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News Quirks 

Curses, Foiled Again

After Michele Grasso, 27, was convicted of drug dealing in 2008, he disappeared and eluded Italian authorities until this February, when he posted photos on his Facebook page of himself at London’s Madame Tussaud’s wax museum posing with a model of Barack Obama and working as a waiter. Italian police contacted British police, who arrested Grasso and returned him to Italy. (Italy’s ANSA news agency)

Police arrested Eric Lee King, 21, on suspicion of stealing a television in Eagan, Minn., after he tried to conceal it in his pants. An officer spotted King leaving a business walking “straight-legged, shuffling his feet and not bending his knees,” while trying to hold up his sagging pants. The officer called to King, who kept walking as if he didn’t hear, so the officer got out of his cruiser and approached King. He noticed a 19-inch flat screen TV shoved down the man’s pants, as well as a remote, a power cord and a bottle of brake fluid. (Minneapolis-St. Paul’s KSTP-TV)

They Seldom Serve Who Stand and Watch

English firefighters summoned to rescue Simon Burgess, 41, found the victim floating facedown in a three-foot-deep model boating lake in Gosport, Hampshire. They refused to enter the water because it was above their ankles. “The officers were trained to go into ankle-deep water, which is level one, so we waited for level-two officers, who can go into chest high,” Tony Nicholls, a watch manager at Gosport fire station said. “One of the police officers told me he would like to go in the water, and I advised him in the strongest terms not to.” Nicholls added that because the body had already been in the water for five or 10 minutes when he arrived, “I made an assessment it was a body retrieval and not a rescue.” (Britain’s Telegraph)

Misguided Tours

Eight months after one of the deadliest tornados in American history destroyed much of Joplin, Mo., and killed 161 people, the city’s convention and visitors bureau discussed offering guided tours through the hardest-hit neighborhoods. Bureau director Patrick Tuttle insisted the appeal to sightseers was “not about busted-up neighborhoods or destroyed cars or body parts” but meant to promote Joplin’s recovery to outsiders. He explained the idea for the disaster tour came in response to a survey of people stopping at a Missouri welcome center along Interstate 44. When tornado victims and others objected to the guided tours, the bureau settled for printing a map showing the tornado’s path so visitors could find devastated areas themselves. (Huffington Post)

Tourists are flocking to Harlem’s black churches, not to hear the word of God but to take pictures of the church and service and listen to gospel music. Visitors, mostly white and from abroad, often outnumber the worshippers, many of whom object to the tourists’ casual clothing, inappropriate picture taking and walking out during the sermon. But the churches make money from tour operators, whose business comes from people curious to experience what they’ve seen on TV and in movies. “Our building is in need of repair,” Paul Henderson, a member of Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, explained. “We need assistance. They’re helping to sustain us.” (Associated Press)

Every Vote Counts

While going door to door campaigning for reelection in Latimer County, Ark., Sheriff Robbie Brooks said he recognized the smell of marijuana when homeowner Jerry Paulk, 65, “walked to the door holding a burning joint, clipped to the end of a set of hemostats.” Brooks removed Paulk and two women from the home while deputies obtained a search warrant. They found more marijuana and an indoor marijuana grow room. Brooks said that after his arrest, Paulk thanked him for treating him so well and promised to vote for him. (Fort Smith’s KFSM-TV)

Reasonable Explanation

Investigators in Seminole County, Fla., charged Sara Barnes, 26, with starting a fire in the woods that burned down “the Senator,” the world’s oldest pond cypress tree. After finding photos of the fire on her phone and computer, authorities said Barnes admitted starting the fire while doing drugs so she could see what she was doing. (Orlando’s WESH-TV)

Oops and Oopser

When Rick Bonnell, a sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer, wrote that a player was recovering from a “herniated disc,” a copy editor noted the paper’s style spelled the injury “disk” and changed the “c” to a “k.” The copy editor also made a typo, however, changing the “s” to a “c.” (Editor & Publisher)

Authorities in Hall County, Fla., locked down West Hall middle and high schools after a member of the community reported receiving a text message saying, “gunman be at west hall today.” Police investigators who tracked the phone number learned the sender was arranging a meeting, but an auto-correct feature of the sender’s phone had changed “gunna” to “gunman.” (Gainesville Times)

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Roland Sweet

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

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