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November 2000

23 November 2000

First we bring you an 18 November item about some Kenyans who were Darwinated with a homebrew called 'kill me quick'. About 128 are dead and 400 hospitalised in Nairobi after encontering a methanol-laced batch of chang'aa called 'kumi-kumi'. Some lost their sight or fell into a coma before being injected with ethanol in an attempt to dilute the toxin. (Reportedly, when one man died outside a hospital, his taxi driver stole the man's shoes as fare payment.)
Despite arrests - including that of a chemical company director - authorities are sceptical about their ability to end the problem, especially given that 'a lot of these people [...] say you die when your time comes', according to police spokesman Peter Kimanthi. Also, the stuff sold for the equivalent of 9 pence per mugful. Nairobi provincial commissioner Cyrus Naina said: 'Even those just released from hospital are celebrating with more chang'aa.'

Who is funding this? British scientists are testing the claim of RAF pilots that a colony full of penguins will fall over when staring up as a plane flies over them. Members of the British Antarctic Survey will spend a month in the Falkland Islands to study the phenomenon.
Do the potential benefits of this research know no bounds? If this proves Survey member Dr Richard Stone wrong in his claim that 'it's an urban myth', several people may owe the aforementioned pilots an apology.

[IMG: Mr. Potato Head statue] Mr. Potato Head is the official mascot of Rhode Island. Some think this insulting and not for the reasons you may think. The mascot's statue at East Providence City Hall has been taken down. Although the artist claims 'He's a potato. That's why he's brown', city affirmative action officer Onna Muniz-John maintains that it was a racist statue.

Lawyers should konw better. In an attempt to generate business, L.A.'s Quinn Emanuel law firm sent potential clients a 'Business Is War' mailing which included the gimmick of a fake hand grenade. In at least two cases, recipients called in the police bomb squad. I'm sure that these companies, aware that sending a fake bomb through the post is illegal, will choose Quinn Emanuel to represent them in any forthcoming legal action.

In eastern China we find a teacher who cut off a student's finger. After Li Xinjiang, age six, stole a pair of shoes from his younger brother in class, teacher Lin Yifen was displeased and cut off a third of the boy's left index finger with a pair of scissors. According to the BBC, the teacher had no professional qualifications. She is in trouble now.
Another teacher, in the south, was suspended for ordering a boy to eat 1,000 flies. The Worker's Daily recently claimed that violence toward pupils is on the rise and blames under-educated teachers.

According to the Agence France-Presse, scientists from the University of the West of England measured the emotional response of MPs while the politicians were shown various pictures, including those of a blond model and of Margaret Thatcher. They concluded, based on the pulse rates of most MPs, that Thatcher was a greater turn-on to these men than were such people as Denise Van Outen.

On 17 October, USAirways let a pig ride in First Class on a six-hour flight (Flight 107) from Philadelphia to Seattle. The pig's owners convinced the airline that the pig was a 'therapeutic companion pet' akin to a seeing-eye dog. An eyewitness on the flight said: 'Frankly, I couldn't tell what kind of therapeutic service it was providing. All I know is it was ugly and it pooped.' Few passengers complained.
An internal report said that the owners, in obtaining permission to fly with the pig, claimed the animal weighed 13 pounds, or six kilos. 'I'd estimate 300 pounds', said someone on the flight, who explained that four people struggled to wheel the animal to its place on the floor in First Class's front row (and extending into the aisle). Also, the owners said they had a doctor's note requiring that they fly with the pig.
The pig apparently behaved during the flight, but flight attendants' objections may have been justified when the aeroplane touched down. The squealing animal tried to enter the cockpit before planting itself in the galley. After being was lured from the plane with food, the animal left excrement on the jetway. The report stated: 'Another passenger on the flight advised pig owner that she picked up her pig's feces and she was not happy about that.'
Airline spokesman David Castelveter said: 'We can confirm that the pig traveled, and we can confirm that it will never happen again', adding this: 'Let me stress that. It will never happen again.'

Further points for creativity were earned in Virginia, where Alben Dupree, a 48-year-old cleaner at Richmond International Airport, used his hoover on the United Airlines drop-safe. Airport police captain Craig McLean said that Dupree 'stuck the hose down in through the opening of the safe, and he would fish around with the hose until it [stuck] against something'. Dupree hoovered out envelopes containing at least $6,889, according to police, who have video footage of the plundering.

