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News Quirks 08.10.05


Published August 10, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Police in Bismarck, N.D., reported that William Jones, 38, was evicted from his room at the Bismarck Motor Hotel for owing back rent but returned several hours later and tried to break into the building through a window to a different room. He got stuck in the window, however, attracting the attention of witnesses, who alerted the authorities.

40 Years in the Making Surviving Black Panthers in California have turned their militant slogan, "Burn, Baby, Burn," into the name of a hot sauce. "We're taking those '60s slogans and we're commodifying them," said original Panther David Hilliard, now executive director of the Huey P. Newton Foundation, who concocted the recipe for Burn Baby Burn: A Taste of the Sixties Revolutionary Hot Sauce with musician Al Green. "It was a catchy phrase," explained Newton's widow and foundation co-founder Frederika Newton, adding, "I sure didn't want it to be a call to burn anything other than our taste buds." The Oakland-based nonprofit foundation also plans to produce a line of clothing to commemorate the Black Panthers' 40th anniversary.

Adding Insult to Injury After Lisa King, 33, tried but failed to hang herself, police in New Castle County, Del., charged her with six counts of endangering the welfare of a child because she tied the rope around her neck in front of her children and three other children from the neighborhood.

Aviation Follies A 14-year-old boy who had never flown a plane stole one, took off on a 30-minute joyride and landed it twice at night. Police in Fort Payne, Ala., reported that the boy found the key in an unlocked single-engine Cessna, started it and taxied around the airport. "The next thing he knew, he was in the air," Police Chief David Walker said. He was arrested after landing too hard the second time, collapsing the landing gear and digging the propeller into a road beside the airport but suffering only minor injuries. Federal authorities arrested 40 pilots after investigators found out that they were claiming to be fit to fly while collecting Social Security disability payments for such debilitating illnesses as heart conditions, drug and alcohol addiction, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. At least a dozen of them had commercial or airline transport licenses. "You can't really fly a plane," said federal prosecutor Marlon Cobar in Fresno, Calif., "if you're telling the Social Security Administration you have a disabling back condition or bipolar disorder."

Occupational Hazard Circus daredevil Todd Christian, 26, who in February became Todd the Human Cannon-ball, was fired in June because he is afraid of flying. His act consists of his being shot 40 feet above the circus ring at 60 mph. When he injured his knee performing the stunt, his employers, the Cottle and Austen Circus, decided that for his own safety he should receive specialist training at a space center in Brazil. Christian refused to go. "I know it sounds silly because I'm a human cannonball, but I don't like long flights," he said, explaining, "I start to panic." The British circus replaced Christian with Diego Zeman, a Brazilian performer known as Diego the Human Rocket. "I feel sorry for Todd," said Zeman, who has already taken the specialist training, "but being a human cannonball is what I have always dreamed of doing."

Walk on the Wild Side A study of 640 taxi and bus drivers by San Marcos University in Lima, Peru, found that 40 percent of them suffered from psychological problems and showed psychopathic tendencies, including antisocial behavior. The drivers said that they wouldn't feel guilty injuring or running over a pedestrian.

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time When a truck hauling hay caught fire on an interstate highway east of Columbus, Ohio, the driver began swerving, figuring the wind caused by the erratic movement would blow out the fire. Instead, it caused the burning hay to fall off the truck, igniting grass fires along a six-mile stretch of the highway.

Homeland Insecurity When U.S. customs agents stopped Gregory Despres, 22, at a border crossing into Calais, Maine, he was carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw with what looked like blood on it. They confiscated the weapons and fingerprinted him but let him into the United States. "Nobody asked us to detain him," Bill Anthony of U.S. Customs and Border Protection said after agents learned that authorities in New Brunswick suspected Despres of stabbing one neighbor to death and decapitating another before fleeing Canada. "Being bizarre is not a reason to keep somebody out of this country or lock them up."

Vehicular Opportunities British entrepreneur Colin Dowse introduced a spray-on mud product designed to give sport utility vehicles an off-road look. "It started out as a pub joke about these people who live in London and drive 4-by-4s, but who never go to the country," Dowse explained. His Sprayonmud, made with authentic mud from Shropshire, sells for $20 a bottle. Officials noted that some customers are using the mud to obscure their license plates so speed cameras can't read them.

Germany's Thorsten Jahn has started selling the exhaust fumes of Communist East Germany's once-ubiquitous Trabant automobiles for $4.81 a can. A friend of his produced 1800 cans of Trabi exhaust by holding pieces of cotton in the exhaust pipe of his Trabant to filter out the toxic particles and leave the noxious but nostalgic smell. "The smell is something very special and scarce nowadays," Jahn said. "I wanted to preserve the past in an original way."

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