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News Quirks 

Curses, Foiled Again

Police investigating a burglary in Lake Worth, Fla., identified Derek Codd, 19, as their suspect because he left his cellphone at the scene, and his mother called. Investigators answered and asked the woman whose phone it was. They then arrested Codd and Kristen Rynearson, 19, with the stolen goods. (South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Authorities in Jonesboro, Ark., thwarted Larry Barnett’s plan to have a former employee murdered because the intended victim overheard the plot for himself when Barnett, 68, butt-dialed him while talking to a third party about burning down the man’s house “with him in it.” The call lasted 90 minutes, giving the target time to alert police, who found that his gas stove had been tampered with. (Jonesboro’s KAIT-TV)

Sunny Daze

Utility companies in Georgia, Arizona, California and Idaho, fearing the loss of revenue from customers who install rooftop solar panels, are proposing to charge solar customers extra or to roll back programs that allow those customers to trade the solar power they generate for power from the grid that they need when the sun isn’t shining. Georgia Power, for example, wants owners of basic home solar systems to pay an extra $22 a month. (Associated Press)

Most solar panels are facing the wrong way, according to a study by the Pecan Street Research Institute. Instead of pointing south as most do to get the maximum benefit, panels pointed west produce 49 percent more electricity during peak demand time. (

Slightest Provocation

Daniel Pirtie, 46, shot a Walmart assistant manager at a store in Anchorage, Alaska, who asked him to leave after he wouldn’t put his service dog on a leash inside the store. After wounding Jason Mahi, 33, Pirtie, a double amputee, tried to flee in a motorized shopping cart, but police arrived and stopped him at the door. (Anchorage Daily News)

Hazards of Cabin Life

A man was shot while sitting on the toilet in a cabin in Norway’s Hvaler district when a hunter aiming at a moose missed. Police investigator Anders Stroemsaether told public broadcaster NRK that the bullet whizzed past the animal, pierced the cabin’s wooden wall and wounded the man in the stomach. (Reuters)

Heists of the Week

New York City police accused William Footman, 55, of as many as 37 bank thefts in 11 weeks, according to an official at JPMorgan Chase, his preferred target. Investigators said that the thief never took money, however, only rugs inside the front door. “I sell them to bodegas,” Footman explained, adding that he got $30 or higher per rug. (New York Times)

British police reported that thieves cut a hole in the curtain side of a delivery truck parked in Cookhill, Worcestershire, and stole more than 6000 cans of baked beans with sausages. Police appealed for information “about anyone trying to sell large quantities of Heinz baked beans in suspicious circumstances.” (BBC News)

Authorities charged David A. Neese, 57, with stealing four cases of hand bells from Sheboygan (Wis.) First Presbyterian Church, where he is an elder, and pawning them. The bells, each weighing 40 pounds, are valued at $10,500. (Sheboygan Press)

Fact or Fiction?

Costco apologized for selling Bibles in the fiction section of its store in Simi Valley, Calif., after church pastor Caleb Kaltenbach noticed them there while shopping. Two weeks later, newspaper columnist Robin Abcarian was shopping at another Costco near Los Angeles and spotted movie character Ron Burgundy’s “autobiography” in the non-fiction section. (Los Angeles Times)

Government Giveaway Programs

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) misplaced 420 million cigarettes — more than 2.1 million cartons — during at least 20 separate sting operations, according to the Justice Department’s inspector general. The agency also misused some of the $162 million in profits from the stings, including letting a tobacco distributor working as a confidential informant keep $4.9 million received from cigarette sales to criminal suspects. ATF Director B. Todd Jones blamed management and oversight lapses but insisted that “the report’s findings do not reflect current ATF policy or practice.” (Associated Press)

An entrenched practice of claiming unearned overtime at the Department of Homeland Security costs taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year, according to the federal Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Many DHS employees consider the overtime their due, whistleblowers told the OSC, pointing out that government managers trying to recruit new employees often promote padding paychecks as a perk. “Employees will sit at their desks for an extra two hours, catching up on Netflix, talking to friends or using it for commuting time,” whistleblower Jose Rafael Ducos Bello said. “It’s pick-pocketing Uncle Sam.” (Washington Post)

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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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