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News Quirks 06.14.06

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Curses, Foiled Again

Police in the German town of Paderborn reported that thieves broke into an auto-repair shop and sliced open the roof of a convertible in an attempt to steal it. They left, according to the newspaper Bild am Sonntag, after they couldn't start the vehicle. Police pointed out that the engine had been removed to be repaired.

Italian police said that two men stole a tow truck and drove to Rome's high-end shopping district, Via Condotti, where they put the truck in reverse and tried to smash through the window of Bulgari's jewelers. The window's bulletproof glass withstood the impact, however, and the thwarted thieves fled.

How Government Works

Investigators from the Justice Department's ethics office were forced to end their probe into the conduct of department lawyers who approved the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program because the department denied them security clearances. "Only those involved in national security with a specific need to know are provided details about this classified program," Justice Department official Brian Roehrkasse told The New York Times.

End of an Error

A store at Minnesota's Mall of America that sold naps for 70 cents a minute closed after attracting fewer than 1600 customers in six months. Steeve RamsDell, the owner of MinneNapolis, blamed the failure on the store's inability to develop repeat business because of the high percentage of tourists who visit the mall.

Drinking-Class Heroes

Teresa L. Kaiser, 56, executive director of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, resigned after Portland police arrested her on suspicion of driving under the influence and reckless driving in connection with a two-car crash. According to the police report, a breath test showed Kaiser's blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit.

Police in Eureka, Calif., said an automobile accident that hospitalized four people was caused by Jeremy Daniel Lee, 22, whom they arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. Officer Wayne Cox noted that the car Lee was driving had a bumper sticker reading, "I am not an alcoholic. I'm a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings."

Bioengineer Richard Deutsch invented a talking urinal to warn men not to drive drunk. According to the Washington Times, the Wizmark interactive urinal communicator is a motion-sensitive, battery-operated device about the size of a pine-scented sanitizer. Its miniature screen delivers a 15-second announcement to anyone using it, recommending, "Maybe it's time to call a cab or call a sober friend for a ride home." Encouraged by the response to the Wizmark, Deutsch said that he has also developed a "sit-down" version for woman's restrooms.

Second-Amendment Follies

Six thousand weapons are missing from the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum in Claremore, Okla., according to state Auditor Jeff McMahan. He said that when the state-owned museum was founded in the 1960s, its inventory listed more than 20,000 firearms and related items. "Now, there are only about 14,000," he said. "Right now, we don't know what happened to the other 6000 guns. I've heard that one missing gun from the museum has been confiscated from a crime scene in New York and another from a crime scene in Muskogee." Claremore Police Chief Mickey Perry added that a machine gun from the museum was found in Maine. Duane Kyler, the museum's executive director, denied that any guns are missing. "Everything is identified," he insisted. "Everything's cool."

Problems of Democracy, No. 217 & 218

Dutch pedophiles launched their own political party to campaign for a reduction of the legal age for sexual relations from 16 to 12 and the legalization of child pornography and sex with animals. The Charity, Freedom and Diversity party said that its eventual goal is to eliminate the legal age limit for sexual relations altogether.

When lawmakers in Taiwan's parliament proposed opening direct transport links with China, members of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party charged the podium to stop the vote. During the ensuing melee, DPP deputy Wang Shu-hui snatched the written proposal from an opposition legislator, shoved it in her mouth and wouldn't give it up, despite opposition lawmakers' attempts to make her by pulling her hair. Later, Wang spat out the document and tore it up.

When Cartoon Voices Aren't Enough

Authorities in Lutz, Fla., reported that two college students were found dead inside a partially deflated helium balloon being used to advertise a condominium complex. Jason Ackerman and Sara Rydman, both 21, apparently pulled down the 8-foot-diameter balloon and crawled inside it, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Maj. Bob Schrader said.

Seeds of Protest

Sri Lanka is experiencing a rash of suicide attempts, which authorities blame on the availability of poison from a common roadside plant, the yellow oleander. After discovering that the ornamental plant's seed is deadly, two girls in the northern part of the island used one to kill themselves 25 years ago. Newspaper accounts of the deaths raised public awareness. "The next year, there were 23 cases," British doctor Michael Eddleston, who has spent much of the past 10 years in Sri Lanka, told BBC News. "The year after that 46, then 126, and ever since then it has continued to rise year on year as it spread across the island." Eddleston added that many young people take the oleander seeds to protest parental scolding. Even though most of these attempts are only half-serious, up to 10 percent of them are fatal.

Lawn & Order

A homeowner in Adelanto, Calif., reported that someone had stolen his new front yard -- grass, bushes and sprinklers. Police arrested a neighbor, David Roger Bowers, 34, whom witnesses reported seeing take the sod, plants and irrigation system into a house.

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