Curses, Foiled Again Christopher Allen Koch, 28, pulled into a bank parking lot in Liberty, Pa., and, according to police, waited in his car for about 20 minutes before heading for the bank entrance wielding a shotgun and wearing an orange ski mask. The door was locked, however, because the bank had closed a minute earlier. Employees inside spotted Koch and got a license plate number that led police to him, along with the gun and the mask.
* Police charged Daniel Glen, 40, with robbing a convenience store in Windsor, Ontario, after he called ahead to ask the clerk how much money was in the cash register before showing up. The clerk alerted police, who arrested Glen nearby. Canwest News Service reported Glen was a suspect in two similar incidents where the thief called ahead to make sure the clerk had the money bagged and ready for him.
* After a gas station attendant in Wiggins Junction, Colo., reported the driver of a pickup truck left without paying for gas, suspect John Wade Biggs, 31, wanted for a variety of charges in Colorado and New Mexico, led law-enforcement officers on a 30-mile chase that ended when the truck flipped over on the driver's side, causing Biggs to shoot himself in the stomach. "He was probably getting ready to shoot it out with us," Morgan County Sheriff Jim Crone said, noting Biggs had a holster on his belt and a pistol in his hand when taken into custody. "He certainly wasn't holding it for his own comfort."
Flush with Failure Some Seattle officials, including the city's wastewater utility director, have urged the city to cancel its contract for five costly self-cleaning lavatories that were installed in 2004. Since then, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported, the high-tech public facilities have cost taxpayers about $4.3 million. A report by Seattle Public Utilities found that the unattended toilets have been used for drug use and dealing, boozing and prostitution. The single-stall units also require relatively large quantities of water, offer only a fraction of the service available in traditional public bathrooms and, despite their automated cleaning functions, are sometimes dirtier than other public restrooms. The report concluded that removing the toilets could save the city about $850,000 a year.
Vehicular Follies Angry because the government owed him money for work he did as a federal employee, Glenn Sparling, 65, drove two cars into the Ravenden Springs, Ark., post office. "He told me he hit the post office because it was the closest government building around," police Chief Kevin Montgomery said. Sparling's first assault, in a 1984 Chevrolet Blazer, left a gaping hole in the building. Sparling drove out, but the vehicle broke down, so he walked home, got his 1972 Ford Mustang and headed back to the post office. Officers on their way to investigate the first crash spotted Sparling, who led them on a high-speed chase before doubling back to the post office and driving through the hole he made earlier. "This time, he really crammed it in there," Montgomery said. "We barely got him out."
* Nita Sureka, 28, was charged with reckless driving while trying to parallel park during her driving test. The Washington Post reported Sureka drove her Volkswagen Jetta into the side of the Department of Motor Vehicles service center in Leesburg, Va., causing sufficient damage for the center to close for several days. "It's possible Sureka was more nervous than reckless," police official Jeffrey Dube said, "but that's for a judge to decide."
Problem Solved Two landowners determined to blast gophers from their property managed to kill eight of the rodents before sparking a fire that caused more than $197,000 in damages near Calgary, Alberta. Fire officials said the unidentified men used a device called a Rodenator, which pumps a mixture of propane and oxygen into gopher holes. When the mixture is ignited, the resulting blast creates a shock wave that kills gophers and collapses their tunnel system. "They did a few holes successfully and then hit a hole that didn't go in very far," Rocky View fire Capt. Joe Garssi said. "When they filled it with propane, it over-filled the hole." They ignited the mixture, which flashed out of the hole into the tinder-dry grass beside them. The fire scorched about 160 acres of surrounding property and destroyed a number of outbuildings.
Common Cause An agreement between Canada and the United States to use each other's troops in civil emergencies was greeted with suspicion by the left wing in Canada and the right wing in the United States. Canwest News Service reported the left-leaning Council of Canadians, which opposes what it calls the increasing integration of the two countries' militaries, warned the pact, signed Feb. 14 in Texas, has the potential to militarize civilian responses to emergency incidents, including having U.S. troops "on our soil for minor potential threats to a pipeline or a road." Right-wing blogs in the United States see the agreement as evidence of a plan for a "North American union," where the American government could use foreign troops, not bound by U.S. laws, to override local authorities. "The next time your town has a 'national emergency,'" one website noted, "don't be surprised if Canadian soldiers respond."
Problem Solved A small but growing number of psychotherapists are treating people who worry excessively about the future of the Earth with ecopsychology. "Global warming has added an extra layer of anxiety to what people are feeling," said Sandy Shulmire of Portland, Ore., one of more than 120 therapists from Alaska to Uruguay listed as practitioners at the International Community for Ecopsychology website (ecopsychology.org). The New York Times reported member therapists offer strategies for coping with eco-anxiety in private sessions or lead discussion groups for the conservation-minded, such as encouraging patients to develop a relationship with nature and taking extended breaks from shopping, the news and sending emails, while cultivating calmer pursuits like meditation and gardening.