News and Blues

Your weekly re-cap of weird and funny news from around the nation

Quick Take
Police charged Luke David Payne, 36, with holding up the same Louisville, Ky., doughnut shop twice in one week. The first time Payne wore a mask, police said, but the second time he skipped the mask, and all the employees recognized him as a co-worker. (Louisville’s WAVE-TV)

Curses, Foiled Again
Dean Richard Smith, 27, entered a bank in Treorchy, Wales, holding a breadknife, covering his face and wearing socks over his shoes. When he demanded money, teller Catherine Stockton stood behind her glass partition and pressed the alarm. Meanwhile, a gentleman in his 70s standing next to Smith offered him 20 pounds ($33) to leave. Smith declined the offer but left anyway, empty-handed, according to prosecutor Rachel Knight, upon hearing that bank managers were preparing to lock the doors. “After the incident, they closed the bank and made a cup of tea for the elderly gentleman,” Knight said after Smith pleaded guilty, adding that since the incident Stockton “has been very wary about people who look like him.” (Wales Online)

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Mixed Message
Hours after Allegheny County, Pa., announced that wireless users could start texting emergency dispatchers instead of calling, the 911 center received a text message about a drunk driver from a sender. The message indicated the sender was texting while driving, which county official Amie Downs pointed out is illegal, adding, “This is one that probably should have been better served by a phone call.” (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Flatware Follies
Someone broke into the tomb of President James A. Garfield and stole 13 commemorative spoons from a display case, leaving other memorabilia and cash in a donation box. Katharine Goss, president and chief executive of Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery, which houses Garfield’s tomb, noted that the spoons were “flimsy little things” with practically no monetary value and “would be hard to sell in a historical auction because everyone would wonder where they came from.” (The Washington Post)

Suzi LeVine, 44, became the first U.S. ambassador to be sworn in on an e-reader. The new diplomatic representative to Switzerland and Liechtenstein took the oath of office by placing her hand on a Kindle Touch whose screen displayed a digital copy of the Constitution. Earlier this year, New York’s Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano was sworn in for his second term by taking the oath of office on a digital Bible when a printed copy could not be located. Later, four New Jersey firefighters were sworn in by simultaneously placing their hands on an iPad with the Bible app open. (The Washington Post)

Pity the 1 Percent
After “affluenza” victim Ethan Couch, 17, escaped jail time for killing four people and seriously injuring two others while driving drunk in a 2013 crash in Fort Worth, Texas, his parents also caught a break. The state hospital where Couch is undergoing rehab treatment as part of his sentence costs $715 per day. But the facility used a sliding scale to determine that millionaires Fred and Tonya Couch need pay only $1,170 per month, leaving Texas taxpayers to pony up the balance. (Dallas-Fort Worth’s KDFW-TV)

Way Too Soon
British police arrested political candidate Paul Weston “on suspicion of religious/racial harassment” after he quoted former Prime Minister Winston Churchill during a speech in Hampshire. Weston cited a passage from Churchill’s 1899 book The River War, which included his views on Islam: “No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.” After ignoring an order to disperse “following complaints from members of the public,” Weston was questioned for about 40 minutes before being searched and taken into custody.” (Western Center for Journalism)

Fore, Fire
Titanium-coated golf clubs used to hit balls out of the rough caused at least two fires in Southern California, including one that burned 25 acres, according to scientists at the University of California Irvine. Hoping to confirm the suspicions of fire investigators, the researchers re-created course conditions on the days of the fires. They found that clubs containing titanium can, if they strike a rock, produce sparks of up to 3,000 degrees that will burn for more than a second. That’s “plenty of time” to ignite nearby dry vegetation, according to researcher James Earthman. Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi advised golfers using titanium clubs who hit into rocks and dry vegetation to “improve their lie,” even if it means taking a penalty stroke. (Associated Press)

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Real Reality
Police shot and killed a crew member of the television show Cops while trying to stop a robbery at a Wendy’s restaurant in Omaha, Neb. Police gunfire struck the suspect, Cortez Washington, 32, but he fled the restaurant and officers continued firing, killing the suspect and Bryce Dion, 38, described by his production company as “a long-term member of the Cops team.” (Associated Press)

Unclear on the Concept
Carlos Bueno Mir, 49, called 911 in West Palm Beach, Fla., but refused to state the nature of his emergency. Police who responded said he told them that he called because his wife had “thrown out his beer.” After being warned not to call unless he had a real emergency, Bueno Mir proceeded to phone 911 six more times in the next four hours to complain about his wife touching his beer. Police finally arrested him. (West Palm Beach’s WPBF-TV)

Relative Success
Although the U.S. Supreme Court struck down mandatory, random drug testing in public schools, the Massachusetts-based medical company Psychemedics inked a deal for mandatory drug testing of 2,820 students at three private schools in northeast Ohio by selling the school testing kits for $40 to $50 per student. One of the schools is Cleveland’s St. Edward High School, run by James Kubacki. His brother, Raymond Kubacki, heads Psychemedics. (Cleveland Scene)

Can Anything Else Go Wrong?
After recalling 2.6 million of its most popular vehicles to replace a defective switch linked to 13 deaths, General Motors apologized to families of the accident victims for sending recall notices to have the defective switches replaced after their deaths. What’s more, federal regulators said they believe GM’s death toll is too low. Federal crash data reveal that at least 74 people died in GM cars in accidents similar to those with defective switches. (Reuters)

Whistle a Happy Tune
Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order, the military junta that took charge on May 22, embarked on a campaign to restore happiness by cleaning litter from the site of anti-coup demonstrations, holding free band concerts, and offering free haircuts and dessert. “Thai people, like me, have probably not been happy for nine years,” Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief who led the coup, said in a national address, “but since May 22, there is happiness.” NCPO official Col. Winthai Suwaree added that the military’s continuing crackdown on dissidents is necessary because “they affect the NCPO’s mission to return happiness to the country.” (Thailand’s Samui Times)

Makin’ Bacon
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is funding a study to see if sodium nitrate, the preservative used to cure bacon, can also kill wild hogs. The estimated 5 million descendants of escaped domestic pigs and imported Eurasian boars are “wildly prolific,” the USDA says, and cause about $800 million in damage a year to farms nationwide. Testing the feasibility of poisoning feral swine with sodium nitrate is part of the department’s $20 million program to control the rampant population. (Associated Press)

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Look Out Below
Operator error and mechanical failure have caused at least 49 large military drones to crash during test or training flights near domestic bases since 2001. Under orders from Congress, the Federal Aviation Administration is preparing to allow civilian drone flights and predicts that as many as 7,500 small commercial drones could be flying in U.S. airspace by 2018. (The Washington Post)

Gray Power
When Russell Cooper, 77, was unable to withdraw $130 at a bank in Boynton Beach, Fla., because a “consistent lack of funds” had caused the bank to close his account, police said Cooper became “increasingly agitated” and used his walker to shuffle over to the branch manager’s desk. He pulled out a pocketknife and demanded to be escorted to a teller. After getting his money, Cooper told the manager he was taking him hostage and forced him outside. By now, police had arrived, but Cooper refused to surrender and had to be subdued with a Taser. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

News and Blues is compiled from the nation’s press. To contribute, submit original clippings, citing date and source, to Roland Sweet in care of the Syracuse New Times.

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