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News Quirks


Published September 26, 2007 at 9:27 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Acting on a tip, authorities investigating a bank robbery in Nassau County, Fla., questioned Barbara S. Joyner, 59. Inside her purse, they found several hold-up notes written on a notepad with markings similar to those on the note given to the bank teller. Joyner maintained her innocence but acknowledged the notes were hers, explaining she was "practicing."

* A gunman who tried to rob a karate school in Colombia's Santander province got no money and wound up in the hospital, according to police commander Col. Julio Cesar Santoyo, when the students "put their knowledge to use and disarmed him."

Nature Adapts Birds are moving into Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe's outlets, whose high roofs, birdseed aisles and well-watered garden centers make an inviting habitat. "Most birds want to hang out, sleep, hop around and look for food," National Audubon Society senior scientist Rob Fergus told The Washington Post. "If they spend enough time in a big-box store, they'll learn it's a safe place to be."

Some birds are accidental visitors, such as migrating species drawn by the stores' bright lights, but most are permanent residents, usually house sparrows, which adapt to suburban life so well that some have learned how to trip automatic doors at the stores to gain entry. Many of the stores turn to pest-management companies to remove the birds without harming them because the uric acid in the birds' feces can be strong enough to eat through packaging, and bird droppings can land on food and store displays, as well as customers' heads.

Water Woes A drought forced the Rock Springs (S.C.) Baptist Church to suspend baptisms because there wasn't enough water to fill its baptistery. "Water's very vital to us," Pastor Brian Harris said, "and we're hurting at the present time."

* Asked whether Canada should try to cash in by selling water to the United States or hold back for fear of losing control of a vital resource, 74 percent of Canadians polled by Winnipeg-based Probe Research said they opposed water exports. Meanwhile, The Washington Times reported, some Americans, notably former U.S. ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci and Armand Peschard-Sverdrup of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, declared Canada's abundant fresh water - as much as 21 percent of the world's fresh water - to be a continental resource, not a national one.

My Bad Amanda Lee McDaniel, 23, told sheriff's investigators in Lane County, Ore., that she broke into a neighboring home and set fire to it because she thought one of the neighbors had stolen her keys. Sgt. Clint Riley said that while McDaniel was hiding in the bushes across the street from the fire, she found the keys in the pocket of the pants she was wearing and "began to cry."

* During his corruption trial, Zhang Shaocang, former Communist Party chief of state-owned power company Anhui Province Energy Group Co. Ltd., wept as he read a four-page letter of apology. Zhang's remarks, reported in the Procuratorial Daily, were recognized as being virtually identical to those of Zhu Fuzhong, a disgraced former party chief in Sichuan province, whose apology letter was printed in the Procuratorial Daily less than two weeks earlier. The Beijing News speculated that Zhang had "drawn inspiration" from Zhu's apology hoping to gain leniency from the court, but, once the plagiarism was pointed out, "Zhang's apology was dismissed as 'show-boating.'"

Height Disadvantage Three days after a new law took effect strengthening the right of Texans to use deadly force to protect themselves and their property, Dallas police reported a man heard pounding and kicking at his back door at 4 a.m. Thinking it was a burglar, he fired a high warning shot through the closed door to scare away the would-be intruder. It turned out to be a neighbor, 6-foot-5 musician Jeffrey Carter Albrecht, 34, who was tall enough that the bullet struck him in the head and killed him.

Mensa Rejects of the Week After William Sekol, 82, discovered a nest of yellow jackets beneath a storm sewer grate in the yard of his home in Whitehall, Pa., he put a dried Christmas tree over the grate and doused it with gasoline, some of which ran down into the storm sewer. When Sekol lit the tree, according to Fire Chief Robert Benner, the combination of warm air temperature and confined space caused the liquid gas and fumes to explode, burning Sekol's face. "It didn't kill the yellow jackets," Benner said, "but it could have killed him."

* Fed up after several break-ins at his home in Lansing, Mich., Victor Iacobescu, 50, decided to set explosive devices around the house to get the next burglar. Instead, according to police Lt. Bruce Ferguson, Iacobescu inadvertently triggered one of his own booby traps, blowing off a considerable part of his right arm. Asked whether police would charge Iacobescu, Ferguson commented, "Anything that goes 'bang' is illegal."

Hard-headed Patient A German court awarded 3000 euros ($4161) to a man who had to have the top of his skull replaced with plastic. Doctors placed the skull in cold storage while they operated on his brain, but the refrigerator was faulty and didn't keep the skull cool enough. After doctors used a plastic prosthesis, the man complained it caused headaches, loss of balance and undue sensitivity to the weather. He sought 20,000 euros ($27,742) compensation, but experts testified the operation caused the man's discomfort, not the loss of the top of his skull. In fact, a court official said, the experts "concluded the new skull was better than the original."

Dose of Reality When police arrested a 24-year-old woman for stealing $250 worth of groceries from a store in Burlington, Wis., she explained she took the items because her medication made her feel like she couldn't be caught.

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