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News Quirks 11.15.06


Published November 15, 2006 at 5:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Police in Forrest City, Ark., arrested would-be burglar Dennis Reed Jr., 19, after finding him stuck between an air-conditioning unit and a window frame, facing into an apartment not his. What's more, he was nude. Rescue personnel were unable to free Reed until they entered the apartment and removed the air conditioner. He insisted he had been forced to break into the apartment by a gunman he knew only by his first name.

* A burglary suspect led police on a high-speed chase, until he crashed the stolen car he was driving in a wooded area of Smithtown, N.Y., and fled on foot. Suffolk County police were searching for the suspect when he landed at their feet after falling 50 feet from a tree he had climbed to hide in. Police official Jeremy Samuelson said Joseph Barwick, 31, was hospitalized with leg and back injuries.

Do-Gooders Fifteen thousand inmates at a maximum-security prison in Manila, including 1000 on death row, shaved their heads and chests, then donated the hair to help mop up the Philippines' worst oil spill. Coast Guard chief Arthur Gosingan explained that the prisoners' contribution was part of a nationwide drive to collect hair and chicken feathers to put in sacks tied to bamboo poles to absorb more than 52,834 gallons of industrial fuel, which leaked from a tanker that sank off the central island of Guimaras.

Nuclear Families Spanish authorities have found radioactive snails where three U.S. hydrogen bombs accidentally fell in 1966. After a mid-air collision between an Air Force bomber and a refueling aircraft, high-explosive igniters on two bombs detonated on impact, spreading plutonium clouds across nearby fields. After making this discovery 40 years later, officials warned residents of the nearby fishing village of Palomares not to eat any snails, which are a local delicacy. "We have to study the dirt, we have to look underground," energy official Juan Antonio Rubio said. "We don't know what's down there."

* Scientists in South Africa have discovered bacteria that live 2 miles below ground and thrive on radiation. The microbes, observed in water spilling out of a fissure in a South African gold mine, are similar to others found in extreme conditions lacking nutrients traceable to photosynthesis, which fuels all life on Earth's surface. "There is an organism that dominates its environment by feeding off an essentially inexhaustible source of energy: radiation," said geoscientist Tullis C. Onstott of Princeton University, who led the team. "The bottom line is: Water plus rocks plus radiation is enough to sustain life for millennia." Onstott added that locating life in this otherwise uninhabitable place "increases the likelihood that we will find life beneath the surface of Mars."

* One person died and 13 others fell ill from rectal inflammation after they were exposed to excessive doses of X-rays while being scanned for prostate cancer at Epinal Hospital in eastern France. Altogether, 23 patients received excessive doses of radiation, according to the Lorraine Regional Hospital Agency, which noted that all 13 who became ill needed surgery to fit an artificial anus.

Second-Amendment Follies Brycien Reyes, 19, was practicing his fast draw with a loaded .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol while facing himself in a mirror in the basement of his home in Evans, Colo., when, according to police Lt. Gary Kessler, he accidentally and fatally shot himself in the head.

* A cannon that is fired whenever the football team at Washington's Snohomish High School scores a touchdown wounded five students standing on the sidelines at the school's homecoming game. Shannon Parthemer of the Snohomish School District couldn't say if the students were struck by cannon fire or by flying debris from a possible cannon malfunction, but promised "a full investigation."

Binge and Purge Zhang Hongtao, 25, an auditor in China's northern Hebei province, died from overindulging at a procession of banquets and other entertainment hosted for Zhang and other auditors by the auditee, the Yanshan Power Supply Co. Five power bureau officials were dismissed or demoted over Zhang's death, the Shanghai Daily reported, pointing out that instead of conducting the audit, Zhang ate, drank, played cards and enjoyed massages.

* Robert Cole, 37, serving time at a maximum-security prison in Sydney, Australia, for theft and assault, secretly fasted and used contraband laxatives to lose 30 pounds so he could escape by squeezing through a hole he chiseled in his cell wall with a butter knife. The 123-pound fugitive was recaptured three days later, and Judge Roger Dive added 21 months to his sentence, despite defense attorney Richard Leary's assertion that Cole only escaped to show authorities that he could go straight on the outside.

Occupational Hazards Darmin Garcia, 21, slipped into a vat of molten chocolate at Debelis Corp. in Kenosha, Wis., and remained stuck up to his chest for more than two hours. "I felt like I weighed 900 pounds," Garcia said. "I couldn't move." The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that rescuers couldn't lift Garcia out or drain the 110-degree chocolate because it was too thick. Finally, they added cocoa butter to thin the mixture, allowing firefighters to scoop out enough chocolate so Garcia could take off his pants and be pulled out.

Father Knows Best Troy Stewart, 31, and his 10-year-old daughter Megan interrupted their bicycle ride in Lantana, Fla., to jump off a bridge into the Intracoastal Waterway 20 feet below because the father said it would help her get over her fear of heights. Megan Stewart wasn't hurt, but her father broke his leg when he forgot to tuck it, and it hit the muddy bottom. She had to help him swim 50 feet to shore, then run home and tell her mother to call an ambulance. Police Capt. Andy Rundle declared, "I wouldn't consider this an appropriate method of trying to break your kid of a phobia."