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News Quirks 09.19.07 

Curses, Foiled Again

A man with a shotgun entered a convenience store in Albany, N.Y., and set the gun down on the counter so he could use both hands to stuff money from the register into his pockets. A surveillance video shows clerk Hafiz Alam grabbing the unattended weapon and pointing it at the man, who fled. The man returned seconds later and struggled with Alam for the gun. It fired, but neither man was hurt. The robber drove off, but a witness wrote down his license number, which led police to Justin Walker, 22.

Fair or Foul?

Army Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty was umpiring his 8-year-old son's Little League baseball game in Alexandria, Va., when a disputed call made him realize he needed to read the rulebook. After failing to find a copy at sporting-goods stores or on the league's website, he called a local league official, who, The Washington Post reported, told Hilferty that, in order to prevent lawsuits, the league no longer makes its rules available to just anyone. Hilferty contacted the national Little League office, which wasn't impressed when Hilferty pointed out that he has a secret clearance and works at the Pentagon. "We don't give preferential treatment," representative Lance Van Auken said. "Everybody has to abide by the same rules."

Chronicling other instances of Little League's penchant for secrecy, the Post pointed out that the first Little Leaguer to become president is George W. Bush.

Rollover Minutes

Zachariah Smith, 18, was sending a text message on his cell phone while crossing railroad tracks when a train struck him, hurling him about 50 feet. He was hospitalized in serious condition. "The horn was blowing like mad, and the kid was text messaging," said Mayor Richard Ellison of Elmwood Place, Ohio, where the accident occurred. "The kid apparently was just daydreaming."

Cure-All of the Week

Encouraging people to smoke marijuana will ensure a calmer atmosphere for next year's Democratic National Convention, according to some Denver residents. "Tens of thousands of people are going to come here to protest and rally," said Mason Tvert, executive director of Citizens for a Safer Denver, which is behind a ballot proposal requiring lax enforcement of the city's pot-possession laws. "If we allow alcohol use to be at the center, we're asking for trouble. But if we allow protesters to use marijuana, then maybe they'll be less inclined to use alcohol and cause problems."

* Gregor Spalding, 30, admitted growing marijuana at his home in Blairgowrie, Scotland, but a court showed him leniency after he explained that he had intended to use the drug to relieve pain caused by constant itching around his genitals. Spalding said prescription medicine had failed to stop the pain of pruritus, so he decided to grow marijuana after reading about it on the Internet. His doctor confirmed his condition.

Mounting Evidence

Florida authorities charged Walter Duque, 22, with illegally stockpiling 20,000 cubic yards of horse manure - enough to fill 1000 dump trucks - in piles up to 15 feet high on his five-acre ranch in Loxahatchee Groves. Investigators from the state Department of Environmental Protection were tipped off after neighbors complained about the growing piles and the odor, although the complaints began in 2002, five years before Duque's arrest.

Better Than ToMacco

Hong Kong-based Golden Dragon Group asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve its battery-powered cigarette, which the company said is a substitute for smoking, not an aid to quitting. It delivers nicotine without the smell or the carcinogens associated with smoking. The electronic nicotine-delivery device, known as Ruyan (meaning "like smoking"), is an atomizer, costing $208, that uses cartridges containing pure nicotine, each costing about $4 and good for some 350 puffs. Inhaling turns the nicotine into smoke-like vapor, according to Scott Fraser, vice president of Golden Dragon subsidiary SBT, which developed the Ruyan.

Handicapable

After a Florida court sentenced him to five years in prison for felony driving and other charges, Michael Francis Wiley, 40, who has already spent three years in prison for habitually driving without a license, told the Associated Press he is through driving. Wiley taught himself to drive after losing both arms and a leg in an electrical accident when he was 13. He starts the car with his toes, turns on the lights with his teeth, shifts with his knees and steers with the stump of his left arm.

Slightest Provocation

A Home Depot store manager in Seattle told police that a man at a self-service checkout stand trying to buy a pry bar and hacksaw inadvertently hit the button for Spanish on the computer screen. According to the police report, the man "became frustrated that the machine was speaking Spanish" and bashed the computer with the pry bar, shattering it. He ran from the store, leaving the pry bar in his shopping cart.

Tiles of Trouble

Mah jongg can cause epilepsy, according to Hong Kong doctors who found 23 cases of people who had suffered mah jongg-induced seizures while playing the fast-paced Chinese tile game. Even watching it can trigger seizures. The doctors, whose findings appeared in the Hong Kong Medical Journal, concluded that the distinctive design of the mah jongg tiles and the sound they make crashing onto the table during play may contribute to the syndrome. The article said the only cure is to avoid playing.

Sunshine Superman

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that the country would turn its clocks either back 30 minutes in September (according to Reuters news agency) or ahead 30 minutes in January (Agence France-Presse) to provide a more equitable distribution of sunlight.

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About The Author

Roland Sweet

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

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