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Curses, Foiled Again Police summoned by a neighbor who suspected a burglary in an upstairs apartment in Hilton Head Island, S.C., arrested Isaac Talavera Jr., 25, whose getaway was slowed by having to call his mother to come pick him up and drive him home from the crime scene. The mother told Beaufort County Sheriff's deputies her son, who has no car, paid her $10 for the ride.

* Two teenagers accosted a man outside a restaurant in Marietta, Ga., and took his wallet and car keys at gunpoint. They tried to make their getaway in the victim's Honda Accord but got nowhere because the driver couldn't operate a manual transmission. "The kid was just sitting in the car trying to start it, but he had no idea what to do," said restaurant employee John Williamson, 18. "He looked dumbfounded. The only thing he had going was the radio." Police arrived and arrested the pair.

Labor-Management Relations Faced with having to lay off 140 employees at Robbs department store in Hexham, England, management set off the fire alarm, and, after the workers had ushered customers from the store and assembled in the parking lot, the general manager read a short statement giving everyone two weeks' notice. He then ordered the employees to return to work.

* A Home Depot store in Midwest City, Okla., fired four employees for helping police catch several suspected shoplifters that tried to run from a store with lawn equipment. An internal memo warns store employees not to accuse, detain, chase or call the police on any customer for shoplifting. One of the men fired, Bob Stewart, told KOCO-TV News that the store's loss-prevention officer "told me all we need to do is tell the shoplifter to have a good day as they leave the store."

When Nature Calls Although the attorney for astronaut Lisa M. Nowak denied that his client wore diapers during her 950-mile drive to confront a romantic rival, a Canadian researcher indicated that adult diapers have become a troubling symbol of problem gambling. Tim Pelton of the University of Victoria's Centres for Addiction Research said his survey of casino workers found that gamblers regularly wear diapers so they don't have to leave the machines to use the bathroom. One Ontario company even advertises diapers on the Internet as a perfect fit for "gamblers at all-night casinos." The garments, costing $35 each (two for $60) hold nine cups of fluid, are made of six layers of cotton and microfiber, dry in an hour, are reusable and come in white or burgundy with Velcro fasteners.

Doctor No-No Dr. K. Murugesan let his 15-year-old son perform a Caesarean-section birth so the boy could be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest surgeon. Although the procedure was successful, officials in Tamil Nadu state promised an investigation after learning of the incident when Murugesan, who runs a maternity hospital in Manaparai, showed a video of the procedure to a local chapter of the Indian Medical Association. "He said this was not the first surgery performed by his son and that he had been training him for the last three years," said Dr. Venkatesh Prasad, secretary of the association. Meanwhile, record book spokesperson Amarillis Espinoza explained that the organization doesn't recognize such feats because doing so would encourage "bad medicine."

Lack of Respect The Academy of the Great Wall of China launched a campaign to get people to vote for the wall as one of the "new" Seven Wonders of the World, according to the official Xinhua news agency. Noting that the 4000-mile wall recently fell out of the top seven in a worldwide online poll, the academy blamed the voting process, explaining that relatively few Chinese use the Internet.

Meanwhile, China's heritage bureau launched an investigation of Chinese mining companies suspected of tearing down part of the Great Wall to create a "coal-shipping thoroughfare" for their trucks to use to avoid paying tolls on the main route. Xinhua reported that coal-mining companies operating near the border between Shanxi province and Inner Mongolia had also taken soil from parts of the wall to build houses and piled "small mountains" of coal against it.

Less Time, Quicker Surfing Global warming means shorter days ahead, according to Felix Landerer of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Meteorology. He explained in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that as ocean temperatures rise, changes in density and circulation transfer mass to higher latitudes closer to Earth's axis of rotation, causing the planet to spin faster. Landerer and his colleagues predicted that at the present rate of global warming, by 2200 the length of a day would be reduced by 0.12 milliseconds.

Another effect of global warming, reported by geophysicists John Fyfe and Oleg Saenko of Canada's University of Victoria, is faster ocean waves. Explain-ing that ocean wave patterns have been changing throughout the industrial era, Fyfe said wave speed has accelerated in recent years. He predicted that by the end of the 21st century, the waves would be 20 to 40 percent faster than pre-industrial speeds.

Double Trouble York Heiden, 36, reported that someone stole his 1990 Audi Quattro from a grocery store parking lot in Stevens Point, Wis., after his wife left the keys in the ignition. Friends found the car nearby but not the keys, so Heiden had one of them remove a coil wire while he fetched the spare key. When he returned, the car was gone. Heiden, who repairs cars for a living, said he forgot that the car has a two-coil system and could be driven with just one coil.

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About The Author

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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