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

Published July 22, 2009 at 9:04 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Billy Floyd Norris, 33, called 911 to report his roommates had robbed him, but when police arrived at his house in Hanceville, Ala., they found a working methamphetamine lab and arrested Norris.

• When a woman called 911 to report a man who tried to rob her at gunpoint was in hot pursuit outside Edwardsville, Ill., the dispatcher gave her directions to a nearby sheriff’s department. The suspect followed. The Belleville News-Democrat reported that Carleous Clay Jr., 26, realized too late where he was headed and was arrested.

Homeland Insecurity People on the government’s terrorist watch list tried to buy guns 963 times last year, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. Federal authorities approved 865 of those purchases, including one case where a listee was able to buy more than 50 pounds of explosives. “This is a glaring omission, and it’s a security issue,” Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) told the New York Times. Lautenberg introduced legislation in 2007 to block gun sales to people on terror watch lists, but the measure stalled under pressure from the National Rifle Association, whose position is that showing up on a terrorist watch list is no reason to deny someone a gun.

Stop Me Before I Drive Again Zackary Lester Johnson was driving in Athens, Ga., when he flagged down a police officer and inquired if there were any warrants for his arrest. According to the Athens Banner-Herald, the officer asked for his driver’s license, but Johnson handed him an ID card. The officer checked, found Johnson’s license had been suspended and arrested Johnson, who said he “was aware of that fact, and that it would probably be best if he went to jail.”

The Pious Is Right Turkish television station Kanal T announced the impending debut of “Penitents Compete,” a game show where Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Buddhist spiritual leaders try to convert 10 atheists. Converts will win a pilgrimage to a holy site of their new faith: Mecca, the Vatican, Jerusalem or Tibet. “We are giving the biggest prize in the world, the gift of belief in God,” Kanal T chief executive Seyhan Soylu told Reuters. “We don’t approve of anyone being an atheist.” At least 200 people have applied to compete, and a team of theologians will ensure that the contestants are truly nonbelievers and not just seeking fame or a free vacation.

The show has drawn protests, but the real snag has been the refusal of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate to provide an imam, declaring, “Religion should not be a subject for entertainment programs.”

Recycler of the Year (So Far)A ship made with about 10,000 empty 2-liter plastic bottles is scheduled to sail the Pacific Ocean from California to Australia to highlight the magnitude of disposable containers. “Waste is fundamentally a design flaw,” expedition leader David de Rothschild said. “We wanted to design a vessel that would epitomize waste being used as a resource.”

The 60-foot vessel is named the Plastiki in honor of Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 balsa raft Kon-Tiki, which the Norwegian explorer sailed to test the theory that voyagers from South America settled the Polynesian islands. His granddaughter, environmental scientist Josian Heyerdahl said she plans to board the Plastiki for the last leg of its journey.

Only the Loanly A Latvian loan company is helping people through hard times by lending them money with only their soul as collateral. Applicants need give only their first names and don’t have to show any documents, according to Viktor Mirosiichenko, 34, the public face of the Kontora loan company, who said his company is trusting borrowers to repay the high-interest, short-term loans and vowed not to use strong-arm collection tactics if any don’t. “If they don’t give it back, what can you do?” Mirosiichenko told Reuters. “They won’t have a soul, that’s all.”

• Iowa’s Marshalltown Community School District is hiring a collection agency to recoup $25,900 in overdue lunch money. “I’m hoping that we see a little more response,” Food Service Director Ann Feilmann told the Times-Republican, explaining that Alabama-based PSD Receivables will use auto-dial and letters to persuade families whose children have racked up meal debts, including one that Feilmann said owes $1700.

First Shall Be Last A program that charged airline passengers to speed them through security checkpoints has gone out of business. The Associated Press reported that Verified Identity Pass, which operated its Clear fast-lane security check service at about 20 airports, had more than a quarter-million customers, who paid annual membership fees ranging from $178 to $199. Besides having to wait in line with ordinary travelers, members will not be issued refunds.

Instant Karma After Todd Thomas, 40, and his wife argued at a friend’s house in Biddeford, Maine, she left on foot. Cumberland County Sheriff’s deputies told the Portland Press Herald that Thomas followed in his 1988 Chevrolet 3500 dump truck and tried to run her down. He missed, however, drove off the road and crashed into some trees.

Life Imitates the Smothers Brothers Vincent Smith II, 29, died after he slipped and fell into a vat of molten chocolate at a factory in Camden, N.J. Jason Laughlin of the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office said that before coworkers could rescue Smith from the 8-foot-deep vat, “he was hit by a piece of equipment called the agitator that’s used to stir, and that killed him.”

Great Escapes No. 2375 Inmate Curtis Jones escaped from the Howard County, Mo., jail by folding a cardboard toilet paper holder and using it to jam the lock to his cell door. He was arrested a short time later, according to authorities, who noted Jones also escaped in 1966 from a different county jail by climbing through a hole in the ceiling.