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News Quirks 

Published January 21, 2009 at 6:38 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again When Jeffrey P. Cannon, 20, arrived at Washington’s Dulles International Airport from Ireland, customs officers detained him because a check of the passenger list turned up an outstanding DUI warrant. Officers searched his luggage and found “a large amount of tea bags,” Border Patrol official Steve Sapp told the Washington Post. The bags’ bulky shapes aroused suspicion, and officers found they contained 3.2 grams of hashish and 2.3 grams of marijuana. “If you know you’re coming into the U.S. with bad stuff,” Sapp said, “be prepared to be greeted rudely by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.”

• An Australian man wanted in connection with two home invasions in Sydney tried to evade police by hiding in the attic of his own home. While officers were searching the house, however, the 31-year-old suspect fell through the ceiling into the family room, where police arrested him.

It’s Always Something The world’s largest passenger jet, the Airbus A380, is so quiet that pilots complain they can’t sleep during rest breaks on long-haul flights because sounds caused by passengers, such as crying babies, flushing vacuum toilets and call bells, constantly disturb them. “On our other aircraft, the engines drown out the cabin noise,” said Ed Davidson, a senior vice president with Emirates Airlines. Pilots using the crew rest area in the rear of the aircraft have tried sleeping with earplugs, “but the cabin noise goes straight through them,” Davidson noted, adding that one solution might be installing lightweight generators to create ambient noise.

Fiery Irony After a fire gutted an animal shelter in Oshawa, Ontario, killing nearly 100 cats, investigators blamed the blaze on mice. Shelter manager Ruby Richards said the mice chewed through electrical wires in the attic.

• An Australian woman who donated money to buy her local fire department a new truck lost her rural home to a blaze that thwarted it and five other fire engines. Alan Fraser of the Wartburg Fire Brigade said heat from the fire kept firefighters from the only available water, forcing crews to wait for a tanker to arrive. By then, however, the multimillion-dollar home belonging to Annemarie Geckeler, 79, had burned to the ground.

Making His Point Eugene Michael Falle, 35, admitted stabbing intruder Shane Chalifoux, 18, but claimed self-defense because he feared Chalifoux, a gang member who had tried to kill him before, had returned to “do my ass in.” He said he stabbed Chalifoux 39 times because he wouldn’t die. “So I keep stabbin’ him and stabbin’ and stabbin’ him and stabbin’ him and stabbin’ him, trying to slash his throat to get a jugular vein,” Falle told police in Edmonton, Alberta. “He wouldn’t bleed properly the way he should’ve bled, according to the movies.” The Edmonton Journal reported that after finally killing Chalifoux, Falle leaned out the window to ask his neighbor to order him a pizza. Despite the prosecutor’s argument that 39 stab wounds exceed the bounds of self-defense, a jury acquitted Falle.

Slightest Provocations Two men beat Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Lopez, 37, to death at a sports bar in Steamboat Springs, Colo., because they objected to his choice of music. Witnesses told The Denver Post the victim’s jukebox selection was Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville.” Police Capt. Joel Rae said Lopez was obviously enjoying the song when the two men disparaged it, and a fight ensued.

Suspicious Habit Police identified Randy Lee Shoopman Jr., 33, as their suspect in a string of burglaries across eastern Oklahoma by using DNA obtained from tobacco spit. Stilwell police detective Chad Smith said he noticed a tobacco stain on papers in a ransacked office that had been burglarized. “None of the ladies that worked there chewed tobacco,” Smith said. “You could tell that the stains were from the suspect.” It and spit found at five other burglary sites all matched the sample police obtained from Shoopman.

Dead Heat A town in Sweden plans to conserve energy by using heat from the local crematorium. “After all this talk about the environment, we realized we should take advantage of the heat created during cremation,” Halmstead cemetery administrator Lennart Andersson told the newspaper Aftonbladet. He said the city hopes to have its new energy source operating by 2010, adding, “To start with, we’re planning on heating our own facilities, but hopefully we can connect to the district heating network in the future.”

• The Spanish town of Santa Coloma de Gramenet has transformed its cemetery into a source of renewable energy by placing 462 solar panels atop mausoleums. The graveyard was chosen because there were no other suitable sites in the small but densely populated suburb of Barcelona. Community leaders hope eventually to erect enough panels to triple electrical output. “The best tribute we can pay to our ancestors, whatever your religion may be, is to generate clean energy for new generations,” said Esteve Serret, director of a company called Conste-Live Energy that runs the Santa Coloma cemetery and also is involved in renewable energy.

Self-Interests After receiving an anonymous call of a stabbing, police in San Clemente, Calif., found a trail of blood that led them to a 19-year-old man, who was bleeding from his hands and arms. He told investigators a former friend had stabbed him. Police Lt. Ted Boyne told the Orange County Register that officers later determined the man used a shard of glass to cut himself, hoping to get the ex-friend in trouble.

• Kelley Lemay, 29, accused her estranged husband of punching her in the face, but after police in Ocala, Fla., handcuffed the man, Lemay admitted she caused the injuries, trying to get him in trouble, by hitting herself in the face with a frying pan.

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Roland Sweet

Roland Sweet was the author of a syndicated column called "News Quirks," which appeared weekly in Seven Days.


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