The Norwegian television programme Baren follows the lives of 10 people who work in a bar. When these people's apartment above the bar was burgled, producers caught the thief, who maintained his innocence until he was confronted with the evidence of 17 tv cameras. Charges weren't filed because 'some of the participants said they almost felt sorry for him because he was so unlucky or stupid', said a producer.

The Los Angeles Times ran an advertisement for the Potency Recovery Center of Catholic Healthcare West. Aubrey Rust was not pleased with the advert or similar brochures. This has something to do with the use of his photograph. He is suing the impotence clinic and the newspaper for $750 for each of the million+ unauthorised instances of the picture. That's enough to pay for a lot of Viagra.

The Climax Gentleman's Club in Salem Township, Pennsylvania, offers a drive-through peep show. Drivers present proof of their age and pay for however many minutes they want, $5 each, at the second window, behind which a nude dancer waits. Barbie, one of the strippers, said one man paid for 20 minutes, but most prefer two or three. This follows the tightening of area restrictions on strip clubs.

In Knoxville, Tennessee, a woman is suing a local McDonalds for $125,000 due to second-degree burns on her chin. Veronica M. Martin and her husband claim a pickle on a small beef burger fell onto the woman's chin and left a scar there. The suit claims the burger to have been 'in a defective condition or unreasonably dangerous to the general consumer'. In the two-page reply to the suit, the McDonalds denies Martin's claims, including that her husband has been deprived of Martin's 'services and consortium' due to the injury.

This kind of publicity may not have been what Doyle Bickers had in mind when photos were taken to show the student body's diversity. Black staff members were asked to pose as students. Black student Simone Wells-Heard appears in five different photos. Bickers, Auburn University's Admissions Director, said: 'We are attempting to put together a picture that represents the University in an honest manner.' However, Auburn believes that doctoring photographs is honest and will continue to do so in future, although an explanation of the process will be included in their future publications.
Why didn't they just include Mr. Potato Head in the photographs?

Where rude gestures at other drivers are an offence, German drivers are being warned that this may be taken one step further. Reuters reports that a Bavarian court ruled that a driver who flipped off a traffic camera was flipping off the German police rather than the piece of equipment. The driver claimed he didn't think the camera was switched on.

A Waterloo, Iowa, man was found naked in a community college farm's hay loft at 8am. In the corner was a bound ewe with her hindquarters elevated. Next to her was a blue nightgown.
Held by students until the polie arrived, Robert Allen Broderson was arrested for criminal trespass and animal abuse. (Iowa is one of 26 states that have no laws against sex with animals.)

Animal abuse of a different sort was uncovered in New Jersey, where Frank Balun found that a squirrel trap contained a rat that had been eating his garden plants. He killed the rat when it tried to escape. The area Humane Society charged him with needlessly killing the rat and told him the animal should have been 'humanely put to sleep by injection' or 'set free in a nature environment [the Brooklyn Zoo or a different state?]. The health board aministrator offered to support Balun if the case goes to court.

I won't talk about Florida's recent election fiasco. I draw your attention instead to New Ashford, Massachusetts, where the Town Clerk and Secretary, Richard DeMyer, opened the state primary election poles and than sat alone for 14 hours. Explaining his own decision not to vote, he said: 'Why the hell should I? Nobody else did.' Statewide, voter turnout was 9.39 per cent, the lowest ever for a state primary.
Contrast this to Margie Knake of Nashville Tennessee. The 72-year-old woman was found missing when nurses came to prep her for open-heart surgery. After searching the building, they found Knake's note: 'Gone to vote, back in 30 minutes'. An election official at that precinct did remember seeing an elderly woman sporting IV tubes.
In other election comments, Talal Salman, editor of Lebanon's As-Safir newspaper, apologised for claiming Al Gore victorious in the US Presidential election. Reuters reports that Salman wrote in an editorial, 'We are used to a deep-rooted Arab tradition of democracy where results are first declared, then elections are conducted and votes brought in to affirm it'.

Leave me alone already!

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© 2000 Anna Shefl