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News Quirks 

Curses, Foiled Again

Two men broke into a commercial building in Antioch, Calif., to steal copper wire, only to find themselves in the middle of a police training exercise. While one officer taking part hid in the 40,000-square-foot building, another officer outside announced that a dog was about to be released and anyone inside should come out or risk being bitten. James Ayers, 26, and Frederick Guilliee, 38, assumed the warning was directed at them. Ayers surrendered, and the officers nabbed Guilliee hiding inside.

One-Thousand-and-First Place to See Before You Die

Officials at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport reported travelers have been flocking to the bathroom stall made famous by Sen. Larry "Wide Stance" Craig. "It's become a tourist attraction," airport information specialist Karen Evans acknowledged. "People are taking pictures."

Meanwhile, hoping to discourage further encounters at what had been a popular site for sex with strangers before the Idaho Republican's sex-sting arrest and guilty plea, airport officials announced they would add new stall dividers that drop practically all the way to the floor to prevent men from ducking their heads under the dividers of adjoining stalls.

Misters of the Week

Dr. Rose Cecile was puzzled by the case of a 53-year-old Colorado furniture salesman with a serious lung condition, until she learned that he had eaten microwave popcorn at least twice a day for more than 10 years and liked to break open the bag of just-popped corn to savor the aroma. As a result, he had contracted bronchiolitis obliterans, also called "popcorn workers' lung." Cecile told the New York Times that when she asked if he was around popcorn a lot, "his jaw dropped, and he said, 'How could you possibly know that about me? I am Mr. Popcorn.'"

* Organizers of the Ivory Coast's first "Punctuality Night," aimed at improving productivity by combating traditional tardiness in the workplace, awarded first prize, a $60,000 villa, to Narcisse Aka, 40. The legal adviser said he is so consistently punctual that his colleagues "call me Mr. White Man's Time."

It's the Thoughtlessness That Counts

After U.S. troops in Afghanistan distributed soccer balls to Afghan children in Khost province, about 100 people protested, condemning the balls as blasphemous. Muslim clerics noted the balls showed the Saudi Arabian flag, which features the Koranic declaration of faith and the name Allah. "To have a verse of the Koran on something you kick with your foot would be an insult in any Muslim country in the world," Afghan Member of Parliament Mirwais Yasini said.

Infrequent Fliers

When Mandy Bailey of Queen Creek, Ariz., tried to buy tickets on Delta Air Lines to fly her year-old conjoined twin daughters to a family get-together in Maryland, she told the Arizona Republic the airline required her to buy an extra seat for the twins. They are joined at the chest and share a heart but have their own lungs, so, according to Federal Aviation Administration rules, both would need access to an oxygen mask in case of an emergency.

Dagger Types

While performing "Scenes from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar" in Aspen, Colo., the actor playing Brutus delivered the fatal blow to Caesar but then announced, "I seem to have stabbed myself." Actor-director Kent Hudson Reed required stitches, and the performance was canceled. He said the actors used real knives only because the scene was set up so none of the performers were close enough to hurt each other. "But," he added, "I hadn't thought an actor might stab himself."

* A British clothing company started charging $270 to line children's blazers and jumpers with Kevlar to make them knife resistant. Minister of Children, Schools and Families Jim Knight accused the company, Bladerunner of Romford in East London, of "scaremongering to sell its products," but Bladerunner official Adrian Davis said it was responding to consumer demand. It began offering the modifications after seven teenagers were stabbed in London this year because "a few parents asked us if we could alter school uniforms to make them stab proof."

Forget the Eaves Troughs

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed a building whose walls are made of water. Although it has a solid roof, the interactive Digital Water Pavilion, to be unveiled at Spain's International Expo Zaragoza 2008, will use 6,000 valves spurting water to make liquid curtains that expand when people enter a room and contract as they leave. Instead of traditional doors at fixed locations, it will use sensors to detect the approach of people and, according to William J. Mitchell, head of MIT's Design Laboratory, "like the Red Sea for Moses, open up to allow passage through any point."

Safety Last

British police officers in Devon and Cornwall were warned not to hold out a hand to save drowning swimmers, lest they be pulled into the water themselves. The health and safety policy directive also cautions officers to think twice about throwing a lifebelt until they have completed a "dynamic risk assessment" and then only "on the strict proviso that the rescuer does not enter the water."

* Citizens of Mount Gretna, Pa., began circulating a petition demanding the volunteer fire department silence its siren and use pagers to alert crews. "They say everything is an emergency," said Jack Ezell, who started the petition drive. "I don't think a tree down on Route 117, or when someone hits a deer, that we all need to be notified. We don't want it stopped for extreme emergencies, but we don't want it to be ubiquitous."

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More by Roland Sweet

About The Author

Roland Sweet

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

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