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News Quirks


Published May 28, 2008 at 1:19 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

The day after police in Waterville, Maine, charged Connecticut visitor Darryl Copeland, 25, with assault, nine packets of heroin were found near where he was arrested. Suspecting Copeland had tossed the drugs, detectives waited until he returned for his court appearance a month later. While arresting him for the drug charge, they found 98 bags of heroin in his front pocket.

* British police investigating a burglary in Lancashire said the culprit was careful not to show his face to surveillance cameras. DNA found at the scene led them to question John Rigg, 35, whom they subsequently identified as their suspect after first noticing that his short, bowed legs and swaggering walk matched those of the burglar on the video and then calling in Ian Linane, a podiatrist who specializes in gait analysis. When Linane concluded it was the same man, Rigg pleaded guilty.

From Bad to Worse

Community smoking bans increase drunken driving, according to a two-year study by Wisconsin researchers that attributes the rise in fatal accidents to some people driving to places without a ban and others driving farther to find a place within a ban area that accommodates outdoor smoking. "The increased miles driven by drivers who wish to smoke and drink offsets any reduction in driving from smokers choosing to stay home after a ban," the study concluded.

Second-Amendment Follies

Jorge Espinal, 44, told police in Fort Worth, Texas, he accidentally shot himself when he used a loaded revolver to scratch his itching back. Police Lt. Kenneth Dean said Espinal explained he "grabbed the first thing he could get a hold of."

* Authorities in Sheboygan, Wis., accused Angelique Vandeberg, 28, of shooting her 8-year-old daughter in the leg with a BB gun after her boyfriend bet her $1 she wouldn't do it. The BB didn't break the skin but bounced off her leg and struck the girl's 7-year-old brother.

The Honeymoon's Over

Police arrested a newlywed couple at a reception in a suburban Pittsburgh hotel who got into a fight that started when the husband knocked the wife to the floor with a karate kick. As the brawl intensified, she attacked two guests from another wedding party who tried to help her. The melee moved from the seventh-floor hallway to an elevator and then the lobby, where the couple threw metal planters at the two guests. Police arrived to find the groom, David W. Wielechowski, 32, lying on the lobby floor and his bride, Christa Vattimo, 25, screaming.

Get a Life

Roy L. Pearson Jr., whose failed $54 million lawsuit against a Washington, D.C., dry cleaner he accused of losing his pants earned him international attention and ridicule, sued the D.C. government for not reappointing him to his post as administrative judge. Pearson charged the commission overseeing administrative law judges with illegal retaliation and cited "emotional pain, embarrassment, humiliation, mental anguish, loss of professional reputation and loss of enjoyment of life." Declaring the suit to be "without merit," interim D.C. attorney general Peter J. Nickles said Pearson "needs to stop filing lawsuits."

Way to Go

Ronald Smith, 52, died after his 94-year-old mother accidentally ran over him with an all-terrain vehicle. Authorities in Livingston, Mich., said Smith was opening a gate when his mother apparently lost control of the vehicle she was riding and hit the gate, then caromed off the gate and struck her son.

If Only They Paid Taxes

Robots could fill the jobs of 3.5 million Japanese people by 2025, helping to avert worker shortages as the country's population declines. According to the think tank Machine Industry Memorial Foundation, robots could make time for people to focus on more important things and save $21 billion in elderly insurance payments in 2025 by using robots to monitor the health of older people so they don't have to rely on human nursing care. Robotic duties could include reading books out loud and helping bathe the elderly.

* O'Terrill's pub in downtown Atlanta began using a 300-pound, waist-high robot to patrol the neighborhood after dark. Handmade by bar owner Rufus Terrill, 57, to deter vagrants and vandals, the rolling robot, dubbed the "Bum Bot," has bright red lights, a spotlight, an infrared video camera and a water cannon on a spinning turret. Terrill operates the Bum Bot by remote control, standing about 10 feet behind it, and uses the robot's loudspeaker to warn troublemakers. "I don't like being here every night," said Terrill, who built the Bum Bot after police told him to stop patrolling the neighborhood with an assault rifle on his shoulder. "But I have to spend all my time being the sheriff."

Paying Attention

Japanese scientists at the Tokyo University School of Information Science and Technology have developed glasses with a memory to help locate lost items. The glasses feature a tiny camera that constantly records everything the wearer sees; a built-in display identifies what is being scanned, and a small readout instantly announces what the computer thinks the object probably is. When the wearer can't find something, it queries the glasses, which retrieve and play a video of the last few seconds the wearer saw it.

* Japan's Fujitaka Co. has developed a system to determine people's ages by studying facial features as a way to check that people buying cigarettes from vending machines are old enough to smoke. Starting in July, the government requires that the country's 570,000 tobacco vending machines ensure buyers aren't underage. Fujitaka official Hajime Yamamoto said that by having the customer look into a digital camera attached to the machine, the system compares facial characteristics, such as wrinkles surrounding the eyes, bone structure and skin sags, to a facial data bank of more than 100,000 people. Yamamoto explained that "minors that look older and baby-faced adults" would be asked to insert their driver's license.

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