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News Quirks 07.06.05


Published July 6, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

Police in Quincy, Mass., responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle in a CVS pharmacy parking lot and discovered Steven Jakaitis, 42, asleep in the idling car. Officers said that Jakaitis had a nylon stocking over his head and was wearing a black wig and scarf. He had a cap pistol in his pocket and a note beside him that read, "I have a Gun DO NOT Press any Alarms or let Custermors know Empty the All the register." He was charged with attempted armed robbery.

Mensa Rejects of the Week

Authorities in Taiwan reported that a 55-year-old man died and four others were poisoned after drinking a popular soft drink that had been laced with cyanide and labeled "I am poisonous. Please do not drink." Police said that the victims read the warning but thought it was a new advertising slogan.

- An 82-year-old man in Glen Burnie, Md., suffered first- and second-degree burns to 20 percent of his body when he used a vacuum cleaner to siphon gas from his car while the engine was running. According to fire official Lt. Russ Davies, the victim locked his keys inside the vehicle in his driveway with the engine running, but was tired and went to bed. When he awoke the next morning, the vehicle was still idling, so he used the vacuum cleaner to try to suck out enough gas to stop the engine. A spark from the vacuum's electric motor ignited the gas. Noting that the fire easily could have spread to the gas tank, Davies said, "You have to wonder what type of judgment was being used there."

One Is the Loneliest Number

Randy Way cast the only vote in a referendum on whether to approve a plan by the village of Oregon, Wis., to annex 80 acres from the town of Oregon. The measure passed. Way is the only person living in the annexed area and cast his ballot after filing a petition, which only he was eligible to sign, asking for the referendum. Although Way was the only eligible voter, Town Clerk Denise Austin printed two ballots "just in case he read it wrong and made a mistake." Way voted 17 minutes after the polls opened, but three paid poll workers remained on duty for 13 hours because town officials couldn't find any provision in state law allowing them to close early.

- In Florida's Hillsborough County, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino won the first Livable Road Award for a stretch of Orient Road that the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) hailed as a model of pedestrian safety. Nearly eight weeks after the award, someone pointed out that the road lacks entire chunks of sidewalk, multiple crosswalks and a wheelchair ramp at the casino's main entrance. Indeed, no sidewalk actually leads to the casino. A 10-foot wall across from the casino blocks a sidewalk, forcing pedestrians into the road. "This award represents a complete collapse of government regulatory responsibility," John Dausman, a former planner with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, told the MPO. Maybe so, said city councilor Linda Saul-Sena, who chaired the committee that awarded the prize, acknowledging that sidewalk gaps were "extremely concerning," but she said the casino was entitled to the award, pointing out, "It was the only application."

If It Isn't Steroids, It's Coleslaw

The Korean Baseball Association (KBO), which governs South Korea's eight professional baseball teams, banned players from putting frozen cabbage under their caps. The ruling followed an emergency meeting after Doosan Bears pitcher Park Myung-hwan's cap fell off during a game, revealing cabbage leaves. KBO officials declared that cabbage leaves are a distraction and cannot be considered part of the standard baseball uniform. "I'm sensitive to heat," Park told Reuters, "and my wife recommended I put frozen cabbage leaves under my cap to cool my head." Another news agency, Agence France-Presse reported that Park said he started using cabbage leaves after he heard a local TV station mention that Babe Ruth had used them to cool off.

Opportunity Knocks

British authorities in Warwickshire reported that a door-to-door salesperson has been going door-to-door selling residents stickers announcing that they don't buy from door-to-door salespeople. The seller appeared after police distributed free stickers that read, "We don't buy from the doorstep." According to Noel Hunter, director of Warwickshire Trading Standards, the "brazen opportunist" tells residents that the signs are no longer current and offers to sell them an updated one for one pound ($1.50).

- Four days before the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the use of marijuana for medical reasons, Oregon officials announced that the state's 6-year-old medicinal-marijuana program, which has more than 10,400 registered patients, generated a $1.1 million surplus. State lawmakers, trying to balance the budget, voted to appropriate $900,000 of the unanticipated revenue to pay for human services needs.

Preemptive Strike

The Federal Aviation Administration proposed amending its regulations to give it the authority to enforce a law banning "obtrusive" advertising in outer space. "Objects placed in orbit, if large enough, could be seen by people around the world for long periods of time," the FAA said in its regulatory filing. It explained that huge billboards placed in a low Earth orbit could appear as large as the moon, be seen without a telescope and "destroy the darkness of the night sky."

Spite Makes Right

Israeli firefighters, responding to reports of someone trying to set fire to a house in an affluent neighborhood in Rehovot, found that the homeowner had dragged sacks containing 3 million shekels ($680,000) onto his lawn and burned them. The newspaper Yediot Aharonot reported that the man acted after an argument with his wife over money matters.