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News Quirks 

Published October 27, 2010 at 11:16 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

Police investigating a convenience- store robbery in Ferndale, Mich., by a man wearing a plastic Darth Vader mask identified Jamie C. Hernandez, 41, as their suspect after the store’s surveillance camera clearly showed him putting on the mask before pulling a butcher knife on the clerk. (Oakland County’s Daily Tribune)

Albanian authorities arrested two men trying to drill a passageway into a bank vault from a store they had rented above it. The noise from the drilling alerted authorities, Tirana police chief Tonin Vocaj said, noting, “We moved in when they were in the last stages of finishing the tunnel.” (Reuters)

Dangers of Night & Day

Solar rays bouncing off the gleaming glass of a Las Vegas high-rise hotel pose a risk of severe burns to people lounging at the pool. Local media, as well as some staff and guests at MGM Resorts International’s Vdara hotel and condominium, which opened last December, refer to the reflection off the concave-shaped building as the “death ray,” although MGM Resorts officials prefer the term “solar convergence phenomenon.” The firm installed high-tech solar film over each of the 3000 glass panes covering the Vdara’s south façade, hoping to scatter the rays, but the concentrated sunlight remains hot enough at times to melt plastic and singe hair — and penetrate shade. “My back and the back of my legs started burning, and I ran under a nearby umbrella,” said William Pintas, 49, a Vdara condo owner who first encountered the death ray after a dip in the pool. “And I’m under the umbrella, and there is no shading from the light or heat.” Pintas, who happens to be a lawyer, said he could even smell his hair starting to burn.

Not everyone is unhappy about the situation, MGM Resorts official Gordon Absher reported. On cooler days, he has seen sunbathers deliberately lay their blankets on the convergence spot for additional warmth. (Reuters) Drinking-Class Hero

Anticipating a boost in space tourism, Australian researchers are hurrying to launch the world’s first beer to be certified for consumption in zero gravity. The beer, a joint venture by the space engineering firm Saber Astronautics Australia and Australian 4 Pines Brewing Company, is to begin testing on board Zero Gravity Corporation’s modified Boeing aircraft, which flies a series of parabolic arcs that simulate weightless environments. Flight crews will record data on the beer’s taste and its effects on the body.

Although NASA has sponsored studies on space beer and whether it can be brewed in space, current policy forbids alcohol consumption in the International Space Station. In 2006, the Japanese brewery Sapporo teamed up with Japanese and Russian researchers to create a beer, called Space Barley, brewed from barley grown from seeds that had flown for five months on the ISS. ( Missing the Mark

The anti-abortion group Americans United for Life aired a political ad in Colorado that denounced Ken Salazar for supporting health care reform, claiming the measure would overturn a ban on taxpayer-funded abortions. Actually, Ken Salazar’s older brother, Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., is running for reelection. Ken Salazar, a former U.S. senator, is the secretary of the interior. As for the ban, President Barack Obama already signed an executive order affirming it. (Grand Junction’s Daily Sentinel)

The National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled a television ad opposing West Virginia senatorial candidate Gov. Joe Manchin III because it depicted the state’s residents as hicks. The ad, filmed in Philadelphia after a casting call seeking actors with a “hicky blue collar” look, shows men in flannel shirts and baseball caps posing as West Virginia voters worried that Manchin will side with President Obama if elected. (Associated Press)

Food in the News

A load of mayonnaise that fell off the back of a truck in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture caused an eight-vehicle pileup that injured three people. “What probably happened is that cars traveling behind the truck squashed the bottles of mayonnaise, spreading it on the road,” police official Masaaki Miyazaki said, adding that the dressing’s eggs, vinegar and oil make it “more slick and dangerous than snow.” (Agence France-Presse)

Heavy rains have ruined South Korea’s cabbage crop, causing a kimchi shortage that has driven up the price of the national dish and created a black-market cabbage trade. The city government of Seoul responded to the crisis with a kimchi bailout program, absorbing 30 percent of the cost of about 300,000 heads of cabbage that it bought from farmers. South Korea’s government announced a temporary reduction in tariffs on cabbage and radishes imported from China, although consumers fear a recurrence of a 2005 crisis, where Chinese-made kimchi products were contaminated by parasite eggs. (Los Angeles Times)

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About The Author

Roland Sweet

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


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