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News Quirks 04.13.05


Published April 13, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

Facing drunk-driving charges in Clay County, Minnesota, Josiah Johnson, 23, admitted that it might have been his license plate that attracted the attention of the deputy sheriff who pulled him over and found his blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit. The vanity plate reads "TIPSY." Johnson explained that he bought the personalized plate for his Jeep to describe how it rode, then kept it as a joke when he got a Chevy Silverado because he likes to party.

Hide Your Light Under a Bushel

State pageant officials stripped Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin of her title after they discovered that she could stand. The action came after the Appleton Post-Crescent published a photograph of Janeal Lee, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a scooter, standing among high school math students. "I've been made to feel as if I can't represent the disabled citizens of Wisconsin because I'm not disabled enough," Lee said. The national board supported the move, however. Candidates for the title have to "mostly be seen in the public using their wheelchairs or scooters," Ms. Wheelchair America treasurer Judy Hoit said. "We can't have title holders out there walking when they're seen in the public."

Unclear on the Concept

Nicanor Jose Saleta, 26, tried to commit suicide by accelerating to 60 mph and ramming into a steel-reinforced concrete wall on the sixth floor of a parking garage in South Miami, Florida. The 1993 Mercury Cougar crashed through the wall, slammed into an adjacent drugstore building and fell to the ground. Saleta suffered only minor injuries, however, in large part because he was wearing his seat belt.

When Guns Are Outlawed

Police in Key West, Florida, accused Fred Simunovic, 47, of robbing a credit union with a pitchfork. Officers who arrested Simunovic trying to board a ferry to Fort Myers found $1859 in cash, of the more than $2000 stolen, in his pockets.

- South Africans responded to new, tougher gun-ownership laws and continuing high-crime rates by stocking up on crossbows, spears, swords, knives, battle axes and pepper spray to protect themselves. "We've had to build an entirely new shop because the demand from people is so great," Justin Willmers, owner of Durban Guns and Ammo, told Reuters news service. He explained that men favor machetes for fighting off hijackers and crossbows to shoot intruders, whereas women prefer pepper spray.

Hello, Dr. Nick

Officials at Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville, Pa., announced that they were arranging free hepatitis and HIV tests for some 200 patients who underwent colonoscopies over a four-month period because the rectally inserted exam equipment might not have been cleaned properly.

- Officials at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research in Tampa, Florida, acknowledged that at least 77 patients were exposed to radiation levels 50 percent stronger than they were supposed to receive because a radiation machine was improperly installed. Twelve have since died. William S. Dalton, the center's director, said it could take three months to a year for side effects such as speech and memory loss or headaches to appear. Meanwhile, as a result of the error, the Florida Bureau of Radiation Control fined the center $1000.

Monkey Business

A Belgian police manual intended to help trainees in Bruges recognize the importance of body language in dealing with the public featured a series of photographs showing President George W. Bush's facial expressions next to pictures of a chimpanzee making similar faces.

Turf War

Eleven horses were racing toward the finish line at Sandown racetrack in Melbourne, Australia, when a large flock of seagulls suddenly rose from the track and flew into the approaching horses. Five jockeys were injured in the mishap after being thrown by their horses. Jockey Peter Mertens said that the birds hit so hard, his mount was knocked sideways. Only five horses finished the race, which was declared void.

Criminal Deduction

A Dutch judge in Breda allowed a 46-year-old bank robber to claim the cost of his gun as a legitimate business expense. The robber set the price of his pistol at $2630, and the judge lowered his fine by that amount while sentencing him to four years in jail. "You can compare criminal acts to normal business activities, where you must invest to make profits, and thus you have costs," Leendert De Lange of the Dutch prosecutors' service said, explaining that the judge followed sound legal precedents. "The whole idea is that crime does not pay, but you are allowed to claim your expenses."

Old Habits Die Hard

Hours after a woman was released from jail in Eagan, Minnesota, for putting fake charity donation boxes around Minneapolis-St. Paul, she was arrested when she tried to drop off a new donation box and collect an old one. A store clerk recognized her from television news reports and called police, who found 20 donation boxes in her car.

- Richard Wayne Cook, 44, was charged with stealing the same merchandise from the same home for the second time in four years. Investigators in Charleston County, South Carolina, said they caught Cook when he sold one of several stolen guitars to a store owned by a longtime friend of the victim. "This guy is a moron," victim Theresa Bates Wyman said. "That guitar still had the evidence tag on it from the last time it was stolen."

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