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News Quirks 

Published September 30, 2009 at 11:32 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Less than two hours after three men robbed a woman in Columbus, Ohio, the victim notified police that one of them showed up at her home and asked her for a date. “We are not exactly sure what he was thinking at the time,” police Sgt. Shaun Laird told WBNS-TV after Stephfon Bennett, 20, was arrested. “She recognized him right away when he returned and was able to have her cousin call 911.”

• Billy J. Robinson, 20, was trying to steal a car in broad daylight in East Peoria, Ill., when the owner interrupted him and ordered him to follow her to the police station. “Believe it or not,” Police Chief Ed Papis told the Peoria Journal-Star, “he started to follow her but had a change of heart.” The car’s owner called police, who broadcast a detailed description, which mentioned a large, abnormal growth hanging from the suspect’s left ear lobe. Not long after, Robinson walked into the police station saying he needed money for a bus ticket out of town. The dispatcher recognized him by the walnut-sized mass on his ear. Officers who searched the two bags Robinson was carrying found sweaty clothes matching the robber’s, as well as step-by-step instructions on how to break into and hot-wire a car, with the boldly written recommendation, “Try this at night.”

TSA’s Bend-and-Spread Policy Airline security concerns have been raised by a suicide bomber in Saudi Arabia who detonated an explosive device concealed in his anal cavity. The bomber, a wanted al-Qaeda militant, pretended to renounce terrorism and repent in order to get close to Saudi Arabia’s deputy interior minister. In the August attack, the bomber obliterated himself, but the prince survived unharmed. “It does pose real issues for airline security if the bomb is inside the person,” security policy expert Carl Ungerer told Australian media, which noted that since a passenger tried to ignite a shoe bomb in 2001, air travelers have to take off their shoes to be screened and that a thwarted plot to smuggle liquid explosives aboard airliners in 2006 led to limits on liquids passengers can carry aboard.

Power Grabs Denver’s power company wants to charge solar-energy users for electricity even if they don’t use any. Tom Henley of Xcel Energy told 7NEWS that the proposed fee would level the playing field for electricity users who are currently subsidizing connectivity fees for solar users, who some months use no electricity. Henley later admitted no Xcel customers pay extra to fund connectivity fees and that the proposed fee, which would add $2 a month to customers’ bills, would all go to Xcel. He said the fee is intended to ensure that down the road solar users don’t get free rides.

• Wind farms can trigger false alerts of dangerous weather, warned the National Weather Service, which said the massive blades show up on Doppler radar as a violent storm or even a tornado. Weather radar operates by detecting motion and can filter out structures, including the 200-feet wind tower but not the rotating blades. “If you take a glance and then all of a sudden you see red, you might issue an incorrect warning as a result,” NWS science and operation officer Dave Zaff told the Associated Press.

• Laptops, cellphones and televisions can be powered without electric wires or batteries, according to a company that has developed a system that sends electricity wirelessly. “Wires suck,” Eric Giler, chief executive of WiTricity said at the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford, England. “Batteries also suck.” The Times reported that MIT physicist Marin Soljacic developed the system using the principle of resonance to let two magnetic coils transfer energy. The first coil is connected to the home’s power supply, the second coil to the unit to be powered. London’s Institute of Physics, which tested the device and concluded it “had no detrimental effects on the human body,” stated its drawbacks are that only small appliances can be charged and they must be within 7 feet on a power-supplying wall.

First Things First When Kendrick Johnson, 32, got stuck in a condo elevator in St. Petersburg, Fla., at 10 a.m., he waited more than an hour before deciding to call for help. Instead of calling 911, however, Johnson called his boss. She was in her car and drove to a nearby fire station to get help. Rescue crews arrived at 11:40 and freed Johnson by 12:30. Johnson is the building’s maintenance man.

Posse vs. Posse A sudden crime spree in Fox Creek, Alberta, (pop. 2000) stirred residents to form citizen patrols. So many patrols took to the streets that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it had responded to several false alarms where one slow-moving citizen patrol group reported observing another slow-moving citizen patrol group acting suspiciously.

A Thousand Words not Worth a Picture Yale University Press decided to publish a scholarly book about 12 controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that sparked angry and violent protests when they appeared in a Danish newspaper in 2005, but without showing the images the book is about. The recommendation by two dozen diplomats and experts on Islam and counterterrorism the publisher contacted that it withdraw the images, as well as historical images of Muhammad, was “overwhelming and unanimous,” said Yale University Press director Jon Donatich. He told the New York Times the cartoons are freely available on the Internet, so reprinting them could be interpreted as gratuitous.

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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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