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News Quirks 04.12.06

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Curses, Foiled Again Canadian authorities had little trouble identifying the two suspects who stole outdoor surveillance cameras at a museum in Prince George, British Columbia. Before they were stolen, the cameras recorded the crimes. "They are very clear, good-quality pictures," Exploration Place executive director Tracy Calogheros said. "You can see the detail of their faces, the logos on their clothing, their dog was even in the video." A museum staff member driving downtown recognized the suspects and their dog from the videotapes and alerted police, who nabbed one of the men.

Rules Are Rules While Bibaldo Rueda used a garden hose and buckets of water to try to save his burning garage, volunteers from Missouri's Monett Rural Fire Department refused to help because Rueda hadn't paid membership dues for the department's services. The firefighters stood by watching in case the fire spread to neighboring properties owned by dues-paying members. Rueda, who was injured battling the flames, offered to pay the dues while the fire raged, but the department doesn't have a policy for on-the-spot billing. After the blaze destroyed the garage and a vehicle, Fire Chief Ronnie Myers defended the no-pay, no-aid stance, explaining that the membership-based organization couldn't survive if people thought the department would respond for free.

Vehicular Follies Down Under Australian police charged a man with "reversing further than necessary" after he traveled backwards for more than 25 miles along a busy highway between Sydney and Melbourne. The man, who told police that he still had 56 miles to go to reach his home, explained that reverse was the only gear in the car that worked.

- New Zealand police who stopped a car going 75 mph in a 60 mph zone near Papamoa reported that the 32-year-old driver had no arms and was using one foot to steer and the other to operate the brake and accelerator. Senior Constable Brent Gray said that the man explained he was born without arms and had been driving for years, although he had never held a driver's license.

Homeland Insecurity Baggage screeners at U.S. ports of entry have been instructed to be on the lookout for cellphone guns. The weapons, which are made from discarded cellphones, are capable of firing four .22-caliber rounds in quick succession. The guns are loaded by twisting the phone in half and inserting the rounds under the screen. The bullets fire through the antenna by pressing 5, 6, 7 and 8 on the keypad. The weapons have turned up in Europe, where airport authorities have begun implementing systems to x-ray all cellphones. "We find it very, very alarming," said Wolfgang Dicke of the German Police union. "It means police will have to draw their weapons whenever a person being checked reaches for their mobile phone."

Anti-Fur The government of Uzbekistan has banned fur-lined underwear, declaring that citizens who wear them are susceptible to "unbridled fantasies."

Have Sex and Mean It The University of Florida introduced a health-care plan that requires university employees to sign a pledge that they're having sex with their domestic partner in order to qualify for benefits. The partners of homosexual and heterosexual employees are eligible for coverage under the plan. In addition to declaring joint financial obligations, prospective enrollees must "have been in a non-platonic relationship for the preceding 12 months," according to the affidavit. The university said that married employees are not required to have sex to qualify for benefits.

Balls or Brains Researchers studying bat species having promiscuous females discovered that males boasting the largest testicles had the smallest brains. The study, led by Syracuse University biologist Scott Pitnick, also found that in species with faithful females, the male bats had smaller testes and larger brains.

After-Death Experiences So many people are scattering the ashes of their loved ones on the mountaintops of Scotland that the bleakness many find so attractive about the scenic peaks is being replaced by "luxuriant growth of vegetation," according to Des Thompson, principal uplands adviser to the environmental group Scottish Natural Heritage. He told the British Broadcasting Corp. that the cremated remains are enriching the previously acidic and impoverished soil with nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, causing plants to grow too fast and too thick.

Speak Up The United States and Britain are beginning to lose their global economic edge because the rest of the world is learning English. "Once everyone speaks English, advantage can only be maintained by having something else -- other skills, such as speaking several languages," said linguistic consultant David Graddol, the author of a report commissioned by the British Council predicting that monolingual English graduates "face a bleak economic future" from multilingual competitors. Besides taking away jobs through outsourcing, foreign countries can trade and take orders in other languages and have a vital understanding of different cultures. The report noted that 500 million people in India and China that speak English as a second language exceed the total number of native English speakers in the world.

Bang-a-Dong Boston authorities charged Kimberly Dasilva, 40, a former strip-club waitress, with putting explosives into condoms and mailing them to a television station, strip clubs and other places, saying she was tired of being mistreated by men. None of the packages exploded, according to court documents, which pointed out that one did contain a note that said, "Boom."

Don't Cheat on Your Diet Most Italians feel guiltier about overeating than they do about cheating on their partners, according to a survey by psychology magazine Riza Psicosomatica. Its poll of men and women ages 25 to 55 found that excessive eating and spending topped the list of what people consider the most guilt-inducing vices. Sexual infidelity came in last on the magazine's list of "seven deadly sins," behind neglecting friends and family, failing at work and not looking after one's physique.

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