News Quirks | News Quirks | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published March 26, 2008 at 10:23 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

Police arrested Alejandro Renteria, 23, who they said used a gun to threaten a 19-year-old man in Grand Island, Neb. While police searched for Renteria, his friend, Luis Jaime, 18, tried disposing of the weapon by tossing it into Pier Park Lake, according to Sgt. Jerry Atwell, but the lake was frozen, enabling police to recover the .22-caliber Ruger as evidence against Renteria.

* After receiving a late-night call declaring, "I have killed them all," a woman notified Louisiana State Police, who checked the woman's caller ID and found the number of Thomas Ballard, 29, of Delhi, LA. Ballard explained to troopers that he thought he was calling a friend to boast of winning a video game. After searching his home to verify no one had been murdered, however, police learned Ballard had a five-year-old warrant for drug charges and arrested him.

Where's Waldo?

Municipal officials nationwide told the Associated Press that installing Global Positioning System tracking devices in buses, snowplows, trash trucks and other government-issued vehicles to improve efficiency has had the added benefit of reducing waste and abuse by catching employees assigned to the vehicles running personal errands or otherwise loafing while on duty. In response, the workers and their unions objected to the devices as intrusive, Big Brother technology and demanded they either be removed or that violators go unpunished.

* James Wombles, 37, was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet while on probation for a crime committed in Miami County, Ohio, when authorities charged him with multiple burglaries after tracking him from the scene of an alleged burglary by following the GPS signals from the device. Deputies searched his car and found several of the stolen items.

Lifestyle Power

U.S. scientists have developed a microfiber fabric that transforms human movement into electricity able to recharge a cell phone or power a small MP3 music player. Reporting in the journal Nature, the researchers said the fabric could be woven into a garment to harness power from its wearer simply by walking around or even from a slight breeze. Head researcher Zhong Lin Wang of the Georgia Institute of Technology said the major hurdle to full-scale production is that the fiber-based nanogenerator uses zinc oxide, which degrades when wet. His team is working on a way to coat the fibers to protect the fabric while being washed.

* Other researchers have developed a knee-mounted device to generate electricity while walking. Describing the device, called a biomechanical energy harvester, in the journal Science, lead researcher J. Maxwell Donelan, a professor of kinesiology at British Columbia's Simon Fraser University, compared it to the regenerative braking used to produce electricity for hybrid cars. He said it is more powerful than shoe-mounted "people-power" devices and lighter and less wieldy than backpacks, which generate power by bouncing up and down. "Walking at a normal pace with the device on each leg," Donelan wrote, "users can generate enough electricity to run 10 cell phones at the same time and twice the energy needed to power a basic computer."

Role Model of the Week

The Georgia Department of Revenue added state Rep. Jeanette Jamison to its delinquent-taxpayer list for owing eight years of back taxes, totaling $45,734. The Toccoa Democrat is an accountant and tax preparer who serves on the House committee that writes tax legislation. Acknowledging she "dropped the ball," Jamison told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Sometimes when you are so busy looking after everybody else's business, you don't pay as much attention to your own as you should."

Beating the Traffic

Police investigating a possible crash after receiving reports that a single-engine airplane had landed on the snow-covered fairway of a golf course in Lincolnshire, Ill., found the pilot, Robert Kadera, 65, and his 14-year-old son trudging through the snow to the boy's tennis lesson. "He was late for his tennis tune-up," Kadera told WGN radio host Spike O'Dell after police denied him permission to fly the ski-equipped plane home, and he had to have it towed. "Traffic on Saturday is really bad. The golf course had plenty of room to land right across the street from the tennis courts, so we thought it would work for us."

"I don't have any idea what this guy was thinking," Lincolnshire Police Chief Randy Melvin told the Chicago Tribune. "He was going to park his plane across the street like nobody would notice."

What Could Go Wrong?

Juliana Cumbo, 31, an intern at the Academy of Oriental Medicine in North Austin, Texas, re-applied for a license to practice acupuncture after the Texas State Board of Acupuncture rejected her application, even though she holds a Master's degree in acupuncture and passed the national board exams. Cumbo is blind. "I thought it was a perfect profession for a blind person," Cumbo told the American Statesman, which cited a report in Acupuncture Today that more than 30 percent of the acupuncture practitioners in Japan are blind. "We are in Texas. We have Texas law," said Hoang Ho, a member of the four-person acupuncture board that voted against Cumbo. "They don't have lawsuits in Japan."

Always a Cop Around When You Don't Need One

Chicago authorities said Ramiro Salgado, 26, broke four laws when he drove off in his GMC Suburban: He was drunk, had an open bottle of liquor, lacked insurance, and his driver's license was suspended. Things got worse, the Chicago Sun Times reported, when he lost control of his SUV and crashed headfirst into a police squad car.

So Simple a Child Can Do It

An 8-year-old boy preparing to enter law school at Brazil's Paulista University after passing the entrance exams was told he would first have to finish elementary and high school. The newspaper Correio Braziliense reported the boy's father was taking the university to court over the matter, while Brazil's association of lawyers urged the Education Ministry to block other elementary school pupils from taking the test.