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News Quirks 09.20.06


Published September 20, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Austrian authorities arrested a 34-year-old man who tried to rob a bank in Poggersdorf, only to discover that it wasn't a bank but a municipal building. The robber believed it was a bank because he saw an automatic teller machine in the lobby, but after a woman whom he reportedly threatened with an air gun pointed out his mistake, he fled, according to Hermann Klammer of the provincial police. Officers quickly captured the unidentified man, who confessed.

Border Follies Tired of illegal aliens slashing their fences trying to skirt Border Patrol checkpoints, some Texas ranchers have installed ladders along the fences to help the migrants and save costly repairs to the fences. Many immigrants aren't taking advantage of the opportunity, however. "They ignore it a lot," said rancher Paul Johnson, who protects his 2700-acre exotic game ranch with about 10 miles of high wire fence. "They're afraid that they're monitored by the Border Patrol." Rancher Michael Vickers, who believes that ladders encourage trespassing, has rigged his fence with 220 volts of electricity. "I've had a dose of it myself," he said. "It's not fun."

Life in the Other People's Republic Tirana, Albania's capital, is running out of graves since officials shut down one of the city's two cemeteries because of a dispute with the national government. The Socialists, who run the city, accused the government, run by the Democratic Party, of refusing to expropriate nearby land that would add space for two years' worth of graves. Besides warning that the city's other cemetery has only enough room to bury bodies for one more week, officials refuse to issue birth and death certificates because the government hasn't given the city the proper forms. "Albanians nowadays are facing a wondrous dilemma," Elton Metaj, editor of the newspaper Korrieri, commented. "They can't prove they're alive, and they don't dare die."

* Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha named former U.S. Homeland Security boss Tom "Duct Tape" Ridge as his "super-envoy" to help reform national security and the fight against organized crime and corruption so NATO will admit what is regarded as Europe's poorest country. Berisha fell out of favor for not listening to U.S. advice in a 1997 pyramid scheme that toppled his government, bringing anarchy. According to Reuters news agency, "He has been courting the United States assiduously since regaining office last year" by hiring a U.S. firm to orchestrate his election. After Berisha hailed him as a "success story," Ridge said he found Berisha "very passionate and compelling," adding that the government was "passionately committed" to reform. Terms were not disclosed, but a government official said Ridge will visit Albania every two months and is supposed to use his connections to make the United States aware of the former anti-social socialist state's efforts.

Avoirdupois Follies Overweight Americans are being short-changed on medical exams because diagnostic equipment can't accommodate them, according to a study. It found that the number of inconclusive tests due to "patient size" has doubled in the past 15 years, from 10 percent to 20 percent. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Emory University said abdominal ultrasounds posed the greatest challenge, followed by chest X-rays, abdominal computerized tomography (CT), abdominal X-rays, chest CT and general MRI.

Slightest Provocation

Police in Decatur, Ala., arrested four neighbors after a daylong argument escalated into a fight that sent three of them to the hospital. The cause, according to police Lt. Chris Mathews, was a cigarette butt. Mathews said that a guest visiting Bobby Joe Ray, 42, tossed the butt near a fence belonging to Ray's neighbor, Michael Alan Bradford, 24. Bradford shouted his objection, and the two argued about the butt all day. Eventually, Ray's sister, Shirley Lynn Ray White, 32, who lives across the street, tangled with Bradford's wife, Heather Mills Bradford, 27, and the men joined in. "It's sad that people were injured over a cigarette butt," Mathews said.

Petrified Balls German police arrested two men, ages 26 and 29, who they said filled soccer balls with cement, then chained them to lampposts and trees around Berlin, along with a spray-painted sign: "Can you kick it?" At least two people injured themselves. After identifying the men, investigators found a workshop in their apartment where they made the balls.

Drinking and Driveways Don't Mix When Kristine Bolson pulled into her driveway in Rogers, Ark., shortly after midnight, she heard a loud cracking sound, according to a Benton County Sheriff's Office report. When she got out of her car, she heard moaning and found her husband, Richard Gonzalez, on the ground near the vehicle. The report said that Gonzalez had fallen asleep in the driveway, probably after drinking.

Vehicular Follies Authorities investigating an auto accident in Hohhot, the capital of China's Inner Mongolia region, said that the cause of the crash was a woman teaching her dog to drive. According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the woman explained that her dog "was fond of crouching on the steering wheel and often watched her drive. She thought she would let the dog 'have a try' while she operated the accelerator and brake. They did not make it far before crashing into an oncoming car."

Background Noise An Indian film crew shooting a scene in a blue-and-white-tiled restroom in a suburban Bombay shopping mall was thwarted by the automatic-flushing urinals. "At one point, with so many unit members inside the loo, all the flush sensors went berserk and started flushing simultaneously," director Raju Hirani recalled. "We actually had to vacate the loo briefly to stop the urinals from flushing."