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News Quirks 12.06.06


Published December 6, 2006 at 5:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Sheriff's detectives investigating the murder and robbery of a 60-year-old man in Jackson County, Mich., made little progress until officers in neighboring Calhoun County identified their suspect. A woman they were questioning about a series of break-ins mentioned that while playing a game in which players name the stupidest thing they've ever done, her boyfriend answered, "Shot a guy in the head." Jackson County authorities checked out the story and charged Jerry Rose, 29.

* When the television show "America's Most Wanted" broadcast the picture of Calvin A. Bennett, 26, who was being sought for a double homicide in Nashville, Ark., state police received calls from people who recognized Bennett from an online-dating website, where he had posted his photo, name, address and a message that he "liked to cuddle." He was arrested in Wisconsin at the address he provided.

Problem Solved Forming a giant cloud to block the sun's rays could cool the Earth from global warming, according to astronomer Roger Angel of the University of Arizona Steward Observatory. Angel proposed manufacturing refractive discs, each 2 feet across and weighing about a gram, and sending them into space to form a cloud 62,000 miles long. Angel said about 16 trillion of the discs would have to be deployed, using 20 launchers that each send up a stack of 800,000 discs every 5 minutes for 10 years.

* East Japan Railway Co. began experimenting with a device that converts vibrations from passengers' footsteps into electricity. The generators, which are placed next to ticket gates at one exit of JR Tokyo Station, can produce 70 to 100 milliwatt-seconds when someone walks through the gate. JR East official Takahiro Kikuchi said that if the test is successful, the carrier hopes the generators will supply enough electricity to power the station's automatic turnstiles and display panels.

Unwitting Accomplices At least 15 people in Mesa, Ariz., responded to a 14-year-old boy's plea for help when he couldn't figure out how to drive a car. Some pushed the car, and passerby Margarita Wood hopped in to show him how to operate the manual transmission. After he and Wood drove off, city workers noticed the car being driven erratically and alerted police, who said the boy was stealing the car. "It is incredible that an entire neighborhood would participate in this comedy of errors," Sgt. Dave Norton said after the boy and the woman teaching him to drive were taken into custody (Wood was promptly released). "Nobody asked why a 14-year-old is out with a vehicle and doesn't know how to drive it."

Accidents Will Happen A man in Denton, Texas, said he was stabbed while "play fighting" with his brother. Police said the victim, armed with a bathroom plunger, lunged at the brother, who was wielding a sword. The plunger stuck to the brother's stomach, but while trying to remove it, the victim accidentally impaled himself on his brother's sword. The Denton Record-Chronicle reported that the injury wasn't life threatening.

Double Bogey A genetically modified (GM) grass that resists herbicides has escaped into the Oregon countryside, even before the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved its use. The plant, creeping bentgrass, is immune to glyphosate, a potent herbicide known as Roundup, and was developed for golf courses so groundskeepers can use Roundup to kill competing weedy grasses. Despite concern that the bentgrass will crossbreed with other species and pass along the resistance gene, Eric Baack of Indiana University told New Scientist magazine, "I don't think people will worry about lawns and golf courses if they've not shown any worries about GM food."

Just Cause Showing no remorse while proclaiming himself "guilty as charged" to three murders and two assaults in Pierce County, Wash., Ulysses "Moonie" Handy III, 24, told Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson that he wasn't asking for any sympathy because he didn't have any himself. The Tacoma News Tribune reported that Handy blamed his inability to feel anything on the eight years he spent in prison for hitting a man over the head with a baseball bat. "Anything I was died a long time ago," he said.

Check This During the world chess championship, held this fall in the Russian republic of Kalmykia, the manager of Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria protested an excessive number of bathroom breaks by Vladimir Kramnik of Russia. Citing video recordings that showed Kramnik visiting the restroom more than 50 times, on average, during the first four games, Silvio Danailov stopped short of accusing Kramnik of cheating, but his letter to the appeals committee noted there was no surveillance equipment in the private bathrooms used by the players. It demanded that both players be required to use a public restroom and be accompanied by a referee.

After organizers locked both players' bathrooms, Kramnik sat down outside his bathroom and demanded that it be unlocked. When it wasn't, he refused to return to the board and forfeited the game to Topalov. Kramnik ultimately won the championship in a tiebreaker.

Usually It's the Hunter That's Drunk Vyacheslav Pozgalyov, the governor of Russia's Vologda region, began an inquiry into the death of a tame bear named Mitrofan after the newspaper Kommersant reported the shooter was Spain's King Juan Carlos. Sergei Starostin, the region's deputy hunting chief, told the paper that the "good-natured" bear was taken from its home at a local vacation resort and "generously fed" honey mixed with vodka before being released where the king was hunting. "His highness, Juan Carlos, took Mitrofan out with one shot," Starostin said. A representative of the king, who is known to enjoy hunting and was in Russia at the time, said reports that Juan Carlos brought down a tame and inebriated bear were "ridiculous."

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