News Quirks 10.11.06
Curses, Foiled Again When a sheriff's deputy in Harris County, Texas, tried to pull over a Ford Aerostar van for a traffic violation, the van sped away. After leading the deputy on a 25-minute chase at speeds up to 80 miles per hour, the van pulled over at a gas station in Houston. Houston police had been alerted and arrested the driver, Richard Javier Ramos, 35. Ramos, who was serving jail time on weekends for evading police in a motor vehicle two months earlier, said he fled this time because he thought Houston police had a no-chase policy that would keep them from pursuing him. The chase began in Harris County, however, and Deputy Lisa Martinez assured the Houston Chronicle, "We do not have a no-chase policy."
Back to the Drawing Board After 27 years, Tom Dale finally finished building his own boat in the backyard of his home in Fullerton, Calif. It was destroyed on its maiden voyage when Dale ran it aground. "He was distraught," Fire Captain Tom Law told the Orange County Register after Dale and a passenger were rescued, "but he was able to salvage a sextant off it."
Reverse Initiatives A program intended to protect the Chesapeake Bay is having the opposite effect. The Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund was created in 2004 to fund upgrades to aging sewage-treatment plants in the region, but the Baltimore Sun reported that Maryland communities where upgrades have been approved have used the increased sewage capacity to justify new housing construction, which conservationists insist will cause harmful runoff into the bay.
* Denver Water, Colorado's largest water provider, said it is considering raising its rates to cover a projected $12.2 million revenue shortfall caused by conservation-minded customers using less water. The Denver Post noted that during the 2002 drought, Denver Water's 1.2 million customers reduced water consumption 24 percent.
Culinary Follies Joe Gorzynski tried to roast a bear in an oven in his garage but burned down the garage, according to fire officials in Ludington, Mich. The Ludington Daily News reported that firefighters from three departments unsuccessfully battled the blaze, which not only destroyed the garage and its contents, but also was hot enough to melt the siding on a neighbor's house.
Litigation Nation Paul Lewis filed a lawsuit against Paula's Wig Boutique of Orange, Conn., claiming that an ill-fitting toupée caused him to have a heart attack. Lewis, who is seeking more than $15,000 in damages, said that he refused to pay for the hairpiece because, in addition to being the wrong size, the color didn't match that of his remaining real hair. He told the Connecticut Post that Paula Wood, the store's owner, sold him the hairpiece in a darkened room, so he didn't realize it was the wrong color until later. He stopped payment on his check, prompting Wood to threaten to call police, whereupon Lewis said he suffered a heart attack. Wood disputed Lewis's account, declaring that Lewis was so happy with the hairpiece when he left the shop that he "hugged me and thanked me."
Fear of Flying The pilot of a Canadian airliner flying from Ottawa to Winnipeg locked himself out of the cockpit, forcing the crew to remove the door from it hinges so he could get back in and land the plane. Manon Stewart of Air Canada's Jazz subsidiary explained that the pilot went to the lavatory 30 minutes from Winnipeg, leaving the first officer in charge, but when he tried to return to the flight deck, the door malfunctioned. The Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported that for about 10 minutes "passengers described seeing the pilot bang on the door and communicating with the cockpit through an internal telephone, but being unable to open the door."
Scam-a-Rama Community leaders in Grain Valley, Mo., said that Sarah and Kris Everson came to them seeking charity, explaining that Mrs. Emerson had given birth to six babies, who were critically ill. The couple said that the births had been kept secret by court order because a family member had threatened to kill them. When the local paper reported the couple's story, out-of-town reporters questioned them until they admitted they lied about having sextuplets. A court sentenced them to repay about $3700 to their victims and perform 40 hours of community service.
* Authorities said that Michael Broadway, 38, of Cornwall, Conn., managed to convince the community, including his wife and her parents, that his son had cystic fibrosis. The deception started in 2001, when the boy was 5. Broadway fabricated medical bills to convince his wife's parents to donate more than $38,000 for the boy's medical care. He also convinced a volunteer group to donate money for his treatment. Broadway's wife, from whom he was separated, questioned the diagnosis about a year ago, prompting an investigation that revealed the boy doesn't have the disease.
Fancy Meeting You Here A German woman whose Berlin apartment had been robbed was headed home from Turkey a few weeks later when she saw the thief waiting to board her flight. The 37-year-old woman called her husband, who alerted authorities. When the flight landed at Berlin Schoenefeld International Airport, police arrested the 25-year-old suspect, who they said was wanted in connection with several other robberies.
Intelligence Upgrade A German scientist announced that he has tested a pill that thwarts hyperactivity in certain brain nerve cells, helping improve attentiveness and "eliminate the loss of short-term memory." Hans-Hilger Ropers, director at Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, said his tests, limited to mice and fruit flies, have been encouraging, according to the newspaper Bild, which dubbed the pill the "world's first anti-stupidity pill."