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News Quirks 03.09.05


Published March 9, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Police in New Castle, Delaware, identified Brent Brown, 25, as one of two men who robbed an 18-year-old woman because he called the victim on his cell phone afterwards to apologize and ask her out on a date. She declined and turned his number in to police. "It would make a perfect story for the television show, 'The World's Dumbest Criminals,'" police Cpl. Trinidad Navarro said.

The Military Mind A U.S. Air Force research laboratory proposed creating a chemical agent able to stimulate homosexual behavior among enemy troops. The laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio also suggested spraying enemy positions with chemicals that would attract biting and stinging insects, rodents and larger animals. Another tactic was giving enemy troops bad breath so they would stand out in a crowd and creating waves of fecal gas. Although the Defense Department explained that the ideas were merely tossed about in what amounted to "a brainstorming session" and never got off the ground, the Sunshine Project, an advocacy group that obtained the 1994 Air Force proposal under the Freedom of Information Act, insisted that the plan was still under consideration as recently as 2001.

Better Safe Than Sorry Top hotels in several Asian capitals have stopped ordering sea bass and sole from the Indian Ocean to allay diners' concerns that the fish feasted on victims of December's tsunami disaster.

- The Japanese security firm Madre reported brisk sales of its knife-resistant sweatshirts and windbreakers for children. The apparel, priced between 38,900 yen ($374) and 43,900 yen ($422), is made with fiberglass and Spectra, a lightweight material 10 times stronger than steel, and can't be sliced through with box-cutters or scissors, according to Madre's president, Minoru Furuta. He attributed sales of more than 130 stab-proof items in the past six months to parents taking extra precautions since a 38-year-old man stabbed eight children to death and wounded 15 others at an elementary school in Osaka in 2001.

High Jinks Authorities in Adams County, Pennsylvania, charged two teenagers with causing or risking a catastrophe after they borrowed a two-seat Piper Cub airplane belonging to the father of one of the boys and pelted their high school with eggs. The low-flying airplane startled Gettysburg residents and caused the top two floors of a six-story hotel to be evacuated. Prosecutor Brian Sinnett called the prank "one of the most bizarre cases that I've been involved in."

Holy Moley! "You will not sing in the shower," former Jewish grand rabbi Mordechai Eliahu commanded Israeli listeners of an ultra-Orthodox religious radio program, explaining that the Hebrew language is not to be tarnished by use in the bathroom. The Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported that the former leader of Israel's Sephardic Jews did concede, "To hum without a word in Hebrew crossing your mind is acceptable."

- Roman Catholic authorities defrocked a British priest who disrupted the men's marathon at last summer's Athens Olympics. Neil Horan jumped out of the crowd and tackled Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima, who was leading the race but after the attack finished third. Horan also disrupted the British Grand Prix Formula One race in 2003 by wandering onto the track and doing what he described as a peace dance. "I now cannot preach. I cannot give out communion," Horan pointed out after his dismissal from the priesthood. "I am little more than a pagan."

Jumping to Conclusions After a 67-year-old Italian woman in Padua fell into a coma last September, her 71-year-old husband visited her daily. In January, the Italian news agency ANSA reported, the despondent husband committed suicide. Twelve hours later, his wife awoke from her coma.

- Officials at East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, New Jersey, mistakenly released Walter Townsend after a court reversed his 2002 conviction for killing his girlfriend. They misread the 52-page legal decision, according to Corrections Department spokesperson Deidre Fedkenheuer. She explained that the last page did state that the murder conviction should be reversed, but page 9 of the decision noted that the conviction was reversed and remanded, meaning that Townsend was to continue being held until his new trial. Police re-arrested Townsend after he spent a weekend of freedom making the rounds of Trenton-area bars.

Using Their Heads Andrew Fischer, 20, a Web designer in Omaha, Nebraska, auctioned his forehead on eBay for advertising and reported receiving $37,375 from the maker of a snoring remedy. Fischer denied accusations that the online auction was a publicity stunt organized by him and his new sponsor.

- Richard Hamilton, 26, a basketball player for the Detroit Pistons, received an endorsement fee from a tire maker to wear his hair in the style of the tread pattern of one of the company's tires. Neither the company nor Hamilton would say how much the company paid the player, but company spokesperson Ed Markey noted that Hamilton also received free tires.

Occupational Hazards Circus-animal trainer Pierre Spenle, 40, was trampled to death after he fell while loading three elephants into a trailer in Fort Wayne, Ind. Coroner Jon Brandenberger said that the 7000-pound animals likely began stepping on him out of curiosity, not aggressiveness. "Once he's on the floor, animal trainers will tell you, he's no longer the trainer," Brandenberger explained. "He's another object, as if he were a basketball or whatever thrown in among the elephants' feet."

Mission Unaccomplished A poll taken on the eve of the second inauguration of President Bush, who vowed during the 2000 campaign to be a "uniter, not a divider," found that 49 percent of the people viewed him as a uniter, and 49 percent of the people viewed him as a divider. Two percent of those interviewed in the CNN-USA Today-Gallup phone survey had no opinion.