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News Quirks 05.16.07


Published May 16, 2007 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Christopher Watts, 32, was wanted for probation violation when a police officer approached him in Franklin, Ohio. According to the officer's report, Watts fled by climbing a fence to the top of a one-story bar. He then tried to jump to the roof of a business next door, only the gap turned out to be wider than he figured. He fell some 15 feet and became stuck between the two buildings, requiring a fire department ladder truck to free him.

Homeland Insecurity Officials detained a man who tried to pass through security at Los Angeles International Airport with a half-inch magnet hidden inside his rectum. They alerted the bomb squad and ordered the flight he was scheduled to take, which had already taken off, to divert to Las Vegas. Agents there pulled off two bags the man had checked but found nothing suspicious. The man, an Iraqi national identified as Fadhel al-Maliki, 35, of New Jersey, told investigators the magnet, which was wrapped with a piece of gum in a napkin and then coiled with wire, and a round, polished stone found with it in his rectum have therapeutic properties. He explained that he forgot to remove them before reaching the security checkpoint.

Joy Boys Obese men are 42 percent less likely to commit suicide than slimmer men, according to a study. The researchers attributed the findings to obese men's higher production of insulin and other hormones that affect mood. "Men can be jolly and fat," lead author Kenneth J. Mukamal of Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center said.

Identity-Theft Opportunity When Venison Turner Jr. won $300,000 in the Maine Lottery, the state's Morning Sentinel newspaper published a photo of him holding his winning ticket and the paperwork he filed to collect his prize. Editor Eric Conrad said about a dozen readers notified the paper that the photo shows the documents clearly enough to reveal Turner's personal information, including his address, date of birth and Social Security number.

Orwell Meets Kafka The "war on terror" is over, according to U.S. and British officials, who are abandoning that phrase as well as "long war." The change in rhetoric began in March, according to the Washington Times, when the Defense Department stopped using "long war." In April, Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee decreed the end of both phrases. And the British government has instructed all diplomats to stop using "war on terror." Reflecting the Bush regime's new position, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff declared what the country is engaged in now is a global "battle over ideas and ideology."

* Eighty-two prisoners of the global battle over ideas and ideology being held at Guantanamo Bay have been cleared for release, but they may be held months, perhaps years, longer, the Washington Post reported, because U.S. officials can't find places to deport them. Either the prisoners' countries do not want them back or U.S laws prevent the deportation of people to countries where they could face torture or other human rights abuses (except when the U.S. government sends prisoners to be tortured on its behalf). U.S. officials said they intend to try 60 to 80 of the roughly 385 Guantanamo inmates and free the rest, although Ben Wizner, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Post, "One of the cruel ironies is that in Guantanamo, you've got to plead guilty to be released. It's the only way out of here."

Killjoys of the Week Belgium's Antwerp Zoo began advising visitors not to stare at the apes. "Look away when an animal seeks to make contact with you, or take a step back," a sign reads. "Some individuals are more interested in visitors than their own kind." Zoo official Ilse Segers explained that the zoo is encouraging one of the chimps, who was raised by humans, to bond with seven other apes, but continued interaction with humans has been "delaying the social integration of the animal in the group."

* An amusement park in suburban Sacramento, Calif., instituted a no-screaming policy for patrons riding the Screamer. The thrill ride at the Scandia Family Fun Center consists of a gigantic, windmill-like contraption that sends people plunging 16 stories at nearly 60 mph. Acting on complaints from neighbors separated from the amusement park by a 12-lane Interstate highway, operators now advise riders strapped into the Scandia Screamer's two metal baskets: "We are required to remove you from this ride if you make any noise. If you feel you might make a noise, please cover your mouth tightly with your hand, like this." The operator then demonstrates and continues: "If we hear any noise through your hand, we will remove you from the ride. So please remain silent and enjoy the Screamer."

Miss Uncongeniality After 82-year-old Venus Ramey confronted an intruder on her farm outside Waynesburg, Ky., where thieves had previously made off with old farm equipment, she said he told her he would leave, but she responded, "Oh, no you won't," and shot out the tires of the car with three other occupants so they couldn't get away. She then flagged down a passing motorist, who called the police. Curtis Parrish was charged with trespassing, Deputy Dan Gilliam reported, adding the other three were questioned but not arrested. Ramey, who said she had to balance on her walker as she pulled out a snub-nosed .38-caliber handgun to fire it, was Miss America 1944. "I'm trying to live a quiet, peaceful life and stay out of trouble," she pointed out, "and all it is, is one thing after another."