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News Quirks 04.11.07


Published April 11, 2007 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Police investigating a break-in in Bettendorf, Iowa, concluded that the burglar used an identification card to jimmy the lock because they found the card in the apartment. Issued by the Illinois Department of Corrections to released inmates, it identified Robert Alan Fry, 43, who got out two months earlier after serving time for burglary.

Queue Cues Hoping to overcome widespread disregard for lines, officials in Beijing declared the 11th of every month to be "Voluntarily Wait in Line" day. "The reason for establishing such a day," said Zhang Huiguang, director of the Capital Ethic Development Office, "is to mobilize the Beijing population to ensure that where there are more than two people, they should wait in line." Zhang urged line-forming Beijingers "to be missionaries of civilization."

-- Disorderly lines are just one target of officials in preparation for next year's Olympics. Last year, He Zhenliang, 78, leader of China's effort to host the Games, declared that the biggest obstacle to success is "the rude bus passenger." Ranking right up there, Zhang said, is "people littering and spitting." She sees progress, however, citing a "Civic Index" that indicated behavior among the city's 15 million citizenS improved from 65.21 percent in 2005 to 69.06 percent last year.

Spoil Sports As hybrid motor vehicles gain in popularity, the Wall Street Journal reported that their quiet electric motors pose a threat to blind pedestrians, who rely on sound to cross streets safely. As a result, the National Federation of the Blind proposed that all hybrids be required to make a sound and that the sound should be loud enough to be heard over other ambient noise. Acknowledging that no data exist on pedestrian injuries or deaths related to low-noise cars, the NFB, nevertheless, argued that the connection would become evident as quiet vehicles become more common. "We want to get ahead of this and not have to wait until five blind people end up seriously hurt or dead," said Gary Wunder of the NFB's Committee on Automobile and Pedestrian Safety.

Ex-Employee of the Month After her employer told Emmalee Bauer, 25, to stop using company time to make entries in her personal, handwritten journal, she began recording the journal on her company computer. The Des Moines Register reported that during the next several months, Bauer composed a book-length document of 300 single-spaced pages detailing her efforts to avoid work, which, besides keeping the journal, included shopping online, playing games and reading message boards. "This typing thing seems to be doing the trick," she wrote. "It just looks like I am hard at work on something very important." She also wrote, "I am only here for the money and, lately, for the printer access." A supervisor discovered the computer journal and fired Bauer for misuse of company time. Bauer disputed her firing, insisting that the journal helped her deal with anxiety and frustration. Administrative Law Judge Susan Ackerman denied her request for unemployment benefits, however, declaring that the journal demonstrated a refusal to work, as well as Bauer's "amusement at getting away with it."

Mensa Rejects of the Week Police in Martins Ferry, Ohio, said that accused rapist John E. Amos, 36, ordered his friend, Emanuel C. Houston, 38, to shoot him, apparently hoping that prosecutors would feel sorry for him and drop the charges. "Amos thought it would be best if he were shot," police Chief Barry Carpenter told the Intelligencer & Wheeling (W.Va.) News-Register, adding that Amos was hospitalized with a minor gunshot wound to the abdomen but released in time for his trial.

Cake Talking New Mexico spent more than $10,000 to put talking deodorizer cakes in urinals in men's rooms in the state's bars and restaurants. "Hey, big guy. Having a few drinks?" a woman's voice coming from the urinal says and suggests calling a cab or a sober friend. "Remember," the recorded message ends, "your future is in your hand."

Shooting Is a Civic Duty Hoping to help trim a $500 million budget deficit in Cook County, Ill., Commissioner Roberto Maldonado proposed a 10 cent tax on each bullet sold. He predicted that an ammo tax could bring in more than $250,000 a year.

Overlooking the Obvious Finland's biggest power company was ordered to pay extra compensation to a consumer whose freezer thawed during a power failure. Reuters news agency reported that the 52-hour outage occurred when trees fell on power lines during a blizzard in freezing temperatures.

Ironies of the Week State officials postponed a severe-weather drill scheduled for Severe Weather Awareness Week in February, according to Georgia Emergency Management Agency official Ken Davis, because of bad weather.

-- Rather than spend $500,000 to $600,000 to repair existing wastewater ponds in Ulysses, Kan., city officials earmarked $735,000 to fill a nearby lake, which had been dry for 20 years, with its wastewater. A snowier-than-usual winter, however, resulted in runoff from thawing snow and ice filling the lake, prompting the city to earmark an additional $245,000 to drain the lake and proceed with the project.

Photo Op Photos of Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz appeared in two major newspapers, showing him surveying his troops during war games in February by looking through binoculars. The pictures clearly revealed the binoculars still had their lens caps on.

Interplanetary Worries Only 36 of 74 Australian professional astronomers surveyed said they had "complete confidence" that NASA would protect Earth from organisms brought here in Martian soil samples sometime after 2020. Seven of those interviewed by researchers at the University of Western Australia in Perth had no confidence at all in NASA.