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News Quirks 02.01.06


Published February 1, 2006 at 5:00 p.m.

Revisionist Thinking

Three of the four members of the Provincetown, Mass., Board of Selectmen voted to remove an oil painting depicting the Pilgrims voting on the Mayflower Compact, even though the painting had hung in the board's hearing room for many years. The Boston Globe reported that Selectwoman Sarah Peake proposed getting rid of the painting because she found it "disturbing" that it doesn't include any women and that the lone Indian in the picture isn't holding a ballot like everyone else.

Prevention Therapy

Sex can cure the common cold, according to Swiss researcher Manfred Schedlovski. He told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag that his experiments show regular lovemaking increases the amount of phagocyte cells, which boost the body's immune system and fight the microbes that cause colds. What's more, Schedlovski's research found that the number of phagocyte cells could even double after an orgasm, allowing alien microbes to be detected and destroyed more quickly.

Birthday Suits

Bill Martin, a 67-year-old Quaker, announced plans to open Natura, billed as America's first "Christian nudist camp." Britain's Sunday Times reported that although the 200-acre site 40 miles north of Tampa, Fla., has been used by naturists before -- the area has the largest concentration of nudist camps in America -- Martin alienated local residents with proposed property improvements and upset America's largest naturist association with his "holier-than-thou" approach. He also became embroiled in a bizarre dispute about an article posted on his website discussing erections. Martin told the St. Petersburg Times that the article was meant to help young men worried about an embarrassing reaction when first confronting naked women at nudist camps. "Erections have got to be addressed," he insisted. "It's a major concern of teen males."

Men Without a Country

Federal authorities charged postal worker Gregory I. Armstrong, 42, with falsely claiming that he was a self-ruling sovereign nation and therefore entitled to collect $1 million against his boss for using his name, which he said had been copyrighted. Armstrong initiated involuntary bankruptcy proceedings against Odell Johnson, his supervisor at a U.S. Postal Service center in Capitol Heights, Md., after Johnson admonished, then suspended him for repeated absences from work. "It was sort of nightmarish," Johnson said. "They were threatening to foreclose my home." The bankruptcy proceedings ended after it became clear that Armstrong is not his own country and, according to the federal indictment, "not a member of the United Nations."

- Clifton Hudson and his half-brother Gregory Wayne Banks refused to attend their own drug-conspiracy trial in Baltimore, arguing that the federal court has no jurisdiction over their "flesh and blood." In his unsuccessful motion to dismiss his case, Hudson insisted that he could not be charged, in part, because the conspiracy indictment against him listed his name all in capital letters. The proper wording, he pointed out, is "Oliver Clifton: Hudson." During closing arguments, Hudson's court-appointed attorney, William B. Purpura, showed jurors a picture of his client to remind them that he really exists. Commenting on the defendants' strategy, Philadelphia attorney Daniel B. Evans said, "There is a whole overlapping melange of junk law out there."

Gas Surplus

Following a report blaming the 2.5 million dairy cows in California's San Joaquin Valley for producing most of the volatile organic compounds that cause the valley to rank with Los Angeles and Houston as the three smoggiest spots in the nation, officials proposed requiring farmers to spend millions of dollars to treat cow manure. Dairy industry lobbyists responded by pointing out that building feedlots and mixing new food formulas would be more effective. "I know it sounds funny," Michael Marsh, chief executive officer of Western United Dairymen, said, "but 80 percent of the emissions of the cow are coming out of the front end as she's chewing her cud, rather than the back end."

- British scientists announced that they have developed a diet to reduce methane emissions from burping and farting cows. "In some experiments, we get a 70 percent decrease, which is quite staggering," biochemist John Wallace of the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, said, explaining that the secret ingredient is fumaric acid, a naturally occurring chemical essential to respiration of animal and vegetable tissue.

- Japan's Toto company introduced American consumers to its automated toilet, which sells for around $5000. The lid of the Neorest lifts and lowers automatically, and the seat rises when a user, presumably male, stands in front of it. The toilet flushes and cleans itself automatically and includes a mini-bidet and air dryer. The Neorest comes with a heated seat and a remote control. Toto officials acknowledge that sales haven't been brisk, but actor Will Smith raved about his during an interview on "Access Hollywood," and the toilets were installed in Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. "We're changing what was once known as the bathroom, a utilitarian space for performing functions and leaving, into an in-home spa space," the company's U.S. representative, Lenora Campos, said.

- Thanks to home wireless connections, more Americans are using their computers in the bathroom, according to a survey of Internet users. "Over half of those who used wi-fi had used it in the bathroom," Jeffrey Cole of the University of Southern California Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future said, adding that he believed some people in busy homes retreated there for privacy.

Rocket Science

Men who live in rural areas often use condoms incorrectly, according to a study that Indiana University researchers said underscores the shortcomings of sex education in the state's public schools. Almost half the men who answered IU survey questions about their latest sexual encounters with women admitted that they waited too long to put on a condom or took it off too soon.