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News Quirks 

Curses, Foiled Again

Police who cited California trucker Ashwin Kumar, 28, for trying to avoid paying a toll to cross New York’s George Washington Bridge reported that Kumar parked on the highway shoulder at daybreak, just shy of the Fort Lee, N.J., toll plaza but right beside a police parking lot. An officer spotted him and assumed he had a problem. “So he thinks, ‘I’m going to go down and help this guy,’” Port Authority Police official Al Della Fave said. “But then he sees the driver, who’s crouched down at his license plate with duct tape.” The officer watched him cover his plates and drive through the E-Z Pass lane without a transponder, then pulled him over. “I guess he thought nobody was around at that time,” Della Fave said. (Newark’s Star-Ledger)

Dylan T. Hankewycz, 18, pulled a pocketknife on a 34-year-old man and demanded his cellphone, according to police in Hanover, Pa. The victim later purchased a new phone and was downloading photographs from his carrier’s server when he found pictures of the man who robbed him. Police identified Hankewycz from the pictures and arrested him. (Harrisburg’s WHTM-TV)

Our Bad

A Government Accountability Office review of the current military Base Realignment and Closure program found that its estimated implementation cost had risen from $21 billion when it was approved in 2005 to $35 billion by September 30, 2011. Most of the 67 percent bump “was largely due to increased construction costs,” the GAO said while attributing some to miscalculations and misjudgments. One example is adding $347 million to the estimated cost of realigning supply and storage facilities around the country after one request for a 20,000-square-foot Georgia facility turned out to be a misprint. It should have been 200,000 square feet. (Washington Post)

After North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue vetoed a measure to legalize fracking in the state, the Senate overrode her veto. The House seemed likely to sustain it, however, especially after Rep. Becky Carney spent the day lobbying fellow Democrats to uphold the veto. The House did override the veto, however, by just one vote: Carney’s. She pushed the wrong button on the voting machine. She realized her mistake but couldn’t correct it because House rules don’t permit members to correct a mistaken vote if the change would affect the bill’s passage. Fracking is now legal. “I feel rotten about it,” Carney said, “but I take responsibility for my vote.” (Raleigh’s WRAL-TV)

Leaps of Faith

Twenty-one people attending a motivational event in San Jose, Calif., suffered second-degree and third-degree burns while walking across hot coals. Three needed treatment at hospitals, and one witness reported he “heard these screams of agony … like people were being tortured.” The 10-foot-long walk over coals heated to up to 2000 degrees aims to helps participants “understand that there is absolutely nothing you can’t overcome,” according to the website of motivational speaker Tony Robbins, 52, who hosted the four-day event, titled “Unleash the Power Within.” Explaining, “We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades,” Robbins Research International said 6000 attendees made it safely across the coals. (Associated Press)

Homeland Insecurity

The Transportation Security Administration fired eight screeners at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport after surveillance cameras caught them sleeping or violating other standards. TSA added they’re reviewing photographs of screening supervisors who appear to be sleeping in front of monitors used for detecting explosives and other threats. (Newark’s Star-Ledger)

An organization of former NASA astronauts and scientists proposed launching a privately funded space telescope so it can locate and track small asteroids capable of wiping out a city or a continent. NASA and astronomers currently scan space routinely, monitoring near-Earth objects at least two-thirds of a mile across that are considered major killers. But the nonprofit, Mountain View, Calif.-based B612 Foundation warned more attention should be paid to the estimated half million smaller asteroids, such as the one that exploded over Siberia in 1908, leveling more than 800 square miles of forest. “We’re playing cosmic roulette,” B612 chairman and former shuttle astronaut Ed Lu said. “The laws of probability eventually catch up to you.” (Associated Press)

One More Thing to Worry About

Potting soil caused a porch fire in Wheeling, W.Va., according to fire officials, citing spontaneous combustion caused by potting soil’s ingredients and the right combination of high humidity, extreme heat and dry soil. Although there’s no fire-hazard warning on potting-soil bags, Assistant Chief Ed Geisel said he has been a firefighter for 33 years “and within the past four to five years, I’ve seen more instances.” He noted most fires are small and quickly contained by homeowners or passers-by, “but this particular one got a little further along before anyone noticed or we were able to get there.” (Steubenville, Ohio’s WTOV-TV)

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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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