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News Quirks 09.13.06


Published September 13, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

New York City police received an obscenity-filled letter containing white powder that taunted, "Ha, Ha (you) thought it was anthrax," and ended with "Catch me if you can." Officers promptly arrested Abdullah Date, 18, because the envelope had his return address, and the letter was signed "Abdullah Date." They said Date mailed the letter to the 73rd Precinct in Brooklyn because he was angry over a drug bust.

Tales Retold?

Turkey, which has been a strongly secular state since the 1920s, added to its school curriculum 100 classic children's stories that have been revised to include Islamic elements. "Give me some bread, for Allah's' sake," Pinocchio tells Geppetto, his maker. Pollyanna, the embodiment of Christian forgiveness, believes in the end of the world as foretold by the Koran. In The Three Musketeers, D'Artagnan is told that he cannot visit Aramis because "he converted to Islam after his illness." According to the London Daily Telegraph, the insertions in these books by Islamic publishers also contain insults, slang and rude rhymes that mock Turkey's president and prime minister.

Second Amendment Meets Seventh Commandment

A preacher's wife pulled a gun on her husband during a church service in Newport, Ark. According to members of the congregation at the Pentecostal Church of God, Tammy Estes was upset with Larry Estes because of text messages he exchanged with a youth group member, and she demanded that he admit infidelity.

Silver Linings

Global warming could open up new shipping lanes through the Arctic, shortening voyages by thousands of miles. These northern passages could open for the summer as early as 2050, according to French and German scientists, who warned, however, that the new routes could triple levels of low-lying ozone as ship exhausts pollute the pristine environment.

* After introducing the Mosquito, a device aimed at discouraging loitering by emitting a high-pitched sound that youths can hear clearly but most older people can't, Compound Security Systems Ltd. said that teenagers have begun downloading the sound as a ring tone for their cellphones. Because their parents and teachers have difficulty hearing it, teens, whose hearing is more sensitive to high-frequency sounds, use it to avoid detection in adult-monitored situations where cellphones aren't permitted. "When we brought out the teenager repellent to market, we really didn't think anybody would be interested in ring tones" in the same frequency, Simon Morris, the Welsh company's marketing and commercial director said.

Mensa Rejects of the Week

Two Australian men were hospitalized with face and arm injuries after an explosive device that they were preparing blew up in their faces at a bachelor party in Tasmania's Central Highlands. "It appears they were trying to liven up the party with a bit of loud explosion," Senior Constable Steve Timmins said, adding that the men did not appear drunk at the time. A helicopter took the men from the remote location to Royal Hobart Hospital, where a hospital official commented, "They were stupid fools as far as I am concerned."

* After William Mellema, 41, of Greece, N.Y., was arrested for leading state troopers on a high-speed chase in his 1993 Saturn, he explained to Irondequoit Town Justice Jospeh Genier that he was driving to get his car inspected when a trooper tried to pull him over because the vehicle had an expired inspection sticker. "I got scared, and I ran. I'm stupid. I'm an idiot," said Mellema, who now faces multiple felony charges, as well as traffic violations, the least of which is driving with an expired inspection sticker. Genier commented, "There's no argument from anybody here."

Jumping the Gun

The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T to help it set up a domestic call-monitoring program seven months before Sept. 11, 2001, according to lawyers representing customers of Verizon Communications and BellSouth Corp. in a breach of privacy lawsuit. The suit, which charges the three communications companies with cooperating with the NSA to eavesdrop on customers, added AT&T as a defendant after the plaintiff's attorneys learned that the program was set up well ahead of the terrorist attacks. "The Bush Administration asserted this became necessary after 9/11," attorney Carl Mayer told Bloomberg News. "This undermines that assertion."

* After the U.S. government awarded a $385 million contract to Halliburton to provide, if needed, 5000-person camps for "temporary detention and processing," the Department of Homeland Security solicited vendors to provide an "indefinite quantity, indefinite delivery" of 5-ounce, frozen beef-and-bean burritos for Texas border patrol stations in the Del Rio Sector. "Currently there are approximately 9000 burritos consumed monthly at the Del Rio Sector," the government solicitation explained. "However, these amounts can drastically increase or decrease depending upon the alien traffic trends."


Zookeepers in the Netherlands announced plans to set up online communications for Dutch and Indonesian orangutans to get to know each other better. Noting that captive orangutans separated by a wall communicate using a mirror in front of the two enclosures, Anouk Ballot of the Apenheul ape park in Apeldoorn said that web cams and computer screens extend that principle. "We are going to set up an Internet connection between Indonesia and Apeldoorn so that the apes can see each other and, by means of pressing a button, be able to give one another food, for example," she explained, adding that the first step is "to find ape-proof cables and screens."

When All Else Fails

Christians in eastern England are turning to prayer to help catch criminals now that the Lincolnshire branch of the Christian Police Association has set up a "Prayer Watch" operation. "It's largely geared to protecting congregations and church properties, which are pretty vulnerable places, but with the added bolt-on aspect of prayers," a police official told Reuters news agency.

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