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News Quirks 09.07.05


Published September 7, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Two men who tried to steal gasoline from a construction company in Nappanee, Ind., were unable to make their getaway because they filled their tank with off-road-grade diesel fuel instead, and their car wouldn't run. An employee of the company alerted Elkhart County sheriff's deputies after spotting McKinley Chase, 21, and Dajuan L. Lord, 19, siphoning the diesel fuel from the car's tank.

- Police in South Salt Lake, Utah, reported that a man tried to rob two women at knifepoint in a convenience store parking lot, but they got away without giving him any money. He ran to a nearby apartment complex and tried to break into an apartment but couldn't. Next, he forced two people out of a Jeep at knifepoint and took off but rolled the vehicle, suffering cuts and bruises. He fled to another apartment building and tried but failed to break into several apartments before kicking in the door of Melva Hernandez, who said that he barricaded the door, then paced up and down screaming, "Police! I have a gun." Hernandez said she offered him money, but he refused and demanded that she hand over her 18-month-old daughter. She resisted until the man heard police sirens approaching and jumped out the bedroom window. Police arrested Joe Lucero, 30, and took him to the hospital to be treated for multiple injuries.

Homeland Insecurity Although the U.S. drug industry pledged to speed development of new drugs after the 2001 anthrax attacks, the Washington Post reported that only two of the 56 specific drugs, diagnostic tools and vaccines recommended by the Pentagon's Defense Science Board to successfully respond to a bioterrorist attack are available. Drug makers explained that developing new defenses against biological weapons just isn't profitable. As a result, three U.S. senators proposed extending patent protection on cooperating companies' most profitable products from generic competition for an additional 18 months.

Critics of the legislation -- sponsored by Sens. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan. -- told the Post that the so-called wild-card patent extension would keep the cost of widely used drugs unnecessarily high and destroy the generic drug industry. Douglas Heye, whose boss, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairs the subcommittee on bioterrorism, said, "We're definitely looking for some way to incentivize the industry."

Culinary Novelties A new restaurant in Taiwan has become a hit serving meals in bowls shaped like toilets instead of on plates while patrons sit on white ceramic toilet seats surrounded by urinals and other bathroom decor. The Kaohsiung eatery, named Marton, after the Chinese word matong, meaning toilet, specializes in mushy, brown offerings like curry chicken rice and chocolate ice cream. "Diners come and walk away with the special experience," owner Eric Wang, 26, said. "Many try to create more fun, stirring up curry and rice so it looks exactly like when you forget to flush the toilet. Then they gulp it down."

- Vietnamese authorities ordered a Hanoi restaurant to stop putting gold in its meals, despite the owner's insistence that the precious metal enhanced the food's nutritional value. According to the newspaper Vietnam News, the Health Ministry doesn't list gold as an approved food additive and said that it must investigate potential health risks. Nguyen Phuong Anh, owner of the Kim Ngan Ngu Thien (Golden Feast) restaurant, said that he used only the purest gold and "always advises customers to ingest only a moderate volume."

Scavenger Hunt Jason Burtis, 41, reported to police in Colorado Springs, Colo., that the hatch to the van he was driving came open, and his wheelchair fell into the road. Burtis, who has multiple sclerosis and can walk with canes, pulled over to retrieve the wheelchair as vehicles drove around it and his van. Then, he told police, a sport utility vehicle pulled up behind him, and the driver grabbed the wheelchair and drove off.

Cloaked Demands Authorities in Singapore reported that a dozen police in riot gear responded to a protest by four people in front of a government pension fund building. The four protestors, all Singaporeans, carried a placard reading, "Be Transparent Now."

Give Peace a Chance Shortly before Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse arrived at a public stadium in Matara, Sri Lanka, to kick off his campaign for president, two doves were freed as a sign of peace. They were killed instantly when they flew into a ceiling fan. "One bird fell in front of the stage while the other dropped behind the dignitaries," a police official said. Last year, Sri Lanka's public security minister, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, tried to free a dove at the start of a multinational UN peacekeeping exercise, but the bird was already dead after being squeezed too tightly.

Unwitting Accomplices Authorities in Stuart, Fla., reported that Charlotte Yoder drove fugitive William Hawley, 41, around for three hours after he escaped from a state prison work crew. According to sheriff's Sgt. John Silvas, Hawley told Yoder that his car had broken down and he needed a cab because his wife or girlfriend was having their baby. Yoder offered to drive him and took him to five medical centers before giving him $20 for a meal at a fast-food restaurant. Silvas said that the woman never felt threatened. "He was very nice," he said. "They talked about religion, family."

Perfect Position After former FBI agent W. Mark Felt revealed that he was Watergate's Deep Throat, the Nation magazine reported that the agency twice put Felt in charge of finding out Deep Throat's identity. The second time, the article said, Felt had already come under suspicion of being the source of leaks to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. "He was much more than a secret sharer. He was an operator," the Nation story explained, adding that Felt "was able to watch his own back and protect his ability to guide the two reporters."