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July 2001

22 July 2001

The Detroit Free Press reports that David Tait's ashes were part of his family's July 4 fireworks display, in accordance with his last wishes. Tait's wife and three sons set off the fireworks just before the Ypsilanti Township community's main fireworks display. Most people watching the display had no idea of the exact contents of the first four shells to explode.

Fireworks accidents are often cited as reasons for banning many Independence Day private pyrotechnics in the US. Reuters reports on a Kansas City, Missouri, incident in which a party guest decided to hide the fireworks he'd brought. The host discovered their location when he turned on the oven in which they were hidden. Instead of heating his food, the man 'blew the kitchen all apart', according to assistant fire marshal Jim Duddy. The oven went through one of the walls.

The AP reports that a member of St. Louis's Board of Aldermen is being criticised for urinating in a rubbish bin rather than using the loo. During a filibuster to derail debate over a redistricting plan, Alderman Irene Smith was told she would lose the floor if she took a toilet break.
Some hold that this ruling disregarded common courtesy, while Alderman Kenneth Jones opined that filibusters are by definition a 'test to see which side can lost the longest'. Either way, about 40 minutes later, Smith's aides held a sheet, tablecloth, and quilt around her. After the board quit without voting on the redistricting plan, Smith said: 'What I did behind that tablecloth is my business.'

And a Windsore, Connecticut, man paced back and forth in Lowes Home Improvement store. Store security workers then saw the man urinate a little on the back of another customer's trousers, leaving a wet spot. He walked away and later urinated on the man again, unnoticed. After the third urination, store security asked the man, Stephen T. Harris, to leave. When he did so, they took down his licence plate number and contacted police. 'We sat there looking at the videotape and we'd never seen anything like it', said Detective Jeff Bajek of the Plainville Police Department. Harris admitted to the crime.

Teri Shelton thought her two-year-old son was playing quietly. He was, in her handbag, where he found her minivan keys. Jacob Shelton toddled out to the minivan, started it, and sat in it as it rolled backward down the driveway, across the street, and into the Milwaukee River. Teri, alerted to the problem by her other son, jumped into the river and rescued her son through the rear hatch.
Teri said Jacob is so intelligent that they had to fence in the yard because of his penchant for wandering off. The family had already installed special locks in the house because Jacob could work the deadbolts. She said she can now laugh about the incident, which Jacob summed up for police: 'I drived Mama's van in the river.'

Ohio's Bowling Green State University was ripe pickings for a peeping tom who managed to videotape two women dancing in their underwear. When these room-mates got dressed and moved outside to have more room - they were practising for a sorority event - they found a camcorder by their bedroom window. Watching the other footage on the tape, they recognised the man who scampered away as they left the building. Police have not yet identified the man.

In Port Elizabeth, South Africa, candidate attorney James Riley entered a radio station's wackiness competition. Wearing a stick of deodorant - the 'Give-it-Stick' competition was sponsored by Speed Stick deodorant - taped to his genitals, he sky-dived into the Grahamstown army's Thursday morning parade. As the winner of the competition, he received a Peugot 206. Reilly, 36, explained that his old car was 'old'. He said that 'for three minutes of coldness it was worth it'.

Robbery suspect Denzil Osbourne escaped from a Road Town, British Virgin Islands, police station. He decided to hide in a suitcase in his own closet. To his credit, he had cut an air hole in the side of the suitcase, according to Sergeant Patrick Harewood. Osbourne is again awaiting a court appearance.

In England in May of last year, patrons of Hertford's White Hart pub simulated sex with the male and female inflatable dolls that arrived with a bouncy castle hired by the publican. A female passer-by complained to police. A judge this month was asked to determine whether publican Julian Tamm was party to freedom of expression or an 'indecent public display'. Judge Colin Colston ruled that convicting Tamm would contravene European human rights legislation.

A Union City, Tennessee, woman robbed the First State Bank of Rives and fled into a nearby cornfield. As police searched the cornfield, Paige Morphis went to the courthouse, whwere she paid off $1,000 in bad cheques. Deputies went to Morphis's house, where they arrested her and retrieved about $7,000.

