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News Quirks 05.02.07


Published May 2, 2007 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Howard Bradley Mayfield, 47, tried to spend four counterfeit $20 bills at a convenience store in Damascus, Va., police said, but the assistant manager spotted them and recognized Mayfield as a regular customer. He called police, who went to the mobile home where Mayfield lived. Mayfield tried to get rid of the evidence by burning it, according to police Chief Tony Richardson, who found the bedroom filled with smoke and Mayfield's girlfriend, Valerie Sue Lester, 36, sitting on the bed pretending to be knitting a sweater and ignoring the smoke pouring from under the bed while being questioned. "I actually picked the bed up and put it on the back porch and stomped it out," Richardson said, noting that if he hadn't acted, the entire trailer would have gone up in flames.

The Virtual World Three out of every 10 U.S. households have no Internet access and do not plan to get it, according to a survey by the technology market research firm Park Associates. Of the holdouts, only 22 percent said they couldn't afford a computer or the cost of Internet service. Forty-four percent said they simply are not interested in anything on the Internet and see little use for it in their lives. "The industry continues to chip away at the core of non-subscribers," said John Barrett, director of research at Parks Associate. "Entertainment applications will be the key."

* As of March, two dozen states have outlawed cyber-hunting, where stay-at-home hunters use webcams to stalk prey and computer keyboards to aim and fire rifles. The New York Times reported the bans followed a 2005 demonstration by Texas entrepreneur John Lockwood, who set up a website that allowed subscribing hunters with a high-speed Internet connection to shoot antelope, wild pigs and other game on his 220-acre ranch via remote control. Lockwood offered to send the animals' heads to subscribers. Texas immediately outlawed the practice. Declaring that lawmakers have "no clue what they're passing laws against," Lockwood insisted the technology could help people with disabilities or servicemen overseas shoot game. "Ever since we stopped running after our prey and killing with our hands," he said, "we've evolved by distancing ourselves further and further from the game and making it more and more efficient, for whatever reason we want, to take it."

Never Mind James W. Van Iveren, 39, kicked open the door of an upstairs neighbor's apartment without warning and threatened the neighbor with a cavalry sword because he thought he heard a woman being raped and "screaming for help." According to police in Oconomowoc, Wis., the sound came from a pornographic movie the neighbor was watching. "Now I feel stupid," Van Iveren said after authorities filed charges against him.

The neighbor, meanwhile, said he doesn't blame Van Iveren for attempting to rescue a woman he thought was in danger but called him "obnoxiously late." Bret Stieghorst, 33, said he watched the movie between 1 and 2:30 a.m., but Van Iveren didn't burst into his apartment until about 11:30 a.m.

Drinking-Class Heroes Authorities in Orange County, Fla., reported that thieves used lighter fluid to start a fire in the popcorn section of a Wal-Mart store, then, during the commotion, ducked out the back door with beer. "It's very amazing that someone would try to catch a building on fire for beer," shopper Marsha Farrell told WFTV Eyewitness News. "But that's the way it is in Orange County."

Thanks for the Mammaries Cosmetic surgeons began recruiting 3000 Australian women to receive silicon breast implants coated with titanium. The metallic implants, developed in France, are intended to reduce cases of capsular contracture, an unnatural tightening where the breast becomes overly firm and sometimes distorted and painful. "The idea is when we put a titanium implant inside a patient, the body sees the titanium, not the silicon, and it won't react," study leader Dr. Daniel Fleming said, adding that the titanium "won't interfere with mammograms or airport scanners."

* A British hospital appealed for volunteers to knit breasts. Liverpool Women's Hospital said it will use the wooly breasts to teach women how to breastfeed. "You can buy model breasts," Kate McFadden, the hospital's infant feeding coordinator told the BBC, "but they cost around 35 pounds each ($70), which is quite prohibitive, as we need about 50."

Unintended Results Switching to daylight saving time three weeks earlier than usual was supposed to reduce consumption of electricity. It did, but Americans negated the environmental benefit by driving more. The Edison Electric Institute reported that demand for electricity fell by 0.4 percent for the three weeks after March 11, compared with the same period last year. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, gasoline consumption increased 2.8 percent during that time.

* Heightened security doesn't reduce illegal border crossings, according to a study published by the American Immigration Law Foundation. It concluded that fences and increased surveillance close to border cities in Texas and California appear to be funneling illegal immigrants into thinly populated areas of Arizona, whose harsh desert terrains have caused a 20-fold increase in illegal immigrant deaths. "It's clear that recent security build-ups are not deterring illegal immigrants from trying to cross," Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith of the University of Arizona at Tucson said. "They are simply attempting riskier crossings."

* Global warming makes it harder for hurricanes to form, according to researchers. Gabriel A. Vecchi, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, explained that warmer water increases vertical wind shear, or wind speed changes at different altitudes, over the tropical Atlantic and eastern Pacific oceans that can weaken hurricanes.