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News Quirks 1.18.06 

Curses, Foiled Again

Nebraska state police reported that Arlie Bichlmeier, 58, tried to rob a bank in Norfolk but fled before getting any money. Witnesses said that the suspect escaped in a black GMC pickup with the personalized license plate "FINDME." Within 90 minutes, Norfolk police observed a vehicle with those distinctive license plates in a parking lot and also found Bichlmeier.

- A 70-year-old man robbed a post office in Kawagoe, Japan, but was unable to make his getaway because the loot, 250,000 yen ($2000), was all in coins and weighed 22 pounds. The paper bag that the postal clerk put the money in broke, and the robber stumbled and fell trying to pick it up, giving police time to nab him.

Ankle Deep in Trouble

Paul Rush, a police officer in Fremont, Calif., reported that he and his partner brought home a 17-year-old boy that they caught driving without a license, only to be "viciously attacked" when they entered the home by five Chihuahuas. Rush was treated for ankle bites and released and declined any comment.

- John Xeres Burgos Joseph, 65, better known as Johnny Midnight, a popular radio healer in the Philippines, was wounded by a man who barged into his house in a Manila suburb and shot the broadcaster in the hip. Police chief superintendent Josephus Angan said that the gunman, identified as Ranilo Rose, told officers he was angry at Midnight for failing to cure his smelly feet.

Swords Into Plowshares

Gen. Pellumb Qazimi, Albania's chief of armed forces, announced that his country's squadron of MiG aircraft is for sale. The aging jet fighters, given to the Balkan country by the Soviet Union during the Cold War to make "a show of force" against the West, never saw action but killed 35 Albanian pilots. "If anyone wants to buy them, they are welcome," Qazimi told Reuters, noting that some potential Western buyers "wanted to turn them into bars."

Don't Trust Anyone Under 30

A British chain of Internet cafes has banned baseball caps because they are "deviant" and unsettle regular customers. "This policy is designed to combat anti-social behavior," James Rothnie, corporate affairs director of easyInternetcafe, which has 41 locations, told the Sunday Times, which noted that teenage thugs who terrorize city centers use baseball caps or hooded tops to hide their faces from closed-circuit cameras. Last year, Europe's largest shopping mall, outside London, banned "hoodies" as part of its campaign against crime and the air of menace.

Making a Point

Forty drunken men in ill-fitting Santa Claus suits rampaged through the streets in the center of Auckland, New Zealand, robbing stores, assaulting security guards and urinating on cars from a highway overpass. Alex Dyer, a representative of the group, dubbed "Santarchy," said that they were part of a worldwide movement to protest the commercialization of Christmas.

Heckuva Job

When as many as 17,000 evacuees of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita left the Cajundome and Convention Center in Lafayette, La., after living there for 58 days, facility officials announced that before opening it back up to the public, they needed at least 70 volunteers to spend 15 to 20 minutes flushing toilet paper down 220 or so toilets and testing urinals. "We don't know what ended up in the system," Cajundome Director Greg Davis said after diapers, shirts and pieces of brick wrapped in a towel were pulled from the pipes and the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied a request to inspect the sewer system with a camera. "We can't afford to find out we have a problem at a sold-out concert."

Role Rules

Male monkeys like to play with cars, according to researchers at Texas A&M University, whereas female monkeys prefer dolls. Pointing out that in the study of 44 male and 44 female monkeys, males also liked playing with balls, while females liked cooking pots, psychologist Gerianne Alexander stated that the origin of these gender-based preferences dated as far back as 25 million years, before humans and monkeys separated from their common ancestor.

No Room for Zoom Zoom

The Japanese automaker Mazda offered to pay its 20,000 workers 1500 yen ($12) a month to walk to work instead of driving. Company representative Ken Haruki explained that the "eco-walk commutation allowance" is part of the company's campaign to improve workers' health and protect the environment.


The Virginia Department of Transportation estimated that the state loses $1.2 million a year because of motorists who drive through unattended tollbooths on the Dulles Toll Road outside Washington, D.C., without paying. Few motorists are caught, the Washington Post reported, because the cameras intended to take pictures of toll cheaters are empty. Officials said that violations have increased significantly since the toll road switched to "open-road" tolling, where drivers don't have to slow down at tollbooths and are supposed to pay electronically. Deborah Brown, VDOT's director of innovative finance and revenue operations, declared that the state's plan to hook up the cameras and actually take pictures of violators' license plates "certainly will improve enforcement efforts."

Problem Solved

When the Brazilian city of Biritiba Mirim ran out of room to bury its dead, and environmental laws barred both a new cemetery and cremation, Mayor Roberto Pereira da Silva proposed outlawing death. "Take good care of your health in order not to die," his proposal to the city council urges residents. Noting that the municipal cemetery was forced to squeeze 20 bodies in the same crypt, the mayor said that even at that rate, "the crypts will be filled to capacity in six months. We have even buried people under the walkways."

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About The Author

Roland Sweet

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


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