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News Quirks


Published December 10, 2008 at 6:14 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again After New Hampshire state police stopped a vehicle going 69 mph in a 45-mph zone, the driver identified himself as Jonathan Brackett. When asked, however, he spelled it “Jothan.” Trooper Chris Storm eventually learned the driver was Paul Sans, 26, who was wanted for burglary. A drug-trafficking charge was added when passenger Alicia Kelley, 20, voluntarily produced 16 grams of cocaine hidden in her vagina.

• Authorities in Hamilton County, Ohio, identified Gary Walker, 24, as the one who snatched a cellphone from a deaf woman because he used the phone to take his own picture. The victim spotted Walker’s photo after she got a new phone and was transferring data to it from her phone network.

Cutting Down on Side Effects Many American doctors prescribe placebos for their patients, according to researchers. What’s more, 6 out of 10 of the doctors polled believe the practice is ethical. The survey of 679 primary-care doctors and rheumatologists, who treat arthritis patients, found that about half prescribed placebos at least two or three times a month without telling the patients, despite American Medical Association ethical standards requiring full disclosure. Usually, the placebos weren’t sugar pills but relatively harmless vitamins or over-the-counter pain relievers, although 13 percent of doctors prescribed a sedative, and an equal number prescribed an antibiotic.

School Daze Thirty-three-year-old Wendy Brown enrolled at Ashwaubenon (Wis.) High School by posing as her 15-year-old daughter. Police, who charged Brown with identity theft, said she was trying to relive her high school years. She attended cheerleading practice and a party at the cheerleading coach’s house, was given a cheerleader locker, and paid for her uniform with a check that later bounced. Noting the student appeared older but acted like a teenager, school officials discovered Brown’s true identity because she stopped attending school after the first day, prompting a truancy investigation. “In school, you see a lot of children who look older and dress older,” liaison officer Don Penza told the Bay Express Gazette. “At what point do you say, ‘You’re lying’?”

Touch but Don’t Look South Korea’s Constitutional Court upheld a national law permitting only people registered as visually impaired to work as licensed masseurs. South Korea’s estimated 200,000 sighted, unlicensed masseurs had asked that the law be changed, insisting it denied them a right to make a living. The Korean Association of Masseurs, which has about 7100 blind members, objected to any change by staging noisy protests in Seoul that included jumping off bridges into the Han River. “Massage is in effect the only occupation available for the visually handicapped,” the court decreed, “and there is little alternative to guarantee earnings for those persons.”

Housing Woes Landlord Daniel Cunningham, 56, blamed the collapse of a makeshift apartment building in Kalihi, Hawaii, on its 50 residents, who paid between $250 and $750 a month for a small room with two shared bathrooms in the four-story structure made of steel poles, plastic tarps and cardboard. Residents responded by accusing Cunningham of forcing them to take injections of an unknown substance or risk eviction. Cunningham told KITV News the shots were intended to prolong the tenants’ lives. A former candidate for mayor of Honolulu who wears white socks on his hands and lost his chiropractor’s license after patients accused him of injecting them, Cunningham stated in previous court filings that the rule barring chiropractors from giving injections was a sign of a “paternalistic government with Socialist/Babylonian objectives.”

Unwitting Accomplices A man who pulled off an armored car robbery in Monroe, Wash., may have been the one who placed an ad on the website offering $28.50 an hour to anyone who showed up at a Bank of America branch at the prescribed time wearing a blue, long-sleeved shirt, yellow safety vest, eye protection and ventilator mask. Suspecting the oddly attired people who responded were decoys, police said a similarly dressed man accosted the armored truck guard with pepper spray, grabbed a bag of money, and eluded pursuers by entering a nearby creek and escaping on a yellow inner tube. “The Craigslist thing is very weird,” police official Debbie Willis told ABC News.

Attack of the Sand Snatchers Caribbean beaches are shrinking, thanks to thieves who are stealing sand to feed a local construction boom. The Associated Press reported Caribbean round grains, favored in creating smooth surfaces for plastering and finishing, are being hauled away by the truckload late at night, exposing towns and ecologically sensitive areas on smaller islands to tidal surges and rough seas. The sand sells for nearly $200 per cubic yard. Thieves face light fines, sometimes less than the cost of a single load of sand, meaning anyone caught could “still come out making a profit,” said Randolph Edmead, director of St. Kitts’ planning and environment department.

Hard-Time Bargains People short of money have begun selling their pre-paid burial plots to raise cash. Bob Ward, who runs the Final Arrangements Network, an online marketplace for buyers and sellers of cemetery space, told Forbes magazine that most of the sellers are fixed-income seniors in their 60s and 70s. Ward estimates that about 10 percent of the 28 million burial-plot owners in the United States are looking to unload, resulting in savings for buyers. “People have become desperate to sell,” Ward said, “and dropping the price is one way to do that.” He added more people might be willing to sell, but they balk at Final Arrangements’ $100 listing fee.

Right Back at You A 28-year-old woman who suspected a man had taken a cellphone picture up her skirt while riding the subway in New York City followed the suspect onto a train and took his picture with her cellphone. “I told him ‘smile’ because I am going to the police,” the woman told The New York Times after she emailed the picture to police, who arrested Aaron Olivieri in a Manhattan subway station.

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