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News Quirks 03.15.06


Published March 15, 2006 at 5:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Plainclothes police Officer Patrick Hickey was checking license plates in an alley in Des Moines, Iowa, when a man asked him, "What's up?" Believing it to be a greeting, Hickey answered, "What's up?" The man repeated, "What's up?" Hickey again replied, "What's up?" At that point, the man declared, "I'll show you what's up," went into a nearby house and returned with a .38-caliber handgun. Hickey showed his badge and pointed his service weapon at the man, who turned out to be Stewart Jenkins, 33, a fugitive from Michigan whom Des Moines police hadn't been looking for or even aware of.

--After Jacob Vandeven, 27, pleaded guilty in Jackson, Mo., to driving while intoxicated, Judge William Syler handed him a six-month suspended sentence and two years probation, stipulating that during this time Vandeven refrain from drinking, avoid bars and stay away from people who are drinking. An hour later, the judge was having lunch at a restaurant and bar when he spotted Vandeven at the same place drinking with friends. He ordered Vandeven taken into custody and placed in an alcohol rehabilitation program. Vandeven's attorney, Malcom Montgomery, told Syler, "I have never had a client so audaciously violate a judge's order that quickly after being placed on probation."

Taking the Plunge New York state police reported that Jose Gonzales, 17, had to be hospitalized after he fell out the window of a moving bus while using the restroom and landed on the New York State Thruway.

--Li Xiao Meng, 16, fell to his death from a third-floor bedroom, a Singapore court ruled, "when he was hyped up with exhilaration, jumping up and down on the bed placed against an open window while mimicking a rock guitarist."

Missing the Point Big Time Karaoke bars in Vietnam can no longer sell alcohol or even have any on their premises. According to Le Anh Tuyen of the Ministry of Culture and Information, the ban affects more than 10,000 karaoke bars that are licensed to operate in the country.

Apology of the Week Christophe Fauvia, French tennis dad accused of drugging his children's rivals and charged with the death of one of them, told the victim's parents in a Mont-de-Marsan court: "I would hope that one day you would forgive me if I am found responsible for the death of your son."

The Name Game Police in Fairfax County, Va., reported on Dec. 8 that two women with the same first and middle names tried to hire the same undercover police officer to kill separate 22-year-old boyfriends in different parts of the county. After authorities charged April Dawn Shiflett, 33, and April Dawn Davis, 27, with solicitation to commit murder, police Lt. Richard Perez called the cases "a freaky coincidence."

Perfect Match Four Saudi women teaching at a remote village school in Al-Baha province decided to avoid their long daily commute by marrying their driver and living together in the village where they teach. Women are not permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia, while Islamic law permits men to marry up to four women.

Just Kidding A judge in Russell County, Va., convicted Joshua Philip Martin, 25, of involuntary manslaughter for using a defibrillator on his fourth day on the job as a rescue-squad worker to shock one of his co-workers as a prank. Prosecutor Mike Bush said that Martin wasn't qualified to use the defibrillator and had been told it isn't something to play with, but he used it anyway on emergency medical technician Courtney Hilton Rhotan, 23, while they were riding in an ambulance together. She died of cardiac arrest. "Everybody plays on the job, even cops," Martin's mother, Diana White, pointed out in court.

Never Mind A woman called animal control in Prince George's County, Md., to report seeing the "tail of an animal" hanging out of a bathtub faucet in her apartment. Investigators determined that what she had seen was sludge dripping from the faucet after she sprayed cleaning solution around it.

Elephants Remember, and Hold Grudges Reacting to an increase in the number of reports of herds of elephants destroying African villages for no apparent reason, some scientists said that they believe the attacks might be payback for years of abuse. "They are certainly intelligent enough and have good enough memories to take revenge," Joyce Poole of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project in Kenya told New Scientist magazine. "Wildlife managers may feel that it is easier to just shoot so-called problem elephants than face people's wrath. So an elephant is shot without (hunters) realizing the possible consequences on the remaining family members and the very real possibility of stimulating a cycle of violence."

Like, Oh Wow Hoping to attract tourists to Soap Lake, Wash., the city council allocated $100,000 to install a 50-foot-tall lava lamp. Target Corp. donated the 26-ton lamp, which it had used in a display in New York City's Times Square, to Soap Lake in 2004, but the dismantled novelty item remained stored in a warehouse until the town of 1275 people, located 150 miles east of Seattle and 110 miles west of Spokane, donated land and voted to spend the money.

Ninjas to the Rescue Organizers of a vintage car rally on New Zealand's South Island hired 40 members of a local karate club to protect the vehicles from Keas, sharp-beaked parrots that have been known to damage vehicles after being attracted by the shiny metal finishes. Organizers assured bird lovers that the karate experts wouldn't use martial arts moves on the birds, just scare them away, but local wildlife ranger Ray Bellinger said the birds wouldn't likely be deterred. "They will fly around and laugh," he said, adding that the best method was to squirt the Keas with water pistols.