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Newsquirks | The Risk of Safety



Curses, Foiled Again
Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived on the scene mere moments after an armed robber held up a bank in Vernon, British Columbia, because an RCMP detachment happened to be in the same building. The robber raced to his pickup truck, which wouldn’t start because the 20-year-old getaway driver had drained the battery listening to music. Police nabbed the 53-year-old suspect in a nearby bakery, where he and the driver had gone to call a taxi.

• When a police officer in York, Maine, stopped Richard Saunders, 53, for a defective headlight, Saunders yelled that he was rushing to the hospital because his pregnant girlfriend had gone into labor. While following Saunders to the hospital, Sgt. Gary Finley ran a check of the license plate that revealed the vehicle was stolen. Finley arrested Saunders at the hospital, where medical staff checked his girlfriend but released her because she appeared to be neither in labor nor pregnant.

The Risk of Safety
Insurance underwriters Lloyd’s of London said a sudden drop in disasters is costing it money by forcing its members to cut the amount of risk they will insure by $389 million. The Times reported that the recent lack of natural catastrophes and plane crashes have lowered risk-insurance premium rates by 5 to 20 percent.

Reach Out and Touch Someone
Japanese police arrested Takahiro Fujinuma, 37, for placing 2,600 calls to directory assistance over a six-month period. Tokyo investigators said he would try to start a conversation and then plead with female operators not to hang up. He told police he was lonely and became fond of annoying the operators. “I would go into ecstasy when a lady scolded me,” Jiji Press quoted him as saying. He was well known to telephone operators, who nicknamed him the “don’t-hang-up-man.”

What’s Bush’s Sign?
Members of Thailand’s ruling party objected when sign-language interpreters at a live broadcast of a parliamentary session that chose Samak Sundaravej, 72, as prime minister repeatedly referred to the new leader by holding their noses between two fingers. Samak’s supporters called the gesture an insult. The interpreters explained they often indicate prominent facial features as shorthand for dignitaries, pointing out that Samak is widely known as “Mr. Rose Apple Nose” because his nose resembles the fruit. “It is not meant as a nose joke,” interpreter Kanittha Rattanasin insisted. “We have touched our noses for years to refer to Samak, but people noticed this time because we had to repeat the movement more than 300 times.”

Literary Theories
Britain’s prize-winning novelist Joan Brady won a $223,000 settlement after claiming that fumes from a shoe factory near her home in Totnes, Devon, drove her to write lowbrow thrillers. Brady, the first woman to win the Whitbread Book of the Year award for her 1993 novel The Theory of War, insisted the solvent fumes used by the factory intoxicated her to the point where couldn’t concentrate, causing her to abandon the novel she had been working on and instead write a crime story because she found it easier.

• A few weeks after Tanja Shelton, 35, began working as a production control scheduler at Sioux Automation in Sioux Center, Iowa, her supervisor noticed she was typing almost constantly. An investigation showed Shelton was writing a romance novel. After she was fired, Shelton filed a claim for unemployment benefits, testifying that her writing was a way of honing her job skills during slow periods. “I was just typing my thoughts down, trying to keep my brain moving,” she explained. “I wanted to improve my typing skills.” Her claim was denied, but she vowed to finish the novel. The Des Moines Register noted that her abrupt dismissal meant she didn’t have time to copy the most recently completed pages, but she was able to recover them once they were entered into evidence at the unemployment hearing.

• Novels written on cell phones are being published in book form in Japan, where five of last year’s best-selling novels were originally cell phone novels. The biggest was written by a 21-year-old woman named Rin, who The New York Times reported tapped out the love tragedy while commuting to her part-time job during her senior year in high school. Rin uploaded passages on a popular Website for prospective authors. Turned into a 142-page hardcover book, it sold 400,000 copies.

• Louise Jekowski, 53, called police to her home in Arvada, Colo., and admitted strangling her 86-year-old mother. According to an arrest affidavit, Jekowski said “she did not want to take care of her mother any longer” and was ready to go to prison “where she could then just read books.”

Two for One
The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that a woman whose breast implants were damaged in an on-the-job car accident should be compensated for only one implant replacement, not both. Penny M. Rumple Richardson filed a workers’ compensation claim, explaining the accident caused her implants to ripple and shrink. Greensboro plastic surgeon Dr. David Bowers testified that Richardson’s right implant had ruptured and the left implant showed signs of rippling, so he decided to replace both implants, but he added that the left implant most likely had rippling because it was under-filled. In denying her claim, two judges on the panel did acknowledge that workers’ compensation covers breast implants because they are a “prosthetic device that functions as part of the body.” The dissenting member, Judge James Wynn Jr., said Richardson needed both replaced so her implants would be “symmetrical and evenly matched.”

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