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Newsquirks | Homeland Insecurity



Curses, Foiled Again
New York City prosecutors accused undercover police detective Sean Johnstone, 34, of tampering with drug evidence after listening to a tape recording of him confiding to another officer that he and his partner kept 11 of 28 bags of cocaine they had confiscated from a suspect. The incriminating evidence was provided by Johnstone himself, who investigators said apparently didn’t realize a hidden recording device he was wearing was switched on. His superiors discovered his admission of wrongdoing while reviewing the tape.

• Andrew Bamberg, 42, contested a $215 ticket for running a stop sign in Redwood City, Calif., by appearing in traffic court to argue that there was no stop sign at the intersection. Representing himself, he introduced photos to support his case. San Mateo County Traffic Commissioner Susan Greenberg suspected the pictures were of a different intersection, however, and announced she would go to the scene to see for herself. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that prosecutors believe Bamberg beat Greenberg to the intersection and switched street signs with another intersection to confuse her. The ruse failed, and the former car salesman was sentenced to a year in jail for perjury and preparing false evidence.

Homeland Insecurity
After a swell of applicants for permanent-resident status caused a delay in FBI background checks, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service announced it would go ahead and issue green cards to about 47,000 immigrants before the background checks are completed “to get benefits to people who deserve them.”

Haberdashery Alert
A Swedish preschool in Gallivare banned children from wearing striped and dotted clothing because a teacher complained at a staff meeting that these patterns were causing severe migraine attacks. Pupils were encouraged to wear monochromatic attire.

When Guns Are Outlawed
Police in Anchorage, Alaska, arrested Peter Albert, 52, whom they suspect of using a spork to rob a man. Although the victim reported the robber was wielding a pocketknife, police Lt. Paul Honeman said officers found four parallel scratches on the victim’s side, suggesting the weapon was a plastic combination spoon and fork like several others found in a KFC bag in Albert’s backpack.

Queue Tips
A British government minister suggested that immigrants be given a welcome pack that instructs them how to wait in line in stores. “It is only right that we expect migrants to play by our rules,” Communities Secretary Hazel Blears told the British Broadcasting Corp. “In return, we have a role in explaining just what those rules are.”

• After Chinese officials decided three years ago to improve the manners of Beijing residents in preparation for this August’s Olympics by instituting “voluntarily wait in line” day on the 11th of every month, a survey by Renmin University found that instances of line jumping dropped to 1.5 percent last year from 4.9 percent in 2006.

When You Gotta Go
After officials in Victoria, British Columbia, determined that bar patrons, not homeless people, account for most instances of public urination in the provincial capital, they paid the Dutch company Urilift International $151,000 to deliver two pop-up urinals. The facilities, the first of their kind in North America, are installed underground and connected to the sewer system. Lowered during the day, they resemble an ordinary manhole cover. When raised, each provides three stalls, but only for men, according to Mike Hill, the city’s downtown coordinator, who insisted that public urination is “a problem primarily caused by males in the late evening hours.”

• A California company called WiseRep is introducing a commode for couples. Called TwoDaLoo, it has facing seats divided by a short “modesty privacy wall” that allows partners to face each other while using it together. The porcelain loveseat will sell for $1,400. An upgraded version offers a 7-inch LCD television and iPod docking station. “When you’re most relaxed, that’s the best time for you to communicate with your partner, discuss your concerns and learn from them to grow as a couple,” WiseRep president Romeo Mendoza told The San Francisco Chronicle.

• Finland’s road management agency introduced a text-messaging system to gain access to public toilets along Highway One in Paimio and Salo. Users text “open” to a number shown on the door of various toilets and shower rooms to have the door unlocked. The Road Administration hopes the system will reduce vandalism to public facilities because it restricts access and provides users’ time of entry and mobile phone number.

• In England, London’s Westminster Council launched Sat Lav, which allows mobile-phone users to locate the nearest public toilet by texting the word “toilet” to 80097.

Can’t Get Help Fast Enough
Justin John Boudin, 27, pleaded guilty to assault after he was arrested for accosting a 59-year-old woman in St. Paul, Minn., while waiting for a bus and yelling, “Why don’t you show me some respect?” According to a criminal complaint, when the victim took out a cell phone to call police, he hit her in the face. When a 63-year-old man intervened, Boudin hit him with a blue folder, which fell on the ground, and fled. Police tracked Boudin down after finding his name in the folder, along with his homework from an anger management class, where he was headed when he lost his temper and struck the woman.

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