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News Quirks 

Curses, Foiled Again

Police arrested convicted cockfighter Danny Pham, 36, for violating his parole after he showed up at the post office in Lake Worth, Fla., to claim a live rooster delivered through the mail. Pham insisted the bird in the box was “not his chicken” and that he was “picking it up for a friend.” Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies found 89 roosters in cages in Pham’s backyard. (Palm Beach Post)

A gunman entered a London bank and ordered the teller to put 700,000 pounds ($1.1 million) in a bag. Only instead of giving the cashier the bag, the robber held onto it and handed him his gun. He quickly realized his mistake, but before he could grab it back, the teller had time to activate the bank’s security shutters, locking out the suspect and leaving him empty-handed, except for a bank worker’s bicycle, which he stole for his escape. (Britain’s Telegraph)

Current Events

A helium-filled balloon, probably a Valentine’s gift, knocked out power to 15,099 Southern California Edison customers. Edison official David Song said metallic balloons often cause power outages by shorting out lines and transformers, but in this case it shut down an entire substation in Fontana. Song said balloons cause the most outages around Valentine’s Day and June school graduations. (Associated Press)

Libertarian Health Care

Police said Hubert Lee Credit, 39, stole an ambulance that responded to an emergency call in Tampa, Fla. “I got beat up by four guys,” Credit explained after officers stopped him. “I saw the ambulance, and I was going to drive myself to the hospital.” Instead, police charged Credit and had ambulance personnel drive him for treatment for a head wound. (Tampa Bay Times)

Missing the Point

Five pharmaceutical companies that make the children’s leukemia drug methotrexate said they’ve slowed or stopped manufacturing the drug because a critical nationwide shortage is causing high demand. (ABC News)

At least 37 people were killed in South Sudan during a shoot out at a peace conference aimed at ending violence. Deputy Defense Minister Majak D’Agoot explained the gunfight in Mayendit began after “a problem occurred” between police attending the conference from Unity state and police attending from neighboring Warab state. “Each side thought they were attacked” by the other and returned fire, D’Agoot said. (BBC News)

Like a Candle in the Wind

A woman who lit a candle at her home outside Manchester, England, to honor songstress Whitney Houston wound up setting the house on fire. Fire official Rick Taylor said the woman apparently failed to snuff the candle when she went to bed. The flame ignited a curtain, starting a blaze that gutted the living room. (Manchester Evening News)

Ammo Upgrades

U.S. weapons experts are developing a self-guiding bullet that can steer itself to its target. Using an optic sensor to identify the target and tiny fins to correct its course, the four-inch bullet, developed by a subsidiary of defense contractor Lockheed Martin, is designed to be accurate at distances of at least a mile and a quarter. “We can make corrections 30 times per second,” researcher Red Jones said. Calling the bullet “a revolution for ground forces” that “may help cut down on civilian casualties in future conflicts,” Britain’s Royal United Services Institute think tank worries nevertheless about its being marketed to the public, especially after the researchers issued a press release identifying potential customers as “the military, law enforcement and recreational shooters.” (BBC News)

U.S. and German researchers have come up with a new gun and bullets that don’t have to hit their target to kill, just come close. Prototypes have been tested by U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Intended to negate the advantage of cover, the 25mm bullets have a small computer that monitors their flight path. A computer in the XM25 rifle programs each round before it’s fired. When the bullet nears the target, it explodes, sending shrapnel that strikes anyone in the vicinity, even those behind cover. The gun costs around $35,000, and bullets cost several hundred dollars each. They’re made by hand, so the cost could lower to around $25 once production is automated. (The Economist)

News of Warmageddon

This winter’s weather has been so mild in North America that Winnipeg, which has enjoyed its third-mildest January in more than a century, was forced to truck in 200 loads of faux snow for its annual snow-sculpting competition. Festival du Voyageur official Emili Bellefleur said she knows of only one other year that the 43-year-old festival had to buy artificial snow. (Reuters)

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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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