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Newsquirks

By Roland Sweet
Posted // October 24,2007 - Curses, Foiled Again
Two men broke into a commercial building in Antioch, Calif., to steal copper wire, only to find themselves in the middle of a police training exercise. While one officer taking part hid in the 40,000-square-foot building, another officer outside announced that a dog was about to be released and anyone inside should come out or risk being bitten. James Ayers, 26, and Frederick Guilliee, 38, assumed the warning was directed at them. Ayers surrendered, and the officers nabbed Guilliee hiding inside.

1,001st Place to See Before You Die
Officials at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport reported travelers have been flocking to the bathroom stall made famous by Sen. Larry “Wide Stance” Craig. “It’s become a tourist attraction,” airport information specialist Karen Evans acknowledged. “People are taking pictures.”
Meanwhile, hoping to discourage further encounters at what had been a popular site for sex with strangers before the Idaho Republican’s sex-sting arrest and guilty plea, airport officials announced they would add new stall dividers that drop practically all the way to the floor to prevent men from ducking their heads under the dividers of adjoining stalls.

Naming Rights
The Vatican invited devotees of Pope John Paul II to log on to its Website and offer money and prayers to support the campaign for sainthood for the late pontiff. Bloomberg News reported the devout could surf the site in six languages, send e-mails and even receive fragments of John Paul’s white cassock. “The aim of the Website is to give everyone a chance to take part in the process,” said Stefano Chiodo, who is in charge of the site. “It’s a way of reaching out.”

Chiodo noted the site averages 1,200 donations a day, mostly from the United States. Browsers can click to see the pontiff’s tomb via live 24-hour webcam and will soon be able to view an online comic strip chronicling John Paul’s life.

Misters of the Week
Dr. Rose Cecile was puzzled by the case of a 53-year-old Colorado furniture salesman with a serious lung condition, until she learned that he had eaten microwave popcorn at least twice a day for more than 10 years and liked to break open the bag of just-popped corn to savor the aroma. As a result, he had contracted bronchiolitis obliterans, also called “popcorn workers’ lung.” Cecile told The New York Times that when she asked if he was around popcorn a lot, “his jaw dropped, and he said, ‘How could you possibly know that about me? I am Mr. Popcorn.’”

• Organizers of the Ivory Coast’s first “Punctuality Night,” aimed at improving productivity by combating traditional tardiness in the workplace, awarded first prize, a $60,000 villa, to Narcisse Aka, 40. The legal adviser said he is so consistently punctual that his colleagues “call me Mr. White Man’s Time.”

It’s the Thoughtlessness That Counts
After U.S. troops in Afghanistan distributed soccer balls to Afghan children in Khost province, about 100 people protested, condemning the balls as blasphemous. Muslim clerics noted the balls showed the Saudi Arabian flag, which features the Koranic declaration of faith and the name Allah. “To have a verse of the Koran on something you kick with your foot would be an insult in any Muslim country in the world,” Afghan Member of Parliament Mirwais Yasini said.

Infrequent Fliers
When Mandy Bailey of Queen Creek, Ariz., tried to buy tickets on Delta Air Lines to fly her 1-year-old conjoined twin daughters to a family get-together in Maryland, she told The Arizona Republic the airline required her to buy an extra seat for the twins. They are joined at the chest and share a heart but have their own lungs, so, according to Federal Aviation Administration rules, both would need access to an oxygen mask in case of an emergency.

Dagger Types
While performing Scenes from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in Aspen, Colo., the actor playing Brutus delivered the fatal blow to Caesar but then announced, “I seem to have stabbed myself.” Actor-director Kent Hudson Reed required stitches, and the performance was canceled. He said the actors used real knives only because the scene was set up so none of the performers were close enough to hurt each other. “But,” he added, “I hadn’t thought an actor might stab himself.”

• A British clothing company started charging $270 to line children’s blazers and jumpers with Kevlar to make them knife resistant. Minister of Children, Schools and Families Jim Knight accused the company, Bladerunner of Romford in east London, of “scaremongering to sell its products,” but Bladerunner official Adrian Davis said it was responding to consumer demand. It began offering the modifications after seven teenagers were stabbed in London this year because “a few parents asked us if we could alter school uniforms to make them stab proof.”

Forget the Eaves Troughs
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed a building whose walls are made of water. Although it has a solid roof, the interactive Digital Water Pavilion, to be unveiled at Spain’s International Expo Zaragoza 2008, will use 6,000 valves spurting water to make liquid curtains that expand when people enter a room and contract as they leave. Instead of traditional doors at fixed locations, it will use sensors to detect the approach of people and, according to William J. Mitchell, head of MIT’s Design Laboratory, “like the Red Sea for Moses, open up to allow passage through any point.”

Compiled from the nation’s press by Roland Sweet. Submit items, citing date and source, to P.O. Box 8130, Alexandria VA 22306
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