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News » News Quirks

Daredevils, Up to a Point


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Curses, Foiled Again
An armed woman entered a store in Oklahoma City and started beating clerk Lein Nguyen, 70, with her gun, demanding money. Police Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow said Nguyen responded by throwing cases of beer at the suspect, who fled empty-handed. (Oklahoma City's KOCO-TV)

• Security officers pursuing three shoplifters at a mall in Hanover, Md., caught two of the suspects, but the third fell into a drainage pond and drowned. The pond is filled with sediment and thick vegetation, which police said ensnared the man. Investigators recovered his body 20 feet underwater, along with stolen merchandise. (Baltimore's WJZ-TV)

Daredevils, Up to a Point
A British charity canceled a rappelling fundraiser over concerns that seagulls would dive-bomb the participants, as they did health & safety inspectors checking the Somerset site before the event. Organizers for the Flying Colours campaign explained that the inspectors discovered a seagull's nest, with chicks inside, and were attacked by the "fiercely protective" parents. (Britain's Metro)

• Following the deaths of 16 Sherpa guides after an avalanche on Mount Everest, the Nepalese government agreed to hike the guides' minimum insurance by 50 percent, to $20,000. (Reuters)

Board Games
When Texas Tech nixed a request by chess coach Susan Polgar for $1 million in funding, including a $250,000 salary for her and $150,000 for her husband (also a coach), 34 full and partial scholarships and $25,000 bonuses for tournament wins, the four-time women's world champion resigned. She went to Webster University and won two straight Final Four chess titles, including this year's. The St. Louis school spends $635,000 a year on its chess team, not counting scholarships for its 15 players, but Webster official Patrick Giblin explained that the school estimates free media coverage of its chess program exposes 85 million people a year to the university. He said paid advertising to reach the same audience would cost about $2.8 million. (The Washington Post)

It Happens
More than a billion people defecate in the open, according to a United Nations survey. India has the largest number of public defecators: 600 million, despite the government's "Take the poo to the loo" campaign. Lack of toilets isn't the problem, the study concluded; it's people's attitudes. "There are so many latrines that have been abandoned, or were not used, or got used as storage sheds," said UNICEF statistician Rolf Luyendijk. "If people are not convinced that it's a good idea to use a latrine, they have an extra room." (Reuters)

Deadly Devices
Australian authorities blamed an unapproved charger for electrocuting Sheryl Aldeguer, 28, who was "wearing headphones and holding her laptop" when she "was found dead with burns on her ears and chest," according to New South Wales Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe. Stowe said the charger didn't comply with government safety standards. (Britain's The Register)

• Smartphones emit low-level electromagnetic radiation that lowers sperm mobility and viability, according to British researchers. They found that magnetic fields from the phones could be generating DNA damage because men carry their phones in their pants pockets, causing the temperature of the testes to rise enough to suppress and interfere with normal sperm production. (Time)

Emily Litella Award
Answering a reporter's question, District of Columbia Councilman Marion Barry, 78, blasted the council's proposed "yogurt tax," calling it "crazy" and insisting that yogurt is "more healthy than some other things" and shouldn't be taxed. The proposal to which the former mayor objected was a tax on gym memberships and yoga classes, labeled the "yoga tax." Barry representative LaToya Foster explained that Barry didn't mean "yogurt tax" and "was just misheard." (Washington City Paper)

Easy Pickings
While television news reporter Heather Holmes was covering a daylight robbery in Oakland, Calif., someone stole her purse from a TV truck while it was parked outside police headquarters. The incident was the latest in a series of holdups and burglaries targeting the media in Oakland, some in the middle of the day. At least three stations have hired security guards to accompany their reporters and camera operators. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Wrong Place, Wrong Time
To honor American troops, Jeffery Smith painted his minivan in camouflage colors and outfitted it with dummy weapons. While driving past Nashville International Airport, the van broke down. Observing a camouflaged vehicle with four missiles and a cannon on top, two machine guns on the front hood and a .50-caliber machine gun inside, city and airport police rushed to the scene. "Of all the places to break down, I had to break down in front of the airport," Smith said after police discovered the weapons were made of plywood or PVC pipe. No charges were filed, but airport official Shannon Sumrall suggested Smith take a different route next time. (The Tennessean)

Lesson Learned
Danielle Shea, 22, admitted phoning bomb threats to cancel Quinnipiac University's spring graduation ceremony because she didn't want her family to discover that she wasn't graduating. She had accepted money from her mother for tuition but never enrolled. Police identified her because she used her cellphone for the calls, which prompted the Hamden. Conn., school to delay graduation ceremonies and move them indoors. (New Haven Register)

Paperwork Follies
When Christa Liedtke, 75, decided to sell the home she bought near Cologne, Germany, in 2005 and subsequently spent thousands of euros renovating, local authorities found that the original owner hadn't obtained permission to build the house and ordered Liedtke to tear it down. Irmgard Mertins, widow of a Jewish banker murdered by the Nazis, had built the house in 1939 as a place to wait out the war but never filed the required paperwork. "In the last eight years we have seen six such cases," housing official Birgit Bär said, pointing out that while it makes no sense to demolish the buildings, "German building law is very clear on this point." (Germany's The Local)

• Henry Marsh, one of Britain's most eminent surgeons, announced his resignation from the National Health Service after receiving a new 22-page dress code banning ties, long sleeves and watches, "even though there is no evidence that makes any difference." He called the NHS bureaucracy and health and safety regulations "a shambles." (Britain's The Telegraph)

When Bobbleheads Aren't Enough
Minor league baseball's Syracuse Chiefs announced they are awarding a free funeral to the fan who submits the winning essay for the team's "Celebration of Life" night. The prize includes a casket and professional services valued at $7,500. (Syracuse Chief press release)

Compiled from the press reports by Roland Sweet. Authentication on demand.