Californian Five-year-old Fifi Janze ate grape and sour-apple sherbet with Pop Rocks candy sprinkles. Mother Chris is suing the Baskin-Robbins ice cream company because Fifi was hospitalised for internal pressure that she claims was caused by the Pop Rocks, carbon-dioxide-containing candies that usually fizz when they hit the tongue. The family's attorney, Barry Balamuth, said: 'She didn't chew it thoroughly. A child doesn't know about Pop Rocks.' A tube was inserted into the girl's stomach to remove the excess gas. Balamuth said the suit was filed because Baskin-Robbins refused to pull the flavour.

A Vancouver man had spent the afternoon of Canada Day drinking. His friends then dared him to hang from the 15th-floor balcony, Detective Scott Driemel said. He said the 113-kilogram man, who was unable to lift himself back into the flat, was in a 'drunken stupor' when he fell to the ground - arousing the interest of those attending a large engagement party in the buildng - despite his friends' efforts to grab him. Driemel said he is unsure whether the two friends or one of the building's residents rang police first.

In Fayetteville, North Carolina, a firefighter decided to drive a six-month-old fire engine around a lowered crossing gate where 'the train never crosses'. The crossing gate was - get this! - lowered because a train was coming. The $350,000 fire engine and train were not in good shape after the incident. Neither was the firefighter, being dead.

The US Internal Revenue Service is giving an $80,000 annual salary to an ex-employee who was recently convicted of wiretapping and mail fraud - he declared false losses to an insurance company. Kenneth Dossey, whose sentence includes in-home detention, has not worked for the IRS for three years. 'These IRS managers who decided not to take any action against Mr. Dossey appear to take the view that the taxpayers' money comes a distant second to other priorities at the IRS', wrote Sen. Charles Grassley in a statement.
Dossey claims the government has tried to ruin him ever since he brought a disability accomodation suit against the IRS (he is legally blind). 'I'm the victim, not the criminal', Dossey said.

The Boston Globe reports on the Arlington, Massachusetts, teenagers whose baby was found in a skip/dumpster after the father's friends told police he had bragged about cramming the baby into a backpack then slamming it against a kerb.
The mother delivered the baby alone after concealing the pregnancy from her family. She then rang the father, ex-boyfriend John Caico, to say 'Your son is here - come and get him', according to Assistant District Attorney Lynn Rooney. He placed the baby in the backpack before crawling out the upstairs window, say authorities. The mother later accompanied him to the skip. The teenagers were recently charged with concealing the death of the infant.

The Aokingahara forest, near Aera at the foot of Japan's Mount Fuji, is a well-known suicide spot. Last year 59 corpses were found there. Residents of Aera have decided to discontinue their searches for bodies, partly because '[w]e have to pay for the bodies to be disposed', according to Takatoshi Kobayashi, mayor of one of three nearby villages. The decision was also taken in hopes that decreased media coverage will keep away potential suicides. A tourism industry employee, producing a brochure, said: 'Nearly every [suicidal person who was intercepted - 70 in the year 2000] says they learned about the area from TV, newspapers or books. By ending the searches, we're throwing back the problem into society's face.'
A local policeman added: 'Besides, we've all got to go on the searches on our days off, so we're all glad they're not going to go on anymore.'

Arnell VanDuyne tied up his adoptive mother Norma Young. He then beat her to death with a baseball bat as six young children watched. The Clovis, New Mexico, 16-year-old then led police on a high-speed chase that ended in Texas. Authorities said the boy was apparently angry at Young for telling him to clean out a dresser drawer in his room and later told him he wasn't doing it correctly.

Two carloads of Seattle police officers exchanged shots - more than 20 rounds in total - while under the mistaken impression that the other car was a stolen patrol car.
A bicycle patrol officer reported seeing a stolen police car earlier. Another car set off in pursuit of the stolen vehicle and but lost it. Another carful of officers spied the first legitimate patrol car and rammed it. No-one was injured in the ensuing gunfire.

