked up behind him and yanked up his underwear. Strouss, who doesn't dispute the prosecution's version of events, held a grudge for nearly a year before shooting Kassoway in the arm and leg with a 9mm gun.

Sex Is Its Own Punishment

Sex may shorten your life, according to researchers at England's University of Sheffield. "Those organisms that mate the most, and are therefore more successful in evolutionary terms, reduce their own life expectancy in the process," Dr. Michael Siva-Jothy said, explaining that mating releases a hormone that damages the immune system. Although the scientists drew their conclusions from studying mealworm beetles, they said the findings could hold true for humans.

Auto Erotica

A tryst turned fatal when two young New York City lovers were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes while having sex in the backseat of a running car they parked in a garage. Yan Wang, 23, and her boyfriend, Yen-Chun Hwang, 22, were found dead in the garage of his family's home in Queens. Because it was hot, the couple apparently left the car running so they could use the air conditioner, police said, and closed the garage door for privacy.

Newsday reported that Hwang's uncle heard the car running in the garage and found Wang in the backseat. He spotted his nephew on the garage floor, apparently having tried to crawl to safety. Hwang's family members called 911. Detectives were puzzled to find Hwang had his clothes on while Wang was nude until Hwang's mother admitted that both had been nude, but she had started trying to dress the couple to spare the families the embarrassment over the way the victims died.

When Ontario police stopped a car south of Barrie, the officer said he was "astonished" to discover that the couple was having sex while they were driving. "Both occupants of the vehicle were engaged in activities other than that normally expected of persons driving an automobile," senior constable Norm Galestzoski told The Toronto Star. "The female passenger was completely nude, and the male driver was also in a state of undress."

Galestzoski said the officer charged the 31-year-old man with driving without a license and 25-year-old woman with allowing him to drive her vehicle without a license. They then left "with a reminder from police to enjoy their extracurricular activities at home."

Believe This

When Ripley's Believe It or Not archivist Edward Meyer announced that he was holding auditions in Los Angeles for the next edition of "Ripley's Believe It or Not Encyclopedia of the Bizarre," nobody showed up. "I don't know what to say," Meyer's publicist, Kim Dower, told the Los Angeles Times. "We thought we were going to have hundreds of people. Maybe L.A. has become so bizarre that nobody realizes how bizarre they are anymore."

Not-So-Great Britain

The condom maker Condomi reported that its launch of a new extra-big version was a flop in the United Kingdom because British men were too shy to buy them. "Research shows that most men rate their penis as smaller than average, which of course is not true, and may be an illusion based on the distorted view of the genitals from above," said Glenn Wilson, a psychologist employed by Condomi to examine the issue. "Knowledge of this effect may be reassuring to many men and help raise their self-esteem."

The Condomi XXL is 200mm long, 20mm longer than its standard size, and 54mm across, 2mm wider than its other products. "We launched the XXL condom in the U.K. on the basis that there is a demand for a larger condom. In all Condomi's other markets it is selling well," Condomi's Victoria Wells said. "Unfortunately, U.K. retailers aren't as convinced as we are that British men are well-endowed, but we hope that our research, coupled with Dr. Wilson's research, will help convince them to now start selling the XXL product."

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