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News Quirks 11.30.05


Published November 30, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

A police officer investigating a shoplifting at a supermarket in Stuart, Fla., recognized fugitive Ari Rayvon Stanberry, 22, who bolted and hid in the store's freezer. By the time he was located, according to police Sgt. Marty Jacobson, "The officer said his dreadlocks looked like little popsicles. He was certainly ready and willing to come out."

Turnabout Is Fair Play

After successfully reducing the number of juvenile runaways, Japanese authorities reported that the number of adults who run away has risen 31 percent since 1981. Almost 20 percent of the missing adult reports cited family woes as the most likely reason for the disappearance, followed by problems at work and relationships. "Unless they've gotten involved in an accident or crime, there's very little we can or should do," said Masako Shinozaki of the National Police Agency. "If they're adults and left home of their own will, we have to respect that."

Firsthand Experience

The head of a commission investigating Trinidad and Tobago's public health care fell ill from food poisoning after eating at a government-run hospital in San Fernando. "I almost died," former magistrate Gladys Gaffoor said. "I spent one night on drips and oxygen."

Play Time

When police in Troy, N.Y., tried to stop Tyrone McMillian, 33, on a parole warrant, he sped off, leading officers on a high-speed chase through several towns before finally hitting a police cruiser and another car. "I was crazy," McMillian told police Sgt. Joseph Centanni. "I've been playing a lot of Grand Theft Auto and NASCAR on PlayStation. I thought I could get away."

Clear-Cut Initiatives

U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) proposed waiving the fee the government charges to cut firewood in national forests so more people will burn wood. "Every bit helps," he said, citing jacked-up heating oil and natural gas prices.

- Georgia lawmakers authorized underwater logging on the Flint and Altamaha rivers in the southern part of the state. Three to 5 percent of the millions of logs sent down those rivers in the 19th and 20th centuries sank to the bottom before reaching their destinations. The wood is tight-grained and 10 times more valuable than conventional wood, according to Ryan Lee, who battles alligators, snakes and snapping turtles salvaging 20-foot cypress and pine logs, each weighing 3000 to 5000 pounds, to produce high-end flooring, paneling and furniture. "It's really a treasure," state Sen. Tommie Williams said. "The quality of the wood and the uniqueness of the wood is something we can't duplicate. There really aren't any virgin forests left."

Close But No Cigar

When the mother of a child protested after a court-ordered paternity test showed that James Durney, 40, of Chittenango, N.Y., was not the father, county employees showed her a photo of the man who took the test. She said the man in the photo wasn't Durney. Authorities accused Durney of sending an impersonator, Neil Simon, 34, to take the test. "He didn't feel like paying child support, is what the problem was," state police Investigator Mark Nell told the Syracuse Post-Standard.

The Not-So-Great Imposter

Authorities accused Bryan Perley of impersonating a Merchant Marine captain and trying to serve a bogus arrest warrant on a state worker in Orlando, Fla. When co-workers told him that the employee he was looking for had the day off, he called the police for help in serving the warrant. "They don't understand the chain of command in government," Perley complained to the 911 dispatcher. "I've warned them today. They've been totally unresponsive." Police Officer Ronald Satallante said that besides the phony warrant, Perley's identification and passport "appeared to be fictitious as well."

Hidden Charges

Hawaii began enforcing a policy that requires used-car buyers to pay any outstanding parking fines incurred by previous owners before they can register their vehicles. As a result, some buyers have been left with hundreds of dollars in unpaid citations, and many have not been able to renew vehicle registrations because of the outstanding tickets.

One-Step Program

Treating alcoholism in Russia essentially involves scaring drinkers to stop. Dating to the former Soviet Union, it involves manipulating the alcoholic's psyche to create the belief that alcohol equals death. The practice, called coding, "is basically a form of hypnosis: You drink, you die," psychotherapist Andrei Yermoshin told the Washington Post. "It's fast and cheap." In some cases, doctors place astronaut-style helmets on their patients and tell them they are manipulating their brains. Others say that they are administering potentially fatal drugs, which are in fact placebos, to convince patients that their bodies contain a substance that will be fatal if mixed with alcohol.

Opportunity Knocks

Singapore opened the world's first toilet college to teach cleaners how to improve their lavatory washing skills. "We are going to train the toilet cleaners to upgrade himself or herself to a level where he or she can take care of the entire toilet, including changing bulbs, repairing leaky taps, technical cleaning, taking away salts inside the toilet," said Jack Sim, president of the World Toilet Organization, which set up the college. The WTO is a nonprofit organization whose 17 members include the Restroom Association of Singapore, the Japan Toilet Association and the Beijing Tourism Bureau.


Walking on cobblestones can improve balance and protect against falls, according to the Oregon Research Institute. Behavioral scientist John Fisher, who led a 16-week study of people over 60, he said that he and his colleagues investigated the health effects of cobblestones after observing people exercising on cobblestone paths in China. "People were standing on them, and sometimes standing on them doing weight-shifting," Fisher said. He added that the study also noted a significant drop in blood pressure among the subjects.