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News Quirks | What Could Go Wrong?



Curses, Foiled Again
While sitting in an unmarked vehicle on a stakeout to catch an arsonist in Lambertville, Mich., sheriff’s Detective Thomas Redmond reported the 17-year-old suspect approached the vehicle carrying a bucket, unscrewed the gas cap and started siphoning gas. Redmond got out of the car and arrested the youth, who admitted to five arsons.

•  Kenneth Cooper, 46, stole a purse from a middle-age woman in Lewisham, England, only to be spotted and pursued by an off-duty detective. The Times reported that Cooper ran headlong into a busload of police officers on a neighborhood crime-prevention exercise. They joined the chase, which ended when Cooper ran into a shopping arcade and security guards, whom police had alerted. Cooper was detained, and the purse returned to his victim, Justice Minister Bridget Prentice.

•  Cash Burch, 24, broke into a truck in Waterloo, Iowa, but police had no trouble catching him because when they arrived, he was locked inside. Mark Laures, owner of the Ford Explorer, said Burch could not get out because the vehicle has an anti-theft device that locks the doors when the battery loses power. Laures said Burch wore down the battery trying to start the Explorer. Police opened the door from the outside and charged Burch with burglary.

What Could Go Wrong?
Dutch inventors unveiled a robot gas-station attendant fitted with multiple sensors that adjust its arm to vehicles’ different fuel cap designs and fuel types. It sells for $111,100. “I was on a farm and I saw a robotic arm milking a cow,” said Nico van Staveren, who developed the car-fueling robot. “If a robot can do that, then why can’t it fill a car tank, I thought.”

•  Speaking at a conference on technology in wartime at California’s Stanford University where scientists debated their social responsibility for the destruction their inventions might cause, Ronald Arkin, director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology, insisted that with the proper ethical controls, robotic soldiers could be more humane than human soldiers because they would not act out of rage in the heat of combat. “We could reduce man’s inhumanity to man through technology,” Arkin declared.

Side Effects
Charged with exposing himself in public in Rochester, Minn., Michael Lynn Shirk-Heath, 52, pleaded guilty but blamed restless leg syndrome. He told Olmsted District Judge Robert Birnbaum one of the side effects of his medication is increased sexual desire.

•  A drug used to treat impotence could help fighter pilots perform better at high altitudes, according to Israeli military researchers. The official military magazine Bamahaneh reported researchers based their recommendation on a study of mountain climbers scaling Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro that found tadalafil, the active ingredient in Cialis that increases blood flow, helped climbers ward off fatigue and dizziness at higher elevations.

Second-Amendment Follies
Officials investigating the shooting death of Patsy Long, 34, in Deepwater, Mo., said that her husband fired the fatal shot while trying to install a satellite TV system in the bedroom of their home. After several unsuccessful attempts to punch a hole through the exterior wall with various tools, Ronald Long used a .22-caliber handgun to fire two shots at the wall. The second hit his wife, who was in another room.

Size Matters
Nearly half of the British men asked what they were willing to do without in return for a 50-inch plasma TV answered sex. The survey by electronics retailer Comet found 47 percent of the 2,000 men would give up sex for six months, compared with just over a third of the women. A quarter of the people said they would give up smoking, roughly the same proportion willing to forgo chocolate.

When Guns Are Outlawed
When Joe Scola, a restaurant owner in Gloucester, Mass., saw a man running away with an armload of meat from the restaurant’s freezer, he ran after him. After catching up with him and starting to take back the meat, Scola said the thief raised a 5-pound log of frozen prosciutto above his head as if to use it as a weapon. The restaurant owner had a frozen ham in his hand and hit the man in face with it. Stunned, the thief dropped the rest of the meat and fled.

2008: A Space Oddity

During his free time on the International Space Station, Japanese astronaut Takao Doi, 53, “threw a boomerang and saw it come back,” an official at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said. The newspaper Mainichi Shimbun reported the astronaut, who threw the boomerang at the request of Yasuhiro Togai, a world boomerang champion, said he was “very surprised and moved to see it flew the same way as it does on Earth.”

Weep If You’re Horny
Crying is the only cure for porn addiction, according to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a family counselor whose book The Broken American Male and How to Fix Him explains that American men are becoming sex and sports addicts so they can numb themselves from the pressures of life. “The American male is broken because he lives in a culture that values money over family,” Boteach said. “He’s made to feel like a failure because he’s not Bill Gates, so he turns to destructive addictions.” Among these is “orgasm addiction,” which is when men have sex without emotion or intimacy.

Compiled from the nation’s press by Roland Sweet. Submit items, citing date and source, to P.O. Box 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.