Democracy Follies 

Curses, Foiled Again

Los Angeles police broke up a sophisticated marijuana-growing operation they found 25 feet from the back door of the police station. Officers noticed the strong smell of pot coming from the building and notified the narcotics squad, which investigated. Officer Karen Raynor told KTTV News that the three suspects had “gone to great lengths to filter the air coming out of every hole that might leak to the outside” and plugged all places where the smell might have been detected with liquid caulking. “But it was not enough,” Raynor noted. “Their luck ran out.”

Police responding to a bank robbery in St. Petersburg, Fla., said suspect Thomas John Castro, 54, was making his getaway on a city bus when a dye pack hidden with the stolen money exploded on him. Witnesses said he hastily hopped off the bus and fled on foot. The St. Petersburg Times reported that a tip led police to a motel room, where Castro answered the door holding a bag of crack cocaine.

Democracy Follies

Edward Natapei, the prime minister of the Pacific nation of Vanuatu, lost his job and his seat in parliament when he left the country on official business but forgot to send a note explaining his absence to the speaker of the house. “It was a standing order,” an official at the speaker’s office told Britain’s The Times. “If you miss three consecutive meetings, your seat will be declared vacant.” As a result of his oversight, Natapei, a career politician and president of the socialist Anglophone Vanua’aku Pati party, became the island nation’s shortest serving prime minister, leaving office after 14 months.

Holy Prevention

Italian inventor Luciano Marabese, determined to keep religious tradition alive despite the swine flu epidemic, unveiled an electronic holy water dispenser. “After all the news that some churches, like Milan’s cathedral, were suspending the use of holy water fonts as a measure against swine flu, demands for my invention shot to the stars,” Marabese told Reuters. “I have received orders from all over the world.” The terra cotta dispenser, introduced in the town of Fornaci di Briosco, works like an automatic soap dispenser in public restrooms; churchgoers wave their hands under a sensor, and the machine spurts out sanctified water.

Improbable Causes

David Kelbaugh, 23, rammed his car into a hot dog stand in Cary, N.C., after the vendor refused his demand to sell him a hot dog and drink for $1.

    Claudia De La Rosa notified Miami International Airport that a bomb was aboard an American Airlines flight to Honduras, according to investigators, so that her boss, who was running late, wouldn’t miss his flight.

    A fire that gutted the garage of a home in Damonte Ranch, Nev., destroying two vehicles and most of the roof and attic area, started, investigators told the Reno Gazette-Journal, while an occupant of the house was examining a flare gun to see if it was loaded. It was and discharged, igniting the fire.

Don’t Touch

A civilian passenger riding in the back seat of a South African air force jet accidentally ejected himself after grabbing the blackand-yellow striped handle between his legs. The rocket-powered seat smashed through the canopy and blasted 300 feet into the sky. The Guardian reported the passenger was recovered by helicopter unharmed and returned to Langebaanweg air force base. The aircraft, piloted by a member of South Africa’s air force aerobatics squad, landed safely.

When Guns Are Outlawed

While spending Thanksgiving with their parents in Algoa, Texas, a 26-year-old man who was arguing with his 23-yearold sister smacked her in the face with a piece of hot pecan pie. Galveston County sheriff’s Maj. Ray Tuttoilmondo told the Houston Chronicle the sister required treatment for first- and second-degree burns to her face and neck.

Compiled from the nation’s press by Roland Sweet. Authentication on demand.

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