Reuters reports on a Quebec City man who was attacked by his pet cat. The animal was subdued by four carloads of police, two ambulances' personnel, and an animal control officer. The cat, whose name means 'Tiny', grew angry when sprayed by water. Owner Gerard Daigle was giving his parrot a shower at the time. Daigle, 80, lost a pint of blood in the attack. There was no information on his wife's injuries.

A man tried to hold up a Eugene, Oregon, adult shop by pointing his finger under his shirt as if it were a gun. When he ordered the Kiss 'N' Tell clerk to give him money, he received laughter in reply. The clerk rang police. A short while later, someone with a police scanner reported seeing someone who matched the would-be robber's description. Patrick Michael Halberg, 18, is being charged.

Wisconsin's David W. Oakley has nine children, by four women. He has at least $25,000 in unpaid child support. The state supreme court ruled this week that a judge was not wrong to bar Oakley from having more children unless he could support them. One of the mothers, carnival worker Lucretia Thompson-Smith said she still is supportive of Oakley; after all, her other children's fathers don't always pay child support. Oakley's current girlfriend, Rachel Ward, said that he is 'a completely different person now' and that Oakley, who was born in prison, is 'more or less used to everybody leaving him. That's why I can understand how he's been leaving the women'.
Ward, whose tubes are tied, said: 'He don't want [children]. He's just a very potent guy.' His ex-wife Jill Cochrane said: 'He keeps his girls pregnant so they're his and no other guys are attracted to them.'

Chinese officials estimate that at least 36 people died in Shanghai when a gantry crane collapsed during installation. Among the dead are Tongji University teachers and engineers who had worked on its design. On the day after a celebration of the crane's installation, the cross-beam was being put in final position when steel cables were accidentally released. The 3,000-tonne beam crushed project engineers and shipyard workers who were standing underneath.

A 15-year-old Hutchins, Texas, girl was locked in her bedroom at night, ostensibly to prevent her from making herself vomit after meals. The girl, who fled to a neighbour's property, was examined at hospital and was determined to have no signs of an eating disorder. Police chief G.E. Griffin said the girl's family belong to Believer's Fellowship, a group who encourage followers to have many children. The girl's mother said she has 12 children.
Last month in this city of 2,000, an eight-year-old girl was found to have been locked in a closet for months. The girl was severely malnourished.

31 July 2001

Reuters reports on a Toronto teenager who failed her driving test. I cannot vouch for the veracity of this, since no names were provided. In an attempt to park at the testing centre when the test was over, she crashed into four cars before the car spun and hit two more cars. One person was injured. The driving instructor had planned to grant the young woman her licence, but he changed his mind.

After last week's urination stories, you may have thought you were safe. You aren't. A 23-year-old man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is accused of urinating into his boss's bottle of Mountain Dew. Authorities said the boss noticed that the drink tasted odd. A store worker told him that he heard someone urinated into the bottle.

In Jacksonville, Florida, an elderly man rang 911 for medical assistance. A fire engine and rescue vehicle were sent out. According to the AP, the man was in the street when the fire engine arrived... and ran over him. Although the truck was moving slowly, the man was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Fire Lieutenant Glenda Hopkins. The man's name was not released.

Adelaide, Australia, environment minister Iain Evans was displeased when he heard that sightseers climbed onto a dead whale that was floating in the ocean and petted the sharks who were feeding on the carcass. 'I am appalled by the bizarre behaviour', he said. One of the people on board the whale was a man carrying a child.
It is against Australian law to come within 100 metres of a live whale, but there are no rules about how close one may come to dead ones. Taking advantage of this fact, tour boat operators ferried people out to see the whale. Evans said: 'It is clear the state government will need to look at changing the law in order to protect people too stupid to protect themselves.'

Edward Ming tried to cash a cheque at an Omaha, Nebraska, bank's drive-through window. The teller's cheque book had disappeared earlier. Bank employees took down Ming's licence number and contacted police while the teller gave him the $180. Ming, who had prior forgery convictions, must not have learned many tricks when he was in prison. Instead of leaving the scene of the crime, he entered the bank to use the loo. Officer Meg Fricke said: 'We had the victim right there. We had the suspect right there [...]. All we had to do was grab him.'
In other bank robbery news, two girls - aged 13 and 10 - tried to rob a Baldwin, Pennsylvania bank. With towels on their heads, they passed a teller a note stating that they had a gun and wanted $2,000. The teller did not give them any money. They initially claimed they had been coerced and that a man was waiting for them in a car. Police chief Chris Kelley said: 'They planned it down to the description of the man.' The girls later admitted they were seeking shopping money.

