Give The Gift Of Valentine
TERNI, Italy — Police gave an unusual St. Valentine's Day present Friday: a religious relic that is believed to be part of the saint's skull.
The relic — a fragment of skull 4-by-3 inches — was stolen 24 years ago from the cathedral in Terni, about 40 miles north of Rome. Police found it two weeks ago in the possession of an antique dealer.
They confiscated the piece of skull, but held onto it until a handover Friday to coincide with St. Valentine's Day, police Lt. Michele Miulli said.
No arrests have been made in the case, but police said they were investigating the antiques dealer.
Authorities have still not found the entire stolen relic, which consisted of a silver box studded with precious stones that held the piece of skull.
The precise origins of St. Valentine's Day celebrations are unclear. But locals in Terni say the St. Valentine who originated the day of love was born there and was executed as a Christian martyr in the 3rd century.
BUTLER, Georgia - If they'd tried a bake sale, or if they'd sold candy, that would have been fine.
But authorities in Georgia have a problem with the fund-raising plan allegedly developed by friends of a man who has colon cancer.
They say last month's fund-raiser was a cockfight. It was raided by police, and it resulted in arrest warrants for 52 people on charges of aggravated cruelty to animals and gambling.
The Taylor County Sheriff says organizers claimed it was being held as a benefit for a cancer victim -- who they said would get the proceeds.
The sheriff calls it an "illegal fund-raiser."
No money was recovered.
A Brief History Of Duct Tape
WASHINGTON - For the handyman, it's what aspirin and Band-Aids are to the medicine cabinet. Duct tape, the new tool of homeland defense, has a way of sticking to everything — including the public's imagination.
"Some people are really addicted to duct tape," said Melanie Amato, spokeswoman for Henkel Consumer Adhesive in Avon, Ohio, a German-owned company that makes the brand known as Duck tape in Hickory, N.C.
It's been scientifically shown to remove warts more effectively and less painfully than a common treatment, liquid nitrogen.
Now the government has found a new use for duct tape: a defense against terrorists.
First manufactured in 1942, duct tape was invented for the U.S. military during World War II. The original use was to keep the moisture out of ammunition cases.
Because it was waterproof, people referred to it as "duck tape." Also, the tape was made using cotton duck. Soldiers discovered its versatility and used it to fix guns, jeeps, aircraft and other things.
After the war, the tape was used in the housing industry to connect heating and air conditioning duct work, and the color was changed from Army green to silver to match the ducts. People started calling it duct tape.
Now, there is a Duct Tape Ball held annually in Anchorage, Alaska, where guests design gowns, accessories and tuxedos. They show off their flashy ductwear while walking on a 'silver' carpet of tape.
Garrison Keillor, host of the radio show A Prairie Home Companion, makes much of duct tape. He calls it "the old reliable" and suggests people clean their kitchen floors by attaching double-sided tape to their feet and walking around.
Tenth Time's A Charm?
CLEVELAND — Connie Post has seen an awful lot of dresses, wedding cakes and bouquet tosses.
No big surprise: Post, wed 10 times, is apparently Ohio's most-married woman.
"I do believe in marriage and I think the way I've lived my life proves it," she said.
A review of Ohio marriage licenses issued in 2000 found brides as old as 90 and as young as 15, couples with 12 prior marriages between them and couples with a 50-year difference in their ages.
In 1970, the median age for first marriages in the United States was 20.8 years for women and 23.2 years for men. People marry later now: in 2000, it was 25.1 for women and 26.8 for men.
Howard Boettcher of Cincinnati was 96 when he married 79-year-old Alma Eppler. Neither minds the jokes about robbing the cradle.
They never seriously considered living together before they got married in 2000.
"It's just a matter of being old-fashioned if you want to call it that," he said.
EU Takes Up Breast Implant Issue
STRASBOURG, France - The European Union may not be ready to fight Iraq -- but the EU will fight breast implants. The European Parliament is calling on member governments to ban implants for girls under the age of 18.
The non-binding resolution would permit implants in young woman only for what's termed medical reasons. The measure would also ban "before and after" pictures in implant advertising. One legislator says the implant prohibition is needed to protect the young.
Not A Silk Purse Story
COPENHAGEN - A 29-year-old Danish man was jailed Thursday for two weeks on charges he stole 32,000 dried pig ears from a Danish company that makes treats for pets.
