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News Quirks


Published October 20, 2010 at 9:38 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

Army prosecutors said Pvt. Jonne T. Wegley, 19, wanted out of basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., so badly that he offered a fellow recruit $5000 and a job to shoot him in the left leg so he could get out of the Army with a medical disability. He figured he’d still be able to use his right leg to drive. Instead of barely wounding Wegley, however, the bullet from the M-16 rifle mutilated his left leg. He needed 25 surgeries, a total reconstruction of his knee and multiple skin grafts, and he suffered nerve damage so severe that he has no control of his left foot. On top of that, a court martial sentenced him to four months’ confinement and a dishonorable discharge. Wegley’s attorney, Maj. John Calcagni, admitted his client’s scheme was unnecessary, explaining all he had to do to get kicked out of the Army was to tell his sergeant that he refused to train. (Columbus, Ga.’s Ledger-Enquirer)

During one of his frequent visits to his ex-wife’s son in Washington County, Ore., Donald Wayne George, 64, shared some digital family photos with the man to copy to his own computer. He forgot they included images of the son’s 5-year-old daughter in sexual poses and having various sex acts with George. When the pornographic photos appeared on the screen, George shouted, “No, no, no,” according to Deputy District Attorney Paul Maloney, adding that the father erupted in anger, to which George responded flippantly, “Call the police, I’m going to jail.” George received 25 years in prison. (The Oregonian)

Never Mind

When warning sirens sounded in the region of Thailand where 5398 people died in 2004 after a tsunami battered the Andaman coast, hundreds of people fled to higher ground, believing another wave was on the way. The government eventually explained that the sirens went off accidentally during a drill as part of Thailand’s effort to develop an effective tsunami warning system. The false alarm was the latest in a series of problems, which includes sirens not being loud enough for people to hear and going off by accident. Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban apologized for causing panic but resisted calls to fire the officials in charge of disaster warning, instead blaming faulty equipment and calling the incident “not that serious.” (Reuters)

Kansas authorities blamed a phone glitch for mistakenly sounding tornado sirens that caused confusion and some panic in and around Hutchinson. The sirens are designed to be activated by emergency workers dialing discrete phone numbers. Officials said that a software glitch opened the phone lines to outside calls, and a resident who mistakenly dialed those numbers activated the sirens. (The Hutchinson News)

User Fees

More and more local governments are dealing with declining revenues by turning to “accident response fees,” also called “crash taxes,” which charge accident victims for municipal services that taxes already cover. Victims who receive aid from police, fire, ambulance or hazmat services responding to emergency calls receive a bill shortly after. Usually, bills go to nonresidents, but increasingly even tax-paying residents are being billed. More than 40 towns and cities just in California are considering adopting crash-tax measures, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, and Mary Bonelli of the Ohio Insurance Institute said 33 other states have begun adopting or studying accident-response fees. Charges start as low as a flat $500, but in Florida, if a fire chief shows up at your accident, you’ll pay an extra $200 an hour. If you need a Jaws of Life rescue in Sacramento, Calif., add $1875, and in Chico, Calif., a complex rescue can cost as much as $2000 an hour. A Pennsylvania man recently complained after his bill for a motorcycle accident included additional charges for “mops and brooms” to clean up the scene. (Fox News)

When a fire started that threatened his house in Obion County, Tenn., Gene Cranick called the nearest firefighters, located in the city of South Fulton. The city charges county residents $75 to provide services to them. The emergency operator informed Cranick that he hadn’t paid the fee and so wasn’t entitled to fire protection. Cranick promised he would pay the firefighters as soon as the fire trucks arrived, whatever it cost, to stop the fire before it spread to his house. No dice. The fire burned for hours as Cranick fought to control it with garden hoses. Only when the fire spread to a neighbor’s field did firefighters arrive. The neighbor had paid the fee. Cranick asked the fire chief to make an exception to save his house, but the chief refused. Even an appeal to the mayor of South Fulton fell on deaf ears. Cranick’s house ultimately burned to the ground. “”I thought they’d come out and put it out, even if you hadn’t paid your $75,” Cranick said, “but I was wrong.” (Paducah, Ky.’s WPSD-TV)

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