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 V.13 No.37 | September 9 - 15, 2004 

Odds & Ends

Scott Rickson

Dateline: Saudi Arabia—Apparently, the Middle East is crazy for Danish Modern. Three men were trampled to death when more than 20,000 people stormed the grand opening of the first IKEA showroom in Saudi Arabia. Sixteen shoppers were injured at the Swedish-based furniture store opening in Jeddah. Medics revived another 20 who had fainted in the crush. The company had promised free vouchers worth $150 to the first 50 people. In a statement issued to the press, IKEA said the company had worked closely with Saudi security officials to plan the opening.

Dateline: Oregon—Barbara Vreeland was standing at her kitchen sink in Forest Grove when a four-pound bag of ashes came crashing through the roof. The bag turned out to contain the cremated remains of a Washington state man. “Initially we didn't know if it was an intentional act or a reckless act,” Forest Grove police Capt. Aaron Ashbaugh told The Oregonian. Eventually, the family of the Washington man came forward and identified the baggie. Turns out, the 46-year-old man, who died of natural causes in June, had issued his family a final request. He wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered over Mountain View Memorial Gardens, a Forest Grove cemetery located near Vreeland's home. Family members told police that the bag of ashes slipped as they were circling the cemetery in a small plane they had hired for the day. They lost their grip as they were trying to open the bag out the window of the plane. The cremains plummeted to Earth and ended up crashing through Vreeland's roof, landing in her attic. Vreeland's roof is being fixed and the man's family will pay for the damage their loved one caused. “I feel for those people,” Vreeland told The Oregonian. “But I think some of their relative is still in our attic.”

Dateline: Boston—Police are investigating the case of a confused robber who mistook a copy shop for a bank. Paul Michael Callahan, 32, was arrested last Tuesday afternoon, drenched in red dye, about a half hour after police say he robbed the Citizens Bank at Brigham Circle of more than $2,500. The dye packet, hidden in the bank's money, exploded as Callahan got into his green pickup truck around the corner from the bank. He was arrested a short time later at a nearby gas station, where he had abandoned the vehicle after the tire went flat. Police suspect Callahan is the same person who robbed a Fleet Bank branch of less than $200 the previous day. The whole saga began on Monday morning, just before 9 a.m. when a man matching Callahan's description entered the Image X-Press copy shop on Commonwealth Avenue near Boston University. There, the man handed the clerk a note demanding cash at the document copying company. “One of the clerks turned to another one of the clerks and questioned the note. Then they said, ’Do you know you are in a copy store and all we can give you are copies?'” Boston University Police Captain Robert E. Molloy told the Boston Globe. The man, now believed to be Callahan, then told the clerks he was looking for a Fleet Bank branch and asked for directions. Employees of the copy shop made vague suggestions about another part of Commonwealth Avenue and called the police as soon as the directionless robber left. Within an hour, the Fleet branch on Longwood Avenue was robbed. Police are planning on charging Callahan in both robberies. A law enforcement source said Callahan had been released from state prison within the last six months, where he had been serving a sentence for bank robbery.

Dateline: Washington, D.C.—The Pentagon is getting some flack for censoring footage in public copies of a training video called “The People's Right to Know,” which teaches government employees to respond to citizen's requests for information. The 22-minute videotape, starring a bad Humphrey Bogart impersonator, allegedly features several historic clips, including the 1996 Olympics and the exploration of the Titanic in 1986, which are copyrighted by other organizations. The Army lawyer, Suzanne Council, told the Associated Press that her staff had recently asked the organizations again for their permission to use the clips but was denied. Citing the Freedom of Information Act, the Associated Press had asked the Pentagon for a copy of the video nearly 18 months ago. The department eventually released an edited version of the tape and acknowledged the irony of censoring a video promoting government openness. “We knew it would be embarrassing,” said Suzanne Council of the Army Office of the Chief Attorney, which gave the advice to censor the material. Legal experts challenged the Pentagon's refusal to release the entire videotape, arguing that it was improper under the Freedom of Information Act--the very subject of the videotape itself--for the government to withhold records because they include copyright material. In fact, the video lists the seven reasons for withholding government documents, but makes no mention of copyright material. Experts said it was probably legal for the government to include the historic footage in its video under the “fair use” provision of copyright law, as it permits use of such clips for criticism, news reporting, teaching or research.

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


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