News Quirks | Mating Habits 

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Curses, Foiled Again
nA bank robber who had a 10-minute head start on sheriff’s deputies on Merritt Island, Fla., was arrested only a block away, with the stolen cash concealed in his prosthetic leg. Paraplegic Christopher Reed made his getaway on a motorized wheelchair, according to Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Vic DeSantis, who observed, “He probably miscalculated his ability to flee the scene.”

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Mating Habits
nTaichi Takashita posted an online petition seeking a million signatures to persuade the Japanese government to allow marriages between humans and cartoon characters. “I am no longer interested in three dimensions,” he wrote. “I would even like to become a resident of the two-dimensional world.” Reuters reported he gathered more than 1,000 signatures in the first week.

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• A 43-year-old Japanese woman was arrested after she killed her online husband’s digital persona. Police in northern Sapporo said the woman was upset after the online couple’s sudden divorce in the interactive game Maple Story. Players manipulate digital images, called “avatars,” that represent themselves while engaging in relationships and social activities and battling monsters and other obstacles. The woman is charged with illegally accessing a computer and killing the character created by a 33-year-old office worker, who complained to police after he discovered that his online avatar was dead.

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Amy Taylor, 28, filed for divorce after she caught her husband cheating in Second Life, an online community where players create avatars and transport themselves into virtual worlds. “I caught him cuddling a woman on the sofa in the game,” Taylor told England’s South West News Service. Taylor married Dave Pollard, 40, after the pair met in an online chat room in 2003. She said the first sign that their marriage was in trouble occurred in 2007, when she caught her husband’s avatar having cyber sex with a virtual prostitute.

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People become emotionally invested in their virtual identities, according to Ellen Helsper, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, who has studied the impact of the Internet on relationships. “For a while, there was this impression that as long as it’s online, it doesn’t matter,” she told the Associated Press. “But research has shown it’s not a separate world.” She added that infidelity was “just as painful, whether it’s electronic or physical.”

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Wrong Arm of the Law
nPolice responding to an alarm at a bank in Somerset County, N.J., said they saw at least one person through the windows of the bank, which had its blinds drawn. The Star-Ledger
reported they summoned a SWAT team, which sealed off the area to traffic and evacuated residents in three nearby apartment buildings, then used bullhorns to try to make contact with whoever might be inside the bank. After being kept at bay for 90 minutes without a response, the SWAT team entered the bank and discovered the person seen inside was actually a full-size cardboard figure.

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Vehicular Gratification
nAfter Scottish police stopped a vehicle being driven “erratically” near a Clydesbank high school, Constable Christopher Holmes said driver Guy Milford, 34, had “both hands on his lap, which was unusual, but more unusual was I could see lots of red and green wires poking through his hand,” and “his trousers had been pulled down around his hips. Closer inspection revealed a homemade masturbation device attached to the car’s cigarette lighter.

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Mad Men
nThe Albuquerque Police Department began recruiting snitches by placing a want ad in the alternative newspaper the Alibi offering part-time work for “people who hang out with crooks.” Promising $50 for tips leading to the arrest of drug dealers and $700 for a murder suspect, the ad read, “Make some extra cash! Drug use and criminal record OK.” Police Capt. Joe Hudson told KOB-TV the department received more than 30 responses in two days.

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After school officials in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., cut the printing budget for tests and quizzes, calculus teacher Tom Farber began selling ads on tests to make up the shortfall. His customers pay $10 for an ad on a quiz, $20 to be on a chapter test and $30 for a spot on the semester final, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, which reported not all of the commercial messages are from businesses. Some are inspirational quotations. The notices appear only on the first page of an exam.

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Buggy Love
nPolice in LaGrange County, Ind., charged Ryan Bailey, 32, with abducting and sexually assaulting a 29-year-old Amish man. The victim told investigators that Bailey said he had been looking for an Amish girl but couldn’t find one, so the man would have to do.

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Support the Troops (Burp)
nU.S. soldiers serving in Iraq are anything but underfed, thanks to well-stocked mess halls that serve barbecue ribs, fried chicken, rib-eye steak, lobster tails, crab legs, roast turkey, stir-fry, cheeseburgers, “freedom” fries, breaded shrimp and an array of other feast treats, topped off by calorie-rich desserts. The Chicago Tribune reported that 150,000 troops in Iraq live on large bases, where combat rations have given way to smorgasbords. “You have to have an iron discipline,” Sgt. Robert Carmical of Contingency Operating Base Speicher told the paper. “A lot of people turn to food for comfort, and the opportunity is there.”

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

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