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News Quirks 04.05.06


Published April 5, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Two masked men with semiautomatic handguns burst into a credit union in Benicia, Calif., ordered employees to drop to the ground, and demanded money. The men left after being told that they had picked a "cashless credit union," where there are no withdrawals and deposits immediately go into a vault that only a few officials can open. "I would say that apparently they weren't really prepared," Benicia police Capt. Steve Mortensen said.

Guess Who Authorities in Jamestown, N.C., reported that a man who robbed a convenience store wore tube socks on his hands, apparently to make sure he didn't leave behind any fingerprints. He didn't conceal his face from the surveillance video, however, providing investigators with his likeness.

-- Police in Pelham, Ga., said that they had surveillance videos of a man robbing a convenience store wearing a milk crate on his head. They identified Marty Simpson, 46, as their suspect from a description provided by witnesses after he removed the crate as soon as he exited the store.

Shoes Off for Freedom Federal investigators checking airport security were able to carry materials needed to make a bomb through security screening at 21 airports, according to NBC News, which cited government sources that reported no machine, no swab, no screener anywhere detected the bomb materials, even when investigators deliberately triggered extra screening of bags. The Transportation Security Administration responded by insisting that detecting explosive materials at airports "is TSA's top priority."

-- Some FBI agents are operating without email accounts because of budget constraints. "We just don't have the money," the agency's top official in New York, Mark Mershon, told the Daily News editorial board, "and that is an endless stream of complaints that come from the field." Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., declared, "FBI agents not having email or Internet access is much too much a pre-9/11 mentality."

Giving the Public What It Wants Artist and celebrity suicides could have a positive effect on society, according to a team of British and U.S. researchers. Samuel Cameron, Bijou Yang and David Lester reported in Archives of Suicide Research that such deaths may increase the emotional benefits that fans derive from the dead star, as well as boost "sales of the artist's products and associated merchandise."

Better Off Naked Unlike other campers at Sunnier Palms Nudist Park in Fort Pierce, Fla., Paul Kuschel, 43, was wearing nylon shorts when he tried to start a generator on his new motor home. The generator backfired, spraying Kuschel with starter fluid and setting his shorts on fire, searing them to his backside. The blaze spread to the motor home, which he had bought just three days before, after moving from Dayton, Ohio, and living with his wife for a month in a tent at the clothing-optional camp. "I would have been better off wearing nothing on at all," Kuschel told Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Instant Justice Police in Rood- house, Ill., said that a 16-year-old boy who took part in a vandalism spree at a local cemetery was pinned under a tombstone after tipping it over. Four firefighters were needed to lift the 600-pound grave marker off the boy's leg.

Avoirdupois News The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that a water taxi capsized in Baltimore's Inner Harbor in 2004 because it was overloaded. Even though the number of passengers was within prescribed safety limits set by the U.S. Coast Guard, their size caused the 36-foot craft to be 700 pounds overweight, making it unstable.

-- Australia's standards association announced that a 10 percent jump in the number of overweight and obese Australians in the past decade may require "an increase in the strength of toilet seats to accommodate the increasing size of humans." Standards Australia chairman Colin Blair said that a committee of manufacturers and consumers would assess the rigidity standard for toilet seats.

-- Moderately overweight men are more likely to survive serious car accidents than either thin or very fat men, according to a study reported in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers who examined 22,107 accident reports for connection between body mass indexes and death rates among the victims found the risk of death was greater for people whose BMI was below 22 or above 35. A BMI of 30 is the statistical threshold for obesity. The study's lead author, Dr. Shankuan Zhu of the Medical College of Wisconsin, said that for reasons that aren't clear, women don't get the same protection for extra weight.

Wishing Well Authorities in Luzerne County, Pa., charged the former president of a Make-A-Wish Foundation chapter with fabricating cases of terminally ill children and using donations for shopping sprees, home remodeling, gifts, a hot tub and a trip to the Super Bowl. Investigators said that Jessica Robertine Hardy, 53, created false paperwork and forged doctors' signatures to defraud the charitable group of cash and merchandise worth $50,000 to $100,000.

Honesty Not the Best Policy Street crimes are down in Japan, but police said that they are overwhelmed by lost-and-found items. Officials told the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun that citizens turned in a record 10.7 million lost-property items in 2004. One-fifth of them were umbrellas. Only 1 percent of the items are ever claimed, but police are obligated to keep things for six months.

Sperm on the Move The latest service being outsourced is artificial insemination. reported that Dr. Sanford Rosenberg of Richmond, Va., established a program for Americans whereby a potential father's sperm is shipped to a lab in Bucharest, Romania, to fertilize eggs of local women. The resulting embryos are frozen and returned to the United States for implanting in the mother. Wired said that the cost is about half what it would be if the fertilization were handled domestically.