A 26-year-old accomplice who admitted taking part in the weekend theft was also charged, but released, police said. Neither were identified in keeping with Danish law.
The 32,000 ears were worth about $8,700.
On Sunday, the pigs ears were stolen from a container outside the PetCare company in Tistrup, a village 186 miles west of the capital, Copenhagen.
Police found nearly 16,000 of the ears in a pet shop in Horsens, 62 miles northeast of Tistrup. They haven't found the other 8,000 pairs.
Police said they also were investigating whether both men may have been involved in earlier burglaries at PetCare.
In some countries, pig ears, along with chicken feet, duck tongue and yak testicles are considered a delicacy by humans. In Denmark, a Scandinavian nation of 5.3 million, they're not.
Iranian Police Crack Down On Valentine's Day
TEHRAN - It's taboo in Iran for men and women to embrace in public.
So celebrating Valentine's Day is pretty much out of the question.
Vice police were out in force in Tehran, ordering shops to remove heart decorations and any other "corrupt material" promoting Valentine's Day.
Religious authorities consider the day a decadent Western event.
The holiday crackdown is apparently the first since the Islamic revolution in 1979.
And shopowners are feeling both the legal heat and the economic pinch. One man says having his shop closed would push him into bankruptcy.
But many citizens aren't heeding the authorities. One woman calls the government's position "cultural backwardness." And a 19-year-old woman who says she's been waiting weeks to give her boyfriend a Valentine's Day gift says the crackdown only pushes her to further reject hard-line clerical rule.
HELSINKI - A beer guzzler's spate of robberies ended abruptly in southeast Finland after he made a getaway jump into the back of a car.
Unfortunately for the thief, a police officer investigating the thefts was sitting in front.
The trail of break-ins and shoplifting began Feb. 7 when a 28-year-old man, released from prison a week earlier, stole a car and drove it to six different locations, filching beer and cigarettes.
The officer had been following the trail that began in the man's home town of Savonlinna, 205 miles northeast of Helsinki. It ended some 60 miles away in Leppavirta, when the thief, who wasn't identified, fell into his lap Monday.
"It was real fate. The officer was off-duty at the time and didn't know the thief was about," Pyosti said.
The culprit jumped out of the car but was caught by store guards. He admitted his crimes to police and was released, Pyosti said.
A day later, he was back on the road and broke into a pharmacy, a gas station and a store, but police caught him red-handed. Now, Pyosti said, he's in jail awaiting trial on charges of theft and damaging property.
People Like Watching Animals Have Sex
ATLANTA — Birds do it. Bees do it. And humans can learn how they do it during a Valentine's Day tour of Zoo Atlanta.
The amorous antics of animals are proving so popular that organizers plan to add a second night besides Valentine's Day for their "Love In The Zoo" lecture and dance party. Several hundred guests are expected.
"This is science, and it's actually fun," said Nicole Johnson, who works in marketing for the zoo.
Lecturer James Ballance says the mating games can be hilarious.
"Birds are like, totally crazy," Ballance says, waving his arms to imitate a strutting pheasant. "Some we call the backseat-of-the-car guys — they don't stick around. They leave a lot of single mothers. Then we have the guys who will build the house before they even suggest anything."
Outside the zoo's flamingo pond, Ballance points to the pairs who spend nearly all day within a foot or two of each other.
"They pair up, but there's a lot of cheating out there," he says. "You've always got female flamingoes coming home with muddy footprints all over their backs."
Naked Streaker Knocks Himself Out
CALGARY, Alberta - This hockey streaker was a knock-out -- literally. Tim Hurlbut pleaded guilty yesterday to public drunkenness after climbing over the glass at a Calgary Flames hockey game.
The naked guy knocked himself out, when he slipped on the ice and hit his head. Paramedics carried him off on a stretcher. The judge ordered Hurlbut to donate more than $1,600 to charity and perform 35 hours of community service.
He also must undergo alcohol counseling. The judge said Hurlbut made a "pathetic spectacle" of himself, as he lay naked on the ice for six minutes.
Something Smells Fishy Here ...
