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News Quirks 

Published April 25, 2012 at 10:52 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

When Joshua Devonshire, 19, tried to pay for gas with a debit card in Lancaster, Pa., the clerk noticed the card had her mother’s name on it. She also recognized Devonshire as someone she went to school with. He fled but was arrested the next day. “Some people,” police Sgt. Jim Alexander observed, “just aren’t cut out to be criminals.” (United Press International)

Antihero Worship

The gift shop at the Gettysburg National Military Park visitors’ center stopped selling bobblehead dolls of John Wilkes Booth holding a handgun after a reporter asked about them. The bobbleheads, which are 7 inches tall and come in boxes that look like the inside of Ford’s Theater, where Booth shot President Lincoln, had been on sale for a week. (Associated Press)

A Turkish shampoo commercial aired for a week before it was withdrawn after Jewish groups complained. The 12-second ad shows Adolf Hitler urging men to buy “a 100 percent male shampoo,” meaning Biomen. “If you are not wearing a woman’s dress,” Hitler declares, “you should not use her shampoo either.” (Agence France-Presse)

How Bureaucracy Works

During the height of last summer’s drought, farmers in West Texas knew their cotton crops were toast but kept watering them anyway to qualify for federal crop insurance. Before making payouts, insurance companies required proof that farmers had tried to grow a crop, such as electric bills for operating irrigation pumps. “Producers who insure their crop under the irrigated practice are required to irrigate their crop at the proper time and amounts necessary to produce their production guarantee,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated. (Austin’s Texas Tribune)

Slightest Provocation

A jury in Montgomery County, Md., convicted James Biddinger, 27, of manslaughter after he stabbed his housemate in the back during a confrontation about a clogged, smelly toilet. (Washington Post)

One person was killed and seven others were injured at a 15-year-old girl’s birthday celebration in Ellis County, Texas, when family members turned on each other with guns, knives and a brick, according to investigators, because the party ran out of beer. “It doesn’t make sense in a sane world,” sheriff’s Lt. R. D. White said. (Dallas’s WFAA-TV)

Authorities charged Ania Wilkes, 20, with aggravated battery and mob action when she led an attack on a waitress at a Red Lobster in Fairview Heights, Ill., who brought her table the wrong order. (Associated Press)

Homeland Insecurity

In a report titled “Terrorism Awareness and Prevention,” the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security identifies excessive yawning as one way to recognize potential terrorists in public. Other suspicious behavior includes appearing fidgety and excessive clock watching. Acknowledging that these indicators “are not guarantees of terrorist activities,” the agency nevertheless advised anyone encountering such behavior that “common sense would tell you that increased attention and thought should be placed on reporting your observations.” (Britain’s Daily Mail)

Brought Down to Earth

A California law firm asked a judge to block San Joaquin Valley congressional candidate José Hernández from describing himself as an astronaut on the June ballot. Even though Hernandez flew aboard the shuttle Discovery in 2009, he left NASA in January 2011. “Hernandez’s attempted use of ‘astronaut’ violates the Election Code’s unambiguous requirement that a candidate’s ballot designation reflect one’s current profession,” the lawsuit states, pointing out that “astronaut is not a title one carries for life.” (Fresno Bee)

Lack of Ambition

Brandon Lee Price, 28, an Army private reported as absent without leave since June 2010, managed to convince Citibank to have the address of Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s account changed from Allen’s Seattle mansion to Price’s Pittsburgh address. Three days later, Price asked the bank to send a new debit card for Allen’s account to the new address but not to report the old card as stolen. When Citibank complied, federal authorities said, Price gained access to Allen’s account and used it to pay off a debt of $658.81 and to try to buy $278.18 worth of video games at Gamestop and something for $1 at Family Dollar. Forbes estimates Allen’s net worth at $14.2 billion. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Barnyard Behavior

When Farm Bureau employees in West Des Moines, Iowa, complained about stains on their office chairs, officials installed surveillance cameras. Videos caught a 59-year-old male employee urinating on the chairs of four female coworkers. According to police documents, the man had access to the company’s employee database and “would pick out the attractive females and then on off-hours, he would come into work, go to their desk and urinate on their chairs.” Officials estimated damage to the chairs at $4500. (Des Moines Register)

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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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