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News Quirks 08.16.06 

Curses, Foiled Again After two men robbed a Brinks armored truck guard at gunpoint as he left a bank in Cutler Ridge, Fla., carrying a moneybag, Alvaro Zabaleta of the Miami-Dade County Police Department pointed out that the bag contained no money, only deposit slips.

--Authorities said that Brian R. Pancherodich and two other men broke into an auto salvage yard in Orange County, Fla. While Pancherodich was trying to steal an air bag, it deployed, causing him life-threatening injuries. Sheriff's investigators said the other two men thought the exploding air bag was a gunshot and fled, leaving Pancherodich, who remained at the salvage yard for eight hours before he was rescued and taken to an Orlando hospital intensive-care unit.

Guesstimates A ship carrying deck sections for a new bridge in Tacoma, Wash., hit the old bridge because engineers miscalculated the old bridge's height. According to Linea Laird, manager of the $849 million bridge project, the ship had 16 deck sections stacked 135 feet above the water level. The bridge builders figured it would fit under the old bridge with 36 feet to spare, but they forgot to take into account temporary scaffolding on top of the deck sections, which hit the underside of the bridge and toppled over.

--An 80-foot wooden roof truss in a new church near Thorsby, Ala., collapsed onto the sanctuary floor after the congregation and volunteers designed and built it without filing plans or getting approval from state or local building officials. Explaining that a church member and her daughter designed the church by looking at pictures on the Internet, Pastor Jeff Carroll said he was unaware of any church building requirements and insisted that the project was none of the government's business. "If the state and church are separate," he told the Birmingham News, "I don't understand why they think they've got jurisdiction."

Slightest Provocation Police investigating the stabbing of a 54-year-old man in Milwaukee concluded that the incident occurred while he and a 47-year-old male suspect were arguing about not having an argument. The suspect pulled a knife and stabbed the victim in the stomach and chest.

Avian Antics Hoping to get rid of pigeons on its roof, Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, N.Y., hired an exterminator that was supposed to use a pesticide to poison a few birds. The plan was that their distress calls would then drive away other members of the flock. Instead, more than two dozen pigeons were stricken, and sick and dying birds falling from the sky disrupted emergency room operations as ambulances had to be diverted to other hospitals. "Birds were coming down like dive bombers," Fire Chief Robert Farstad said.

--Steven Turnage called police in Searcy, Ark., after someone shot bottle rockets at him while he was wearing a chicken suit to attract business to a local fast-food restaurant. Turnage told investigators that the fireworks, which nearly hit him in the eye and burned part of his suit, were the final straw in a series of attacks by people throwing cans of smokeless tobacco and frozen drinks at him since he donned the costume. After police charged Joseph R. Craig, 20, for the rocket attack, Turnage said, "I'd like for this guy to have to wear the chicken suit for a day out in this heat to see what it's like."

False Alarms Russian police arrested nearly 100 people after getting reports of a brawl on a vacant lot outside Rostov-on-Don. They were released without charges when officers realized that they were the players and fans involved in a rugby match.

--Sheriff's deputies responding to a call of a hostage situation in a park near Carter Lake, Colo., surrounded a group of seven people, including Chris Borden, 25, whom they observed pistol-whipping a man trying to rescue a woman. After handcuffing all seven, including the person who was supposed to be the hostage, deputies learned that the group was filming a movie. "They had me in the line of fire," Borden said. "They told me I looked like I didn't care if I got shot because I had a criminal demeanor."

Careful What You Wish For Charles "Chick" Lennon, 68, received more than $400,000 in a lawsuit over a penile implant that gave him a 10-year erection. He had the Dura II implant installed shortly before the introduction of Viagra. It consists of a series of plastic plates strung together with steel surgical wire, almost like a roll of wrapped coins. Springs press against the plates, creating enough surface tension to simulate an erection, according to Jules D'Alessan-dro, Lennon's attorney. The device is designed to position the penis upward for sex, then lower it. But Lennon could not position his penis downward. He cannot get the implant removed because of health problems, including open-heart surgery, his lawyer said. Impotence drugs could not help Lennon, even if he were able to have the device taken out, because tissue had be to removed for it to be implanted.

Plans Up in the Air More than 4500 air travelers have signed up for AirTroductions online registry, which Peter Shankman said he founded last fall to let travelers choose their seatmates. Members create a personal profile, then post their itineraries online to be matched with other members on the same flight. After paying a $5 fee, travelers can contact each other and change seats. Shankman, who said he got the idea for AirTroductions after finding himself on a flight seated next to Miss Texas, acknowledged that only 60 of the 4500 members have actually made matches.

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Roland Sweet

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


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