News Quirks 11.23.05
Curses, Foiled Again
After three armed men invaded the home of Franchetta Baldwin and her eight children in Ashville, Ohio, one of the children called 911. When police arrived, the robbers tried to escape, but Baldwin locked them in the basement after tricking them into going there. "They just wanted out of here, without going to jail," she said. "I was like, there's a door that leads out back, but it doesn't, it leads out front to where the cops are. I didn't think they'd actually go there at the same time. When they did, I ran and slammed it shut."
- British authorities said that Stewart and Cathryn Bromley tried to avoid paying two $105 traffic fines after cameras caught their Mercedes speeding by explaining that a visitor from Bulgaria had been driving the car. Mrs. Bromley, 42, even flew 1400 miles to Bulgaria to send a postcard to her husband from the fictitious driver, confirming his visit and complimenting them on their car. "We became suspicious because they were being too helpful providing this postcard to corroborate the story," Police Constable Mark Beales explained after contacting Interpol and the British embassy in Sofia trying to track down the driver. "The language on the postcard didn't ring true." In light of Beales' investigation, the Bromleys pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay $19,338 in fines and court costs.
The First Assembly of God Church in Florence, Ala., agreed to stop its rite of swallowing live goldfish as part of its "Fear Factor" ministry. Replying to an objection from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to the church's having teenagers swallow the goldfish to teach them about fear, Pastor Greg Woodall said, "We love God's creatures and would never want to show them harm."
- The city of Rome banned goldfish bowls after animal rights activists complained that the round bowls cause the fish to go blind. City councilor Monica Cirinna, who introduced the law, told Rome's daily Il Messaggero, "The civilization of a city can also be measured by this."
Letter of the Law
Bobby Martin, a high school senior in Dayton, Ohio, played in three football games this fall before referees in his fourth decided that it was unsafe for him to play. The officials cited a rule requiring players to wear shoes, thigh pads and kneepads. Martin, who took part in one play with the punting team before the officiating crew's ruling, has no legs. "We've had players who are blind, players who are deaf, players who play without an arm, players who play wearing a prosthesis," said Hank Zaborniak, an assistant commissioner with the Ohio High School Athletic Association, "But there's nothing in the rulebook that accounts for this."
Jay Follin, 27, was fired from his job as a sheriff's deputy in Sumter County, S.C., for being married to two women at the same time. An internal investigation found that Follin's second wife was married to another man at the time of their wedding.
East Meets West
Chinese and American college students look at and remember a complex visual scene differently, according to researchers. Wearing headsets able to track eye movement, Chinese and American graduate students were shown 36 pictures with an object against a realistic background, such as a tiger in a forest, for three seconds each. The Americans focused on the foreground object; the Chinese spent more time taking in the background. Lead researcher Richard Nisbett, a social psychologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said that the study indicated that East Asians have a more holistic, rational outlook on the world, whereas Americans are more individualistic and object-oriented.
- Newspaper accounts of Chinese tourists visiting Hong Kong Disneyland on its opening day in September acknowledged that they "brought good business" to the park but called their behavior "disgraceful." The Ming Pao Daily reported that the visitors from mainland China disregarded the theme park's rules and smoked cigarettes in restaurants and other non-smoking areas. Others went barefoot and even let their children urinate in public.
American-Islamic Relations Follies
Boeing and Bell Helicopter apologized for a magazine ad depicting U.S. Special Forces troops rappelling from an Osprey attack helicopter onto the roof of a mosque. "It descends from the heavens. Ironically it unleashes hell," reads the ad in the National Journal, adding, "Consider it a gift from above." Responding to a complaint by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the companies explained that they tried to pull the ad. It ran, said National Journal Executive Vice President Elizabeth Baker Keffer, because "of a clerical error on our part." The ad previously appeared, intentionally, in the Armed Forces Journal, whose readers include Defense Department officials and contractors.
Jeff Roorda, a Missouri state legislator and St. Louis Cardinals fan, said that he is drafting legislation to tax baseball umpires. Citing his frustration with the umpiring during the playoff series between the Cardinals and the Houston Astros, Roorda, a Democrat, declared, "I think if they're not going to pay attention, they ought to at least pay taxes." Roorda admitted that he doesn't know how much money the tax might generate, but guessed it would be less than the amount Missouri would gain in tourism dollars if it hosted a World Series.
Police in Kansas City, Mo., reported that Robbin Doolin, 31, opened the door of her fast-moving car and tumbled out onto the busy highway, then hopped up and chased her car as it careened down an embankment toward a construction site. "I leaned out to spit," she told police after being treated for leg, arm and head injuries, "and I leaned too far."