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News Quirks 04.18.07


Published April 18, 2007 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Twelve years after Anthony Michael Perone, 20, said a third-grade classmate broke his heart, he sent anonymous threatening letters to her Connecticut home, including one signed "Death Stalker." Federal authorities identified Perone as the sender because the envelopes had his name and return address in Fairmont, Minn., where he lived with his parents. Investigators discovered that he hadn't written his return address on the letters, but he left them for his mother to mail, and, thinking they were "simply innocuous letters intended for a friend in Connecticut," court records said, she wrote Perone's name and address on them.

Horny Hereafter Instead of honoring dead relatives the traditional way by burning fake money to celebrate China's annual Tombsweeping Festival, people have begun burning paper replicas of Viagra pills and images of condoms and heavily made-up bar girls to wish the deceased satisfying sex in the afterlife. The Nanjing Morning News reported that other popular offerings include paper television sets, mobile phones, cars and assorted luxury goods. The Beijing Morning Post called for a crackdown on the sex-related "vice" offerings but noted authorities are unable to halt them because of high demand.

Medical Plan from Hell A routine appendectomy went awry when two surgeons started fighting in the operating room of a Serbian hospital and stormed outside to settle their dispute. Belgrade's daily newspaper Politika reported that Dr. Spasoje Radulovic was removing the patient's appendix when Dr. Dragon Vukanic entered and made a disparaging remark that started a quarrel. "At one moment, Vukanic pulled the ear of the operating doctor, slapped him in the face and walked out," the anesthesiologist on duty said. Radulovic followed, and an all-out fight ensued. An assisting surgeon finished the operation.

Flour Power A woman who was arrested and jailed for three weeks on drug charges for carrying condoms filled with what turned out to be flour settled a lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia for $180,000. College student Janet H. Lee tried to take three condoms in her carry-on bag on a flight to Los Angeles. Airport screeners found the condoms, and authorities said initial tests showed they contained opium and cocaine. Lee explained the flour-filled condoms were a phallic toy that freshmen at her school would squeeze to deal with exam stress. She had packed them to show to friends at home. Lee was held for 21 days on drug trafficking charges until later tests showed that she was telling the truth.

Too Much Reality Most Dutch television viewers objected to reality show pioneer SBS 6's plan to air a dating program for the visibly disfigured. "Do you have a visible serious handicap and are you looking for a partner?" said the website appeal for contestants to appear on "Love at Second Sight." The show originally was to have been called "Monster Love." Even with the name change and the broadcaster's insistence that the program "is a platform for people with such problems to share experiences and feelings in a positive way with the rest of the Netherlands and to show that they are absolutely not pitiful," 85 percent of the people surveyed by the newspaper De Telegraaf said they thought the show was a bad idea. Only 9 percent were in favor.

-- A new Mexican theme park charges tourists $19.50 to be shot at and chased across the desert and to wade through fast-flowing rivers while pretending to be crossing the U.S. border illegally. Eco Alberto Park, located near Ixmiquilpan, 700 miles from the actual border, even fakes the deaths of other immigrants along the way to add a feeling of authentic danger for the tourists. A British correspondent writing about the nightlong trek reported that he nearly drowned before four guides pulled him to safety. Amnesty International has criticized the park, declaring that it "trivializes the struggle of real immigrants," but the park's staff insisted it pays homage to those who face danger and risk death trying to seek a life across the border.

-- Guests using the pool at the Edgewater Hotel and Waterpark in Duluth, Minn., were forced to flee to the parking lot when a 20-foot-tall imitation volcano started belching black smoke and shooting flames. The hotel manager said a malfunctioning internal speaker ignited the fire, which firefighters were able to put out, but not before it melted part of the plastic volcano.

Cave Men's Progress The term "Stone Age" is an insult to tribal peoples and no longer acceptable, according to the British-based Association of Social Anthropologists, which is also seeking an end to the term "primitive." The group's declaration was a response to a campaign by the activist group Survival International to "challenge racist descriptions" in the news media.

-- In separate news, ABC announced plans to produce a comedy series based on the neo-Neanderthal characters in ads for Geico insurance who object to the company's use of the tagline "so easy a cave man could do it." In the planned sitcom, three of the modern-day cave men will "struggle with prejudice on a daily basis as they live the life of normal thirtysomethings in 2007 Atlanta," the network said.

Victims of Progress Demand for cellphones and flat-screen TVs is depleting global supplies of the minor metals ruthenium, bismuth and indium, which are used in a billion consumer devices a year. As a result, their price is soaring, according to New Scientist magazine, which warned that reserves could run out within five years. To continue supplying products that rely on these metals, Rudiger Kuhr of the United Nations University in Tokyo warned, tech firms must mine the growing mountains of electronic waste to recover and recycle them.