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News Quirks 

Published November 21, 2007 at 1:03 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Vincent Carl Schettner, 63, became the prime suspect in the theft of thousands of dollars from parking meters in St. Paul, Minn., because he made frequent large deposits to his personal bank account, always in quarters and dollar coins. A suspicious teller alerted police after spotting Schettner at his job collecting coins from city parking meters. Interviews with other tellers at two bank branches disclosed that Schettner's weekly coin deposits totaled $1000 to $1200. The average customer makes only one large coin transaction a year, usually about $300 to $400. Schettner also gave conflicting accounts as to how he obtained the coins.

* Authorities investigating the theft of $13,000 worth of computer and satellite-navigation equipment from a business in Australia's Queensland state identified a 54-year-old Camira man as their suspect because five days later he plugged in a stolen GPS unit, sending its location to the victims, who notified police. "We were fairly confident he was going to be silly enough to plug it in because it looks like something to plug in," said Murray Griffith, business development manager at Fleetlink GPS. When police went to the transmitted coordinates, they discovered most of Fleetlink's missing gear, plus thousands of dollars worth of other stolen items.

Black and White and Red All Over Angry calls and emails caused a Detroit disc jockey to cancel a party that would have let "light-skinned" black women into a downtown club for free. "I didn't think there would be a backlash," said Ulysses "DJ Lish" Barnes, promoter of the "Light Skin Libra Birthday Bash," who describes himself as "dark skinned." He told the Detroit News the event was to have been the first in a series, followed by "Sexy Chocolate" and "Sexy Caramel."

* A British school admitted "an error of judgment" after parents objected to arranging pupils for the school photograph by the color of their skin. Sandhurst Junior School in Lewisham, South London, grouped more than 100 boys and girls, ages 7 to 11, from the lightest skinned to the darkest. The Daily Mail reported the photographer suggested the arrangement so he wouldn't have to rearrange his light reflectors.

Coalition of the Unsuspecting The United States signed an agreement with Mongolia that will allow Mongolian ships to be boarded and searched if they are suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction. Mongolia lies thousands of miles from open waters and has no navy, although international maritime authorities recognize its tiny merchant marine, comprising 62 ships, as one of 32 "flag of convenience" countries.

Nearer Allah to Thee Malaysia published a guidebook for Muslims in space, timed to coincide with the mission of its first astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, 35. The 18-page "Guidelines for Performing Islamic Rites at the International Space Station" tells how to perform ablutions, determine the location of Mecca when praying, prayer times and how to fast in space. Abdullah Md Zin, a minister for religious affairs, told the Star newspaper the guidebook will be translated into English, Russian, Arabic and other languages for the benefit of future Muslim astronauts. The first Muslim in space, Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman, reported that although he managed to pray and fast, he wasn't able to face Mecca and couldn't fully kneel on the ground.

* Malaysia will join Iran and Turkey to build the first "Islamic car." Noting the vehicle would be aimed at the global export market, Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir, managing director of Malaysian automaker Proton, explained, "The car will have all the Islamic features," including a compass to find the direction to Mecca and a compartment for holding prayer scarves and a Koran.

Educational TV Michael W. Hobbs, 36, who pleaded guilty to five counts of burglary in Richmond, Ky., told police he learned how to rob homes by watching the Discovery Channel. The show "It Takes a Thief" features two ex-convicts who show techniques burglars use to break into homes.

Gun or Just Glad to See Me? Police officers chasing an armed robbery suspect caught up with Steven McDermott, 49, in La Verne, Calif., after he abandoned a stolen cab and ran up an embankment. According to Sgt. Cliff Mathews, the suspect reached for his waistband, and an officer shot and wounded him. McDermott admitted afterward he had been reaching for a phallic sex toy in an effort to dispose of it. "Evidently, he had it tethered to his belt loop," Mathews said, "for whatever reason."

Monsignor Wide Stance After Vatican official Monsignor Tomaso Stenico was secretly videotaped making sexual advances to a young man and telling him gay sex wasn't sinful, he denied being gay. Instead, he insisted, he was only pretending to be gay in order to gather information about "those who damage the image of the Church with homosexual activity." La Repubblica newspaper quoted Stenico as saying he "was a victim of my own attempts to contribute to cleaning up the Church."

When Guns Are Outlawed Greek police said two men armed only with ketchup ambushed a supermarket employee as he was taking cash to the bank. "The thieves jumped out of the bushes and threw two bags of ketchup on the front window to stop the car," a police official said, noting the attackers fled with only 400 euros of the 140,000 euros the man was carrying.

It's for Sex, Not Fun The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) announced it is suing Pfizer Inc. because it wants the courts to bar the drug company from marketing Viagra as a lifestyle or sexual-enhancement drug. The nonprofit organization said Pfizer's actions have led to risky behavior by men and an increase in HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. "Pfizer has created and contributed to the perception of Viagra as a safe, sexy, lifestyle, recreational drug, to be frequently used regardless of the degree, or even existence of" erectile dysfunction, the group said.

AHF pointed to several Viagra promotions from recent years that AHF president, Michael Weinstein, said made Viagra sound like a "party drug" that can make sex more pleasurable for healthy men - a claim the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved. Men in the ads also look much younger than Pfizer's earlier Viagra pitchman, former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who is in his eighties. "Bob Dole has been replaced by the hunky 40-something guy who looks like he can really have a good time," Weinstein said. "The message they are sending out is that any and every male should take it."

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About The Author

Roland Sweet

Roland Sweet was the author of a syndicated column called "News Quirks," which appeared weekly in Seven Days.


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