News Quirks 08.30.06 | News Quirks | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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News Quirks 08.30.06 

Published August 30, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again After a clerk reported a robbery at a 7-Eleven in Royal Oak, Mich., police spotted a man matching the robber's description sitting in a pickup truck parked on the side of the road about a mile from the convenience store. The getaway vehicle had run out of gas. Suspect David K. Booth, 44, was arrested with the stolen cash in his possession.

* Malaysian authorities reported that thieves using a stolen excavator tried for almost an hour to dig two automatic teller machines out of a bank branch in Kuala Terengganu before fleeing empty-handed when the excavator's digging arm got stuck in the ceiling of the bank. A week earlier, thieves in Malaysia's Penang state tied a rope to an ATM, then hauled it through a glass wall and down a flight of stairs, only to discover that they had grabbed a check-deposit machine by mistake.

Keeping Tabs The Las Vegas hotel and casino Treasure Island began using microchips to track the amount and type of liquor its bartenders pour. The battery-powered chips are attached to special pouring spouts. Scott Martiny, who heads the San Francisco-based provider of the liquor-monitoring technology, said that the system will save Treasure Island $90,000 a year by preventing bartenders from overpouring and undercharging.

* The British soccer team Manchester United said that it is considering embedding microchips under the skin of its players to help the team track their movements on the field and in training. "There is certainly technology out there," team official Phil Townsend told the Manchester Evening News. "We are always on the look-out, and if a system helps improve performance, we will look at it." Last year's under-17 world soccer championship tested microchips embedded in balls that signal a referee whenever a goal is scored.

* Italian prosecutors were able to reconstruct the travel itineraries of two CIA operatives posing as business executives because they used their frequent-flier cards to gain credit toward free flights. Hoping to connect the pair to the kidnapping of a radical Islamic preacher in Milan, investigators also gathered information from the operatives' imprudent use of cellphones and other violations of basic CIA "tradecraft," according to aides to former CIA Director Porter Goss, who said he was "horrified" at the sloppiness of the operation.

Sweet Success British scientists have discovered how to use chocolate to generate electricity. Microbiologist Lynne Mackaskie and her colleagues at the University of Birmingham fed chocolate-factory waste to sugar-loving Escherichia coli bacteria, which produced hydrogen that the researchers then used to power a fuel cell, generating enough electricity to drive a small fan.

Nervous Nellies British authorities condemned a "three-week-long, 24/7, water-gun assassination tournament," whose contestants comb London for other players to assassinate with water pistols, warning that it could be mistaken for a terrorist attack. Mindful that four suicide bombers last July killed 52 London commuters, Transport Police declared that the sight of people "carrying what appears to be a firearm on the London Underground system," one year after last year's attacks, "will cause passengers and staff genuine fear."

* Authorities in Daytona Beach, Fla., evacuated two city blocks after Maria Gonzalez, 23, walked into a pharmacy claiming to have a bomb strapped to her chest and demanded bottles of narcotic painkillers. "Her story is, she arrives at the pharmacy. A guy with a knife straps this device to her," police Chief Michael Chitwood said. Store employee Michael Lomanginoi said the woman demanded bottles of Lortabs "or they're going to explode this device." After a brief standoff, police confiscated the device, which turned out to be parts from a video game and an old propane tank.

* Police arrested six people in downtown Minneapolis who were wearing gory face makeup and torn clothing and carrying bags with wires sticking out. They explained that they were having a "zombie dance party," but police official Gregory Reinhardt told the Associated Press their behavior was "suspicious and disturbing" and that they were intimidating other people. Police also said the wires, which the arrestees explained were from stereos in their backpacks, looked enough like bombs that they charged the zombies with carrying "simulated weapons of mass destruction."

Litigation Nation After injuring himself while camping in Oregon's Mount Hood National Forest, Jerry Mersereau, 23, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government. "While finding a place to relieve himself," the suit contends, "plaintiff walked off the unguarded and unprotected cliff while falling approximately 20 to 30 feet to the creek bed below." Seeking compensation for his injuries and "mental anguish," Mersereau said the government should have known the cliff posed a danger to campers.

* Robert Kosilek, who is serving a life sentence for killing his wife, is suing the Massachusetts Department of Correction to pay for his sex-change operation. Kosilek, who takes estrogen pills and has had laser hair removal to make him look like a woman, asserted that he suffers from gender identity disorder and that denying him the operation amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

Haberdashery Follies Young men and teens that commit crimes regularly get tripped up in their getaways by their low-slung, baggy pants, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported that the hip-hop fashion trend "has given amused police officers and law-abiding citizens a welcome edge in the fight against crime." Noting that capturing youths has gotten easier because they can't run fast or far in loose jeans or because the jeans fall down and trip the crooks, Jim Matheny, 41, a police lieutenant in Stamford, Conn., told the paper, "When I catch them, I tell them they'd do much better if they had pants that fit. It's like, 'Hey, dude, buy a belt and save yourself some trouble.'"

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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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