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News Quirks 

Published August 12, 2009 at 11:10 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again When a woman demanded money at a credit union in South Hutchinson, Kan., the teller asked if she had an active account. The Hutchinson News reported the woman, described as in her mid-40s and wearing a medical uniform decorated with cartoon characters, replied that she had no account. “The bank employee made it clear to the subject that the business could not help her with her wishes,” police Chief Scott Jones said, adding that the frustrated suspect threatened to “contact her boyfriend and have him come back with a weapon.” Then she left.

• Authorities investigating a home invasion in Riverview, Fla., had no trouble identifying one of the suspects after the victims told them he had an outline of the state of Florida tattooed on his face and the words “Crazy Cracker” either tattooed or written on his head. The Tampa Tribune said Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies quickly arrested Sean Roberts, 19, whose alias is “Crazy Cracker.”

Mensa Reject of the Week Michael R. Brandt, 41, suffered burns and totaled his car in a parking lot in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, after lighting a cigarette while sitting next to a full propane tank.

Litigation Nation Members of Alpha Kappa Alpha are suing the sorority’s international president, Barbara McKinzie, whom the suit accuses of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of the group’s money to buy herself designer clothing, lingerie and jewelry. McKinzie called the lawsuit “malicious” and “not befitting our ideals of sisterhood, ethics and service.” The Associated Press reported she was particularly offended at the accusation that she spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a life-size wax figure of herself. In fact, she said, the statue cost only $45,000.

• The family of Alexa Longueira announced plans to file a lawsuit after the New York City teenager fell into an open sewer manhole while walking down a Staten Island street text messaging. Fox News reported Longueira suffered mild cuts and bruises. Her mother said it doesn’t matter that her daughter was text messaging and not paying attention to where she was walking; the manhole should not have been left uncovered.

• Nick DeBenedetto, 48, filed a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s, alleging the restaurant chain puts unsafe levels of salt in its meals. The resident of Tinton Falls, N.J., insisted he doesn’t cook with salt or add salt to food at home but that he has eaten at Denny’s for many years. He is being treated for high blood pressure. “I was astonished to find that these simple sandwiches have more salt than someone in my condition should have in a whole day,” he said.

Economic Stimulus A Berlin brothel began offering discounts to customers who arrive on bicycles. “The recession has hit our industry hard,” Thomas Goetz, owner of La Maison d’Envie, told Reuters. “Obviously we hope that the discount will attract more people. It’s good for business, it’s good for the environment and it’s good for the girls.”

Sibling Rivalry in the Making Chinese family planning officials are going door to door in Shanghai to encourage certain residents to have a second child. The campaign aims to ease the burden of providing for the city’s growing senior population, which now stands at 21 percent of Shanghai’s 13.7 million residents. The Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission noted that the campaign doesn’t signal a change in China’s one-child rule but is an attempt to let people know about the policy’s many exceptions. In this case, commission director Xie Lingli explained that only couples who both grew up as only children are being targeted to have a second child.

Justifications of the Week A lavish three-day conference for nearly 700 Social Security Administration executives that cost taxpayers $700,000 was necessary because “there is a tremendous amount of stress involved in the job that we do,” SSA Regional Commissioner Peter Spencer told ABC News. “We received threats against our employees by people who are in the American public.” The conference at the Arizona Biltmore, described as the “Jewel of the Desert,” included golf, swimming, dancing and an excursion to a local casino. Top Social Security administrator Michael Astrue made a special guest appearance, but his office insisted that he flew coach.

• Former Colorado Department of Revenue supervisor Michelle Cawthra, 32, admitted stealing $11 million from the state over a two-year period not for personal gain but to give to her boyfriend. “I did things I don’t think I otherwise would have done had I not been in love with him,” she testified at the trial of the ex-boyfriend, Hysear Randall, who is accused of using the money to pay for delinquent child support, land deals, diamond jewelry, cars and business ventures. The Denver Post reported that Randall’s lawyer argued Cawthra tried to use the money to lure Randall away from his wife.

Solid Defense Robert P. Trout, defense attorney for former Louisiana congressman William J. Jefferson, sought to redeem his client by arguing at his corruption trial in Alexandria, Va., that Jefferson isn’t a criminal, just “stupid.” The Washington Post reported Trout told jurors that the high-profile case, which included the FBI’s finding $90,000 in bribe money in Jefferson’s freezer, has made Jefferson, who faces up to 235 years for the various counts against him, basically “a national joke.”

Don’t Blame Me After Catherine Stotts, 62, injured a highway worker while driving in a closed lane during a repaving operation, she told California Highway Patrol officers she was driving in the wrong lane because she was “not used” to driving on new asphalt. She added she thought the 60-year-old victim could have jumped out of her way faster.

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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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