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Curses, Foiled Again Authorities who charged Timothy Scott Short, 33, with possessing a stolen Digimarc printer, used by the state of Missouri to make driver's licenses, identified him because he called Digimarc's tech support line - twice - trying to obtain software so he could make the printer work. The caller gave Digimarc the same phone number Short had used in an unrelated identity theft case, and Secret Service Special Agent John Bush, who listened to recordings of the calls, recognized Short's voice from a prior investigation. Two weeks after his arrest, Scott's Social Security number was accidentally made public on the court's digital records system, putting him at risk of identity theft.

Homeland Insecurity After spending $2.6 billion to buy 322 European-designed Lakota helicopters for homeland security and disaster relief, the Army admitted the choppers aren't safe to fly on hot days because the cockpits overheat, jeopardizing communication, navigation and flight control systems. The Army decided to fix the problem by spending millions more to install air conditioning - a highly unusual step for a military helicopter.

Play Date China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine acknowledged that toy beads, recalled in the United States and Australia because they sickened children, contain a substance that can turn into the "date-rape" drug after being ingested. The industrial chemical 1,4-butanediol used to coat the toys metabolizes into gamma hydroxy butyrate, also known as GHB.

Corny Contest After Iowa State Fair officials banned the annual erotic corn-dog eating contest, Steve "Round Guy" Pilchen, one of the Urbandale radio personalities who started the contest, said he wasn't surprised, blaming conservative attitudes and political correctness. He defended the contest's educational value, though, pointing out, "We stress technique."

Problem Solved Landfills may become extinct because an Australian company said it has figured out how to reclaim 25 to 80 percent of the household waste not now being recycled. New Scientist magazine reported that Global Renewables (GRL) is equipping two recycling plants in Lancashire, England, for "zero-waste" recycling using its patented process to transform previously unusable but organic-rich waste, including broken glass, plastic film and chemicals, into high-grade compost. "They don't alleviate the need for minimizing waste, but they are essential for dealing with what is left over," said Matthew Warnken of Crucible Carbon in Sydney, where GRL opened its first mechanical biological treatment plant in 2004.

* Dom Anthony Sutch, a Roman Catholic parish priest in Suffolk, England, set up what the Times reported is the first confessional booth devoted to forgiving eco-sinners. The booth, built of recycled doors for the Waverly Greenpeace festival, is intended for those who have not recycled all they should or have consumed beyond their needs.

The Times added that a Norwich Union poll found nine out of 10 consumers exaggerate their eco-friendliness. They don't cut their consumption and waste but try to appear to have done so in order to join today's trendy "socially correct" green lifestyle.

Civic Duty The lawyer for a woman accused of prostitution asked the judge to dismiss the case on the grounds that police went too far in obtaining evidence by asking the victim to have sex four times to help them nab Sun Cha Chon, 52. The case began, according to the Allentown, Pa., Morning Call, when a man complained to police he was propositioned while getting a massage and agreed to help obtain evidence by attaching a body wire to his pants and returning to the spa. Insisting four visits were necessary for an arrest, the state police paid for the sex and gave the man $40 each time for his "time and effort," according to court records. State Trooper Gregory Emery testified the informant supplied his own condoms.

Defense lawyer Maureen Coggins argued police had sufficient evidence the first time sex was offered and money changed hands. She added that allowing the informant to complete sex acts four times turned the defendant into the victim.

Rear-Ended A 29-year-old Japanese police officer was shot in the buttocks with his own gun while trying to stop two men from breaking into a pornography vending machine. The officer from the Tagawa Police Station scuffled with the thieves, one of whom took out the officer's gun and fired. The officer was hospitalized, but cops caught the thieves.

Government in Action A 20-year government effort to restore the population of an endangered native trout in Colorado has showed little progress, according to a three-year study by University of Colorado researchers, because biologists have been stocking some of the waterways with the wrong fish. Intending to restore the greenback cutthroat trout, the scientists instead stocked the more common, now commoner, Colorado River cutthroat trout.

* The day after the Defense Department announced that it was awarding the richest-ever single contract to Boeing Co. - $24 billion -reporters contacted Boeing, which said it knew nothing about the deal. Eventually, Air Force official Ralph Monson admitted three extra zeroes had been tacked on to the announcement by mistake. "The correct figure was $24 million," he told Reuters, adding he had "no clue how" the error occurred.

Measuring Up Commenting on a five-day conference in South Korea to set international standards for condoms, Kim Sung-Hoon, head of South Korea's leading condom maker, Unidus Corp., told Yonhap news agency, "The size of South Korean condoms now meets international standards, helped by an increase in the size of men's penises here."

Virtual Dating A Dutch escort agency began offering a special virgin service for computer geeks. Sociology student Zoe Vialet, who set up Society Service, said she has had a lot of demand from virgins, most of whom work in the IT sector. "They are very sweet but are afraid of seeking contact with other people," she said, noting that sessions have a three-hour minimum. The newspaper De Telegraaf reported the service has trained five escorts to handle virgins "There is nothing more terrible," Vialet declared, "than dying as a virgin."

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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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