SINGBURI, Thailand - Specialty ice creams can be concocted from soy milk, olive oil and even cheese. But for the truly bizarre, come to central Thailand where a bakery is putting snakehead fish in its frozen desserts.
Kaesara Bakery's ice cream contains 40 percent fish meat, but you wouldn't know it from the smell, taste or texture. The bits of fish could easily be mistaken for coconut flakes.
The bakery in Singburi province, where snakeheads are a culinary pride, is about to open a third outlet and expand its line of snakehead confections with fish cookies and Chinese pastries filled with deep-fried snakehead bones.
The cakes have been a hit since their debut at the annual Singburi Snakehead Festival seven years ago.
Kasara Thepprasit, the bakery's 39-year-old entrepreneur, said she declined an Australian company's $695,000 offer for her recipe.
"We want Thailand to have a good product that other countries don't have," Kasara said. "We didn't do this just for the money. We wanted to do this to promote Thailand and its food."
There's No Place Like Tree
STEVENS PASS, Wash. — With a chain saw, a rope and a hatchet, Tony Detmer built his three-story dream house — suspended 20 feet up, in a stand of Douglas fir and cedar.
Detmer, 31, often starts his day with a plunge into the snow below. In the deep chill of a mountain morning, he said, the jolt is better than a cup of coffee.
"There's something about being off of the ground," he said. "I feel lofty. I want to fly. This is the closest I can get."
Detmer began working on the tree house in the fall of 1999. The deck went up first. Then straps were wrapped around trees to hold up parts of the house. The whole thing cost less than $2,000, most of which went for a 3,000-watt generator to run a saw and a television.
"I never used a level, it's all by eyeball," he said.
Detmer's girlfriend, Betsy Delph, 23, and another roommate, Brett Hoisington, 19, also live in the house, which has a wood-burning stove and a rope swing on the deck.
There are no bathrooms, and showers come once a week at a nearby ski area.
Detmer's envisions a worldwide community of tree houses. In the meantime, he wants to build a village in the trees, and have rope swings connecting all the houses.
He Gets An 'A' For Effort
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - A sixth-grader was arrested for allegedly using his teacher's computer to change his grades.
The 11-year-old boy could be expelled and sent to a juvenile detention center.
The boy told a teacher during lunch Monday at St. Lucie West Middle School that he had to go back to her room because he forgot his lunch, the sheriff's department said. Then he allegedly switched his grades.
He was charged with an offense against intellectual property, a felony.
"It's cheating. It's depriving other students of the fairness of the system," prosecutor Ellen Mancini said.
The boy, whose name was not released, was released to his father's custody.
Useless, Cute Valentine's Day Study
NEW YORK - When you kiss your sweetheart this Valentine's Day you may well turn your head to the right, echoing a preference born in the womb, a researcher suggests.
Onur Guentuerkuen of Ruhr-University Bochum in Bochum, Germany, reports that he spied on 124 pairs of adults who turned their heads left or right while kissing on the lips in public places in Germany, Turkey and the United States. Two-thirds of the kissers went to the right, he found.
Prior research has found that babies also tend to turn their heads to the right rather than the left during their final weeks of gestation and for the first six months after birth, Guentuerkuen says in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
So the results on kissing show that early head-turning bias may affect behavior in adulthood, he says. People also prefer to use the right foot, ear and eye by about two-to-one, suggesting those behavioral biases may be related, he said.
But right-handedness dominates the population far more, about eight-to-one, so that's either not related or it's affected by cultural influence, he said.
The researcher watched kissing couples in airports, railroad stations, beaches and parks. He estimated their ages at around 13 to around 70.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A man suspected of robbing a bank was arrested as he tried to make a slow-speed getaway on a city bus, police said.
A bank branch was robbed Monday morning when a man approached a teller, said he had a gun and demanded money. After the teller handed him the cash, he fled on foot.
He was arrested a short time later on a city bus, said Sgt. Malcolm Farmer of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Officers suspected the robber might use a bus because it was the same escape method used in a prior bank robbery, Farmer said.
Dude, This Potato Tastes Like Weed!
LORDSBURG, N.M. - It's a case of spuds and buds. State police in New Mexico report finding more than a ton of pot, loaded in a truck with potatoes and onions. Department of Public Safety officials say the drug bust was made during a random cargo check on U.S. 10 near the border with Mexico. Two men, including the driver, were arrested. They were headed for Cincinnati with their load of weed. Police say all commercial vehicles are subject to inspection because of heightened security concerns.
