News Quirks 02.28.07
Curses, Foiled Again Police in Suffolk County, N.Y., quickly located three thieves that stole 14 electronics devices from a Town of Babylon Public Works garage, thinking they were cellphones. They were actually global positioning system devices, which led officers to Kurt Husfeldt, 46, who was holding one of the units when they arrived. They also arrested Husfeldt's 13-year-old son and Steven Mangiapanella, 20.
Power Plays Israelis now have kosher electricity, thanks to an agreement between government ministers for infrastructure and religious services and the heads of the Israel Electric Corporation. The IEC will use automated equipment where it can on the Sabbath and spend $10 million to train 150 non-Jews to perform non-automated jobs. The government hopes the pact will encourage ultra-Orthodox Jews, who unplugged from the national power grid in the 1950s after their rabbis declared the IEC violated the Sabbath, to abandon home generators and illegal power hookups that are widespread in their neighborhoods. The daily newspaper Haaretz reported that electrocutions from these pirate connections are "numerous."
* A study of the first wave of British wind farms found that the wind turbines are delivering less power than forecast because the United Kingdom is not as windy as the government thought. The report, published by the Renewable Energy Foundation, noted that the wind speed is also too variable to supply predictable electrical power.
Homeless Is Where the Heart Is A New York appeals court reversed the eviction of a homeless man who kept his home for 35 years. The landlord of the one-bedroom, rent-controlled apartment sued to boot Michael Tsitsires and get a higher-paying tenant. The landlord argued that Tsitsires had abandoned the apartment to sleep on park benches, but the state Supreme Court ruled that even though Tsitsires lived a "homeless" lifestyle, the apartment is his primary residence because he continued keeping his clothes and personal effects there.
Drinking-Class Hero Police who pulled over Patrick Allain, 35, for drunk driving in Manchester, N.H., said the man continued drinking a 40-ounce bottle of beer while he was being arrested. "You can charge me with whatever you want," officers said he told them. "It's not going to stop me from drinking and driving."
Sole Kiss Authorities in Lorain, Ohio, accused a former Roman Catholic school principal of kissing the feet of three male students. Police Sgt. Mark Carpentiere said foot-fetish material was found on two school computers seized from the office of Robert Holloway, 50. The educator denied having a foot fetish and explained that he was only settling a bet over a student-teacher volleyball game. He paid each student $15 and kissed their feet 50 times in the school's library and gym.
Empty Nesters Rule Because educating a child in New Jersey costs more than double the average property tax that parents pay, local governments are encouraging age-restricted housing to expand the tax base without having to pay for higher school enrollment. "It's almost a prerequisite that a project pass the child-exclusion test before a planning board will consider it," Patrick O'Keefe, chief executive officer of the New Jersey Builders Association, told Bloomberg News. The state's developers have built one-fifth of the country's adult-only housing, which has risen 29 percent since 2001. Massachusetts State Sen. David Magnani labeled the trend "vasectomy housing."
Long Gone Police dispatched to a man's home in Hampton Bays, N.Y., because of a burst water pipe found the mummified remains of Vincenzo Ricardo, 70, sitting in front of a blaring television set. Investigators concluded that Ricardo apparently died of natural causes more than a year earlier, and the home's low humidity preserved his body. Officials could not explain why the electricity had not been turned off, however. Neighbors said they assumed Ricardo, who had been blind for years, was in the hospital or a long-term care facility.
* Minneapolis police reported that a 68-year-old man died while taking a shower in his 19th-floor apartment, but his body wasn't discovered for four days. The whole time, the water kept running and, because his body blocked the drain, overflowed into the walls and carpets of the apartments below, all the way to street level. The flooding forced nearly three dozen elderly residents to relocate. "Generally, something like this is discovered sooner," said Mary Beth Davis, director of the Ebenezer Tower Apartments, "but the running water apparently masked the odor."
Shaken, Not Stirred Robert Ford was convicted of committing an indecent act in front of three women in Reading, England, after Reading Crown Court heard testimony that the reported "serial flasher and sex pest" pulled his trousers down in front of the women and "stuck the top of a vodka bottle up his bottom."
Problem Solved The forestry bureau in Fumin County in China's Yunnan Province paid more than $60,000 for a crew to spend 45 days painting a barren hillside green. "The painters were saying it was to adjust the hill's feng shui," the Beijing News quoted a villager as saying but noted the hillside, a used quarry, was opposite a new forestry bureau office.
Breakthrough A television transmitting van dispatched to prepare a report on ice safety in Muskego, Wis., broke through an iced-over channel on Big Muskego Lake and sank. Driver Susan Wronsky, 27, told police she thought she was still on the road when the ice gave way and the 5000-pound van went down in 5 feet of water, but Lt. John LaTour said she passed the pier and boat launch and traveled 150 yards onto the lake. Dan Dyer, chief engineer of WDJT-TV, estimated the van's loss to be between $200,000 and $250,000.