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."

Reactionaries

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.

Backfirings

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."

Boxgate

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 (www.ready.gov) 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."

Prioritizing

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."

Handicapable

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.

Lucky...Not

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.

Francofollies

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.

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