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News Quirks 05.11.05

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Games People Play

After the Army paid $5 million for a video game to teach soldiers about urban warfare, critics complained that it is at best a mediocre training tool. Lt. Col. Jim Riley, chief of tactics at the Army's infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia, told the St. Petersburg Times that his school rarely uses the game because it isn't realistic enough. The game, "Full Spectrum Warrior," resulted from a $45 million research partnership between the Army and entertainment companies. The companies agreed to create sophisticated training aids for soldiers in return for permission to sell consumer versions.

Andrew Paquette, a former art director at Sony Pictures Imageworks, one of the companies, said that the designers cut corners on the Army's training video because "they wanted to make money on the commercial version." The Times reported that internal Sony documents support Paquette's view.

Sony announced that players of its Internet multiplayer game "Everquest II" can order pizza delivery while playing. Typing the command "/pizza" leads to the Pizza Hut website. "The goal for the future is to eventually let more people do things like this," Chris Kramer of Sony Online Entertainment said, explaining that players might soon be able to order books and DVDs while playing. Noting that the game doesn't pause while ordering, however, Kramer cautioned, "You wouldn't want to order pizza in the thick of combat."

Drumming Home Their Point

To recover 50 million rupees ($1.15 million) in overdue property taxes, officials in Rajahmundy, India, hired 20 groups of drummers to bang away outside the homes of delinquent residents. "They put up a spectacle outside the houses of defaulters, draw them out and explain their dues to them and the need to clear it at the earliest," municipal commissioner T.S.R. Anjaneyulu said. "They don't stop until people agree to clear the dues." In the first week, the tactic collected 18 percent of the backlog.

Injudicious Judge

When Ohio police stopped state Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick, 65, of Toledo, for suspicion of drunken driving, she admitted having "something to drink," according to police videotapes, but assured the officer that she could drive safely. The tapes show Resnick, whose blood-alcohol content registered almost three times the legal limit, repeatedly asking to be let go, citing her rulings in drunk-driving cases. "My God, you know I decide all these cases in your favor," she said. "And my golly, look what you're doing to me."

Equality Follies

Complaining that female players who dress and act like men are giving soccer a bad name, the head of the women's committee of the South African Football Association (SAFA) announced that the players will be given tighter T-shirts in an effort to attract sponsors for a 2007 World Cup bid. "Obviously they can't wear skirts on the pitch," Ria Ledwaba said, "but they will be given outfits made for women, with female shirts that are shaped for breasts." SAFA will also conduct etiquette workshops to turn the players into "national assets," Ledwaba said, pointing out, "There are mothers out there who won't let their daughters play football because they think they will start acting like boys."

Great Escape

Jeffrey Allen Manchester, 33, was four years into a 45-year sentence for robbery when he escaped from North Carolina's "escape-proof" Brown Creek Correctional Institute by clinging to the underside of a delivery truck. He eluded authorities for six months, posing as a church volunteer who told his new girlfriend and the congregation that he had a secret government job. At night, he hid inside a Toys "R" Us store. When the store became too crowded at Christmas, he made a secret passageway to an adjoining vacant store and built a 4-by-10-foot cubicle under a stairwell.

Using a stolen gun, Manchester tried to rob the toy store, but two employees slipped out, forcing him to flee through his secret door and leading police to his hideaway and identity. They enlisted the girlfriend, Leigh Wainscott, to invite Man-chester to her home, then arrested him. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Sgt. Kath-erine Scheimreif said Manchester's big mistake was "going back for the girl one last time." After his capture, his mother said he admitted, "Mom, I kind of lost focus."

Long Gone But Not Forgotten

Police in Itami, Japan, found the mummified body of a 107-year-old man at his house lying face down in bed wearing a clean kimono. Alerted by his nephew, investigators said that Kyujiro Kaneoka, who lived with his three children in the house, had been dead for five to 10 years. An official said that the city was considering asking them to return gifts they had received since 1999 as a token of the man's longevity. "Every year we gave the family 30,000 yen ($288) and a cashmere blanket worth 20,000 yen," the official said. "Although we requested a meeting with him directly, the family always turned it down, saying he was too weak and bed-ridden."

The Name Game

Medical student Anders Mjelle, 22, took advantage of Norway's newly relaxed naming laws to add "Batman" to his legal name. He told the newspaper Nordlys that the idea came to him while he was practicing his signature during a prescription class. "It just wasn't as cool as doctor signatures usually are," he said. "So I tried signing with the name of my old hero of heroes, Batman. That was much better." He explained to the Norwegian Registration Office that it was an old family name, pronounced "boatman." He said he didn't think the name would hinder his success as a physician since he aspires to be a pediatrician and believes the name will appeal to his young patients.

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