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News Quirks 12.14.05


Published December 14, 2005 at 5:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

Police investigators in Billings, Mont., concluded that Wayland Deputee Jr., 23, broke into a home whose owner was on vacation, hauled away two bags of household items, then returned to set fires in the kitchen and bedroom to cover his tracks. Before he could escape the burning building, he was overcome by smoke inhalation and pronounced dead by emergency crews that pulled his body from the house.

Avoirdupois Follies

The National Transportation Safety Board blamed the 2004 capsizing of a water taxi in Baltimore Harbor on overweight passengers. The 36-foot Lady D was carrying its limit of 25 passengers but was 700 pounds over its 3500-pound capacity. Explaining that the Coast Guard set the standard in the 1960s, by calculating the average passenger's weight at 140 pounds, NTSB Chairman Ellen Engleman Conners pointed out, "Average adult weights have increased by nearly 25 pounds in the last 40 years."

- Men at the Utah State Prison gain an extra 34 pounds after a year behind bars because they're fed a 3000-calorie diet and exercise little. The Food and Drug Administration recommends 2000-calorie diets for active people. Warden Clint Friel said that he's afraid inmates would riot if he cut back on food, sweets and snacks.

- New Zealand's Peter Bethune, 39, announced his intention to break the world speed record for circling the globe by using fat from liposuction patients to power his boat. Noting that he can get 6.5 pounds of fat from the average person to produce 3.2 quarts of refined biofuel, Bethune said that he expects his Earthrace craft to use 18,200 gallons of biofuels to beat the 75-day record. The Dominion Post reported that Bethune got the ball rolling by having 3 ounces of fat liposuctioned from his body to be turned into fuel.

- Hong Kong's Life of Life Healing Spa helps its customers lose weight by setting them on fire. First, they undergo a full-body exfoliation and a soak in a 300-jet tub before being sprayed down with a high-pressure hose used for lymphatic drainage. Then they are massaged with Chinese herbs, wrapped in wet towels, have an alcohol solution poured over them and are set on fire. "We have someone standing by with a towel to put out the flames if they get too hot," beauty consultant Noel Ho said, adding that fire extinguishers were also on hand while the burning process is repeated three to five times. Spa manager Winnie Ng claimed that the fire treatment is based on traditional Chinese medicine, although traditional Chinese doctor Yiu Yan-man told the South China Morning Post, "I have never heard of such a thing."

- Medical professionals need longer needles to administer drugs because patients' butts have gotten so fat that regular needles don't work. Researchers at Dublin's Adelaide and Meath Hospital reported that fatty tissue prevented standard-sized needles from reaching the buttock muscle in 92 percent of the patients studied, and two-thirds of them did not receive the full dosage of the drug. "There is no question that obesity is the underlying cause," researcher Victoria Chan said. "We have identified a new problem related, in part, to the increasing amount of fat in patients' buttocks."

Haves & Have-Nots

High gas prices are causing some sport utility vehicle owners to burn their vehicles for the insurance money, according to investigators. "People end up getting backed up against the wall financially," said Dale Banda of the California Department of Insurance. "We've talked to people who committed insurance fraud who otherwise wouldn't commit another crime."

- Roughly a third of the cars on the road in Saudi Arabia (where gas costs about $1 a gallon), United Arab Emirates ($1.70 a gallon), Kuwait (83 cents a gallon) and other Persian Gulf nations are SUVs. "Our business is booming at the moment," Julian White, who heads sales for 4X4 Motors in Dubai, told the Associated Press. "This is the first place I've ever sold cars where no one asks about fuel consumption."

Second-Amendment Follies

Sheriff's officials in Tazwell County, Va., reported that Sidney Russell Hale, 31, decided to see how fast he could react in case anyone broke into his trailer. He persuaded a friend, Whitney Dean, 19, to pretend to be a prowler knocking on Hale's front door while another friend, Megan Honaker, 19, timed how fast he could pull a handgun that he had just bought. When Dean knocked on the door, Hale pulled the gun, which accidentally fired. The bullet passed through the trailer wall and struck Dean in the back.

- A 59-year-old man shot himself while going to the bathroom at a gun show in Faribault, Minn. Faribault Police Sgt. Richard Larson explained that the man was removing his gun from a hook in the bathroom stall when it discharged, wounding him in the hand.

- Chris Flanagan, 41, was shot in the chest while standing in the outhouse at his family's camp outside Vershire, Vt. Police said that a young relative of the victim fired a .22-caliber rifle at the outhouse for target practice, but insisted that he didn't know Flanagan was inside.

Not-So-Great Escapes

Italian police were chasing Gilberto Antonio Carnoale, 48, when he gave them the slip and ducked into a church in Soverato. Inside, other police were attending mass, the news agency Ansa reported. They recognized the fugitive and arrested him.

- Another manhunt ended the same day, when Russian police captured murder suspect Alexei Britov. Komsomolskaya Pravda reported that the wife of one of the investigators was watching a TV show and recognized Britov's name in the credits for costumes. "Darling, isn't that your man?" she screamed to her husband. "And, as it turns out," someone in the prosecutor's office told the newspaper, "it was."