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News Quirks 10.19.05

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Curses, Foiled Again Police in Pensacola, Fla., arrested Artemio Castillo, 49, and Ernesto Garcia, 41, after they pulled into a gas station to fill up in a car belonging to employee Pam Pease, who had reported it stolen from the station less than an hour before. "It just blew my mind, but there they were," Pease said. "I'm glad it was low on gas."

- Tokyo police arrested Eriko Kawaguchi, 32, after she complained to them that the hit man she hired over the Internet and paid $136,000 to murder her lover's pregnant wife failed to carry out the killing. Police also arrested the alleged contract killer, self-described detective Koji Tabe, 40, who the Daily Yomiuri newspaper said accepted the money and told Kawaguchi that he would chase the victim on a motorcycle and spray her with a biological agent in a tunnel.

Sodbuster of the Week The Chinese government has enlisted architect William McDonough to help design seven new cities as part of a campaign to build housing for 400 million people in the next 12 years. To compensate for farmland that will be lost to urbanization, McDonough told Newsweek, "We'll move farms onto rooftops . . . The farmers can live downstairs. And when you look at the city from a distance, it will look like part of the landscape."

Holy Moley The Breakout Trust, a Christian charity in Britain, announced that it raised $482,000 to produce a movie about the Christmas story after hearing of a young boy who asked his teacher why Mary and Joseph named their baby after a swear word. The charity is sending free copies of the 30-minute animated film to all 26,000 British primary schools.

- Irish bookmaker Paddy Power put up billboards depicting Jesus and his disciples gambling at the Last Supper. The ad adapts Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting to show Jesus with a stack of poker chips, Judas with 30 pieces of silver and other apostles clutching hands of cards. "There's a place for fun and games," the caption reads.

- The Utah Court of Appeals ruled that two women who gave their life savings to an apocalyptic religious group may proceed with their lawsuit against it. Kaziah Hancock and Cindy Stewart claim that in return for their contributions, the polygamous True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of The Last Days promised them land, more money and a face-to-face visit with Jesus.

- The Watch Tower Society, used by Jehovah's Witnesses to promote religious worship, has sued a Canadian website for copyright and trademark infringement by posting religious works online. The society contends that the site is being used to embarrass the religion.

- During evening Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Corn Hill, Texas, the Rev. Arthur Michalka, 78, called about 15 children forward so he could prick them with an unsterilized pin to demonstrate the pain that Jesus suffered during crucifixion. No one reacted strongly at the time, according to Helen Osman, communications director for the Catholic Diocese of Austin, which is investigating the incident, although one parent declared afterward, "Apparently our father has lost his mind." "What I was trying to teach them is that suffering is a part of life," Michalka explained. "I didn't think it was that big a deal."

Hot to Trot Fire officials in Australia's Victoria state evacuated a building after a man triggered a massive shock of static electricity that caused burn marks in the carpet. Officials said that Frank Clewer had built up at least 30,000 volts of static electricity in his jacket just by walking around Warrnambool. He received a shock when he walked into a local business. "It sounded almost like a firecracker or something like that," Clewer told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "Within say around five minutes, the carpet started to erupt." Fearing the incident might trigger electrical problems in the building, the Country Fire Authority ordered it evacuated and confiscated Clewer's jacket, which continued to give off voltage. Scientist Karl Kruszelnicki told the ABC that the cause of the electrical build-up was "an unfortunate combination of insulating clothes that he's wearing," the synthetic material and "just walking along."

Brain Drain - Emails and phone calls are overloading people's mental capacity, according to researcher Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King's College London. New Scientist magazine reported that Wilson found that when test subjects were asked to carry out problem-solving tasks while being bombarded with routine correspondence, their IQs dropped an average of 10 points -- even when they were told to ignore the interruption. The magazine noted that other studies have shown that people high on marijuana lose just 5 IQ points.

Mr. Pretty Boy Tony Blair's office released figures indicating that the British prime minister spends almost twice as much on makeup as the average British woman. The announcement that Blair spent more than $3100 on makeup and makeup artists over the past six years came in response to media skepticism over Blair's insistence before the May general election that he acquired a suntan sitting in his yard during April.

Freak Injuries Clint Barmes, 26, a rookie shortstop for the Colorado Rockies, missed three months with a cracked clavicle. The Denver Post reported that Barmes was carrying a bag of groceries when he became impatient with the elevator at his apartment building and decided to take the stairs. After just two steps, he slipped and landed on his left shoulder.

- Actor James Wood, 58, disclosed that he injured himself playing poker. Parade magazine reported that Wood spent so much time leaning against the card table that he compressed a nerve in his elbow and needed surgery.

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