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.”
Sheriff’s deputies stopped Terron D.
Ingram, 38, after they spotted him riding a bicycle in St. Charles
Parish, La., carrying a 3-foot alligator on his shoulders. Ingram
dropped the gator and fled but was captured. Capt. Pat Yoes told The Times-Picayune he didn’t know where Ingram got the gator or what he planned to do with it.
The next day, a 10-foot alligator bit
the leg off an 80-pound Dalmatian that was off leash illegally and
drinking from a city park lake in Jacksonville, Fla. The Florida Times-Union
reported signs warn people to keep their dogs leashed, not to feed
alligators and not to swim in the lake, but the dog’s owner, Charles
Rust, said he hadn’t seen an alligator in the 10 years he’s been coming
to the park. If they do pose a danger, he said, park officials should
have removed them.
Three days later, in Harbordale, Fla.,
police broke up a tug of war between several middle school children and
a 10-foot alligator. Observers said the children tied a raw chicken to
a rope to attract an alligator swimming in a canal, but after the gator
ate the chicken, its snout got caught on the rope, which the children
wouldn’t relinquish. “They were pushing and pulling the gator back and
forth on the rope,” postal carrier Kim Kryza told the St. Petersburg Times.
In the wake of the conviction of Ponzi
schemer Bernard Madoff, New York Assemblyman James Tedisco introduced a
bill that would charge wealthy criminals $90 a day for room and board
at state prisons. Tedisco explained the measure is designed to ease the
$1 billion annual cost of incarcerating prisoners, adding, “This
concept says if you can afford it, or even some of it, you’re going to
help the beleaguered taxpayers who play by the rules.”
Washington state police reported that a
Seattle man who was a passenger in a car was showing a gun to the
driver when it went off, hitting him in the leg.
Roy Jenkins, 44, was arguing with his
girlfriend on his cell phone while trying to conceal a shotgun by
shoving it down his pants leg. The gun discharged. “He blew his little
toe off,” Alameda, Calif., police Lt. Bill Scott told The Alameda Sun, “with additional collateral damage to his shin.”
Debra Monce, 56, was in a restroom stall
at a hotel in Tampa, Fla., when her small-caliber gun fell out of her
waist holster. It fired when it hit the floor and wounded Janifer
Bliss, 54, who was in the next stall.
An Italian couple, hoping to add a twist
to the traditional throwing of the bride’s bouquet, hired an ultralight
plane to fly over the reception in Suvereto and drop the bouquet to the
line of eligible women waiting below. Corriere della Sera
reported that as pilot Luciano Nannelli flew by, passenger Isidoro
Pensieri, 44, tossed the bouquet, but the flowers were sucked into the
engine, which caught fire and exploded, causing the craft to crash.
Nannelli had only minor injuries, but Pensieri was badly hurt and taken
to the hospital—in a helicopter.
Two inmates at the Chatham County, Ga.,
jail were treated for minor burns after they started a fire trying to
light a handmade cigarette with a spark from an electrical socket.
Sheriff’s Deputy Ron Robinson told the Associated Press the inmates
probably stuck a pencil lead into a wall socket in their cell, creating
a spark that ignited a piece of cloth they intended to use as a match.
But the burning cloth set fire to a bedsheet on a nearby bunk. “Some of
these guys have serious habits and cravings,” Robinson said. “They try
to smoke a lot of things: lettuce, collard greens, turnip greens,
whatever was served to them at lunch that day.”
A 21-year-old Australian man became so angry at his car
for continually breaking down that he set it on fire. In the process, a
Queensland court heard, the man accidentally ignited himself. The Courier-Mail reported the man was treated for burns to his face and hands and fined $300.
Put on a Happy Face
Hoping to improve the image of its staff, Japan’s Keihin
Electric Express Railway Co. began using smile-measuring software to
evaluate the grins of its 530 workers as they begin their workday.
According to Mainichi Japan, the device uses a camera and computer to
analyze the facial characteristics of a person, including eye
movements, lip curves and wrinkles, and rate a smile on a scale from
zero to 100 percent. The computer screen tells those with low scores,
“You still look too serious” or “Lift up your mouth corners,” while
those who pass the test are supposed to print out and carry around an
image of their best smile to help them remember it throughout the day.
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.
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.
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.
Authorities in Bedford County, Tenn.,
charged Marion Aubrey Whitaker, 62, with trying to burn down a house he
was renting to relatives. “He said he bought the house and allowed some
of his family from up north to move in and rent it from him, but things
weren’t working out, and he was tired of all the problems they were
having,” Detective Sgt. Scott Jones told The Shelbyville Times-Gazette. “He said he wanted them gone from here and back up north where they came from.”
