News Quirks 06.28.06 | News Quirks | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice
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News Quirks 06.28.06 

Curses, Foiled Again When sheriff's deputies in Cedar City, Utah, approached Nicholas T. Galanis, 47, to discuss some stolen property, he hopped into his car and fled with his dog. The 5-mile chase along a winding, bumpy dirt road ended when the dog bit its owner on the face, apparently because it didn't like being bounced around in the car. "Deputies could see the dog in the passenger seat getting slammed into the window," sheriff's Detective Jody Edwards said, adding that the agitated animal bit off part of Galanis' nose.

--German police who tried to arrest a man for shoplifting in the town of Braunschweig reported that the 70-year-old suspect tried to bite his way out of custody but failed. "It looks like he forgot to put his teeth in," a police official told Reuters. "One of our police officers got bitten several times, but the man didn't leave anything but a wet patch."

Homeland Insecurity Authorities arrested two Saudi Arabian men who boarded a school bus in Tampa, Fla. Despite their evasiveness when questioned, Ahmed Bedier, director of the Central Florida Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the incident a cultural mix-up, explaining, "They might have thought it was some kind of public transportation."

Expect the Unexpected Sheriff's deputies in St. Lawrence County, N.Y., accused Victor R. Gardner, 22, of stealing seven calves from a Canton farmer by squeezing them into the back seat and trunk of a 2000 Dodge Neon.

--Volunteers clearing trash from Britain's highest mountain reported finding a piano near the summit. "At first they thought it was just the wooden casing, but then they saw the whole cast-iron frame complete with strings," said Nigel Hawkins, director of the John Muir Trust, which owns part of 4418-foot Ben Nevis in Scotland. "The only thing that was missing was the keyboard, and that's another mystery."

This Spud's for You When Chilean authorities announced plans to register 286 species of potatoes as originating in Chile, Peru's minister of foreign affairs objected, insisting that potatoes were Peruvian and that it was silly for Chile to claim otherwise. "Potatoes are the very essence of Peru," Oscar Maurtua said. "We don't have any reason to doubt what's rightfully ours."

--A civics project by a junior high school class from Walla Walla, Wash., to have the legislature name the Walla Walla sweet onion Washington's official state vegetable turned into a 3-year struggle that ultimately failed because the state's potato growers lobbied against the measure. "At first I was, like, 'Nobody will oppose it,'" said student Katey Callegari. "But then, there were all these potato people." "I think it just kind of hurt our growers' feelings when the bill first surfaced," Chris Voigt, director of the Washington Potato Commission, said after the Senate stalled the measure, at one point changing it to designate Walla Walla the state's "edible bulb," while naming the russet potato the "official tuber."

Instant Results Japan's Ministry of Health and Labor reported that 158 people were stricken with vomiting and diarrhea after a television network broadcast a weight-loss plan consisting of rice mixed with white kidney beans that have been roasted for about 3 minutes and ground into powder. Tokyo Broadcasting System apologized "to all people concerned, including people whose condition was affected," explaining that the food poisoning was caused by lectin, a protein in the beans that rendered them toxic if not sufficiently heated.

Slightest Provocation Police arrested sisters Pamela Majdan, 23, and Joyce Majdan, 31, after the two began punching each other at a Memorial Day parade in Wood Dale, Ill. The fight began during an argument over which sister caught the most pieces of candy at the parade, according to Deputy Police Chief Greg Vesta, who added, "It's unfortunate that such a large crowd of people at a parade to remember men and women who gave their lives for their country had to witness this."

Bird Brains Songbirds can be taught grammar, according to a study reported in the journal Nature, contradicting linguists, who have contended for years that distinguishing language is something only schoolchildren can learn. Tim Gentner, a psychology researcher at the University of California at San Diego, said that after about 15,000 tries, nine of 11 starlings learned to differentiate between a regular bird "sentence" and one containing a clause or another sentence. "We were dumbfounded that they could do as well as they did," Gentner said, adding he was so unprepared for success that he didn't bother to record the birds' responses.

Double Duty When police stopped a station wagon with an expired inspection sticker being used to deliver pizzas in Montgomery County, Pa., they noticed a stretcher in the rear, where "pizzas were sitting to be delivered," according to the report. Driver William Bethel Jr., 24, told them that besides delivering pizza, he "transports deceased bodies in the same vehicle for a funeral home." Although carrying bodies and pizzas in the same vehicle isn't against the law, police impounded the vehicle because it lacked a current inspection sticker and Bethel lacked a valid driver's license.

Small Price to Pay A bank guard in Jersey City, N.J., managed to grab the arm of a robber who was leaving with $5642, but the man wriggled free. As he fled, he began throwing some of the stolen cash over his shoulder. Faced with the prospect of his employer's money blowing away, the guard stopped to recover $1425, while the robber got away with $4217.

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Roland Sweet

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Roland Sweet is the author of the syndicated column "News Quirks," which appears weekly in Seven Days.

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