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News Quirks 03.22.06 

Curses, Foiled Again Ontario police were able to capture a suspect they were chasing because he stopped to get a haircut. Nathan Clifford Myles, 25, of Thunder Bay was observed driving erratically but refused a uniformed officer's order to pull over. Instead, he drove into a grocery store parking lot and slammed into several carts, then abandoned the car and fled on foot. After emerging from the barbershop, Myles was getting into a taxi when police arrested him.

--Sheriff's deputies in Bartholomew County, Ind., pulled over a vehicle they observed being driven erratically and asked the driver his name. He identified himself as Robert Carmer, but deputies became suspicious after noticing that the tattoo on the back of his neck said "Cecil." They arrested Cecil S. Carmer, 25, for false informing and learned that he was driving with a suspended license. A search of his car turned up anhydrous ammonia and other ingredients used to make methamphetamine. "The guy was ready to cook," Maj. Mark Gorbett said.

Fiduciary Follies Officials in Porter County, Ind., warned that the county faces layoffs in municipalities and school districts as the result of a budget shortfall caused by a computer error. Sharon Lippens, director of the county's information technologies and service department, explained that a house estimated to be worth $121,900 was accidentally valued at $400 million. Based on that erroneous value, officials anticipated a property tax payment of $8 million and included that amount in the budget. Instead, they had to notify 18 county government taxing units, the city of Valparaiso and the Valparaiso school district and ask them to return $5.8 million.

--The H & R Block tax-preparation firm reported that it was having trouble with its own taxes and would have to restate its earnings going back to 2004. The Kansas City-based company explained that the situation stemmed from problems with computing the state income taxes it should report on its earnings statements. It also overestimated the number of tax returns it would prepare during the business quarter ending Jan. 31, according to chief executive Mark A. Ernst, because of "a number of self-inflicted technology problems" that "left us unprepared for the early weeks of the season."

Lose-Lose Situation Prosecutors in Taiwan now offer people convicted of drunk driving the option of playing mah jongg with old people instead of paying a fine or going to prison. According to Hsu Yi-ling of the Taoyuan Prosecutors Office, the alternative sentence is part of the government's effort to encourage civil-service duties instead of punishment for petty criminals and first-time offenders.

Open-and-Shut Case Authorities accused Thor Jeffrey Steven Laufer, 43, of stealing tools and materials, including dozens of doorknobs, from construction sites in Ozaukee, Wis. According to a criminal complaint, Laufer told police that he took the other items to disguise his obsession with doorknobs, "so that it would look like a typical burglary rather than someone just stealing doorknobs."

Trade-Off Researchers studying bat species with promiscuous females discovered that males boasting the largest testicles had the smallest brains. The study, led by Syracuse University biologist Scott Pitnick, also found that in species with faithful females, the male bats had smaller testes and larger brains.

A Tangled Web They Weave Police arrested Blake Ranking, 18, for causing the death of his best friend after they spotted his confession on a Web log. Ranking had been riding in the back seat of a car that drove off the road outside Orlando, Fla., but authorities charged him as the driver because he reached over the seat and yanked the steering wheel. "I did it. I turned the wheel," Ranking wrote three days after the crash. "I turned the wheel that sent us off the road, into the concrete drain." When prosecutor Julie Greenberg said that she intended introducing the blog posting, Ranking insisted that he hadn't meant it but pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter.

--After Boston police came across an online ad for cocaine that included a phone number, they called the number and arranged to meet the dealer. Tyrone Burgo, 20, showed up with the cocaine, which he sold to an undercover officer, who arrested him.

When Guns Are Outlawed Sheriff's deputies in Anderson County, S.C., charged Evelyn Pressley, 54, with killing her common-law husband with a vacuum cleaner. Investigators said Pressley hit Jerome Powers, 53, with the vacuum, knocking him unconscious, then strangled him with the hose. Deputies noted that some of the vacuum's attachments might also have been involved.

Improvisational Medicine The family of Arturo Iturralde filed a lawsuit against Dr. Robert Ricketson for implanting a screwdriver into Iturralde's neck. Local 6 News reported that Ricketson used the screwdriver to stabilize the patient's spine after a nurse told him during surgery that no more titanium rods were available.

Political Prisoners Darin Gater, 36, a guard at Cook County Jail told investigators that he helped six inmates escape because he wanted to influence the election of sheriff by embarrassing outgoing Sheriff Michael Sheahan and his chief of staff, Tom Dart, who is running for sheriff.

--Eighty prisoners in Uganda's Apac district escaped on election day when prison guards were transferred to protect polling places, allowing the inmates to walk away from the understaffed minimum security facility. Another 408 inmates broke out of Arya regional prison while prison guards were busy celebrating President Yoweri Museveni's election victory. Ugandan prisons chief Johnson Byabasaija told Agence France-Presse that guards and prison administrators didn't notice when the escapees pulled down a fence and ran off.

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Roland Sweet

Bio:
Roland Sweet is the author of the syndicated column "News Quirks," which appears weekly in Seven Days.

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