News Quirks 05.09.07
Curses, Foiled Again Two men used a chain and a pickup truck to yank an automated teller machine from a market in Pomona, Calif., then loaded the 1500-pound machine into the truck and sped off. Police chased the truck to a dead-end street, where the suspects fled on foot. One got away, but officers found the other, Gregory Daniels, 48, on the ground beside the truck. He couldn't get up, police Sgt. E. Vasquez noted, because "his prosthetic leg fell off."
* Police searching for a purse-snatcher in Moundsville, W. Va., got a tip a man fitting the thief's description was working at a construction site. When he spotted the officers that showed up to question him, his getaway consisted of ducking into a portable toilet. They yelled for him to come out and waited until he did. "A Port-A-Potty is not a good place to hide," police Chief James Kudlak said after Johnny Snodgrass, 21, was taken into custody. "There's only one way out."
Getting the Hang of Capitalism A Chinese court sentenced business executive Wang Zhendong to death for swindling $385 million from more than 10,000 investors in a bogus ant-breeding scheme. Wang had promised returns of up to 60 percent for buying kits of ants and equipment to breed them from him. Some Chinese pay plenty to use ants medicinally. Chinese media reported Wang sold the kits, which cost him $25, for $1300. Authorities recovered only $1.28 million.
What Could Go Wrong? Determined to overcome ski masks' reputation as a disguise for outlaws, Kevin Lambert, 31, started wearing ski masks around Winsted, Conn., and encourages others to wear them in public places. "This isn't something I do to go out and scare people," he said, explaining that he got the idea after he was having his picture taken wearing a ski mask outside a store. A passer-by figured the store was being robbed and called police, who charged Lambert with breach of peace. His website (http://www.crazyskimask.com) is dedicated to "Striving to Keep America Warm by Combating Ski Mask Discrimination."
Suspicion Confirmed New York state officials admitted that Saratoga Springs State Park has been adding ordinary tap water to its touted "natural mineral water" baths for the past two decades. Some 14,000 customers a year pay $20 to soak in the bubbling springs. The New York Post reported that the state and Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the company that operates the baths, mix heated public drinking water with the chilly carbonated mineral water pumped up from more than 1000 feet below the surface. State parks official Eileen Larrabee insisted the state had received no complaints about mixing the waters but admitted the public hadn't been told about it. "We need to clarify that practice," she suggested, although State Sen. Joseph Bruno said the point wasn't informing people about the practice but stopping it to avoid harming Saratoga's business and tourism.
Mensa Reject of the Week Witnesses told police in Eau Claire, Wis., that Jared W. Anderson, 20, was watching a "Jackass" movie with some other people when one of the screen characters set fire to his genitals. Anderson, who was drunk, tried to duplicate the stunt by pulling down his pants so Randell D. Peterson, 43, could spray lighter fluid on Anderson's genitals. When Peterson couldn't get the fire going, he sprayed more lighter fluid on Anderson. Lots more. It worked. Anderson's genitals, hands and clothing all caught fire. Anderson jumped in the bathtub and put the flames out but was hospitalized with second-degree burns.
Legal Logic The Welsh government compensated three men who spent a combined 47 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of murder by awarding them a total of $4,332,400. It then withheld 25 percent to pay for room and board during their captivity. An appeals court ruled the Independent Assessor was entitled to deduct the money to reflect the "necessities of life" that Vincent Hickey, Michael Hickey and Michael O'Brien would have had to pay for with their wages if they had lived free.
Slightest Provocation Chicago police said Daryoush Ebrahimi, 55, used a 3-pound hammer to beat his wife, sister-in-law and mother-in-law to death, then turned the hammer on himself. Officers found Ebrahimi hitting himself on the head and stopped him before he seriously injured himself. No suicide note was found, but police Cmdr. Thomas Byrne disclosed that Ebrahimi left several phone messages and a letter complaining he felt "disrespected."
Osama the Peacemaker In the Philippines, where winning elections is largely a matter of name recall, a candidate in Lanao del Sur province is running under the name Osama bin Laden. Posters with the explosive moniker in bold letters bear the candidate's real name, Agakhan Sharief, 35, but he campaigns for Lanao's legislative council wearing an 18-inch beard, a turban and a neck scarf similar to the other bin Laden's. Contrary to that image, the Associated Press reported many know Sharief for brokering truces between government troops and Muslim insurgents.
Quirky Coincidences A hit-and-run driver killed Andrew Coit, 18, at the same spot in West Warwick, R.I., where his 14-year-old friend had died in a car crash earlier that night. Coit was playing guitar on the roadside at 4 a.m. at a makeshift memorial for Darien Plass, who had taken his mother's minivan without permission and driven into a utility pole.
* Brenda Comer said she had just finished washing dishes and stepped outside to smoke a cigarette when the wind toppled an 80-foot oak tree. It crashed through the roof of her home in Rock Hill, S.C., and landed across the sink where she had just been standing, cutting the kitchen and living room in half and scattering the contents of the kitchen cabinets. Smoking "saved my life," Comer declared.