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News Quirks 

Published August 5, 2009 at 1:42 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again State police arrested Lonnie Meckwood, 29, and Phillip Weeks, 51, for robbing a gas station in Kirkwood, N.Y., after their getaway car ran out of gas.

• Police arrested fugitive Evariston Tenorio, 48, after they found him hiding in tall grass in Woodburn, Ore., when his cellphone rang, alerting officers to his whereabouts.

Don’t Have a Cow After sheriff’s deputies in King County, Wash., stopped two men for tying a rope around a bull’s neck, attaching the rope to a 1989 Buick Century and dragging the animal for at least a half-mile along the road, driver Jonas Arnbrister, 75, explained they were moving the bull to a new pasture and always moved the bull like this because “he is stubborn.” Sgt. John Urquhart told the Seattle Times that passenger Terrance Neff, 57, added, “You have to be that way with cows.”

Bad Greed vs. Good Deed After learning that Massachusetts drivers challenged more than 250,000 tickets last year, state legislators voted to charge drivers $25 to contest citations in the future, regardless of whether charges are dismissed or upheld. Lawmakers estimate the surcharge will add $5 million to state revenue, not counting any money collected from fines. Explaining the change was necessary to offset an $18 million shortfall by the state’s trial courts, State Sen. Stephen M. Brewer told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, “Is it something I’m happy about? Heck no. But there’s a mountain of things we’re not happy about.”

• The sheriff’s office in Livingston Parish, La., announced it was “discontinuing its participation in the parish’s photo enforcement program, commonly referred to as ‘the speeder van,’” after the Carroll Baptist Church had a photo radar van towed from church property. It had been parked without permission. The sheriff’s statement noted that the representative of Australia’s Redflex Traffic Systems, whose vehicles issue automated tickets for between $100 and $464, objected to paying the towing fees to recover its vehicle and made “improper comments” to the towing company employees. Since parish officials approved the contract with Redflex a year ago, residents had complained because it parked its unattended vehicles on private property, including on lawns. Law enforcement officials didn’t embrace Redflex, either, ticketing its vehicles for petty but valid violations. In April, the sheriff’s office had to refund 2488 tickets after Redflex unfairly set its speeder van where the speed limit suddenly dropped from 70 to 60 mph.

Ironies Illustrated Online bookseller used the wireless network that sends digital books to its Kindle readers to remotely delete some digital editions of two titles without notice from the Kindles of customers who bought them. One of the books was 1984, George Orwell’s novel where government censors erase all news articles embarrassing to Big Brother. The other was Orwell’s Animal Farm. People who bought the rescinded editions reacted with indignation, according to the New York Times. “I never imagined that Amazon actually had the right, the authority or even the ability to delete something that I had already purchased,” Charles Slater, who bought the book last month, said.

• Fire interrupted a cremation in Hampton, N.H. Foster’s Daily Democrat reported intense heat from the crematorium apparently sparked the blaze, which spread through the wooden roof structure of the Remick & Gendron Funeral Home.

• Three days after completing a 4200-mile trip across the United States on his motorcycle, Jon Canady, 69, was riding in downtown West Palm Beach, Fla., when a car struck and killed him. Police Lt. Michael Roggin told the Palm Beach Post that Canady, who died where he fell, was not wearing a helmet.

When Guns Are Outlawed Police in Treasure Island, Fla., charged Bonita P. Miller, 59, with domestic battery after they said she struck her live-in boyfriend with a can of air freshener and a potted plant. The St. Petersburg Times reported she then jabbed him in the back with a key.

Fecundity Justice Ex-pro football player and convicted cocaine trafficker Travis Henry, 30, faced 10 years in prison and a $4 million fine when he walked into a Billings, Mont., courtroom, but U.S. District Judge Cebull, calling Henry “a heck of a football player,” sentenced him to just three years in prison and five years’ probation. The Denver Post reported that Cebull waived the fine because Henry, who according to court documents has fathered 11 children by 10 women, could not afford it.

Problem Plus Solution Equals Problem Faced with a rise in the number of automated teller machines blown up with explosives — from 54 in 2006 to 387 in 2007 and nearly 500 last year — South African banks turned to a new security feature designed to thwart robbers. According to the Mail & Guardian Online, the technology uses cameras to detect people tampering with the ATM’s card slots, while another machine ejects pepper spray to stun the culprit as police rush to the scene. During a routine maintenance check at one of the new ATMs in Fish Hoek, the pepper-spray device accidentally activated, requiring three technicians to seek medical treatment. Bank official Patrick Wadula said the pepper spray also “spread into the shopping center where the ATMs are situated.”

Fossil of the Week Australian scientists have found the world’s oldest penis in an ancient fish specimen. The team previously located fish from the Devonian era that paleontologist John Long told ABC Science Online had “some structures in the pelvic fin that suggested copulation.” But, he added, “we hadn’t found the business end of how they were doing it.” The 400-million-year-old reproductive organ turned up in an extinct class of armored fish called placoderms, which had a long clasper, made entirely of bone, “with a knobbly end” said Long, explaining male fish used the clasper to grip inside the female while they were mating.

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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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