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Closet King

After going AWOL from his Army unit at Fort Knox, Ky., Jeffrey Scott Martin, 26, spent three weeks living in a 15-year-old girl's bedroom closet in Mount Vernon, Ohio. The girl's mother found out while putting away some sweaters when she spotted blankets, a pillow and dishes and confronted the daughter, who said she met Martin on the Internet seven months earlier. Prosecutor John Baker said Martin avoided detection by staying in the closet when the girl's mother was at home but had the run of the house when she went to work. "You would think that most people would discover this sometime before this," Baker said. "But how often does a parent check a child's closet?"


Biting the Hand That Feeds

Clint Hallam, the New Zealand man who underwent the world's first hand transplant in 1998 after a chain-saw accident, now insists he wants the limb amputated. Explaining the new hand has not lived up to his expectations, Hallam told the London Times, "I've become mentally detached from it."


Environmental Law and Order

A Brazilian drug dealer hid 11 pounds of cocaine in a pile of logs in his home outside Sao Paulo but was arrested anyway when environmental police investigating illegal trade in palm hearts showed up to search the place. They observed the woodpile was palm heart logs and, while confiscating the logs, discovered the drugs.

The German ambassador to Macedonia and his wife were caught illegally cutting branches from a protected species of fir to use for Christmas decorations, according to an Environment Ministry official. A German Foreign Ministry spokesperson explained Ambassador Werner Burkat was taking only a few branches for wreaths, but forest ecologist Ljupco Stojanovski insisted Burkat used an ax to destroy almost the whole tree. Germany is one of the largest donors to environmental projects in Macedonia.


Feast or Famine

Rice farmers in Vietnam's Mekong Delta missed out on last year's popular rat dinners because floods virtually wiped out the rodents. Officials began promoting the consumption of rat meat several years ago as a way to alleviate crop destruction caused by the animals. As a result, it became a common source of protein in the region -- until last year, when major floods killed almost all the rats, making the meat unobtainable at any price.


Candid Camera

Police investigating thefts from a storeroom at a shopping mall in Anderson, S.C., set up a video camera. While reviewing one of the surveillance tapes, they spotted Thomas Pearson, 37, who worked as a mall Santa Claus, receiving oral sex from a 16-year-old girl.

Northwest Airlines suspended three baggage handlers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after news footage shot by WSTP-TV showed the three taking packages off a plane and treating them like basketballs. The camera crew, which was at the airport to cover an unrelated story, taped the workers slamming some packages into a nearby bin and tossing others over their heads, behind their backs and high into the air, sometimes missing the bin.

After John Robert Broos Jr., 57, told police two men beat and robbed him outside a casino in Turtle Lake, Wis., the officers decided to check the casino's surveillance tapes to see if they could identify the attackers. Instead, they said the tape showed Broos banging his head against a light pole, rubbing dirt on his face, walking back to his pickup, looking in the driver's side mirror, returning to the same light pole and striking his head against the pole three or four more times. He then applied more gravel and dirt to his face, looked at his face in the mirror and went to the casino to report the robbery. Barron County prosecutor Ruth Bachman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Broos apparently concocted the robbery story to cover up his gambling losses.


Fruits and Nuts of Research

Hazelnuts could power fuel-cell cars of the future, according to Murat Dogru of England's University of Newcastle. He and his colleagues discovered that hydrogen, which is used to generate an electric current for motors in electric and electric-gasoline hybrid vehicles, makes up 15 percent of the combustion gases recovered from burned hazelnut shells. Dogru pointed out that Turkey, the world's biggest producer of hazelnuts, burns 250,000 tons of shells a year, which could supply enough hydrogen for 1,000 prototype hydrogen-fueled BMWs to travel 20,190 miles each.

Hazelnuts also are a promising new source of the anti-cancer drug taxol, which was first isolated from the Pacific yew tree. The number of yews has dwindled, however, leading researcher Angela Hoffman of the University of Portland, Ore., to discover the compound not only in hazelnuts, but also in a harmless fungus that grows on the hazelnut.


Matter of Inches

The Bristol Township, Pa., council notified Madison Retail Properties of Philadelphia that the new CVS drug store it built in Levittown would have to be moved because measurements showed it was 6 feet off the approved site plan.

After the planners of the Grand Resort Hotel in Steamboat Springs, Colo., spent $85 million to build the upscale ski resort, they discovered the clearance in the underground parking lot measures only 6 feet, 8 inches. That's low enough to keep out many sport utility vehicles, which constitute a third of vehicles traveling to ski areas -- and that's without skis on the roof rack.


Curses, Foiled Again

Polic in Albuquerque, N.M., arrested Ryan Sommers, 20, and John Langbehn, 19, for breaking into a garage and taking a chain saw, electric sander and toolbox. The items and the garage belonged to Police Chief Jerry Galvin.


Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Eight Iowa farmers taught themselves to perform various square-dancing routines using their tractors. Since the farmers all are males and square-dancing is for couples, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that four of the dancers wear calico skirts, wigs and white gloves to avoid the appearance of having a same-sex dance partner.


We Are Not Amused

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II banned royal servants from carrying cell phones after the phones, some programmed with tunes from popular television shows, interrupted several family meals and formal dinners.


Yikes!

The Times-Picayune reported that five New Orleans Police Department narcotics officers were under investigation after being accused of using pliers to conduct an anal search of a drug suspect.

Compiled from the nation's press by Roland Sweet. Send original clippings, citing source and date, to P.O. Box 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

  • All the strange news that's fit to print.

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