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News Quirks 09.12.07


Published September 12, 2007 at 4:00 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Authorities said a man walked into a bank in New Hudson, Mich., wearing a disguise and gloves and handed a teller a small piece of cardboard that read, "Give Me Your Money." According to Oakland County Sheriff's Detective Tom Bisio, when the teller asked the robber if he brought a bag to put the money in, he realized he hadn't and "ran off without any cash."

* A Chinese court in Hebei Province sentenced bank guards Ren Xiaofeng, 34, and Ma Xiangjing, 37, to death after they stole 51 million yuan ($6.74 million) from a vault they were supposed to be protecting. They lost most of the money playing the lottery. China Central Television reported they hoped to win enough to cover the money they stole and earn a profit. After their plan failed, they took another 18 million yuan from the bank and fled but lost 14 million yuan of the loot that same day playing the lottery.

You Can Call Me Al A Roman Catholic bishop in the Netherlands proposed that people of all faiths refer to God as "Allah." "God doesn't care what we call him," Bishop Martinus "Tiny" Muskens told Dutch television. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the largest U.S. Catholic civil rights group, disagreed, saying Muskens "can pray to 'Allah' all he wants, but only addlepated Catholics will follow his lead."

Drawing Conclusions Iran's foreign minister summoned a Swedish diplomat to protest a cartoon in a Swedish newspaper depicting the head of the prophet Muhammad on a dog's body. The meeting followed a demonstration by 60 Muslims outside the office of the newspaper Nerikes Allehanda in Oerebro.

* Malaysia's government ordered the Tamil-language newspaper Makkal Osai to cease publication for one month after it published a front-page picture of Jesus smoking a cigarette. Murphy Pakiam, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Kuala Lampur, called the picture a "desecration." "My entire staff are in tears," the paper's general manager, S.M. Periasamy, lamented. "They will lose a month of income."

Ups and Downs After neighbors complained to Nathaniel Rabinowitz, 60, that burglars were using the ladder he keeps behind his house to break into other houses, he refused to move the ladder, which he said he uses to climb on his roof to feed birds. "It's on my land," he told The Washington Post. "There's no law against having a ladder."

After another break-in, police borrowed the ladder to climb onto the roof to investigate how thieves gained access to a neighbor's house. They spotted marijuana plants through Rabinowitz's skylight and charged him with possession. Rabinowitz insisted he grew the marijuana for religious and medicinal use and that the neighbors and authorities fabricated the burglaries so they could arrest him for his marijuana.

A week later, police officers trying to serve Rabinowitz with papers for a hearing over the ladder dispute said he greeted them by setting fire to his house and shooting himself in the head. He was hospitalized in grave but stable condition.

Already a Winner Junior Olympics hopeful Kyler Osborne, 14, was practicing the javelin in Tacoma, Wash., when he threw short and his forward momentum carried him onto the sharp end of the pointy polished aluminum spear. It penetrated his side and went right through his liver but missed arteries and narrowly avoided his lung. KIRO-TV News reported Osborne received four stitches and was told to take it easy for six weeks.

Ready to Rumble Virginia tourism officials announced the state's new "Live Passionately" campaign would stop showing two hands held together in the shape of a heart. They found out the gesture is a gang sign used by the Gangster Disciples, which started in Chicago but now have a presence in several U.S. cities.

* New York City activists calling themselves the Coalition to Protect Our Children complained that licensed Yankees baseball caps being sold in Harlem feature colors and symbols for some of America's deadliest street gangs. reported that the caps, made by New Era under license from Major League Baseball, are available with separate bandana designs for the Bloods, the Crips and the Latin Kings.

Viewers Choice The creator of a cooking show on a Miami public TV station told the Miami Herald she hopes to interest other markets in the program. Renee Rentmeester explained that "Cooking Without Looking" is the first TV cooking show for the blind. Its three hosts are blind or visually impaired. The show has 1.7 million viewers in South Florida, Rentmeester said, adding, "It's my dream to have this show all over the country."

Supporting Our Troops After Luke Rodolph, 23, of Casper, Wyo., admitted throwing a rock off a cliff that struck and killed climber Peter Absolon, 47, authorities announced they wouldn't charge Rodolph. Among the factors cited in the decision by Fremont County Attorney Ed Newell was that Rodolph had served in Iraq.

Corpse Fight Chinese authorities charged a Shanghai funeral director with assaulting and injuring a competitor over the right to bury a corpse. The Labor Daily reported that the man, named Wang, was summoned to the hospital by the neighbor of a family of a deceased patient, but he arrived to find his business rival already dressing the corpse in the emergency room. The rival said he had an agreement with the hospital to handle all its funeral business. The two began fighting, then Wang produced nunchakus and hit his competitor in the face, prompting his arrest.