Dispute Over Women's Belts Spurs Violence
JAFFNA, Sri Lanka - Four male government soldiers and three female Tamil Tiger rebels had a fistfight Wednesday after they disagreed whether the women fighters should be allowed to wear belts to keep their pants up.
Though the government and insurgents agreed to a truce in February last year, a simmering dispute over women's belts has intensified recently and threatens to buckle the road to peace.
The army has banned female guerrilla fighters from wearing belts while inside military-controlled territory, saying that belts identify the women as rebels and can hold small arms such as pistols.
This, the authorities say, contravenes the terms of their cease-fire which allows insurgents into government areas but prohibits them from wearing uniforms or carry weapons.
Initially, the army banned the use of black belts, the color most female rebels use, but have since extended the ban to belts of all colors.
Two women rebels were injured in Tuesday's fight at a military check point just south of the town of Jaffna, a military official said on condition of anonymity. Witnesses said it was not clear who punched first.
The Tamil rebels fought for an independent homeland for 19 years until agreeing to the truce last year. About 65,000 people were killed in that time.
NORWOOD, N.J. - A New Jersey man is promising a free sports car to the woman who marries him.
Sandy Grossman is serious about finding a bride by Valentine's Day, and drives around in a 1959 Cadillac ambulance topped with a billboard advertisement for a bride.
The electric sign promises "Free Sports Car With Marriage" and lists his email address, photo and vital stats: "43, 5'11, 175 pounds and NEVER MARRIED."
"It sure beats trying to come up with a snappy one-liner in a Jersey nightclub," Grossman told The Record of Bergen County for Wednesday's editions.
So far, he's gotten only five email responses (and no "I do's") since his campaign began earlier this month. But he's confident that the Mazda convertible will seal the deal with someone.
"I'm a romantic," he said. "I think this is the ideal way to find somebody."
Poor Spelling Foils Counterfeiting Ring
HICKORY, N.C. - It's a case where spellcheck would have come in handy.
Police are looking for two men who tried to pass a $498 counterfeit payroll check bearing the name "Boryhill Furmiture" on Monday afternoon. The company's name is Broyhill Furniture.
The men took off after the clerk rejected the check because of the misspellings. Police did arrest two women who were seen following the men in a car.
Kathy Elaine Gillman, 39, and her daughter Amanda Kaye Gillman, 18, both of Ohio, were charged with aiding and abetting the obtaining of property by false pretense and possession of counterfeit checks.
Police found 42 bogus checks for $200 to $400 each inside the women's car, along with a software program used to print checks, pages torn from a phone book and a handgun. The checks purportedly were from businesses in Georgia, South Carolina and West Virginia.
Hickory Police Capt. Steve Wright said the checks' quality was impressive.
"There's a good possibility that if the name on the check had been spelled correctly, they would have gotten away with it," Wright said.
Man Sues Over Booze
TRENTON, N.J. - A recovering alcoholic who was mistakenly served liquor while gambling at an Atlantic City casino has rolled snake-eyes in his bid to sue.
The New Jersey Supreme Court rejected the request made by Lawrence Lemming, 65, of Long Branch. He was playing a slot machine at Harrah's Atlantic City resort when he asked the waitress for a diet cola but instead was given a rum and cola.
Lemming, who said he had not consumed alcohol for 32 years, quickly realized what had happened and spit out the drink. He then passed out, but quickly regained consciousness and was not injured.
Lemming then filed his lawsuit in state Superior Court, but it was dismissed because state law says servers are only liable if they provide alcohol to minors or those who are noticeably drunk. Lemming appealed the ruling, but the decision was upheld.
Lost And Found In Tokyo
TOKYO - If it's lost, it can be found on the bustling streets of Tokyo — where police collected nearly 1.72 million left-behind items last year, from mobile phones to wayward tortoises and nearly $20.33 million in stray cash.
Umbrellas, however, topped most lost-and-found boxes across the nation's capital, with police reporting 332,579 left behind in 2002 — an average of about 3,200 each rainy day.
Lost wallets were another big find in the city of 12 million people, according to figures released Wednesday by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.
