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 V.14 No.16 | April 21 - 27, 2005 

Odds & Ends

Scott Rickson

Dateline: Australia—Despite recent crackdowns on passengers and the items that they are allowed to carry on to planes, airport security continues to suffer setbacks. Take for example, the story of David Cox, who was waiting inside the terminal at Sydney Airport last week. He happened to glance outside the window, and what should he see but a baggage handler wandering around the runway wearing the camel costume that he had packed in his luggage. On Friday, Qantas Airways Ltd. suspended the handler in question after a video revealed the unnamed man opening the passenger's bag, donning the camel's head and wandering around the airport tarmac. According to Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon, the baggage handler could be fired pending further investigation. “We are acutely aware of heightened community concerns around security of baggage,” Dixon said in a statement. “What has happened is completely unacceptable and is unacceptable to the vast majority of decent, hardworking Qantas employees.”

Dateline: South Africa—Zookeepers at the Bloemfontein Zoo in Johannesburg have a smoking monkey on their hands and they're trying to help him, well, get that monkey off his back. Charlie, an adult male chimp, has been picking up cigarettes thrown at him by visitors and smoking them. “Baby chimps pick up habits by mimicking adults and we think he started mimicking smokers at his enclosure which probably led to smokers throwing him cigarettes,” spokesman Daryl Barnes told the SAPA news agency. Barnes said Charlie was already showing signs of a true nicotine addict. “He even acts like a naughty schoolboy by hiding the cigarette when staff approach the area,” Barnes noted. Zoo officials are looking at ways to discourage visitors from providing Charlie with cigarettes and other treats.

Dateline: England—Police at an inquest into the unusual death of a young mother said that the fatal series of defects leading to the woman's death were “one of the strangest set of circumstances imaginable.” Late last year, 36-year-old Alison Taylor of Camperdown, North Tyneside, dropped her 12-year-old son off at Seaton Burn Community College. After the drop off, her Peugeot 405 wouldn't start, so she got out and banged the engine with a hammer. Sure enough, the pounding triggered the broken starter motor and, since the keys were in the ignition, the engine started. The handbreak should have stopped the car from lurching forward, but it too was broken. Even so, the momentum of the car shouldn't have been enough to seriously injure Taylor. Unfortunately, she was knocked off balance and tried to steady herself by grabbing hold of the car. She grabbed hold of the throttle cable, causing the car to speed over her. Taylor's elderly mother witnessed the entire incident. The North Tyneside Coroner's Court returned a verdict of accident.

Dateline: Alaska—Last week, an unnamed man drove his car into a wall at the Division of Motor Vehicles in Anchorage. He then walked inside the building and renewed his driver's license. Fortunately, no one was injured as the man rolled over the sidewalk and plowed into the side wall of the building. No one inside the building noticed the accident and, by the time police arrived, the man had paid $20 and renewed his license. Police believe the man was driving while impaired on medication and charged him with driving under the influence.

Dateline: Louisiana—A man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a handkerchief over his face entered an all-night diner in Chalmette. He brandished what appeared to be a gun and told employees that it was a robbery. When a female employee recognized the robber as 22-year-old Chad Caron and called him by his first name, the alleged robber removed his disguise and said he was only joking. He said the gun was only a toy and then sat down and talked to the employee for a while, a St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's report said. None of the employees contacted the Sheriff's Office, even though they later learned that the restaurant's phone lines had been severed. A customer standing outside saw the “joke robbery,” however, and told the restaurant's owners about it. They then alerted authorities, who were highly suspicious of Caron's explanation and booked him with attempted robbery. Caron gave sheriff's detectives a statement in which he said he “only did this as a joke and didn't mean to scare anyone.” According to the sheriff's report, Caron was unable to produce the gun he said was a toy. He is now being held in the parish county jail in lieu of $50,000 bond.

Dateline: Texas—Some overenthuseastic Mad Max fans were arrested after “recreating” a scene from the famous sci-fi series. Eleven fans dressed in leather outfits and armed with fake machine guns were arrested after they surrounded a tanker truck while making their way to a movie marathon in a theatrical convoy. As the group headed to San Antonio last Saturday, police received several calls from drivers who reported a “militia” surrounding a tanker truck. Police charged nine people with obstruction of a highway and two others with possession of prohibited knives in addition to the obstruction charge. One of the organizers, Chris Fenner, called the arrests unfair. He told reporters he could not understand how anyone could have confused the costumed crew recreating a scene from the post-apocalyptic film Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior with a real threat. “I honestly don't know how that could be,” said Fenner, “because Road Warrior was so over the top.” The movie marathon was canceled after the arrests.

Compiled by Devin D. O'Leary. E-mail your weird news to devin@alibi.com.


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