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News Quirks 05.23.07


Published May 23, 2007 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again When three armed men robbed a Wendy's in North Miami Beach, Fla., one of them was hiding his face with a loose-fitting bandana. It slipped off, revealing a tear-shaped tattoo under his right eye. Several employees said they got a good look at the man's face. Four days later, employees recognized the same man, telltale tear tattoo and all, walking through the door. Fearing another robbery, they called police, but the man got in line to order food. After arguing with the cashier because he thought she short-changed him, he took his meal and sat down. Police arrived a few minutes later and arrested Jean Belony, 23.

God Bless America - Or Else The New York Yankees enforce patriotism at Yankee Stadium by using chains and guards to confine fans in the stands during the pre-game national anthem and the seventh-inning singing of "God Bless America," which other teams began playing after Sept. 11, 2001, and now play just on Sundays and holidays. The New York Times reported that only the Yankees play "God Bless America" at every game, and they are the only team using chain barriers and security personnel, including off-duty uniformed city police, to restrict fan movement during both songs. The confinement doesn't violate the Constitution, Columbia Law School constitutional law professor Michael C. Dorf told the paper, "because the Yankees are not the government."

Rollover Minutes The operator of a Washington Metro subway train that struck and killed two track workers in a Virginia suburb was talking on a cellphone while operating the train, federal investigators concluded. The Washington Post, which reported the findings by the National Transportation Safety Board, added that one of its reporters rode a Metro bus for a day after a fatal accident in February and saw drivers talking on cellphones.

* Cellphones could be responsible for massive food shortages, according to a study at Germany's University of Koblenz-Landau claiming that radiation from handsets might explain the recent disappearance of bees that pollinate crops worldwide. Billions of worker bees have mysteriously vanished in the United States, where bees pollinate $15 billion worth of fruit, nuts and other crops each year. Britain's Independent newspaper reported that Dr. Jochen Kuhn, who conducted the study, believes radiation from the phones interferes with bees' navigation system. Dr. George Carlo, who headed a massive study by the U.S. government and mobile phone industry investigating hazards from cellphones in the 1990s, declared, "I am convinced the possibility is real."

Previous studies blame cellphone radiation for brain tumors, killing brain cells in teenagers and causing low sperm counts in men. Evidence abounds, the newspaper noted, but proof remains lacking.

On the Hot Seat Japan's two leading toilet makers alerted the public after its luxury toilet seats started catching fire. Three fires involved the electric bidet accessory of Toto Ltd.'s popular Z-series toilets, which feature a pulsating massage spray, a power dryer, built-in-the-bowl deodorizing filter, the "Tornado Wash" flush and a lid that opens and closes automatically. "Fortunately, nobody was using the toilets when the fire broke out, and there were no injuries," Toto official Emi Tanaka said, adding, "The fire would have been just under your buttocks." Twenty-six other incidents involved bidets that merely smoked. The company offered to repair the 180,000 units already sold.

Almost immediately, INAX Corp., Japan's No. 2 toilet maker, disclosed that seven of its "washlets" -combination toilet and bidet - had smoked and caught fire. It recalled 30,000 of the units.

* The city council in Galway, Ireland, declined to change the "10 minutes to go" rule for public pay toilets, even after being told of a visitor from Dublin who was using a facility in Eyre Square that opened before he was finished, exposing him to street traffic. The newspaper Galway First reported that the man, who was suffering from an upset stomach and needed more than the allotted time, had to quickly pull up his trousers, soiling himself in the process, and go outside to deposit money for more time. A council official said the 10-minute limit is "a security feature and also assists in ensuring that no antisocial behavior exists in the area."

Last Call An English pub wants Peru to grant it consulate status so it can avoid England's ban on public smoking. "About 95 percent of our customers smoke, and it would be wonderful to be the only pub in England where you could have a cigarette," said Debbie Trevithick, landlady of the Peruvian Arms in Penzance, Cornwall. Noting an 18th-century Cornish engineer opened the pub with money he made from silver mines in Peru, Trevithick said it has maintained close links with the Peruvian embassy in London ever since. "We are not holding out too much hope," she conceded, but pledged that if the embassy does grant the pub's request, the staff would learn Spanish, celebrate Peru's national holiday and perhaps get a pet llama.

Latter-Day Noahs Animal shelter staffers in Seattle removed 110 parakeets they found in a cage in the living room of a one-bedroom apartment. "You could hear the noise from the street," animal control officer Neil Deruyter said, adding it wasn't noise complaints but nose complaints that brought official action. Authorities said the birds' owner, a man in his fifties, collected the parakeets over the past five years.

* Authorities confiscated a flock of 80 sheep from David Watts, who was keeping them in his 2200-square-foot house in downtown Apex, N.C. "He lives upstairs, and the sheep were living downstairs," police Sgt. Robert Towell said. "He considered them pets." Reports said Watts occasionally walked the sheep around his residential neighborhood on a leash.