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News Quirks 07.05.06 

Published July 5, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Sheriff's deputies in Marion County, Ind., quickly identified Rodney Harper, 31, as their bank robbery suspect because not only did a surveillance camera show him committing the crime, but he also dropped his check-cashing card, phone bill and birth certificate at the scene. The surveillance videotape shows the identification assortment falling onto the floor when the suspect pulled his gun. "He actually came to the bank to rob the bank with his birth certificate," Capt. Phil Burton said. "When they actually rob a bank with their ID, which they leave for us, that's very helpful."

When Pension Plans Fail Japan's prisons are becoming a haven for senior citizens, who represent the fastest-growing group of lawbreakers in the country. The Washington Post reported that the number of people 70 and older charged with crimes, many of them first-time offenders, doubled from 2001 to 2004, to 21,324. The senior wards at some prisons offer many private rooms and accommodate special dietary and physical needs. According to Hiroshi Shojima, professor of criminal psychology at Fukushima University, Japan's prisons "are spotlessly clean and generally free of violence. If you are a lonely and struggling old person, that atmosphere can be tempting."

Preparation H to the Rescue Australia may have solved its cane-toad problem by turning the amphibians into fertilizer. Introduced to Queensland in the 1930s to prey on a beetle that was devastating sugarcane plantations, the toads proved useless against the insects and multiplied by the millions, becoming a certified pest. A conservation group, Frog Watch, is encouraging people to recycle the hundreds of thousands of toads culled each year by turning them into "toad juice." A fertilizer company in Darwin produced the first batch of toad juice from 440 pounds of dead toads. Although some advocate using a cricket bat or golf club to kill the toads for the concoction, the Australian Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends anesthetizing them by smearing them with hemorrhoid cream, then putting them in the freezer until they are dead.

Opportunity Knocks After giving $300 to informant Robert S. Bridges, 29, so he could buy 7 grams of cocaine from a drug dealer that they planned to arrest at the dealer's home in Elgin, Ill., members of the police gang crime unit waited for more than 90 minutes for Bridges to step outside. Finally, they raided the house but found no dealer and no money, only Bridges, smoking the cocaine. They recovered 2.8 grams of the drug.

Laughs Dry Up A British utility warned circus clowns to stop throwing buckets of water over each other as part of their slapstick act or risk heavy fines. According to a drought order granted to Sutton and East Surrey Water to restrict the "non-essential use" of water, the clowns from Zippo's Circus aren't allowed to squirt each other with water from plastic flowers in their buttonholes, either. "No one else is allowed to fill buckets from a hose in their back garden and throw them over each other," water company official Stuart Hislop told the Daily Telegraph, "so why should the clowns?"

Cafe Grande Coffee makes some women horny, according to researchers who found that caffeine affects parts of the brain that govern sexual arousal. Tests on rats showed that females given caffeine before mating with a male partner were more likely to hurry back for a second session than those who were not. "We found that the alteration of behavior in female rats was not merely an increase in activity that they couldn't control," said psychologist Far Guarraci, who led the study at Southwest-ern University in Georgetown, Texas. "The behavior was specifically directed at a sexually active partner, a male rat, rather than at a social partner, a female rat."

Captive Audience Live commercials are Broadway-bound, according to the Guardian of London, which reported that six actors would take part in a three-minute presentation, aimed at promoting London's West End, that was being staged in Dublin, Pittsburgh and Hamburg, Germany, as well as in New York.

English As a Second Language Former Death Row inmate Aaron Patterson enlisted former gang rival and enforcer Wallace "Gator" Bradley to assist in his lawsuit alleging that Chicago police tortured a confession out of him. In asking a federal judge to let Bradley sit at their table in the courtroom, Patterson's attorney, Frank Avila, described his role as an "urban translator." "Mr. Bradley and him come from a different subculture, and they are familiar with each other's, let's say, emotional needs," Avila said. "So I'm using this analogy of having a translator in a different language." During his criminal trial, Patterson threatened his own lawyers and even attacked one of them. "I'm talking straight with Aaron. I'm explaining you can't jump on your attorney," Bradley said, adding that he expects to bill Avila's law firm for his presence in the courtroom.

Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Empties China is shipping so many goods to the United States that the thousands of containers used to transport items by boat are piling up in U.S. ports because the Chinese often find it cheaper to leave the empty containers here and build new ones with low-cost labor. "These containers are here to stay," said Brian Stanley of the Norfolk Southern Corp. Portlock rail yard in Chesapeake, Va. And more are coming, according to Reuters news agency. Danish shipping and oil group A.P. Moeller-Maersk, the largest shipper of goods for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., has embarked on a $450 million expansion of its Portsmouth, Va., port terminal to expand its capacity from 260,000 20-foot containers a year to 2 million.

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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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