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News Quirks 

Published February 3, 2010 at 10:10 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

After robbers used heavy metal drain covers to smash their way into a Welsh bank in Cardiff and make off with $171,156, police quickly identified the culprits because a witness remembered the personalized license plate — “J4MES” — on the sporty blue BMW used as the getaway vehicle. Police found James Snell, 27, and his brother Wayne, 34, holding more than $48,944 of the loot and rounded up the rest of the gang. “It was the distinctiveness of the car which contributed to the robbers’ undoing,” prosecutor Daniel Williams said. (The Daily Telegraph)

After receiving a report of a City Transfer truck broken down outside Renton, Wash., state police arrived to find a 19-year-old Tacoma man claiming the truck had run out of gas. At the same time, a City Transfer worker reported spotting the stalled vehicle, saying it had been stolen from the City Transfer yard in Sumner. Shortly after police arrived, a City Transfer worker who witnessed the theft arrived and identified the 19-year-old as the thief. After the suspect’s arrest, Trooper Dan McDonald said the truck hadn’t run out of gas; the suspect had filled it with unleaded gas instead of diesel fuel. (Associated Press)

Procurement Follies

Cities that installed energy-efficient traffic lights are discovering the new LED bulbs don’t burn hot enough to melt snow and can become crusted over in a storm, leading to accidents. As a result, crews are being dispatched after storms to clean off the snow by hand. “It’s a bit labor intensive,” said Green Bay, Wis., police Lt. Jim Runge. (Associated Press)

Elbow Room

The Wanxiang-Tiancheng shopping center in Shijiazhuang, China, opened a parking garage with extra-wide spaces to accommodate women drivers. The bays are 3 feet wider than normal, and painted pink and purple. In addition, the shopping center hired female attendants to guide women into their spaces. “The added space helps us to park safely,” a driver identified only as Miss Zhang told the Hebei Youth Daily newspaper. “I think it shows respect for women.” (Agence France-Presse)

Cunning Move

Canada’s second-oldest magazine is changing its name because its unintended sexual connotation has caused the history journal to run afoul of Internet filters and turned off potential readers. The Beaver, founded in 1920 as a publication of the Hudson’s Bay Company, will become Canada’s History with the April issue, editor-in-chief Mark Reid announced. “Market research showed us that younger Canadians and women were very, very unlikely to ever buy a magazine called The Beaver, no matter what it’s about,” Reid said.

Where’s Waldo?

Five years after Mark Weinberger, 46, fled from justice, authorities found him living in a tent high up in the Italian Alps, surviving on dried and canned food and snow he melted on a portable stove. Sought by U.S. law enforcement for performing unnecessary surgery to defraud insurance companies, Weinberger ran a clinic in Merrillville, Ind., and earned, according to his abandoned wife, Michelle, $200,000 a week before he wound up on the FBI’s most wanted list. He had been sighted as far away as China before two Carabinieri officers located him atop Mount Blanc. After his capture, Weinberger asked to use the lavatory, where he pulled a hidden knife and cut his throat. Despite being an expert surgeon and an ear, nose and throat specialist, he missed the artery he appeared to be aiming for and was treated for a minor wound. (New York’s Daily News)

Justice Just Isn’t

Munir Hussain, 53, fought off three knife-wielding intruders who broke into his home and threatened him, his wife and children, then chased them down the street in Buckinghamshire, England, joined by his brother. They managed to bring down one of the fleeing men, Walid Salem, and conked him on the head with a cricket bat. Salem, who has 50 previous convictions, received a two-year supervision order, but Munir Hussain was sentenced to 30 months in prison, and his brother, Tokeer Hussain, got 39 months, both for using “excessive force.” (The Independent)

The Nose Knows

Rather than stimulating the appetite, aroma may be the key to controlling it, according to scientists at an independent food-research firm in the Netherlands, who say they’ve found a way to enhance the familiar smells in food enough to activate areas of the brain that perceive stomach fullness. “It’s all about flavor release,” lead researcher Rianne Ruijschop explained, “without adding anything artificial.” (The Washington Times)

Exploding Underpants Aftermath

Full-body scanners being introduced at British airports to improve security may be breaking that nation’s child pornography laws. Terri Dowty of Action for Rights of Children warned that the scanners could violate the Protection of Children Act of 1978, which makes it illegal to create an indecent image or a “pseudo-image” of a child. Dowty and others want the government to exempt people under 18 from the scans. (The Daily Telegraph)

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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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