Mar 8 - 14, 2007 
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Odds & Ends

By Devin D. O’Leary

Dateline: Japan--Officials at the Tama Zoo in Tokyo recently decided to try out a live safety drill, but the ridiculous scenario ended up leaving dozens of schoolchildren in tears. The idea was to test the readiness of zoo staff in the event of a dangerous animal escape. The staff was taking part in a make-believe scenario in which a strong wind blows a tree over in the orangutan enclosure providing one of the occupants with a ramp to escape over the perimeter fence. The creature in this particular instance was played by a zoo employee in an oversized orange orangutan costume. Despite the fake ape’s cartoonish appearance, the acting was apparently convincing enough to frighten a school party, which happened to be inside the zoo at the time. After racing around the grounds, the faux-furred “orangutan” seized a member of the staff before meeting his match in a zookeeper armed with a tranquilizer gun. Unfortunately, this King Kong-like finale was greeted with hysteria among the young crowd who, as they watched the drama unfold, were completely convinced of the animal’s “demise.” It took some time for staff to circulate and reassure the audience that the horror had all been a fantasy.

Dateline: Italy--Olga Mauriello, 74, got an unpleasant surprise when she bought a sack of potatoes at a market near Naples and discovered one of them was a leftover World War II grenade. Mauriello dumped the potatoes in a vat of water and had just begun peeling them when she found the explosive, covered in dirt. Alarmed, the woman summoned neighbors, who called the local police. Officers detonated the aged explosive in a park last Wednesday. The grenade is believed to have traveled with the potatoes from France, the ANSA news agency reported.

Dateline: Indiana--A 21-year-old man was arrested last Monday after he tried to cash a check for $50,000 from God at the Chase Bank in Hobart. Police were called to the bank after Russell gave cashiers an invalid Bank One check with no imprint signed, “King Savior, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Servant.” Kevin Russell was charged with one count of attempted check fraud and one count intimidation, both felonies, and one count resisting law enforcement, a misdemeanor. According to police, Russell had several other checks with him that were signed the same way but made out for different dollar amounts, including one for $100,000. “I’ve heard about God giving out eternal life, but this is the first time I’ve heard of him giving out cash.” Hobart police Detective Jeff White told reporters.

Dateline: Texas--NBC 5 in Dallas reported that a 60-year-old woman turned the tables on a 19-year-old carjacker and shot him with his own gun last Tuesday night. Police said the shooting happened just before 8 p.m. Tuesday at an apartment complex in the northern Dallas suburb. The woman said an armed man approached her in the parking lot, demanded her car and fired a warning shot into the air. The woman struggled with her attacker and managed to take away his weapon. “During that scuffle, she ended up with the gun and the suspect was shot once in the stomach. He was able to get up, get his gun back from the victim and he took off running,” said Sgt. Gina McFarlin of the Frisco Police Department. The man then fled to an apartment complex across the street, where he was later found hiding. Police said the carjacker was transported to Parkland Hospital in Dallas where he was listed in critical condition.

Dateline: California--The Oakland suburb of Walnut Creek renamed its town Easter Bunny the “Spring Bunny” without contention in 2003. TV news outlets finally jumped on the controversial topic last Thursday--four years after it happened--thanks to a single letter-to-the-editor writer. City spokesperson Brad Rovanpera said he was surprised by the media buzz and TV news trucks outside City Hall Thursday, attracted by a change instituted in 2003 with no complaint. The city’s Spring Bunny reigns over annual “Spring Egg Hunts” in two city parks. “This will be the fifth year we are doing it that way,” Rovanpera told the San Francisco Chronicle. “This is the first complaint that I have ever heard. In fact, no one has ever complained to the city that we know of.” TV stations were alerted to the “controversy” by a letter to the editor in a local paper on Wednesday.

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

 
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