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News Quirks 05.31.06


Published May 31, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

Los Angeles police investigating the hit-and-run deaths of two homeless men learned that the men had millions of dollars in life insurance. The policies had been taken out by Helen Golay, 75, and Olga Rutterschmidt, 72, who police said aroused suspicion because the men were run down right after the two-year waiting period to be eligible to collect on the policies had expired for both of them.

--Police in Bentonville, Ark., said that Ashley Dawn Dover, 20, repeatedly tried to scan a credit card at the checkout of a Wal-Mart store to pay for a $120 purchase. The clerk finally offered to help and noticed that the credit card was her own, stolen with her purse two days earlier. "The clerk looks up at her and says, 'This is my stuff and I want it back,'" Police Chief James Allen said. "The suspect reaches in her purse, hands everything over and then runs out the door." Police arrested Dover as she drove away.

Ball of Confusion

When authorities arrested Shellie White, 30, who was wanted in Arizona for abducting her two children three years earlier, they said that she had been living with them in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., and posing as their father. She was so convincing, the Arizona Republic reported, that even the children believed she was their father. "After Ms. White was arrested," a news release from the U.S. Marshals Service said, "her children, now aged 6 and 8, asked the deputy U.S. marshals why they were arresting their daddy." Despite White's insistence that her masculine appearance was nothing new, the children's real father, Ernest Karnes, said that his ex-wife did not look like a man when they were married.

Front-Line Follies

The United States is sending troops with severe psychological problems to Iraq, according to official Pentagon records obtained by the Hartford Courant, which reported that some have been kept in combat even after their superiors observed signs of mental illness, sometimes after being prescribed antidepressants with little or no mental health counseling or monitoring. Pointing out that these drugs are known to cause people to become suicidal and homicidal, Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, warned, "You're creating chemically activated time bombs."

--China's military has announced tighter recruitment standards for officers, including drug and psychological tests. The official Xinhua News Agency reported that the People's Liberation Army also will bar from military schools potential officers who have tattoos or are heavy snorers, "given," one army official said, "that chronic snorers' sounds disturb the life of others."

The Medium Is the Message

After ads for a Dutch online reservations company appeared on 144 sheep throughout the Netherlands, Mayor Bert Kuiper of Skarsterlan banned ads on grazing livestock in his town. He said that the ads displayed on waterproof blankets worn by the sheep violate a local law against roadside advertising. He also warned that farmers who rent out their animals would be fined $1250. Meanwhile, the company behind the ads, Easy Green Promotions, whose blankets have Velcro strips so clients' messages can be changed, said that it hoped eventually to have 25,000 branded sheep, use horses and cows, and expand to France and Britain.

Lucky, Up to a Point

Joseph Lewis Clark, 57, enjoyed an extra hour of life after his execution was delayed because one of his veins collapsed while he was receiving the lethal injection in his right arm. Clark sat up and told his executioners, "It's not working." The team fixed the problem and proceeded.

Human Pincushion

When doctors examined a 33-year-old Oregon man who went to a hospital emergency room complaining of a headache, they found 12 nails, up to 2 inches long, embedded in his skull. According to a report in the Journal of Neurosurgery, the unidentified patient told doctors he had had an accident with a nail gun but later admitted he had tried to commit suicide. He was transferred to Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, where doctors used needle-nosed pliers and a drill to remove the nails. Neurosur-geon Dr. G. Alexander West, who oversaw the treatment and wrote the report, said the patient is the first one known to have survived after intentionally firing so many foreign objects into the head.

Where's a Wet Nurse When You Need One?

In a report on the increase in the number of parents buying breast milk to feed their babies, the San Francisco Chronicle said that they are getting it from licensed banks, the Internet and strangers. Christine Bartels, 44, of Palo Alto, Calif., told the paper that she spent more than $25,000 to feed her adopted son for his first nine months, paying $3 an ounce for donated breast milk.

Senior Moment

After a German cleaning company reported removing soggy bundles of bank notes from a blocked pipe in Kiel, investigators learned that a 64-year-old retiree had reported blocked pipes at his house the same day. Police said that when they visited the "slightly bewildered" man, he admitted flushing $18,900 in marks down the toilet because he mistakenly believed that since the euro was now the national currency, the marks "no longer had any value."


Turkish authorities arrested an official of the ruling party while laying a wreath at a monument to the country's founder, Kemal Ataturk, because he was chewing gum. Charged with insulting Ataturk's memory, Veysel Dalci, 38, head of the local branch of the Justice and Development Party in Fatsa, told CNN Turk Television that he had been chewing gum to hide the smell of garlic during the ceremony and was "very sorry."