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News Quirks 04.20.05


Published April 20, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

Police investigating a store burglary in Appleton, Wisconsin, were checking outside for footprints when an officer noticed a quarter, then found a line of other coins. Officers followed the trail to a house five blocks from the store and arrested the occupants. Appleton Police Sgt. Pat DeWall said that the burglars apparently stole rolls of coins from the store and loaded them into a milk crate. When some of the rolls broke apart, the coins fell through the slats.

- When three men rolled a water-cooler jug full of coins into a bank in Fargo, North Dakota, to exchange for $1800 in bills, someone at the bank got suspicious and called police. Suspecting that the jug had been stolen from a home, officers arrested the three men in a parking lot. They found a handgun, ammunition, cocaine and marijuana inside their vehicle.

- Police in Morgan Hill, California, accused Michael Espinoza, Jr., of breaking into a woman's home and stealing a jug full of coins. When the 60-pound jug proved too heavy for Espinoza to carry, police said he transferred the coins to a duffel bag, but he couldn't carry that, either, and ditched the coins altogether.

Welcome to the 21st Century

Mink, Louisiana, a settlement of about 15 families and one of the last communities in the United States without telephone service, finally had phones hooked up on Jan. 30 after BellSouth Corp. spent $700,000 to lay about 30 miles of cable through thick woods to reach the town. "It wasn't 15 minutes after that phone was in," Elaine Edwards told the Associated Press, "before a telemarketer called me."

No Rights Left

The government is planning for possible lifetime detention of suspected terrorists, according to the Washington Post. Part of the proposal by the Defense Department and CIA involves spending $25 million to build a 200-bed prison to hold detainees who are unlikely ever to face a military tribunal because the government lacks enough evidence to charge them. Another proposal, the paper said, would transfer large numbers of detainees from the military's Guantanamo Bay prison to U.S.-built prisons in their home countries. The United States would let the countries operate the prisons but wants them to abide by recognized human rights standards.

Fully Loaded

A woman in Slidell, Louisiana, took her 1996 Toyota Camry to an auto-repair shop, complaining that it had begun decelerating on its own. While checking the fuel system, the mechanic found two bricks of cocaine in plastic bags wrapped around the fuel pump. Investigators think that the car's previous owner stashed the cocaine in the gas tank before the woman and her husband bought the vehicle in 1997 and that the bags had recently come loose, inhibiting the flow of fuel to the engine. "For the last eight years," James Hartman of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office explained, "they've been hauling around $40,000 worth of cocaine in the gas tank, oblivious to their illicit cargo."

Inspired by Nature

Hoping to attract tourists to the Thai resort of Phuket following December's tsunami, the government announced plans to create a tidal-wave attraction that Juthamas Siriwan, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, declared "will be the next Universal Studios of the tsunamis." Unveiling plans to market the region in the wake of the disaster, she explained that planners would use the latest technology to create the simulated tidal wave "because tourism is an enjoyable product."

Viva La Revolucion!

During a five-hour speech in which he reasserted control over Cuba's economy, Fidel Castro announced his intention to make 100,000 pressure cookers available each month at government-subsidized prices in an effort to "do away with the rustic kitchen." Castro promised that the state would also distribute Chinese-made rice steamers coveted by Cuban women and perhaps later small electric stoves, also at subsidized prices. Insisting that Cuba is now in better economic shape and "beginning to put itself on the map of this chaotic and hopeless world," Castro declared, "I am working more than I ever have in my life, and I feel more enthusiastic than ever."

Postal Follies

The U.S. Postal Service discovered that a part-time mail carrier became overwhelmed by the holiday mail on his two routes in Ruckersville, Virginia, and hung onto more than 2000 items in December, intending to wait until the mail volume dropped to deliver them. In a letter explaining to the town's 1200 residents what had happened, postal inspector Glenn Clark pointed out that it's not uncommon for temporary mail carriers to stash mail during the holidays.

- Britain's Royal Mail acknowledged in January that it had stopped sending mail to Ascension Island in October because of a geographical mix-up. The British dependency is located in the South Atlantic. The Daily Mail reported that its mail was mistakenly sent to Paraguay's capital, Asuncion, and to Guyana's capital, Georgetown, which shares the same name as the capital of Ascension Island. "Steps have been taken to make sure it doesn't happen again," a Royal Mail official assured the newspaper.

Paper Tiger

Surging demand for toilet paper in China is a mixed blessing, according to the state press. "I'm happy to see many young people adopt paper tissues for the convenience, which is a sign that reflects our social development and has helped improve our industry," Wang Yueqin, vice director of Shanghai Paper Trade Association, told the China Daily. He added, however, that he was "beginning to worry about the large wood consumption." Shanghai, for example, uses 140,000 tons of tissues and toilet paper a year, which Wang said requires "80,000 tons of wood pulp, equal to about 300,000 tons of wood." As a result, factories are exploring other raw materials to produce toilet paper, including straw and sugarcane.