Orlando hotel guest Lisa Kantorski
answered the phone and told her husband Mark, a deputy sheriff, it was
the desk clerk informing them of a gas leak in their room. Relaying the
caller’s instructions, she told her husband to smash the window with a
toilet tank, break the mirror on the wall, use a lamp to bash in the
wall to reach the trapped man on the other side and throw the mattress
out the second-floor window. The Orlando Sentinel reported the
Kantorskis were about to jump to safety when Hilton Garden Inn manager
Samir Patel knocked on their door in response to a noise complaint. He
informed them there was no gas leak and pegged the damage at $5,000.
“When I broke the window, I got suspicious,” Mark explained. “It didn’t
seem right, but Lisa was panicking, so I continued.”
The Sentinel noted this was another in a rash of phone pranks across the country. Among the others:
A caller posing as a sprinkler-company
employee persuaded an Arkansas motel worker to cause more than $50,000
in damage as part of a “test” of the motel’s emergency alarms.
An employee of a Nebraska Hampton Inn
believed a caller who said to pull the fire alarm, then called back and
said the only way to silence the alarm was to break the lobby windows.
The employee sought help from a nearby trucker, who drove his rig
through the front door.
Fast Food Follies
North Korea’s first fast food restaurant
opened in June, serving hamburgers (described as “minced meat and
bread,” topped with fermented spicy cabbage), french fries, waffles and
draft beer. The newspaper Choson Sinbo added that the
Samtaesong restaurant in Pyongyang plans to add hot dogs and croissants
to the menu and expand to other locations. According to The Daily Telegraph,
the burgers cost $1.70, almost half the daily income of an average
North Korean. Since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its
economy in the 1990s and caused widespread famine, North Korea has
relied on foreign handouts to feed its hunger-stricken 24 million
An employee at a McDonald’s restaurant
in Aurora, Colo., said that two Denver police officers were waiting for
their drive-through order when one of them, Derrick Curtis Saunders,
29, grew impatient and drew his weapon. According to the allegation
reported by The Denver Post after his arrest, Saunders pointed the pistol at the worker to speed up his order.
An unidentified driver was seriously
injured after he lost control of his sport utility vehicle in front of
the police station in Penn Hills, Pa., and sheared a utility pole that
was cemented into the ground. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
reported that when repair crews arrived to restore power, a hose burst
on one of the trucks, spilling automotive fluid onto the roadway. A
hazardous-materials team was called to clean up the spill, but a worker
using a jackhammer ruptured a water line near the pole. Another crew
had to be dispatched to repair the water line, prompting police Chief
Howard Burton to announce the road would be closed most of the day.
After his arrest for hitting a car in
Lockport, N.Y., Nicholas Sparks, 25, admitted he’d been talking and
texting on his cell phone at the same time while driving a flatbed
truck with two motorcycles on the bed and two other vehicles in tow.
Niagara County Chief Deputy Steven Preisch told The Buffalo News
that after the collision, the flatbed went through a yard and
sideswiped a house, which was then hit by one the towed vehicles. The
truck continued through a privacy fence and came to a stop in a
swimming pool. Home-owner Brad Kanel said cleanup took more than five
hours, but the hardest part was finding a truck big enough to pull the
flatbed out of the pool.
Stating the Obvious
Police responding to a call of a person
with a knife at a beauty pageant on Chicago’s West Side, arrested Leroy
Tinch, 28, one of the contestants, who The Chicago Sun-Times
said resembles a woman and appears to have breast implants and a tattoo
of paw prints on his chest. Police Lt. John Franklin said Tinch used a
trophy to beat pageant judge Sebastian Latta, 37, shattering his jaw in
three places. “Apparently, I must have voted for the wrong person,”
Latta told a responding officer.
Authorities investigating a power surge
in Lincoln, Neb., that prevented the launch of the state’s new $2.9
million driver’s license system blamed helium-filled Mylar balloons
striking a power line. The surge knocked out the connection between the
state’s mainframe computer and computers at Department of Motor
Vehicles satellite offices, preventing licenses from being issued for
three days. “Someone who was having a good time and decided to let some
balloons go was the cause,” Lincoln Electric System official Russ Reno
said, telling The Omaha World-Herald such balloons are hazardous to power lines and cause computers to shut down briefly and restart.
Slow to Complain
After both drivers involved in a
collision at an intersection in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture insisted
they had a green light, police determined the two traffic signals had
in fact turned green for about seven seconds at a time. Further
investigation found the malfunction, caused by a programming error, had
been occurring for the past 30 years. The Yomiri Shimbun reported that in all that time, no other accidents or mention of the signals had been reported.
The Final Frontier
NASA can’t scan space for asteroids that
might strike Earth because Congress, which assigned the early-warning
search to the space agency, neglected to allocate money to build the
needed telescopes. NASA reckons about 20,000 asteroids and comets in
our solar system are big enough to pose a threat (between 460 feet and
3,280 feet across), but its existing telescopes have spotted only about
6,000. Lindley Johnson, NASA’s manager of the near-Earth objects
program, told the Associated Press that to accomplish its mission of
finding 90 percent of the potentially deadly space rocks will cost $800
million. Even with just $300 million, Johnson said, it could find most
asteroids bigger than 1,000 feet across. The only thing Congress has
given NASA so far is a deadline: 2020.