Nadine Trewin admitted to cooking her family's cat. The Sussex, England, mother was displeased when a flea bit her leg, so she put the feline in the microwave. After under a minute's cooking time, she tipped the animal out the kitchen window. Trewin later buried it in the garden. She confessed two days later to a friend, Stacey Passmore, who reported her to the RSPCA. She was sentenced to two years in a community rehabilitation plan and forbidden from keeping animals for five years.
Trewin told Horsham magistrates court that she drank seven cans of lager and almost two bottles of wine before the incident. She claimed the animal jumped into the microwave, which activated when its door accidentally slammed shut.

Fly up and see my etchings?
Los Angeles International Airport has new floor art. Sandblasted into a granite slab at the new American Airlines terminal are images of leaping naked men. Susan Narduli's etchings, called The Wonders of the Heavens and Flying, ended up covered with brown paper shortly after they were unveiled. The airport have let the art - which shows no genitalia - be unveiled again.

According to the AFP, an Austrian thief was sentenced to nine months in prison after he broke into three cars in the course of one evening in April. His total takings for the evening were a roll of toilet paper, a cassette tape of fairy tales, and a cuddly toy. The Vienna court heard that the 38-year-old roofer, who was new to stealing from cars, commited the crimes after winning a large amount of alcohol in a darts tournament. As to why he was carrying a screwdriver, the man said he often had to break into his house because his wife won't let him in.

According to Mainichi Shimbun, police in Nagano, Japan, arrested Naoki Kato and Rie Kinoshita for fraud after they convinced more than 20 women to pay them to exorcise the 'spirits of their aborted babies'. Police claim the fraud netted the duo approximately 100 million yen. Kato and Kinoshita deny the charges.
The scam came to light when a 25-year-old woman sought help from the 'mediums'. They told her they could free her from the spirit of an aborted baby if she gave her 1.2 million yen, which she did.

A lesson well-taught...
Reuters reports that the Pace University School of Law is being sued for $5 million. The plaintiff is a student. Professor Gary Munneke allegedly pulled her chair away as she started to sit down for a lecture on torts. Munneke's action was supposed to be a demonsration for the lecture. The student, Denise DiFede, charges that the 'outrageous, shocking, and intolerable' action caused her to fall and hurt her back.

Austrian artist Wolfgang Flatz dropped a pyrotechnics-stuffed cow carcass 40 metres from a helicopter as part of a performance in Berlin. Flatz watched from a crane, where he dangled, covered in his own blood. Although Particia Strunz, 13, told a court that seeing a cow explode when hitting the ground could trigger 'spiritual shock', most people were nonplused. Flatz and the crowd were disappointed at the lack of mayhem and protests.
Flatz's previous stunts include being a doormat in front of an art school in Munich and having darts thrown at his naked body.

Manchester, England, bank tellers thought something was odd about the man who walked into the Royal Bank of Scotland wearing a fur coat in the middle of summer. The man ordered his carrier bag filled with money and then left. Police report that things then became interesting. The man boarded a bicycle for his escape. When the dye packet nestled among the 6,000 pounds sterling in the bag exploded, he fell and tried to scoop up the money. A security camera captured his face when his hat fell off and he put it back on and straightened it. Finally, he crashed into a kerb, dropping more of the money.

According to the Washington Post, Kimberly Walton, 38, and Darrell Holliday, 36, left their nine-month-old twins in a hot car in the car park. After police and sheriff's deputies opened the windows to rescue the sweaty children, Walton hurried to the car and explained that she had just been using the loo. In the courthouse.
An officer said: 'I sat with her in court all morning.' Holliday was facing charges that he stole about $100 worth of fish from a supermarket.

