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News Quirks 

Published December 19, 2007 at 1:55 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

Richard Waters, 43, was driving a stolen truck when he attracted the attention of police in Monroe, Ohio, because a back wheel was on fire. Waters apparently left the emergency brake on when he drove off, causing heat that ignited the tire. Officers who noticed the truck recognized Waters from previous run-ins.

* Police were able to identify Francis A. Rocca, 24, as the one who held up a gas station in Pittsfield, Mass., even though he wore a mask. Clerk Sanjay Sharma told officers he "could clearly see" Rocca's face because the bag he had placed over his head to hide his face was clear plastic. Rocca's pimply complexion made the identification even easier.

The Nose Knows

A California company has introduced a line of shoes with built-in air-conditioning, which its designers said could stamp out foot odor and athlete's foot. Gadget Universe's Breeze Walk shoes, which sell online starting at $49.95, suck in air through tiny holes in the laces and sole and then circulate it around the feet. A pump under the heel pushes the air back out through the sole when the wearer takes a step.

Living the Dream

Sim Jae-duck, whose political career of beautifying South Korea's public restrooms earned him the soubriquet "Mr. Toilet," tore down his home and built a new one that is shaped like a toilet bowl. The toilet theme is central to the $1.1 million, 4520-square-foot domicile, which is encased in smooth steel painted white to resemble ceramic commodes. The 24-1/2-foot-tall home has four bathrooms, including one surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass that turns opaque at the touch of a button and plays classical music while in use. The bathroom emerges into a spacious living room lined by windows curving around the rounded façade of the building. "Toilets stand central to people's lives," said Sim, a lawmaker in the National Assembly, who named the house Haewoojae, meaning a "place to solve one's worries."

When Downloading Isn't Slow Enough

Government inspectors said Netflix and other video renters that ship by mail cost the U.S. Postal Service $20 million a year and could reach $30 million by 2009 because the post office has to hire people to sort DVDs by hand. The inspectors reported that return envelopes for some DVD rental mailings have a "floppy edge" that can jam sorting machines. Netflix, which told The Washington Times it sends and receives 1.6 million DVDs each business day, insisted that if it had to redesign the envelope, "our gross margin could be adversely affected."

Forward Thinking

A 32-year-old Australian man who collided with three cars after running several red lights was driving without brakes. The driver, whom Victoria Police apprehended after he lost control and ran into a utility pole, said that whenever he wanted to stop, he would shift the car into reverse.

Talking Trash

Linguists warned that an indigenous language in southern Mexico is in danger of disappearing because its only known speakers are two elderly men in a village in Tabasco, and they have stopped speaking to each other. "We know they are not to say enemies, but we know they are apart," Fernando Nava, head of the Mexican Institute for Indigenous Languages, told the BBC News. "We know they are two people with little in common."

Bush's Forehead

People who become powerful lose the ability to see things from other people's point of view, according to researchers at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. Asked to draw the letter E on their foreheads with a marker, volunteers who felt powerless were three times more likely to draw it so it was readable by someone facing them. Those made to feel powerful drew the letter so that it read correctly from their internal perspective. The consequence, University of California at Berkeley social psychologist Dacher Keltner told The Washington Post, is that people who lack power are pretty good at guessing the opinions of those around them, whereas those in power tend to be inaccurate. Subordinates make matters worse by hesitating to tell superiors things they do not want to hear, further distorting the perspectives of the powerful.

Supporting the Troops

After enticing recruits with enlistment bonuses as high as $30,000, the U.S. military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel - including those who have lost arms, legs, eyesight and hearing - give back some or all of the signing bonuses because their combat injuries render them unable to serve out their commitments.

Way to Go

Several hours after his girlfriend ordered Charles Tucker Jr., 32, to leave her house in St. Augustine, Fla., she told police she found his body stuck in the cat door. Investigators said Tucker apparently was using the cat door to try to get back in the house. "They said he had one arm through there, and his head was caught in there like he was trying to reach up and unlock the door," Tucker's friend, Will Elliot, said, "because there's no way he could fit through there."

Ceremonial Backfire

To greet visiting state minister Kirodi Lal Meena, residents of Badoli village in India's Rajasthan state wheeled out a 200-year-old ceremonial cannon and overstuffed it with gunpowder. When fired, it exploded, killing two and injuring six, according to the Times of India, which reported the minister returned the salute by leaving immediately.

Deal of a Lifetime

Bob and Ricki Husick tried to sell their suburban Pittsburgh home for a year before coming up with a novel offer. The buyer will get a full refund of the purchase price ($399,900 for the four-bedroom, 3-1/2-bath home) when the couple dies. Plus, if the buyer agrees to care for the couple in their old age, he or she also inherits their retirement home in Arizona.

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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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