The $20.33 million in dropped or misplaced money included a single find of $79,000 last December, which has yet to be claimed.
But about 72 percent of the rest was returned to the rightful owners, with an additional 19 percent going to finders, according to a police spokesman. The remainder went to city coffers.
Lost-and-found items, including cash, are kept at a city lost-and-found center for six months and two weeks.
Items are returned to the original owners if claimed during that period. If not, the finder can claim the items within the next two months. If that period elapses, items automatically go to the city government.
Among other lost-and-found items were 84 pets, including 12 ferrets and an unspecified number of tortoises.
Jesus H. Christ, Esq.
GAINESVILLE, Mo. — A Missouri man is calling on a higher power for his legal representation.
Richard John Adams requested Jesus Christ as his trial attorney during a hearing Wednesday on tampering charges. Adams, who described himself as a patriot and a Christian, says lawyers are "devils" who are trying to undermine the Constitution.
Ozark County Circuit Judge John Moody told Adams the only person who can speak for him in the courtroom is a lawful attorney.
Adams is charged with tampering with a judge for hostile comments made during an earlier traffic case. He faces a maximum of 14 years in prison if convicted of both counts.
Target Pulls 'Jihad' Valentine's Cards
PITTSBURGH - Target Corp. pulled boxes of Valentine's Day cards from its shelves after one contained the word "Jihad" and a parent interpreted the message as a veiled terrorist threat.
A spokesman for the retail chain said Monday the company was removing "I Spy" box sets of Valentine's Day trading cards from its stores after a parent in Pittsburgh contacted the store and law enforcement.
Among several other items, the card contained the word "Jihad" and the message, "It's Time to Be Mine." The FBI said it was looking into the origin of the card.
"Jihad" refers to the Islamic concept of the struggle to do good. In particular situations, that can include the waging of holy war, and extremist Muslims often employ the term with that meaning.
The publisher, Scholastic Inc. in New York City, said any association with terrorism was unintended. The company said it regretted causing any distress.
Aimee Spengler Dolan, a spokeswoman for the publisher, Scholastic Inc., said the card in question was a portion of a photo and riddle from "I Spy School Days," published in 1995.
"Jihad" was the name of a child in a class the author visited, the publisher said. Scholastic said it changed the name in subsequent reprints of the book to Jared in 2001 but that the valentines used original artwork.
"At first, we just thought it was in really bad taste or maybe some radical in the art department of this company or something," said Nick Poillucci, 37, who purchased the set at a Target on Saturday for his 3-year-old daughter to give out in her preschool class.
Massive Tequila Spill Prompts Fire Concerns
LOUISVILLE, KY. - More than 1,000 gallons of tequila spilled into the sewer system Monday after a worker tried to unload it from a truck into an already full storage tank at a distillery, officials said.
The tequila overflowed at a rate of 100 gallons per minute, resulting in 1,500 to 1,800 gallons entering the city sewer system, said Phil Lynch, a spokesman for the Brown-Forman Distillery.
Fire and sewer officials were called because of the flammability of the 80-proof liquor, he said. Water was used to dilute the spilled alcohol.
"It was a simple case of human error," Lynch said.
TOKYO - He was slow, but smart.
An 82-year-old Japanese man who was too frail to jump out of the path of an oncoming train survived by flattening himself between the tracks while the train passed over him.
Police in the city of Fuji say the man was taking a short cut alongside the tracks to his home, when he heard a train coming up behind him.
They say his legs were too weak to get out of he way in time -- so he decided to hit the ground.
There was only 14 inches of space between the rails and the underbelly of the train -- and still he emerged unscathed.
Banana Bandit Sentenced
LYNCHBURG, Va. - A Lynchburg man who robbed a convenience store by pretending a banana was a gun was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Patrick Jason Mann, 29, entered the 7-Eleven store last July 4. He took a banana, put it in his pocket like a gun and demanded that the clerk give him money from the register. Mann left the store with about $10 and was arrested soon after leaving.
Before Mann robbed the 7-Eleven, he broke into another shop where he had worked for about three years and stole about $700.
His sentence imposed Friday included time for that burglary.
Mann said he had a crack cocaine addiction that was costing him up to $300 a day.
