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News Quirks 11.29.06

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Curses, Foiled Again Two men in their early twenties were arrested for robbing a pizza delivery woman at knifepoint in Bartholomew County, Ind., after they decided the money wasn't enough and took some pizzas, too. Concluding that the robbers had phoned for a pizza to lure the delivery person to the neighborhood, sheriff's deputies noticed the distinctive sausage-and-pepperoni pizza aroma coming from a nearby residence and investigated. According to Maj. Mark Gorbett, deputies entered the home and found a phone book open to the pizza section, cash taken in the robbery, a knife they believe was brandished and the telltale pizzas.

* Despite a front-page story in the local paper that police in Kerrville, Texas, were investigating an unnamed woman who was trying to find someone to kill her ex-husband, the next day Peggy Sue Hesskew, 44, made a $100 down payment on a $500 hit that she had ordered to an undercover police officer posing as a hit man. "You don't get the paper?" Kerr County Precinct Justice of the Peace Vance Elliott asked Hesskew after her arrest. "No," she replied. "I was out of town."

Better Than Duct Tape Major U.S. cities are using bluegills, also known as sunfish or bream, to safeguard their drinking water by helping detect terrorist attacks. Small numbers of the fish are kept in tanks constantly replenished with water from municipal supplies in San Francisco, New York, Washington and other big cities. Sensors in each tank register changes in breathing, heartbeat and swimming patterns of the fish that might indicate the presence of toxins. "Nature's given us pretty much the most powerful and reliable early warning center out there," said Bill Lawler of Intelligent Automation Corporation, which makes and sells the bluegill monitoring system, starting at around $45,000.

When You Don't Have a Kevlar Vest A 54-year-old man told police in Orange Park, Fla., that two men he didn't recognize ambushed him with a rifle while he was taking out the garbage. They fired one shot, which the man said was stopped by two small Bibles that he was carrying in his shirt pocket to give to friends. The Florida Times-Union reported that the man had a red mark and a pain in his chest but was otherwise uninjured.

* A cellphone may have spared the life of trucker Willie Ray Goree, 50, who was talking outside a restaurant in Willis, Texas, when he heard a shot. Police Chief James Nowak said the bullet, from a .22-caliber rifle fired by a homeless man, hit Goree's phone, which deflected it to the soft tissue of his neck without causing any major damage.

Smoking After Sex British teenagers who become pregnant often smoke to try to reduce the size of their babies and make delivery less painful, public health minister Caroline Flint told members of the Labour Party.

Problems of Democracy When incumbent Katherine Dunton and challenger Dona Highstone tied in a rural school board election in Adak, Alaska, state law required officials to toss a coin to determine the winner, even though Dunton died on the day of the election. Highstone called heads, but the coin landed tails, making Dunton the winner.

When Guns Are Outlawed Authorities in Riverside, Calif., said they intended to file murder charges in the case of a 30-year-old man who was killed by a 50-pound car battery that crashed through his windshield. California Highway Patrol Officer Joe Ramos said Kevin Harville was following his ex-girlfriend in his sport utility vehicle and bumping her vehicle from behind "for a couple of miles." Then the SUV rolled over a guardrail, and the battery came loose and flew into another vehicle, striking driver Shawn Kettlewell in the head.

Rear Ended A 22-year-old British man celebrating Guy Fawkes Day at a bonfire party with 40 others suffered burns and unspecified internal injuries after inserting a small firecracker called a Black Cat Thunderbolt Rocket into his buttocks and lighting it. "Everyone was laughing and didn't believe he'd do it," witness Daniel Kassim, 16, said. "He pulled his trousers down, and it exploded within seconds."

* Police who found John Sheehan, 33, lying naked on a tree stump masturbating in El Cerrito, Calif., arrested him on suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon after he told officers he had a tool in his rectum. Officers drew their guns, and Sheehan removed a 6-inch metal awl wrapped in black electrical tape. "You can't get much more concealed than that," Detective Cpl. Don Horgan said.

Prioritization San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to outlaw the use of Styrofoam and other polystyrene products by city restaurants and 8 to 3 to effectively decriminalize the use, sale and cultivation of marijuana by adults.

Cars Shall Not Be Crucified City workers in Greensboro, Ga., confiscated a 6-foot-tall, half-ton statue of Jesus from the front yard of Nickie Marks after officials declared that it violates zoning restrictions and threatens public safety. City Manager Larry Postell explained that an ordinance bans signs without words in residential areas, pointing out, "He's a spiritual counselor, and he's got a spiritual icon in his front yard. I think it constitutes a sign." Pastell added that the ordinance was intended to keep business owners from advertising by welding cars to the tops of large poles.

Convicted by a Cliché Natalie Coker, a former associate director of a Veterans Affairs pharmacy in Murfreesboro, Tenn., was sentenced to prison for taking more than $115,000 in kickbacks from a company that was selling the government red tape at inflated prices. The tape, intended to deter tampering, is stamped with the word "security."

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