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News Quirks


Published October 31, 2007 at 5:20 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Hoping to avoid ground-level alarms, burglars decided to cut through a roof to enter a business in Des Moines, Iowa. Instead, they wound up on the sidewalk outside. "They forgot to take into account the overhang," said Rich Bartlett, owner of Southside Tobacco & Liquor. The burglars apparently tried to cut a second hole, only to be spotted by a woman walking her dog who told them to get down. They did, right in front of a security camera. Police easily identified Zagory Harris, 17, and Taylor Kraus, 15, as the culprits. "They have a hell of a good camera at that store," Detective Ron Foster commented to the Des Moines Register. "Very clear pictures."

* Sheriff's Deputy Dave Wagner was at the Marion County Jail in Salem, Ore., when he heard an alert for a stolen 1984 Toyota pickup truck. He looked up and spotted the vehicle in the jail parking lot. Deputies found Chelsi Guinn, 24, and Kristie Jeffers, 25, inside the truck, along with nearly 21 grams of methamphetamine.

Not So Fast The proliferation of online videos, music and games prompted Comcast cable company to start cutting off its Internet service to excessive downloaders, who it said hog Internet capacity and slow down the network for other customers. The Washington Post reported the company declined to reveal specific bandwidth limits, insisting that if customers knew, they would use as much capacity as possible without tipping the scale, causing networks to slow to a crawl. Only cable networks are affected because subscribers often share connections, whereas phone lines run directly to each home.

Avoirdupois Updates To handle an increase in the number of obese patients, the Dutch city of Assen began deploying heavy-duty ambulances. Emergency services director Tjerk Hiddes explained that operators ask callers their weight. Any heavier than 220 pounds are handled by the new ambulances, which weigh 3300 pounds more than regular ambulances and have special lifts to hoist patients.

* British maker of fire and rescue equipment introduced a 392-pound training dummy to help emergency services cope with the growing number of obese people they have to rescue. Noting that simply adding weight to existing dummies doesn't accurately represent the weight distribution in a larger person, Lawrence Lee of Ruth Lee Fire & Rescue Equipment said the company "created a dummy that replicates, as closely as possible, the body mass of a large person."

* The U.S. technology services company EDS said supermarket shoppers would soon be able to use shopping carts that warn them if they're buying too much junk food. The high-tech carts would be fitted with a computer screen and barcode scanner, EDS's Sion Roberts said, "to calculate the nutritional content and tell [shoppers] when they have blown their calorific budget."

* A government-backed study of obesity in Great Britain concluded that obesity is not the fault of individuals but rather the inevitable consequence of a society in which energy-dense and cheap food, labor-saving devices, motorized transport and sedentary work were rife. The study, compiled by 250 experts, said excess weight was now the norm in our "obesogenic" society. Given this environment, Dr. Susan Jebb of the Medical Research Council said it was surprising that anyone was able to remain thin.

When Guns Are Outlawed A 27-year-old man broke into a home in Uniondale, N.Y., and beat the homeowner with a karaoke machine, while the 64-year-old victim tried to defend himself with a vacuum cleaner hose. Nassau County police Sgt. Anthony Repalone said the attacker, who also bit off the victim's ear, "just randomly picked this house."

* Police in Snellville, Ga., said William "Rusty" Redfern, a disabled artist known for painting with his feet, charged across a street and head-butted his girlfriend's former lover. Charles "Keith" Teer, 49, collapsed and died moments later, but the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Teer died from a heart attack, not the head-butt. "The whole thing is just bizarre," police Chief Roy Whitehead said. "The only way it could get more bizarre is if it was on Jerry Springer."

Homeland Insecurity State-of-the-art U.S. military technology is being exported illegally to current and potential enemies, according to the Justice Department, which identified the items as ranging from missile parts and body armor to nuclear submarine technology. "At least 108 countries have full-fledged procurement networks that work through front companies, joint ventures, trade delegations and other mechanisms to methodically target our government, our private industries and our universities as sources of this material," Assistant Attorney General Kenneth L. Wainstein told reporters, pointing out that globalization and the Internet have facilitated some illegal exports.

* A recent probe by the Government Accountability Office uncovered that the Pentagon cannot account for $19.2 billion worth of equipment provided to Iraqi security forces. The July 2007 report said the equipment includes "about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80 items of body armor and 115,000 helmets."

Inconvenient Truth Researchers at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences reported that a grown moose belches out methane gas equivalent to 4630 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. That, according to Scandinavian Airlines, is more than twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted on a round-trip flight from Oslo to Santiago, Chile.

Rank Has No Privilege Scott Richardson, director of the South Carolina Department of Insurance and a resident of Hilton Head Island, received a letter notifying him that his policy was being dropped, along with thousands of other coastal residents in the state. "If I'm not immune," Richardson said, "then nobody is."

Driven to Distraction A 22-year-old carnival worker whose Chevrolet S-10 Blazer struck a telephone pole in Moscow, Idaho, blamed the accident on two friends having sexual intercourse in the back seat. Joshua D. Frank told authorities that the actions of the pair in the back caused the Blazer, which "was top heavy anyway," to become "tippy" and lose control.

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