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Syndicated Columns

Newsquirks

By Roland Sweet
Posted // June 11,2007 -

Austrian authorities arrested a 34-year-old man who tried to rob a bank in Poggersdorf, only to discover that it wasn’t a bank but a municipal building. The robber believed it was a bank because he saw an automatic teller machine in the lobby, but after a woman whom he reportedly threatened with an air gun pointed out his mistake, he fled, according to Hermann Klammer of the provincial police. Officers quickly captured the unidentified man, who confessed.



Border Follies



Tired of illegal aliens slashing their fences trying to skirt Border Patrol checkpoints, some Texas ranchers have installed ladders along the fences to help the migrants and save costly repairs to the fences. Many immigrants aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity, however. “They ignore it a lot,” said rancher Paul Johnson, who protects his 2,700-acre exotic-game ranch with about 10 miles of high-wire fence. “They’re afraid that they’re monitored by the Border Patrol.” Rancher Michael Vickers, who believes that ladders encourage trespassing, has rigged his fence with 220 volts of electricity. “I’ve had a dose of it myself,” he said. “It’s not fun.?Life in the Other People’s Republic



Tirana, Albania’s capital, is running out of graves since officials shut down one of the city’s two cemeteries because of a dispute with the national government. The Socialists, who run the city, accused the government, run by the Democratic Party, of refusing to expropriate nearby land that would add space for two years’ worth of graves. Besides warning that the city’s other cemetery has only enough room to bury bodies for one more week, officials refuse to issue birth and death certificates because the government hasn’t given the city the proper forms. “Albanians nowadays are facing a wondrous dilemma,” Elton Metaj, editor of the newspaper Korrieri, commented. “They can’t prove they’re alive, and they don’t dare die.?



• Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha named former U.S. Homeland Security boss Tom “Duct Tape” Ridge as his “super-envoy” to help reform national security and the fight against organized crime and corruption so NATO will admit what is regarded as Europe’s poorest country. Berisha fell out of favor for not listening to United States advice in a 1997 pyramid scheme that toppled his government, bringing anarchy. According to Reuters news agency, “he has been courting the United States assiduously since regaining office last year” by hiring a U.S. firm to orchestrate his election. After Berisha hailed him as a “success story,” Ridge said he found Berisha “very passionate and compelling,” adding that the government was “passionately committed” to reform. Terms were not disclosed, but a government official said Ridge will visit Albania every two months and is supposed to use his connections to make the United States aware of the former antisocial socialist state’s efforts.



Avoirdupois Follies



Overweight Americans are being short-changed on medical exams because diagnostic equipment can’t accommodate them, according to a study. It found that the number of inconclusive tests due to “patient size” has doubled in the past 15 years, from 10 percent to 20 percent. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Emory University said abdominal ultrasounds posed the greatest challenge, followed by chest X-rays, abdominal computerized tomography (CT), abdominal X-rays, chest CT and general MRI.



Slightest Provocation



Police in Decatur, Ala., arrested four neighbors after a daylong argument escalated into a fight that sent three of them to the hospital. The cause, according to police Lt. Chris Mathews, was a cigarette butt. Mathews said that a guest visiting Bobby Joe Ray, 42, tossed the butt near a fence belonging to Ray’s neighbor, Michael Alan Bradford, 24. Bradford shouted his objection, and the two argued about the butt all day. Eventually, Ray’s sister, Shirley Lynn Ray White, 32, who lives across the street, tangled with Bradford’s wife, Heather Mills Bradford, 27, and the men joined in. “It’s sad that people were injured over a cigarette butt,” Mathews said.



Petrified Balls



German police arrested two men, ages 26 and 29, who they said filled soccer balls with cement, then chained them to lampposts and trees around Berlin, along with a spray-painted sign: “Can you kick it?” At least two people injured themselves. After identifying the men, investigators found a workshop in their apartment where they made the balls.



Science to the Rescue



After city officials in Louisville, Ky., found that the fountains in Waterfront Park had unhealthy levels of bacteria from homeless people bathing in them and children wading in them with dirty diapers, they posted warning signs. People ignored them. Then David Karem, executive director of the Waterfront Development Corp., ordered new signs that warned, “Danger! Water Contains High Levels of Hydrogen. Keep out.” Bacteria levels dropped to safe levels as people avoided the fountains. Karem told the Louisville Courier-Journal that he was counting on people not realizing that two-thirds of all water is hydrogen atoms and associating the warning with the hydrogen bomb. The paper accused Karem of treating “Louisvillians as fools.?



Vehicular Follies



A month after Israeli police began an around-the-clock surveillance of a suspected criminal, an officer following the suspect’s car in Ashkelon fell asleep at the wheel and accidentally crashed into the vehicle he was tailing.

 
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