Compliments of the president
There was a surprise name included in the House of Representatives version of a spending bill that was passed by congressmen on Feb. 25. Listed as a cosponsor for a $7.7 million earmark? President Barack Obama, who, while a senator from Illinois, pushed for the earmark despite a campaign pledge to cut pork out of the Washington diet. But to prevent further embarrassment, Obama allies on the Senate Appropriations Committee have promised to scrub his name in conference committee from the request to send millions to "tribally controlled postsecondary vocational institutions."
Short of being on the receiving end of a fat government bailout, there was no way Juan Zamora could pay the bill. Zamora of Washington state says he pulled into a Richland, Wash., Conoco station and used his PayPal debit card to pay for $26 worth of gas for his Camaro. But when he arrived home, he had a message on his answering machine from PayPal asking him to verify a gas purchase of $81,400,836,908. Yes, over $81 billion. To add to his frustration, PayPal pegged him with a $90 overdraft fee, and he had to explain the error to two separate corporate representatives before convincing anyone that his Camaro doesn't hold $81 billion worth of gasoline. Representatives for PayPal, who have refunded Zamora the overdraft fee, explained that his customer number may have been switched with the cost per gallon.
A group of sales tax protesters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, already angered by a local 1-cent sales tax hike, have been stymied again when state officials ruled their planned Boston Tea Party-style protest too environmentally hazardous to sanction. City leaders sought the sales tax hike for housing assistance, with large chunks of the revenue to go to people whose homes were destroyed during heavy flooding last June. Prior to the protest, organizer Tim Pugh asked Iowa's Department of Natural Resources if he could dump real tea into the Cedar River in a modern reprise of the Revolutionary-era protest. Instead, the environmental officials informed Pugh he couldn't use tea-but he could dump river water back into the Cedar from buckets that said "tea."
It had to have been one of the easiest lies to catch. State Trooper Trevor Downey was finishing a night shift when he spotted a person erratically driving a 1999 Dodge Avenger about 15 miles southeast of Yakima, Wash. When Downey pulled close to the Avenger in his squad car, the other driver made a quick turn into a driveway and pulled into an open garage. When Downey asked 31-year-old Joseph Takesgun to explain himself, Takesgun apparently told Downey he lived there. Downey knew better, though. Takesgun hadn't arrived home. He'd arrived at Downey's home-and taken the trooper's parking spot. Takesgun was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Environmentalists don't think it's funny, but the fish might. A German scientist recently noticed the aquatic earthworms they were studying were gurgling out a gas they didn't expect: nitrous oxide. Non-chemists might know it better as laughing gas. Peter Stief of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Germany explained that marine animals, like the worms, that gobble up nitrogen-rich microbes often burp out laughing gas-a vapor 310 times more onerous to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. The culprit for the gas? Tiny, nitrogen-rich microbial bacteria that apparently live as well on a lake or river bottom as in another animal's stomach.
Two days alone in a cabin buried under an avalanche? Not that big a deal for one elderly shepherd woman living in the Bavarian Alps. The 84-year-old lives nearly 1,000 feet from the summit of Geigelstein, the second-highest peak in the Bavarian Alps in Germany and Austria. The avalanche sank her mountainside hut under 13 feet of snow on Feb. 27. That's when she called German emergency services. Because of the severity of the avalanche, rescue workers could not reach her home for two days. But when emergency personnel finally reached her, she claimed she could have held out for longer. "I still have enough provisions for three months, but it's getting a bit sinister here," the woman told the dispatchers, according to the German daily Bild.
Now behind bars, Ricky Thatcher and Nicole Strickland of San Antonio probably aren't so tough. Police accuse the two of holding up a Girl Scout cookie stand outside a Walgreen's on Feb. 26. Two third-graders had opened up for business selling the famed Girl Scout cookies outside the pharmacy when the 19-year-old Thatcher and 30-year-old Strickland made a move. Strickland went for the car as Thatcher grabbed the girls' cash bag. The troop leader copied down the car license plate number as the pair drove away. Police used the information to arrest and charge the pair.
Rules of engagement
If 13-year-old Evan Spencer wanted to play the popular video game "Call of Duty: World at War," he would first have to learn something about real war. That's because to earn permission from his father to play the game, the Ontario teen had to read the Geneva Conventions-and promise to abide by them while playing the first-person shooting game set on World War II battlefields. So that's what Evan did. How has it played out on the Xbox? "To remember it, it's basically common sense," Evan told the Globe and Mail. "Someone surrenders and you don't just go and kill them anyways." But his "rules of war" approach doesn't always jibe with ruthless friends with whom he plays online. "If there's one standing in the way, they'll just shoot them and they'll fall on the floor and they just walk by them," he said. "That doesn't feel right."
The Few. The Proud. The septuagenarian granny? A 79-year-old Crestview, Fla., woman received a recruiting letter from the United States Marine Corps via Federal Express on March 2 urging her to enlist. Opal Blackwell Walker, who plans to retire from her job as a newspaper carrier on March 28, just three weeks before her 80th birthday, read part of the letter to the Northwest Florida Daily News. "It says 'Dear Opal, Do you think you have what it takes to be a Marine? Are you prepared for one of the most demanding challenges you will ever face?'" said Walker. She told the paper she plans on taking the letter to the recruiting office to see their reaction.