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News Quirks 01.12.05


Published January 12, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Investigators in Clark County, Indiana, linked James M. Haycraft, 19, to a series of robberies after surveillance cameras at one of the stores robbed showed a man wearing a sweatshirt with the name and number of former Dubuque, Iowa, high school soccer player Adam Schmerbach. When Dubuque authorities contacted Schmerbach, he remembered lending it to an Indiana man, who in turn said he lent it to Haycraft, who never returned it. Clark County detectives found the incriminating sweatshirt while searching Haycraft's residence.

Win-Win of the Week Noting that more than 1.2 billion people worldwide are officially overweight, Zimbabwe urged its citizens to "tap this potential" by attracting obese tourists to provide free manual labor on land seized from white farmers. The Herald, the official government newspaper whose contents are approved by President Robert Mugabe's powerful information minister, Jonathan Mayo, announced that this so-called Obesity Tourism Strategy will let overweight people shed pounds while helping Zimbabwe overcome its food crisis, which threatens half the population with starvation.

Cruelest Cut Relatives of a young Saudi man who had a sex-change operation insisted that, under Islamic law, as a woman he is entitled to only half of his inheritance. According to the Saudi magazine Sayidaty, the man, identified only as Ahmad, inherited money upon his father's death before he had the operation. With his cash inheritance, Ahmad was able to afford the sex change. He went to France, where he lived and worked as a woman, before returning to Saudi Arabia and telling his brother and sisters of the operation. They petitioned for the father's estate to be redivided.

If He Only Had a Heart After the military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld did not sign condolence letters to the families of the more than 1000 soldiers killed in Iraq, Rumsfeld admitted using a signing machine "in the interest of ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members." In a statement provided to the newspaper, Rumsfeld said, "I have directed that in the future I sign each letter."

Joyrider of the Week Police in Tucson, Arizona, cited a 27-year-old man for a pedestrian violation after an officer observed him clinging to a tractor-trailer while in a fluorescent green wheelchair. The tractor-trailer was going 50 mph.

Inferiority Complexes The advanced sexual techniques and stamina displayed by porn stars are giving Norwegian teenagers hang-ups about their sex lives, according to the Scandinavian country's Clinic for Sexual Information (KSO). Watching pornography, now readily available via the Internet, also promotes sexual experimentation. "We get young boys in here that are very embarrassed and are convinced that they suffer from premature ejaculation," sexual counseling specialist and KSO leader Siv Gamnes told the newspaper Dagsavisen. "They think it is normal to hold out for nearly an hour because it looks like the men in porn films do this.

Slightest Provocation Julie Rose, 37, and husband William were fined the equivalent of US$230 in Somerset, England, after Julie attacked their new neighbors, slapping the man and punching his wife. The victims said that the attack occurred after she asked them to join her and her husband in a spouse swap and wouldn't take no for an answer.

For God and Country A Vatican-sanctioned sex guide encourages churchgoers to make love more often in an effort to offset "impotence and frigidity" and to address papal concerns over declining birthrates among Italian Roman Catholics. The controversial book, It's a Sin Not to Do It, written by theologians Roberto Beretta and Elisabetta Broli, promises the reader answers to "everything you wanted to know about sex but the Church (almost) never dared to tell you." Bullet points on the jacket cover underline the central message: "Sex? God invented it. Original sin? Sex has nothing to do with it."

Unwanted at Any Price After presidential candidate Ralph Nader failed to pay off his $450,000 campaign debt by selling autographed copies of his decades-old book Unsafe at Any Speed for $100 each, he emailed supporters asking them to buy copies of a cookbook published 13 years ago by his parents. Insisting that his campaign "was driven into debt by a multimillion-dollar dirty tricks operation perpetrated by the Democratic Party," Nader said the book, It Happened in the Kitchen: Recipes on Food and Thought, can be had for a $100 contribution.

In Bernard Kerik's Footsteps After billionaires Bill and Nancy Laurie donated $25 million toward the University of Missouri's new sports arena, they were given naming rights and announced plans to name the arena after their daughter, Wal-Mart heiress Elizabeth Paige Laurie, 22. Fans, students and alumni reacted angrily when they learned that Paige Laurie did not attend Missouri. Then Paige Laurie's freshman roommate at the University of Southern California told ABC's "20/20" that Laurie paid her some $20,000 over 3 1/2 years to write papers and other assignments for her. Laurie's parents withdrew their daughter's name and said that the school could rename the facility Mizzou Arena.

Not-So-Great Escape Police in Dover, New Hampshire, reported that Steven Coleman, 37, threw two Molotov cocktails at his ex-girlfriend's apartment building, then tried to flee on a riding lawn mower. He was arrested after a brief, slow-speed chase.

No Person Left Unpestered Jehovah's Witnesses in Dearborn, Michigan, have been learning Arabic as part of an effort to convert Muslims. "In six months, we have learned to read Arabic and to actually go out and give presentations," said Recina Ward, explaining that 30 to 40 members make monthly trips into Arab-American neighborhoods in the Detroit metro area.<