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News Quirks 04.06.05

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What's in a Name?

Holland's leading soccer team, Ajax Amsterdam, is encouraging its devoted fans to end their 20-year tradition of calling themselves "Jews." Even though they aren't Jewish, they tattoo themselves with Stars of David and wave Israeli flags. The London Daily Telegraph reported that escalating displays of "Jewish" pride have been met with derisive chants by rival fans: "There goes the Ajax train to Auschwitz," "Hamas, Hamas, the Jews to the gas" and a long hissing "sssssss" to imitate a gas chamber. Uri Coronel, a Jew and a former director of Ajax, said that the taunts didn't bother him until he was riding to Rotterdam on the team bus last year and found it surrounded by fans making "Heil Hitler" salutes.

Curses, Foiled Again

When Chicago radio station Kiss 103.5 FM invited calls from any listeners who had robbed a bank, a man identifying himself as "D" called with details of how he and several accomplices had held up a TCF Bank branch five months earlier. A worker at the bank heard the show, recognized the caller's description of the heist and notified the FBI. Within two hours of the call, agents were at the station with a subpoena for the station's phone records and traced the call to Randy Washington, 24, whom they accused him of driving the getaway car.

Second-Amendment Follies

Carey McWilliams, 31, is a leading opponent of attempts by the North Dakota legislature to stop requiring shooting proficiency in order to obtain a concealed-weapon permit. "I don't think everybody under the sun should be able to walk in and get a weapon," he declared after both the state house and senate passed measures to end the requirement. "You've got to have standards." McWilliams, who failed his first try but passed on his second, hitting the target all 10 times, has been blind since he was 10 and can distinguish only shades of light.

Surprise

A terminally ill cancer patient in Estacada, Oregon, tried to commit suicide with a barbiturate prescribed under the state's assisted-suicide law, but awoke from a sound sleep 65 hours later and asked his wife, "What the hell happened? Why am I not dead?" David E. Prueitt, 42, survived 13 more days, alert and talkative, before dying at home of natural causes.

Meth Mouth

Growing methamphetamine use has increased the cost of dental health care in Minnesota prisons from $1.19 million in 2000 to $2.01 million last year. A quarter of all state inmates are drug offenders, half of them for methamphetamine. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reported that dental problems associated with the drug include gum disease, broken and cracked teeth and tooth decay. Authorities noted that the drug often produces anxiety levels and paranoia, which can contribute to teeth grinding and gnashing. Another side effect of methamphetamine abuse is an insatiable appetite for high-caffeine, high-sugar sodas such as Mountain Dew. According to Dr. Mark Legan, a dentist who treats inmates at Lino Lakes prison, "When abusers are 'doing the Dew,' they'll go for days without brushing their teeth or washing or sleeping."

Menage-a-Quatre

When a sheriff's deputy in Benton County, Oregon, pulled over a pickup truck for speeding, he found three Oregon State University football players riding in the cab and a 200-pound ram in the cargo bed. The ram was taken from the university's Sheep Center, where, according to the center's manager Tom Nichols, it was part of a study on homosexuality in sheep.

Giving People What They Want

Despite the fast-food industry's recent introduction of more nutritious menu items to combat the nation's obesity epidemic, the Washington Times reported that fatty foods are staging a comeback.

- Leading the way is Hardee's 1420-calorie Monster Thickburger. Brad Haley, the chain's marketing executive vice president, credited the burger with boosting same-store sales 5.8 percent in December 2004 over December 2003.

- McDonald's, which reformulated its Chicken McNuggets and salads, pointed out that its McGriddles breakfast sandwiches, each between 450 and 560 calories, also helped the company's strong sales increase last year.

- After a disappointing financial quarter, which it attributed to its policy of reducing portion size, Ruby Tuesday Inc., announced that it is resuming larger portions. "I think Americans want to eat what they eat," concluded Dean Haskell, a senior restaurant analyst for San Francisco investment bank JMP Securities, "without the 'food police' saying what's good or bad for them."

Captive Market

Police in Union Springs, Alabama, arrested two men within a month of each other trying to break into the Bullock County Jail. The first man tried to smuggle in marijuana. The second had pipe tobacco, rolling papers and three packs of cigarettes. "Someone could probably get $2 for a cigarette in there," police Chief Jake Wheeler said.

Litigation Nation

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Edward T. Coyne, 40, who rear-ended a state-owned dump truck, even though it was equipped with a flashing directional arrow and a sign announcing "Left Lane Closed Ahead" to warn motorists to steer clear of a convoy of vehicles clearing debris, can proceed with a second lawsuit against the state. Insisting that the state Department of Transportation's actions were "palpably unreasonable," Coyne, who had the right side of his face ripped off in the 1998 incident, said that even though DOT workers followed the department's safety manual for setting up warnings for road-cleaning, they should have made the warning even clearer.

Want Fries with That?

A Dutch cafeteria owner told police in Helmond that when a teenager threatened him and his wife with a gun, he retaliated by throwing french fries at the youth. "He wanted money," a police report said. "But once he had hot frites coming his way, he decided he had had enough."

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