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News Quirks 02.16.05


Published February 16, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Police investigating the theft of computers and other equipment from a car dealer in Watsonville, California, reported finding suspect Santiago Madrigal, 20, two blocks from the dealership asleep in a gold 2002 Acura with the motor running. A witness told officers that the car, which turned out to have been stolen from the car dealer, had been there with the motor running all night, and its alarm had sounded many times.

Next Time, Just Send Gift Certificates The outpouring of charity for South Asia's tsunami victims has resulted in heaps of unusable and unsuitable relief items, according to the Wall Street Journal. The "frustrated cargo," as aid workers call it, includes winter hats, goose-down jackets, Arctic-weather tents, cologne, sweaters, women's dress shoes and thong underwear. Much of the clothing arrives used and in bad condition. "People are just bringing anything and everything," said World Bank administrator Melanie Kanaka, who is helping coordinate aid in the battered town of Galle. "We don't have the resources in this country to sort it all out."

- Government figures recorded the arrival of 30,000 sheets, but only 100 mattresses. Colombo's main airport received 5000 pajama tops from Qantas Airways, but no bottoms to go with them.

- Many of the country's more than 300 refugee camps face critical shortages of cough syrup and infection-fighting creams, but unwanted medicines pour in, apparently the result of some doctors and private citizens unloading their sample bins and medicine cabinets and shipping whatever they could find. The shipments have included drugs that can easily be abused, such as Valium and antidepressants. Five packs of Viagra arrived in a shipment of medical goods from Australia.

Drinking-Class Hero A 21-year-old man from Perth, Australia, prompted a warning from health experts not to build gadgets that allow the rapid consumption of large amounts of alcohol after he hooked himself up to a homemade beer-drinking machine at a party and ended up rupturing his stomach. The West Australian newspaper described the device as a helmet fitted with a jug from which a hose was attached to a pump powered by an electric drill. Another hose from the pump was placed in the man's mouth, and the pump was switched on, pushing beer from the jug down his throat. After being rushed to the hospital and spending a week in intensive care recovering from the 4-inch tear in the stomach wall, the man said, "I didn't think it would be any different to other things like funnels that people use."

Hell on the Horizon The pagan movement that began in the 1960s and '70s as an alternative religion attracted mostly young people. Now, it has as many as 40,000 adherents who have reached age 50. "There's a lot about growing old that's not easy in any tradition," said pagan author Starhawk, 53, co-editor of The Pagan Book of Living and Dying. "Maybe besides organizing rituals and organizing political actions, we need to start thinking about organizing retirement homes."

Just Kidding Testifying as an expert witness, Dr. Willie C. Blair, chief of medical staff for Prince George's Hospital Center outside Washington, D.C., said in a deposition for a lawsuit filed by a 75-year woman burned in an operating-room fire that he had tried to "set people on fire" by igniting the fumes of a surgical preparation solution to duplicate the operating-room fire. "I've been trying to set people on fire for the last three months and can't do it," he said. Blair later explained that he had only tried to ignite the prep solution, never any patients, and described the remarks in his sworn testimony as "tongue-in-cheek."

Reluctant Survivor Police in Chillicothe, Ohio, said that Mark Morris, 39, told them he turned on the gas in his home to try to kill himself, then became concerned that someone else might be harmed. He went to the basement to turn off the electric circuit breaker, but before he could, an electrical spark ignited the gas. The explosion leveled Morris' house and heavily damaged neighboring homes. Morris was badly burned but survived. Police reports indicated that Morris tried to kill himself a month earlier by taping a garden hose to his automobile exhaust, but the car ran out of gas. He tried again using a small propane tank, but that gas ran out, too.

It's a Big Ocean; Somebody Has to Sell It Hawaii's Koyo USA Corp. said that it is shipping more than 200,000 bottles of its Mahalo-brand water to Japan, where it sells for $4 to $6 for a 1.5-liter bottle. "At this point, we can't make enough," Koyo spokesperson John Frosted said. The company produces the water by removing salt from sea water, which the state pumps from 2000 feet beneath the Pacific Ocean and charges a few cents per bottle to use its official logo. According to the company, the deep-sea water contains minerals that can help everything from circulation to metabolism and the depth protects it from industrial, agricultural and human contaminants. Commenting on the company's plans to expand its distribution, Mark Anderson of Hawaii's Foreign Trade Zone Division pointed out, "There's a lot of water out there. I don't think they're going to run out."

One Step at a Time Sheriff's deputies in Cayuga County, New York, accused Donald Ross of stealing golf balls, tee markers, ball washers and other items from the Owasco Country Club over a three-year period and using them to set up a three-hole golf course on his property. "A bench would be gone one day, a couple of tee markers another day, sometimes ball markers," the country club's Lou Agosta said.