NASA’s mission to return Americans to
the moon, also by 2020, lacks enough money to meet that deadline.
Instead, the agency’s $18 billion annual budget will only cover flights
to and from the international space station and only aboard Russian
Zach Schultz, 25, told Denver’s KMGH
News that when he tried to flick his burning cigarette out his car
window, the wind blew the cigarette back into his car, setting it on
fire. Denver firefighters pronounced the older model station wagon a
Motorcyclist Robert Kashdan, 57, pulled
alongside a motor home going 55 mph in Ventura County, Calif., and made
an obscene gesture, then, according to witnesses, pulled in front of
the 30-foot-long vehicle and braked suddenly. California Highway Patrol
Officer Terry Uhrich told The Camarillo Acorn the motor home
slammed into the bike, dragging it and Kashdan about 75 feet before
stopping. Investigators said the biker’s helmet, worn but not a
federally approved model, was broken into several pieces.
Police in Fraser, Mich., arrested
Kenneth Reppke, 54, after a friend reported they were playing Monopoly
and he tried to buy Park Place and Boardwalk from her. “She refused to
do it,” police Lt. Dan Kolke told WWJ-AM News. “So he got mad and hit
her in the head, knocking her glasses off and breaking them.”
Check Michael Vick’s Alibi
Authorities seized 150 finches and
canaries, some with sharpened beaks, in connection with a bird-fighting
operation at a home in Shelton, Conn. Noting small-bird fighting is
popular among Brazilians, the Associated Press reported police arrested
19 people, including homeowner Jurames Goulart, 42, just as spectators
had placed $8,000 in bets and the fights were set to start.
Two Swedish tourists headed for the
southern Italian island of Capri missed their destination by 400 miles
when they misspelled the name on their car’s GPS and wound up in the
northern industrial town of Carpi. They learned of their blunder when
they asked the local tourist office for directions to Capri’s famed
Blue Grotto sea cave. “They were surprised but not angry,” Carpi
regional government official Giovanni Medici told Reuters. “They got
back in the car and started driving south.
No Shortage of Shortages
Cypriots seeking love potions are
wearing away the tomb of Saint Agapitikos in the village of Arodes.
People have been using dust from the grave in the church courtyard for
centuries and are supposed to slip it into the drink of the person
they’re trying to attract. Reuters reported that in recent years people
have begun taking entire shards of stone, so that a quarter of the tomb
has disappeared. “I don’t know what has come over people, but they are
flocking to the tomb for the stuff,” Mayor Matthaios Stefanou said.
“Just the other day, locals saw some people visiting the tomb, and they
were there for a very long time. In the end, they walked off with a
huge chunk of stone, maybe even half a kilo of it.”
Cuba is running out of toilet paper and
may not get new supplies until the end of the year. Cuba imports toilet
paper and makes its own but doesn’t have enough raw materials on hand
to make any, according to an official with the state conglomerate
Cimex. The year-end shipment will enable the state-run company “to
supply this demand that today is presenting problems,” the official
said on state-run Radio Rebelde.
When Guns Are Outlawed
The day after David Whitaker, 18, told
police he was stabbed during a home invasion in Cherokee County, Ga.,
he admitted making up the story. The Rome News-Tribune reported that Whitaker slashed his own arm while playing with a sword in the house.
Witnesses told police in Austin, Texas,
that Randy Keith Carlson, 43, and another man were arguing when Carlson
attacked the other man with deer antlers. KENS-TV News reported the
fight ended when an officer pulled up at the scene.
Authorities charged Yurub Mohammed Arte,
25, with attacking another woman during an argument at a nightclub in
Vancouver, British Columbia. The Globe and Mail identified the weapon as a potato peeler.
Hard Times Indeed
For the first time since the decade
began, Americans are having fewer babies: 68,000 fewer last year than
in 2007, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The New York Times
said some experts are blaming the declining birthrate on the economy.
“It’s the recession,” sociologist Andrew Hacker of Queens College of
the City University of New York told the newspaper. “Children are the
most expensive item in every family’s budget, especially given all the
gear kids expect today, so it’s a good place to cut back when you’re
uncertain about the future.”
Divorce filings nationally are down as
much as 50 percent, again because of the economy, according to WTHR-TV
News in Indianapolis. Family law expert Drew Soshnick called divorce a
path to bankruptcy because splitting up also means dividing debts. He
added that people whose retirement savings have dwindled since last
year are rethinking whether divorce is affordable, and many couples are
choosing to stay married.
News and Blues is compiled from the
nation’s press. To contribute, submit original clippings, citing date
and source, to Roland Sweet in care of The New Times.