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News Quirks 

Curses, Foiled Again Four men trying to steal a pickup truck in Jefferson County, Ark., didn’t get very far because it wouldn’t run. Undeterred, they were pushing the vehicle when a sheriff’s deputy spotted them near the county jail. Sheriff’s officials told the Pine Bluff Commercial that the vehicle wouldn’t start because it was being used for parts.

• Police released a surveillance video showing a man entering a gas station in Tacoma, Wash., carrying a stick spiked with nails and demanding money. The man hit the clerk in the hand with the stick, but the clerk punched the would-be robber in the face. He dropped the stick and fled with a bloody nose and no money.

Problem Solved Encouraging people to die at home rather than in a hospital could solve Canada’s impending shortage of hospital beds, according to University of Alberta researcher Donna Wilson. Sixty-one percent of Canadians now die in hospitals, down from 80 percent in 1994, but Wilson suggested the number drop to 40 percent because baby boomers could double the death rate in the next 20 years, tying up beds for those needing life-saving treatment or surgery.

First-Amendment Follies Authorities said Henry Gasiorowski, 60, was shot in the arm and back while hunting in Forestburgh, N.Y., when he sat behind a turkey decoy and began making turkey calls. The Times Herald-Record reported that a hunting companion heard the calls, saw what he thought was a turkey and opened fire.

Young Love A judge sentenced William Wagner, 26, to serve one to four years in prison after he admitted he rode his bicycle 180 miles from Maryland to Scranton, Pa., to have sex with a 15-year-old girl he met through the social networking website MySpace.

• A Seattle bar announced it had hired Mary Kay Letourneau to greet patrons at its third “Hot for Teacher” night. The former teacher served seven years in prison for having sex with a sixth-grader when she was a 34-year-old married mother of four. Now 47, she married the victim, Vili Fualaau, now 26, and they have two daughters together. Mike Morris, the owner of Fuel Sports Eats & Beats, said he hired Letourneau because she served her sentence, and it’s OK for the couple to have some fun.

• Federal authorities dropped their case against retired Air Force Maj. Reinaldo Canton, 45, even though he had agreed to a plea bargain to settle charges that he arranged over the Internet to meet a 15-year-old girl for sex. Canton’s attorney was granted a dismissal after citing his client’s heart condition and arguing that the stress of the case could kill him. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Canton denied intending to have sex with the girl, who was actually an adult undercover agent, but insisted he planned to ask her why she was sneaking around behind her parent’s back and warn her that the Internet is a “scary” place.

Slightest Provocation Authorities in Volusia County, Fla., charged Joseph Frank Strauch, 82, with beating his live-in girlfriend and strangling her unconscious after he got angry about the way she loaded dirty dishes in the dishwasher. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that Strauch previously pleaded no contest to punching a 68-year-old man after Strauch took the man’s grocery bag and the man objected.

• Police charged Ryan D. Isabell, 22, with felony assault after a fight broke out during a conversation about the Ultimate Fighting Championship. “Apparently the suspect was talking about UFC fighting when some woman that he didn’t know jumped into the conversation,” Phoenix, N.Y., police Chief Rod Carr told the Syracuse Post-Standard. Carr said the woman’s 42-year-old husband intervened and wound up with a fractured nose. A 43-year-old man suffered a fractured skull.

Mensa Reject of the Week A 56-year-old woman was run over by her own car in Santa Monica, Calif., after she crawled underneath it and started it by touching the starter solenoid with a screwdriver. The Daily Press reported that an investigation revealed the 1995 Buick Regal rolled over the driver and dragged her several feet because she had left the car in gear with the emergency brake off.

Bathroom Break A small airplane crashed when its engine failed shortly after takeoff from an airfield outside Tacoma, Wash., but pilot Clifford Howell, 67, walked away unhurt because a storage yard full of portable toilets cushioned the landing. The Cessna 182 came to rest upside down after bouncing off the toilets onto a pile of wood chips. “If he had made the runway, he would have landed a lot harder than he did by impacting with those Sani-Cans and the wood pile,” Pierce County sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Blair told Seattle’s KOMO News. “It probably saved his life.”

President Dick Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez became the first national leader still in office to promote a cellphone, taking time during his weekly television show, “Alo Presidente,” to introduce the new “Vergatorio” model. Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported the name derives from Venezuelan slang for “penis.” Chavez assumed the role of pitchman after he nationalized the phone’s manufacturer and announced that he wanted to make a phone for all the people, “not the elites.” Boasting that the new phone “will be the biggest seller not only in Venezuela but the world,” Chavez declared that “whoever doesn’t have a Vergatorio is nothing.”

Moral and Physical Support Japan’s novelty bra maker Triumph International unveiled an undergarment to support women looking for a husband. Triumph’s Keiko Masuda told Reuters the bra features an electronic clock that runs until an engagement ring is inserted into its mechanism, whereupon the bra plays Mendelssohn’s The Wedding March. It also includes a pen to sign a prenuptial agreement.

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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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