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News Quirks 04.26.06


Published April 26, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Philadelphia police investigating a bank robbery identified Daniel Magee, 29, as their suspect after they recovered a jacket that witnesses said the fleeing robber tossed into a trashcan. In one of the pockets, officers found a pawn ticket for a digital camera. They asked the pawnshop owner, Nat Leonard, to alert them if someone came to claim the camera. A week later, Leonard called, and police arrested Magee.

--Authorities in Pierce County, Wash., said that a 12-year-old girl who was kidnapped after getting off a school bus on a rural road by a man wearing a camouflage mask was able to thwart her attacker because of his distinctive cellphone ring tone. "Jimmy you are scaring me," the blindfolded and bound victim said when her attacker's phone rang, according to court documents. "If it's you Jimmy, stop it." The startled attacker ran off, but when the girl freed herself and reported the incident, police arrested James Walters, 40.

Ye of Little Faith Tresa Waggoner, 33, a first-year music teacher at Colorado's Bennett Elementary School, was placed on administrative leave after she showed a 12-minute children's video of the opera Faust to first-, second- and third-graders. Some parents complained because the play contains references to the devil. Waggoner, the mother of two and a former opera singer who has recorded two albums of Christian music, told the Rocky Mountain News that she has been called a devil worshipper and a lesbian.

--The Presbyterian Diocese of Mizoram, located in northeast India, where missionaries from Wales converted more than 80 percent of the population to Christianity, began dispatching missionaries of its own to Wales because the churches there are "declining physically and spiritually," according to the Rev. Zosang Colney of the diocese. A survey in 2001 showed that fewer than one in 10 people in Wales regularly attended church or chapel. "The Mizos, therefore, have a burden to do something for their Mother Church in Wales," Colney said.

Get Your Rear in Gear Following its successful "Put another shrimp on the barbie" tourism campaign of the 1980s, Australia's Tourism Ministry responded to complaints by some Australians that the slogan was too crass by spending US$74 million on a follow-up campaign aimed at convincing international tourists that Australia also has culture. Its latest campaign, costing US133 million, simply asks tourists, "Where the bloody hell are you?"

The tagline, which Minister for Tourism Fran Bailey called "plain-speaking and friendly," caused Great Britain to ban the ad. It objected to the word "bloody," a mild profanity. The ban was rescinded, but then Canada banned the ad because of another line: "We've poured you a beer." The Canadian regulator objected because it "implies consumption of unbranded alcohol," Bailey said, adding, it's "some sort of quirky Canadian regulation."

Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel The latest weapon in the angler's arsenal is an ultraviolet spray whose inventor, Milan Jeckle of Spokane, Wash., said attracts fish from half a mile away. Called Fool-a-Fish, it contains titanium dioxide, which, when sprayed on bait and lures, uses UV light to attract fish. Noting that birds use ultraviolet vision to avoid humans, Jeckle said that he has adapted his formula to produce Fool-a-Bird, which, when sprayed on hunters' clothes, bodies and guns, absorbs UV rays and causes birds to ignore the wearer. "You spray it on yourself, and they treat you like a tree trunk or a dead stump," Jeckle said.

Another Dimension Star Trek fan Tony Alleyne, 52, declared bankruptcy after spending more than US$52,350 to convert his studio apartment in Leicestershire, England, into a replica of the bridge of the original Starship Enterprise, then adding $175,000 to market his firm, 24th Century Interior Designs, which offered similar makeovers for other people's homes. He admitted that part of his problem was financing the venture with credit cards. He tried to raise money to pay off his debts by selling the apartment, but nobody met his asking price of $1.23 million. This February, Alleyne told the Times of London that he was using his unemployment assistance to retrofit the apartment as the spaceship Voyager from a later Star Trek series. He expects to sell the newer version for at least $1.5 million.

Frequent-Buyer Program Convicted Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham not only willingly accepted bribes, but even had a "bribe menu," which detailed how much contractors would have to pay him to order multimillion-dollar contracts, according to documents that federal prosecutors submitted for Cunningham's sentencing hearing. The rate structure, which Cunningham had printed on one of his congressional note cards bearing the seal of the U.S. Congress, shows an escalating scale, starting at $140,000 and a luxury yacht for a $16 million Defense Department contract. Each additional $1 million in contract value required a $50,000 bribe. "The length, breadth and depth of Cunning-ham's crimes," the sentencing memo stated, "are unprecedented for a sitting member of Congress."

Oratorical Sex Having sex can help reduce the stress of public speaking, according to a psychologist at Britain's University of Paisley. Stuart Brody told the BBC News it was possible that the calming effect was linked to the stimulation of a wide variety of nerves that occurs during heterosexual intercourse but not other forms of sex. "A growing body of research shows that it is specifically intercourse, and not other sexual behaviors, whether alone or with a partner, that is associated with a broad range of psychological and physiological benefits," Brody said. "And greater frequency of intercourse is associated with greater benefits."

Peter Bull, a social and political psychologist at the University of York, disputed Brody's conclusion, telling New Scientist magazine that other ways to prepare for a speech were more likely to reduce stress. "You are probably better off thinking about what you are going to say and preparing thoroughly," he said, "rather than having sex the previous night."