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News Quirks 

Published November 25, 2009 at 12:22 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

A man approached a clerk at a restaurant in Haverhill, Mass., declared he had a gun and demanded money from the register. When the clerk insisted on seeing the gun, the man fled. North Andover’s Eagle-Tribune reported police found suspect Adam Alsarabi, 22, hiding in the woods, gunless.

Road Worries

Bad driving may be genetic, according to researchers at the University of California Irvine. Their study, reported in the journal Cerebral Cortex, found that people with a particular gene variant performed more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people with a different DNA sequence. About 30 percent of Americans have that mutant gene, according to study leader Steven Cramer. “These people make more errors from the get-go,” he explained, “and they forget more of what they learned after time away.”

Accused hit-and-run driver Edward Cespedes-Rodriguez, 34, testified in a Portland, Ore., court that he didn’t see the victim because he was fumbling for a dropped cell phone. Kate Altermatt told the Oregonian she doubted his assertion considering she was wearing a 6-foot-tall bright orange bunny costume and riding a pedicab that was lit up with reflectors and a blinking red light. Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Karin Immergut agreed and found Cespedes-Rodriguez guilty.

Bulgarian prosecutors announced they’re investigating a new gambling game, called “Russian road roulette,” where drivers bet as much as $7400 that they can speed through red lights at busy intersections without crashing into other cars or hitting pedestrians. Onlookers also wager on the outcome. Vanio Stoevski, head of the Sofia Road Police, attributed two deaths to the game, telling Reuters they occurred when a speeding motorcyclist crashed into a spectator.

Flame Games

Chad Matthew Lever, 26, pleaded guilty to starting a fire that killed his mother in Breinigsville, Pa. Investigators said Lever was trying to get the woman’s cat in bed with her by flicking a lighter under the bed but didn’t see the cat, so he headed downstairs to look for it without realizing he had set the mattress on fire. His mother, an invalid, yelled that the mattress was burning, but Lever couldn’t get her out of the room and was overcome by smoke. Allentown’s Morning Call reported Lever, who received two years’ probation, told detectives he had played the lighter trick with the cat before, and usually the flicker of the lighter scared it to jump onto the bed.

Firefighters treated a mobile home resident in Des Moines, Iowa, for smoke inhalation after the bathtub caught fire while the residents were celebrating the Day of the Dead. Noting someone put candles in plastic plant vases with dirt at the bottom in the tub, investigators concluded that when a candle burned down to the bottom of a vase, it caught fire, melted down and caused the bathtub to catch on fire. “We normally have the candles burning in a plate of water,” resident Noemi Garcia told the Des Moines Register. “Whoever put them in the bathroom thought the dirt would be good enough. But it wasn’t.”

Unclear on the Concept

Raibin Raof Osman, 20, called 911 to report that a McDonald’s in Aloha, Ore., had left out a box of orange juice from his drive-through order. The Oregonian reported that a restaurant employee later called 911 to report that Osman and his companions were blocking the drive-through lane, knocking on restaurant windows and intimidating employees. Osman was arrested and fined $300.

Calvin Hoover, 21, called 911 in Marion County, Ore., to report someone had broken into his truck at a tavern and stolen cash, a jacket and some marijuana. The Statesman Journal said Hoover called 911 again to complain that sheriff’s deputies hadn’t arrived, but the dispatcher had trouble understanding him because he was driving and stopping several times to vomit. When deputies did show up, they charged Hoover with driving under the influence of intoxicants.

Police in Clarksville, Tenn., arrested Hee Orama, 34, after she repeatedly called 911 to complain that a man lied to her about wanting to marry her. Nashville’s WSMV-TV said police had arrested Orama the week before for repeatedly calling 911 because she couldn’t find her car.

Rules Are Rules

Maryland’s Hereford High School lost a Baltimore County cross-country championship after an official disqualified one of its runners whose black undershorts had white thread. Official Steve Smith explained the rule against wearing visible multicolor undergarments is new but is on the books and noted that a number of other runners changed their uniforms before the race to comply with the rule.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

After serving time for illegally dumping hazardous waste, Sicilian builder Santo Gambino, 30, was transferred to house arrest in Villabate. Soon after, Italian news agencies reported, Gambino went to the police station and asked to be returned to prison to avoid arguing with his wife. Instead, police charged him with violating the conditions of his sentence, and ordered him to go home and patch things up with his wife.

Thanks Indeed

An Ontario family said their Thanksgiving dinner was ruined when ashes of their mother leaked into the mashed potatoes. The Hamilton Spectator reported Lisa Blair, 31, and two of her sisters were wearing lockets containing some of their mother’s ashes when the incident occurred. Blair also found ashes all over her white sweater. The family spent $140 each for the lockets, which were not professional urn jewelry provided by funeral homes, but the Casket Store, a funeral service company, offered to reseal the lockets for free.

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About The Author

Roland Sweet

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


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