Monday, July 5, 2010

Extra, extra: In Other News, online

Posted By on Mon, Jul 5, 2010 at 9:10 AM

In this week's installment: Flying coach with birds, cell phones killing honeybees and the most uncomfortable inmate story we've heard in at least a week.


Curses, Foiled Again
New Zealand police said surveillance cameras showed two people in front of a Wellington store, trying to smash the front window with a rock. They gave up and fled, Detective Sgt. Mark Scott said, after the rock rebounded off the window and hit one of the offenders on the head.

A man who robbed a bank in Anchorage, Alaska, escaped on a bicycle but was stopped minutes later when he crashed into a police car responding to the bank alarm. The bicyclist, identified as Christopher Todd Mayer, 45, slid across of the vehicle but lost his backpack, according to police Lt. Dave Parker, who said, “He ended up in a heap with his money pouring out of his pack.” Mayer tried to flee on foot, but was nabbed half a block away.

First Things First
When JoAnne Famal arrived at a Verizon wireless store in Trotwood, Ohio, to pay her monthly bill, her 16-year-old grandson was in the driver’s seat of her sport utility vehicle. He hit the accelerator instead of the brake, causing the SUV to hop the curb and crash through the front window and into a wall inside the store. No one was hurt, although salesman Rob Thomas said, “If I hadn’t jumped over the counter, I’d be dead.” After the car stopped, Famal walked to the counter and paid her bill, then got behind the wheel of the SUV, backed out and drove off.

Hiding Places
Customs officials at Los Angeles International Airport became suspicious of arriving passenger Sony Dong, 46, after they noticed bird droppings on his socks and feathers sticking out from under his pants. A search found 14 live Asian songbirds attached to pieces of cloth wrapped around his calves. Dong, who wore the birds on a flight from Vietnam, received four months in prison and was ordered to pay $4,000 to federal authorities who cared for the birds while they were quarantined. Authorities found 51 more songbirds at Dong’s Garden Grove home, worth $800 to $1,000 each.

Officials at the county jail in Wenatchee, Wash., said new inmate Gavin Stanger, 24, smuggled a cigarette lighter, rolling papers, a golf-sized bag of tobacco, a tattoo ink bottle, eight tattoo needles, a one-inch smoking pipe and a small bag of pot into his cell—-all stuffed inside his rectum.

Beeline to Disaster
The latest suspect in the widespread disappearance of honeybees and the collapse of their hives throughout Europe and North America is radiation from wireless phones. Researchers at India’s Punjab University said their findings suggest the phones are interfering with the bees’ sense of navigation, causing them to get lost. Reporting in the journal Current Science, Ved Prakash Sharma and Neelima Kumar said a hive exposed to cell-phone radiation in a controlled experiment showed a dramatic decline in the number of worker bees returning after collecting pollen, as well as a drop in the queen’s egg-laying rate.

Avoirdupois Follies
Australian chef Yukako Ichikawa issued orders that customers who don’t eat everything on their plates must pay a penalty and told not to return. Wafu, her 30-seat restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills, describes itself as “guilty free Japanese cuisine.” Customers who do clean their plates receive a 30 percent discount; those who don’t pay full price. Restaurant policy notices remind diners “that vegetables and salad on the side are NOT decorations; they are part of the meal, too.”

Donna Simpson, 42, declared that her life’s goal is to become the world’s heaviest living woman. Already weighing more than 600 pounds, the mother of two from Old Bridge, N.J., said she intends to reach 1,000 pounds by sticking to a calorie-rich diet. She already wears XXXXXL clothing, spends as much as $750 a week on groceries and craves her own reality-TV show to give plus-size women more confidence. “The bigger your butt is, the bigger belly you have, the sexier you are,” she announced.

Under the Radar
Politicians, business executives and university athletic recruiters have taken advantage of a federal program to keep the public from finding out about their private flights, according to the group ProPublica. The program is designed to protect sensitive business deals and executives’ safety by requesting that the Federal Aviation Administration remove flights from its database before giving the information to flight-tracking web sites. In 2008, after Detroit auto executives found themselves under attack for flying corporate jets to Washington to plead for federal aid, General Motors used the system to keep its flights secret from the public.
Use of taxpayer-funded airspace is considered public information, according to Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies. Because the FAA lacks the resource to determine the validity of requests for secrecy, however, the agency lets the National Business Aviation Association, which lobbied for the program, run it. After a federal judge rejected the NBAA’s argument that the list of approved requests should remain confidential, ProPublica found it contained more than 1,100 secret flights.

Gateway Drug
Rod Adlington, a turkey farmer in Coventry, England, began making bacon-style rashers from halal-slaughtered turkeys to sell to Muslims who crave a taste of pork but cannot eat it because of their religion. “There’s a want for the product for the halal market, for the pork-free market and for the slimming market,” Adlington said, insisting he’s simply reacting to demand. Although several Islamic scholars see no harm in it, Maulana Naveed Ashrafi believes turkey bacon could “ultimately lead to people who eat only halal food ending up eating the real bacon.”

Grab Bag
The Minneapolis suburb of Edina, Minn., stopped providing free dog-poop bags at city parks because people kept taking them. “People walk up and take them until they’re gone,” Director of Parks and Recreation John Keprios said, noting the city spent $12,000 a year to keep its eight park stocked. It was “not just one isolated incident,” he added. “It’s everywhere and often.”

All’s Swell That Ends Swell
After thieves took a 10-foot wooden wheelchair ramp leading from Cordelia Simpson’s porch to the sidewalk in Elyria, Ohio, John Wright, owner of an American Ramp Services franchise in North Olmsted, offered to replace it with a steel ramp that usually costs $4,000. “I always wanted a steel ramp,” said Simpson, 34, “but I could never afford one.”

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