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Curses, Foiled Again FBI investigators identified Terrol Alan Casborn, 32, as the suspect who robbed two banks in Concord, Calif., because of his distinctive tattoo. The surveillance video at one of the banks showed the robber’s hand had a “blotch or spot close to the wrist, with what appears to be cursive writing below the blotch, closer to the knuckles,” Special Agent Todd Dorman reported. DNA from ski masks found near the scene of both robberies matched that of Casborn. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, when the FBI interviewed Jolene Allen, the mother of Casborn’s four children, she told them that Casborn had her name tattooed on the back of his left hand until another woman made him cover it with a dark tattoo like the one on the video.

• Three British burglars broke into a house in Leeds and made off with a $2900 plasma television, but their getaway van got stuck, forcing them to flee empty-handed. London’s Daily Express reported police had no trouble identifying Christopher Lister, 21, as one of the culprits, however, since the crime occurred in broad daylight, and witnesses recognized Lister, who stands 7 feet 4 inches tall.

Slightest Provocation One homeless man smacked another homeless man in the face with a skateboard while the two men were discussing “quantum physics and the splitting of atoms,” according to prosecutors in Redwood City, Calif. Deputy District Attorney Sharon Cho said that at some point Jason Everett Keller, 40, got upset by the conversation and hit Stephen Fava with the skateboard, splitting his lip, but the jury acquitted him because they “just felt unable to really know what happened out there.”

When Vibrate Just Won’t Do Tennis player-spokesmodel Maria Sharapova unveiled a dress designed to light up when the wearer’s cellphone rings. Reuters reported that British fashion student Georgie Davis, 20, created the dress as part of a school project with phone-maker Sony Ericsson to incorporate new technology and fashion. The dress is designed to connect to the wearer’s phone so she can be alerted in the noisiest of places, Davis said, noting, “When you’re in a pub or a bar, you can never, ever hear your phone.”

California in Crisis Los Angeles County taxpayers have been paying $1.5 million a year to keep 8000 old telephone lines active, according to auditors, who said they expect that the number of lines and the amount will double by the time they complete their investigation. The phone lines may never have served any legitimate government purpose, such as one registered to a now-defunct Hollywood ticket brokerage that the county paid the bill for for the past 14 years. “This is government at its worst,” County Supervisor Zev Zaroslavsky told the Los Angeles Times.

The review began earlier this year when William T Fujioka, the county’s chief executive, learned that no one ever shut down 329 phone lines at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital after it was downgraded to an outpatient clinic in August 2007.

When Guns Are Outlawed Police arrested Robert Lee McKinney, 34, after they said he tried to rob a hotel in Rapid City, S.D., with a butter knife. The clerk refused to give the man any money and provided police with a detailed description, which led them to McKinney.

• When a passenger pulled a knife on a 51-year-old cab driver in Elgin, Ill., and demanded money, the cabbie disarmed the man with a can of aerosol deodorant. Deputy Police Chief Jeff Swoboda told the Daily Herald that after the driver sprayed deodorant in the robber’s eyes, the robber dropped the knife and fled.

Lesson Learned A Salt Lake City woman suffered head and leg wounds after she was run over by an 11-year-old boy she was teaching to drive. Police Detective Dennis McGowan told the Salt Lake Tribune the woman was standing next to her car with the driver’s-side door open, when the boy suddenly released the clutch, causing the car to lurch backward. The open door knocked the woman to the ground, and the car ran over her while spinning in a semicircle.

So Hard Even a Caveman Can’t Do It British authorities evicted Hilaire Purbrick, 45, from a 7-foot-wide cave he’s been living in on his land in Brighton for the past 16 years. The Telegraph reported that the Brighton and Hove City Council recently investigated and decided the cave did not have enough fire exits. Judge Jonathan Simpkiss told Brighton City Court there were also concerns the cave could collapse. Despite the legal order, Purbrick insisted, “I am still living there and intend to continue to do so.” He added he would challenge the council’s move in the European Court of Human Rights.

Firepower Hath Charms When 400 cobras and vipers overran a police station in Sierra Leone, authorities summoned snake charmers to lure the reptiles away. That tactic failed, however, so officials resorted to power hoses and assault rifles. “We have forced water into the building, and some of the snakes trying to escape were shot by our men carrying AK-47s,” Brima Kontu, head of the police station in Gerihun, told Reuters, indicating about 250 of the snakes living at the station were killed.

Leader of the Flock Police found 53 baby birds in the bedroom of a 15-year-old boy in Longmont, Colo. Sgt. Dave Orr said the boy took the hatchlings, including barn swallows, sparrows and a bluebird, from nests near his home and kept them until his mother realized he had them and notified animal control. Forty of the birds died.

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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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