Bank of reality bites

Police in Norfolk, Neb., are still trying to find Curtis Boyd, 23, who skipped out on bail after allegedly trying to pass a check for $22 million at a Bank of Norfolk drive-through window in May. Boyd had purchased a computer-software check-writing program and apparently figured all he had to do to get the bank to give him money was to present a realistic-looking check with certain Federal Reserve code numbers. When the bank declined to take it, Boyd took the check back, deciding apparently that the one imperfection was the lack of an "issuing bank." He returned to the Bank of Norfolk a short time later after hand-writing the name "Reality Perspective Bank" at the top of the check. This time, bank employees called the police.

Tennis racket

Many tennis, soccer and golf academies have begun admitting students as early as age 2, according to a June CNN story. Most parents are motivated, say experts, by visions of their toddlers growing up to become top pro players -- or at least earning college scholarships. According to one parent, whose 3-year-old daughter hits 70 tennis balls a day, "I think you have an edge starting at 3" when all the girls' friends "are starting at 4 or 5."

Who let the dingos out?

Perth, Australia, brothel owner Mary-Anne Kenworthy closed down for a day on April 30 because the influx of 5,500 U.S. Navy personnel on shore leave had left her workforce worn out. "We're the biggest and the best," she said, "(and) I'd rather take nothing than offer a poor service." She added, "I just wish they could dribble-feed the Yanks in, fly a thousand (in) at a time." The Bremerton (Wash.) Sun carried a wire-service version of this story but later apologized for it to its readers. Many Navy families in the Bremerton-Seattle area have loved ones stationed in Australia, and they apparently did not appreciate learning the news.

Layaway policy

A subtle but apparently widespread corporate practice came to light earlier this year when the family of a deceased Wal-Mart warehouseman in Texas learned that the company had taken out a $64,000 life-insurance policy on him, naming the company as beneficiary. Companies often buy policies for their top executives, but so-called "dead janitor" policies are usually purchased in secret, as tax dodges. Critics say that such companies lose the incentive to make their workplaces safer if they stand to collect on employees' deaths. Wal-Mart purchased about 350,000 such policies but canceled them this year after the practice was exposed.

Yellow fever

According to Spanish biologist J.J. Negro, reporting in the journal Nature in April, male Egyptian vultures compete for females on the basis of how bright a yellow the males' faces become. The degree of brightness correlates directly with the amount of excrement the birds eat. Cartenoids in dung produce the yellow around the vultures' eyes, and only the strongest vultures can safely eat enough bacteria-laden feces to get a rich color -- and the girl of their dreams.

Feathering his nest

Agriculture professor Avigdor Cahaner of Hebrew University in Jerusalem told reporters in May that he has succeeded in breeding featherless chickens (which supposedly are less expensive to raise) and believes his so-called "naked chickens" can be in commercial production in two years. An Israeli animal-rights activist condemned the breeding because feathers protect the bird in several ways, but Cahaner remains undaunted. He claims that his new and improved birds are more likely to survive in hot climates, where the premature death rate is more than 10 percent.

Guns and roses

In Green Bay, Wis., Susan Winkler, 44, was charged with reckless endangerment in May for shooting her husband, Brian, in the groin, sending him to the hospital; she said the couple's romantic foreplay often included their shotgun, but this time she had forgotten it was loaded. ... And, in Bryan, Texas, Kimberly Fennessey was injured in May when -- to test whether a .22-caliber pistol worked -- she fired it at a frying pan she was holding, and it ricocheted and hit her above the right eye.

Down for the count

Iowa City High School won the Iowa State Math Championship in April, but afterward, officials went back over the scores, discovered they had miscounted, and named West High School (also in Iowa City) the winner. ... Six people in Calgary, Alberta, were injured (two seriously) as croquet players and softball players pummeled each other with mallets in a late-night brawl over which sport is more manly.

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