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News Quirks 01.31.07


Published January 31, 2007 at 5:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again New York City police broke up an identity-theft ring after it targeted the father of a deputy police chief. Joellen Kunkel said she was visiting her 82-year-old father when she answered a call from someone reporting unauthorized use of his credit card and seeking personal information. When Kunkel identified herself as a police chief, the caller immediately hung up, but his phone number was on the caller ID. Kunkel alerted the identity-theft squad, which nabbed 11 ring members, who, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, stole more than $1 million from hundreds of people.

* After receiving a false report of a gas leak, firefighters in Knoxville, Tenn., noticed the call came from the same cellphone number as 15 bogus emergency calls in the past two months. Fire Capt. Brent Seymour said they called the number and left a message that the phone's owner had won a gift card. When Jason Mark Harms, 29, called and "willingly gave his name and address" so Seymour could mail the card, the suspect said he wanted it sooner and arranged to pick it up at the store issuing the card. He met investigators in the parking lot, identified himself and was arrested.

Sponsorship Opportunity The Transportation Security Administration announced a one-year pilot program to allow ads on plastic bins used at airport security checkpoints. The ads would pay for the bins, as well as metal tables and carts. Insisting that the ads, which will be placed inside the bins, will adhere to "uniform standards" to ensure that they are tasteful, TSA official Amy Kudwa said the equipment upgrades "would enhance the screening process."

Mainstreaming Follies New Zealand's Te Aute Matuakore Collier, 29, admitted to reckless driving after police in Hamilton said he was riding in the back of the car when he demanded to drive because both the driver and front-seat passenger were too drunk. Collier was sober, the police report said, but he is 95 percent blind. The passenger helped Collier steer, but he missed the entrance to a parking garage and hit a retaining wall and sign.

* A Turkish prosecutor in Kutahya province sentenced Ismail Canseven, 73, to a 26-day reading and writing course at the local library after he failed to vote in a village election. "What am I going to do in a library?" said Canseven, who is blind. "I can't see out of either of my eyes, and I can't read or write anyway."

Not-So-Great Escape Police in Titusville, Fla., reported that Tyrone Davis, 31, beat a woman and stole her vehicle but then blew out the vehicle's tire about the time officers spotted him. He abandoned the damaged vehicle and tried to carjack another one. The doors were locked, so Davis grabbed the vehicle and held on while it accelerated to 45 mph. "He was actually clinging to the side of the vehicle in his attempt to get away," police official Todd Hutchinson said after the couple in the car pulled over so pursuing officers could arrest Davis.

Haberdashery Update An Arizona company has developed a fabric that repels jolts of electricity. Tucson's G2 Consulting said its Thor Shield polyester cloth is bonded to a conducted material that effectively loops electricity coming from a "nonlethal electricity weapon" back to the weapon. "If you are hit, the Taser gun won't work," Greg Schultz, G2's co-owner, said, explaining that he got the idea from a TV special on stun guns. He added that Thor Shield, which G2's website notes "has been tested with stun products up to 100,000 volts," is sold only to law-enforcement agencies and the military. "We're not going to put this on eBay or anything," Schultz said.

* Australian scientists announced they have developed a high-tech T-shirt able to turn air guitar into actual music. Richard Helmer, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, explained that the shirt has built-in motion sensors that relay the wearer's arm motions wirelessly to a computer, which translate the signal into guitar riffs. Dubbed the "wearable instrument shirt," it "allows real-time music making even by players without significant musical or computing skills," Helmer said.

* Obese people in the United Kingdom should be warned about the health risks of their weight when buying clothes, according to Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow. Declaring in the British Medical Journal that "society and government have a responsibility" to end the obesity crisis, Sattar recommended that obesity help-line numbers be sewn on clothing with waist sizes over 37 inches for boys and 31 inches for girls and for women's clothing larger than size 16.

Suspicious Minds Federal authorities took a 28-year-old Muslim from India into custody after instructors at the Nationwide Tractor Trailer Driving School in Smithfield, R.I., reported that the student told them he wasn't interested in learning how to back up his rig.

Closed-Door Policy When the Air Force tested a radio frequency intended to communicate with first responders in the event of a homeland-security threat, more than 400 civilian residents near the facility atop Cheyenne Mountain outside Colorado Springs, Colo., reported that their garage-door openers had suddenly stopped working. The frequency, which is assigned to the military, also controls an estimated 50 million garage-door openers nationwide. Signals have previously overpowered garage-door remotes near bases in Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania. "I never thought my garage door was a threat to national security," Holly Strack, who lives near Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, said.