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News Quirks 

Published December 17, 2008 at 6:14 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again A man who robbed a gas station in Aurora, Ind., tied up the clerk and then ran out the door with a carton of cigarettes. The robber stopped, however, when he realized he’d forgotten the bag of money. Police said he tried to reenter the store but couldn’t because the door was equipped with an electronic lock.

• Police responding to the theft of an ATM in Leavenworth, Kan., found the battered machine at the bottom of a 50-foot wooded embankment and the 49-year-old suspect trapped inside. Police Chief Patrick Kitchens told the Kansas City Star the thief used a stolen skid loader to pry the ATM loose from a credit union and then drop it down the embankment to bust it open. Instead, the ATM, skid loader and the thief all tumbled downhill together. “It makes it easier when you let go,” Kitchens pointed out. “That way you don’t go with it.”

Race Cards Connecticut lawyer James O. Ruane filed a motion to suppress breathalyzer test results showing his client had a blood-alcohol content more than twice the legal limit because, Ruane insisted, breathalyzers are “racist machines.” The sobriety standards of the Intoxilyzer 5000, used by Connecticut state and most local police, don’t take into account that the lung capacity of a black man is 3 percent smaller than a white man, Ruane explained, declaring, “They are KKK in a box.”

• Prominent black community members in Danville, Ill., accused high school boys basketball coach Gary Tidwell of racial profiling after he cut at least eight African American players from the team. Tidwell is white. All of the players remaining on the team are black.

• Ottawa’s Carleton University voted to withdraw from a Canada-wide fundraiser for cystic fibrosis research and treatment because, according to a motion by the Carleton University Students Association, the fatal, genetic disease “has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men.” The student council explained that its fundraising “strives to be inclusive.”

Next Time, Try Doughnuts Police in Evansville, Ind., reported that while arresting Angelo J. Cooper, 32, for being drunk and disorderly, he offered to buy the arresting officers dinner if they would let him go. When the officers declined, Cooper then offered them $10 and a toaster. “This offer was also rejected,” the police report noted.

Bionic Woman Tanya Vlach, 35, a San Francisco artist who lost her eye in a 2005 car accident, announced on her blog that she wants to replace the missing eye with a camera that can dilate with changes of light and allow her to blink to control its zoom and focus. The eye cam could allow her to record her entire life or even shoot a reality television show from her eye’s perspective. “Nothing too exploitative,” Vlach told New York’s Daily News. “There are amazing possibilities.”

Noting spy cameras designed to fit into inconspicuous places already exist, mobile computing expert Roy Want, an engineer at Intel, told the Daily News, “It is possible to build a wireless camera with the dimensions of the eyeball.” He explained that the camera, which would be encased in Vlach’s existing acrylic prosthetic eye to avoid moisture, could link wirelessly to a smart phone, which could send power to the camera wirelessly and relay the camera’s video feed by cellphone network to another person, a TV studio or a computer.

God Bless America A charity in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., rebuffed a man who tried to make a donation in person because he refused a staffer’s request to remove his religious headwear. “She said, ‘Sir, you have to take your turban off. This is the United States,’” said Gary Khera, who pointed out to WRAL News that he is a Sikh and a U.S. citizen. “We have a policy, and he didn’t want to abide by it,” said the Rev. Ron Weeks, executive director of the Union Mission, noting the facility requires that men remove any head coverings indoors. He said the mission would welcome Khera’s donation if he mailed it or had his wife bring it in.

Slightest Provocations After a 16-year-old boy shot his father in the head and then turned the gun on himself at their home in Galveston County, Texas, sheriff’s investigators reported the incident occurred after an argument started when the boy returned from a fast-food restaurant with the wrong order. Both the boy and the father, Robert Lee Mueller, 59, were hospitalized in critical condition. Characterizing the Mueller family as “very reclusive,” neighbors told the Houston Chronicle they found it odd that Mueller’s wife would walk half a mile to the local Target store instead of driving.

• Authorities investigating the shooting deaths of Dennis and Donna Smith in Escambia County, Ala., charged Michael Williams with murder and blamed the incident on a football game between Alabama and Louisiana State universities. The Birmingham Press-Register reported that Dennis Smith, an LSU fan, and Williams, an Alabama supporter, argued after the game and then came to blows before Smith threatened Williams with a pistol. Williams answered with shotgun blasts that killed both Smiths.

• After sheriff’s deputies in Lee County, Fla., arrested 11-year-old Joseph T. Cora for threatening to kill his mother with a steak knife, the mother told them Cora was mad at her because he wanted a friend to come over instead of doing his homework. According to the arrest report, while pointing the knife at his mother, the boy also sprayed her face with disinfectant and threw the bottle at her, “striking her in the knee she recently had surgery on.”

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Roland Sweet

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


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