"There really wasn't much logic to what I did that night," Mann said. "When you're in the grip of that drug, it doesn't make you a very rational person."
Along with imposing the prison term, Circuit Judge J. Leyburn Mosby Jr. ordered Mann to pay back the money he stole, undergo 18 months of supervised probation and get substance abuse treatment.
Despite Police Statement, It Is Pretty Funny
SCRANTON, Penn. - Police in Scranton say it wasn't funny.
A suspicious package found at the federal courthouse Saturday turned out to contain pornographic material and a note to Attorney General John Ashcroft.
The briefcase-size box was examined by the bomb squad, which decided to destroy it.
Sergeant Dave Benway says the note suggested the package was dangerous. He says he expects charges to be filed.
Last year, two partially nude statutes in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice were covered up. A Justice Department spokesman says it was done for aesthetic reasons, but there were reports that Ashcroft didn't like being photographed in front of them.
Burglar Nabbed Dozing On The Job
FORT WORTH, Texas — A burglary was bungled when the suspect was caught sleeping on the job.
A man was arrested Saturday morning when he was found taking a nap after breaking into a store owned by the wife of the county district attorney, police said.
"I think he was a pretty dumb burglar," employee Janie Sidener said. "Of all the places in town he has to break in to, he picks the DA's wife's shop."
Sidener had emptied the cash register after closing the store Friday night, leaving only some change, which was scattered around the shop when she returned for work, she said.
She noticed that someone had used the store's toilet without flushing and left a large black pistol on the bathroom counter. Then she heard someone snoring in a big bed that is part of a sales display.
Sidener said the man was irritated after being awaken by police, saying, "Hey, I was asleep!"
Thai Couple Sets 'Wife Holding' Record
PATTAYA, Thailand - Eight Thai husbands — clutching their wives as a groom holds his bride — sweated, shifted and felt their muscles turn to mush, but a ninth easily lasted nearly 11 hours to set what may prove a new world "wife holding" record.
As a Valentine's Day gimmick, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum staged a "Carry Your Lover" contest Saturday in this popular beachside resort.
Winning the $2,300 prize were Amnat Puttigo, at 176 pounds, the heaviest of the male contestants, and his 77-pound wife Chanantida Bunsamer, the lightest woman.
Looking like a pixie in the arms of a Goliath, the 24-year-old couple looked slightly bored by the chore, and decided to call it quits after 10 hours, 49 minutes and 15 seconds.
Organizers at the museum, a franchise of the U.S.-based Ripley's Believe It or Not! said the results will be sent to the Guinness World Records in London for approval as a record in a new "Holding Someone for the Longest Time" category.
Other contestants found the going rough, even 35-year-old Kunkron Konkarnot who had been in training for the event but threw in the towel after only 37 minutes.
"I was lifting weights three times a week, for three hours each day, but the most I lifted was 44 pounds," Kunkron said. His wife Niyanath, 34, weighs 97 pounds.
"I sweat too much," he said, still wearing his sopping wet T-shirt. "It became too slippery."
Somporn Naksuetrong, general manager of the museum, said a longest kissing contest had originally been considered.
"Thai culture doesn't accept kissing in public, so we changed it to a carrying-your-lover contest," he said.
Who Keeps A Ferret In A Cooler?
ST. LOUIS - An airline passenger who was told he couldn't take his ferret on an airplane is accused of beating the animal to death in an airport restroom.
Police said the man had the ferret in a cooler on an American Airlines flight from New York.
Flight attendants realized he had the animal and told him he could not take it on his next flight.
He's accused of trying to flush the ferret down a toilet during a layover in St. Louis, then beating it to death.
An airline spokeswoman says some pets are allowed on flights, with advance approval.
Hopped Up On Chicken Nachos
BOULDER CREEK, Calif. - There were more than jalapenos to give the nachos a kick. Police in Boulder Creek, California, charge two waiters were dealing drugs out of a Mexican restaurant. Gabriel Mendez and Magdaleno Mendez were arrested on suspicion of selling cocaine and marijuana. A Santa Cruz County sheriff's spokesman says customers looking for drugs sat in a certain section of the restaurant, then ordered chicken nachos. Money would be put in a napkin. Investigators say the pot was then wrapped in the napkin and returned to customers. The cocaine was allegedly given to customers in tea bags.