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News Quirks 10.12.05 

Curses, Foiled Again Police investigating a theft at a convenience store in Brewer, Maine, identified Matthew French, 21, and Gina Nelson, 22, as their suspects after the store's surveillance tape showed Nelson distracting the clerk while French slipped $50 worth of cigarettes down his pants. Police learned their names because the clerk remembered while reviewing the tape that, just before the theft, the pair had signed a petition inside the store, giving their names and addresses.

Celebrity Corner Sheila Crump Johnson, 56, co-founder of the BET cable network, who has been dubbed "America's first black female billionaire," married the Hon. William T. Newman, Jr., a judge in Arlington, Va., on Sept. 24. Newman presided over his bride's divorce from Robert L. Johnson in 2002 and began dating her a few weeks later.

- China's Guangzhou Haojian Bio-science Co., introduced two new condoms named for former President Bill Clinton and one-time intern Monica Lewinsky. The Clinton brand, spelled in Chinese "Kelintun," sells for $3.72 a dozen; the Lewinsky, spelled "Laiwensiji," goes for $2.35. "The names we chose are symbols of people who are responsible and dedicated to their jobs," company general manager Liu Wenhua told the New Express newspaper.

- Secret FBI papers obtained by London's Evening Standard newspaper reveal that the agency suspected ex-Beatle John Lennon of leading a band of revolutionaries planning to take over a 1972 Republican conference. After placing Lennon under close surveillance, the FBI eventually ruled him out as a communist threat because, according to one agent, "he is constantly under the influence of narcotics."

- Adi Salaseini Kavunono, 82, the wife of Fiji's president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, caught an intruder doing push-ups in a room at the couple's official residence. Police said that Iowana Tuinamasi, 25, bypassed security, leapt over a fence and broke into the house, then turned on a radio and began working out. "The first lady heard the noise and went to investigate," prosecutor Suruj Kumar said. Tuinamasi, who pleaded guilty to breaking and entering, told the court that he wanted to know what life was like "up there" in the presidential home.

When Guns Are Outlawed Police in Shreveport, La., reported that a man spent 40 minutes in the bathroom of a convenience store before approaching the counter with his hand under his shirt and announcing to the clerk that he had a gun and wanted money. Detective Russell Ross said that the clerk told the man she knew it wasn't a gun, but he insisted that it was, and the two began arguing, then scuffling. "During the scuffle, she felt something sharp poke her," Ross said. "She reached over and grabbed a baseball bat she had behind the counter and started waling on him when she realized what he had under his shirt was a fork, which was no match for a baseball bat." The clerk chased the suspect outside, continuing to hit him, until a customer saw what was going on and held the man at gunpoint until officers arrived and booked Derrick Dwayne Franklin, 24.

Compassionate Responses Kim Sturla, who runs an animal sanctuary in Vacaville, Calif., traveled to Mississippi to rescue chickens from a poultry farm that had been badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Joining her were several employees of the Humane Society of the United States and an animal sanctuary volunteer from New York. After finding thousands of dead chickens, the group collected about 1000 live birds, which were taken to Texas and New York before ending up in sanctuaries and back yards. "The irony is, this disaster saved their lives," Sturla said.

- A Canadian search-and-rescue team reached a flooded New Orleans suburb to help save trapped residents five days before the U.S. military showed up, according to Louisiana state Sen. Walter Boasso. "They chartered a plane and flew down," he said, noting that the 50-member team from Vancouver, nearly 2200 miles away, beat both the Army and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans. Boasso speculated that the government ignored smaller parishes, such as St. Bernard, to focus on New Orleans.

Winning Is Everything Brett Backwell, who plays Australian-rules football for Glenelg in South Australia state, announced plans to have one of his fingers amputated to improve his play. He has suffered pain and restricted movement since breaking his left ring finger three years ago. "To chop a finger off, that's a bit drastic," Backwell told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "But I love my footy (football) and love playing sport, and if that's going to help me to succeed at this level, then it's something you've got to do."

Doing Lynndie England Proud American soldiers have been taking photographs of dead and mutilated Iraqis and trading them for free access to a porn website, according to California's East Bay Express newspaper. The captions that accompany the photos, apparently written by the soldiers who took the images, laugh and gloat over the bodies. "Two years ago, if somebody had said our soldiers would do these things to detainees and take pictures of it, I would have said that's a lie," retired Army Gen. Michael Marchand said. "What soldiers do, I'm not sure I can guess anymore." Chris Wilson, 27, who created the website, defended the postings, declaring, "It's an unedited look at the war from their point of view."

Turnabout Is Fair Play Real estate has gotten so expensive in Aspen, Colo., that another business has had to leave town. This time, it's the Aspen Board of Realtors. The board bought an office in Basalt, 10 miles from Aspen.

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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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