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News Quirks 

Curses, Foiled Again A man wielding an ice pick entered Black Diamond Equipment in Salt Lake County, Utah, and demanded cash and precious metals. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that when the nightshift manager pointed out the company, despite its name, sells mountaineering gear, not diamonds or precious metals, the robber settled for some office computers and climbing equipment and left.

Non-Problem Solved Intending to make street crossing safer, even though there have been no incidents, officials in Lemoyne, Pa., spent $250 to place plastic bins at two of the borough’s busiest intersections and fill them with bright orange flags. Signs direct pedestrians to take a flag, hold it while crossing the street, then deposit it in the opposite bin. The Patriot-News reported Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., tried a similar initiative but gave up after a year because, according to college official Christine Dugan, people kept taking the flags.

When Guns Are Outlawed Authorities in Shelbyville, Tenn., reported that “a verbal altercation” between James Earl Taylor, 40, and Mary S. Childers, 44, led to an assault with Cheetos. According to the Shelbyville Times-Gazette, sheriff’s Cpl. Kevin Roddy charged both of them with domestic assault because he couldn’t determine the primary aggressor since the Cheetos left “no physical marks on either party.”

Tickets Gone Wild When residents of Toledo, Ohio, complained they had received $25 parking tickets while their vehicles were in their driveways, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner defended the citations. He explained that city law forbids parking on unpaved surfaces, including gravel driveways. Finkbeiner, who’s already facing a recall vote, refused to say whether the fines were related to the city’s budget crisis.

• After receiving and contesting 170 citations since 1997 for violations he didn’t commit, Tom Feddor finally went to the Chicago Department of Revenue and the Department of Administrative Hearings for help. He told the Chicago Tribune that hearing officer Zipporah Lewis made several calls to officials on his behalf, but “the people she encountered at the other end of the phone seemed to be annoyed and bothered by her. Most tried to quickly end the call.” Finally authorities discovered that the number the revenue department has been using as a placeholder license plate for testing its parking ticket equipment is the same as Feddor’s actual license plate: 0. Feddor said his family has been using it for 40 years, but officials were unaware it was in circulation. “The test violations should have been dismissed in the database,” revenue department official Ed Walsh said, adding that any fines Feddor paid would be refunded.

Don’t Cluck With the Constitution When John Vorderbrueggen, 39, complained to his neighborhood homeowners association in Monroe, Wash., because his neighbor, Helen Immelt, 52, was violating the association’s covenant by keeping chickens in her yard, she began driving by Vorderbrueggen’s house in the early morning hours and honking her horn. The Seattle Times reported that when police asked Immelt to stop, she “became heated,” according to court documents, and when the officer went to get a statement from Vorderbrueggen, Immelt drove by and gave “three long blasts” on her car horn, prompting her arrest.

A jury convicted her, but she appealed, arguing before the Washington Court of Appeals that the noise ordinance was “vague, overbroad and interfered with her right to free speech.” The court disagreed. “Horn honking per se is not free speech,” Justice C. Kenneth Grosse wrote, pointing out, “Horn honking which is done to annoy or harass others is not speech” at all.

Second-Amendment Follies Jamiyl Muhammad, 17, was part of a group of youths fighting with a rival group in Upper Darby, Pa., when he began pistol-whipping a member of the opposing group in the head with a black handgun. Witnesses told police the gun went off, and a bullet struck Muhammad’s 19-year-old brother, who was standing 25 yards away observing the fight. The Philadelphia Daily News reported the brother was treated at the hospital and released.

• Police investigating a shooting in Winter Haven, Fla., said that Troy Christoff, 34, threatened to kill five family members and, while loading a handgun, announced which person each bullet was intended for. ABC Action News reported that when Christoff had loaded the gun, he raised it and aimed at his wife, Dawn Christoff, 35. Before he could pull the trigger, she drew her own 9mm handgun and fired multiple shots at her husband, wounding him several times.

No Fun Allowed Local officials ordered a halt to construction of China’s first sex theme park after they became incensed over the park’s risqué nature. The New York Times reported that photos on the Internet showed workers “pulling down a pair of white plastic legs and hips that appear to be the bottom half of a giant female mannequin towering over the park’s entrance. The mannequin is wearing a red G-string.” According to China Daily, Lu Xiao-qing, manager of Love Land in Chongqing, had planned to display naked human sculptures, giant models of genitals, sex technique workshops and a photography exhibit about the history of sex. He insisted the park was being built “for the good of the public” and would help adults “enjoy a harmonious sex life.”

Strange Bedfellows Mayor Julian Mullis of Mulberry, Fla., told police he was attacked at home by his live-in companion, cross-dressing Eugene Ornelas, 29. The two share a home with Mullis’ two children. The trouble started when Ornelas came home at 5 a.m. with a stranger and “lost his cool somehow,” acting police chief Steve Peacock told WPTV News, “and began throwing articles inside the residence and attempted to strike Mr. Mullis at one point but missed.”

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Roland Sweet

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

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