At least they were seated in the car... A San Jose, California, woman was sentenced Tuesday for leaving her two children in the boot of her car while she was at work. She Rosemarie Radovan left the children in the car boot as many as 10 times in the course of a year, investigators said they determined. A co-worker described hearing crying when he was going out with Radovan for ice cream. Radovan allegedly turned up the volume on the car's radio.
The case has been cited as evidence that working-class Silicon Valley parents cannot afford child care; however, prosecutors pointed out that Radovan was driving a new car.

When their daughter was raped, John and Narda Goff lobbied and fought to fix a loophole in Ohio's rape laws. Under the old rape statutes, 'rape' required a penis, and the girl's attacker had used his finger. While the couple were campaigning to get the law to define penetration with any object as a component to rape, John Goff was allegedly molesting that same daughter.
The teenager now accuses her parents of rape, under the same law. She claims her parents used a syringe to impregnate her because her multiple-sclerosis-afflicted mother could not give birth. She says: 'I was injected so many times I couldn't count [...] I thought every family does this.' Prosecutors say that paternity tests confirm that John Goff's step-grandson is also his son. The couple have pleaded innocent in what their lawyer has called a family tragedy.

A Denver, North Carolina, man was pulled over for speeding by the highway patrol, whereupon it was noted that he was driving under a revoked licence. Michael Dennis Long was stopped by a deputy a few hours later and arrested for speeding and driving with his licence revoked. An hour after he was released, he was arrested for a seat belt violation, speeding, and driving with his licence revoked. Deputies then discovered that the car he was driving had been reported as stolen. 'This guy is a complete idiot', stated Davidson County Sheriff Gerald Hege.

Three Salt Lake City, Utah, Boy Scouts dug chunks from a set of dinosaur tracks preserved at Red Fleet State Park, which date from 190 million year ago. The boys then threw the rocks into the reservoir. Kay Godfrey, information officer for the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said: 'This reflects a disregard for the principles that Scouting promotes.' The names of the 15-year-old boys were not released. State and local authorities are now determining who has jurisdiction in the case.

In a letter to the Gainesville [Florida] Sun, Ricardo Gill confessed to strangling his cell mate, who was in prison for vehicle theft, with strips torn from a bedsheet. Gill had been convicted for murder. He states in the letter that he was convicted of a crime he didn't commit and that '[h]ad I been given the death sentence for a murder I did not commit, I would have accepted it and had it carried out quickly without any appeals or appellate reviews, but you chose to give me life which I'm adamantly against'. Gill told investigators that beatings by broomstick-wielding prison officers persuaded him to act sooner to end his time in prison.
Gill's other cell mate was moved when Gill threatened to kill someone since he was not given the death penalty the first time round. Gill said one of his defense attorneys told him to kill someone if he didn't like the life sentence.

Brenda J. Hurff says her house caught on fire because of Kellogg's Pop-Tarts. She put a cherry Pop-Tart in the toaster before taking her children to pre-school. She returned to find smoke and firefighters. The $100,000 suit also names the company who manufacture the toaster. The cause of the fire was listed by firefighters as 'unattended food'.
Pop-Tart boxes carry a warning not to 'leave the toaster appliance unattended due to possible risk of fire'. Nonetheless, Kellogg paid $2,400 to an Ohio man who encountered a similar incident in 1995. That man's lawyer was considering calling as a witness humour columnist Dave Barry, who wrote that - curiosity spurred on by the warning - he was able to ignite Pop-Tarts by holding the toaster lever down for about six minutes.

North Carolina's Emmit Scott, 60, rang police. Deputy J.M. Clark said Scott explained that he was assaulted and that someone stole his marijuana plants. Scott explained that a young man had been going into his garden at night and breaking off his plants. Scott said he saw the man in a convenience store and 'told him to stop and if he didn't he was going to get in trouble'. He said the man began to follow him around the store yelling: 'I didn't steal your damn marijuana!' That is when Scott rang the police. He took Clark to his garden and showed him the damage.
Scott explained that he is on dialysis and has been using marijuana and other herbs for pain relief. 'I didn't know it was illegal to grow it in your own garden', he said. He says he should not be charged, since he showed the deputy the 27 plants himself.

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