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September 2000

7 September 2000

The Associated Press reports that Dearborn, Michigan, hospital administrator Corinne Victor said: 'Twelve months ago we got a wake-up call from our customers saying they were waiting too long.' Oakwood Hospital's solution to this was a guarantee of service. If they are not served wihin 30 minutes, patients arriving in the emergency room will receive free movie passes and an apology.

In Aurora, Colorado, a 12-year-old girl received second- and third-degree burns to 23 per cent of her body after a neighbour poured petrol on her to remove head lice. The woman claimed to have rinsed the petrol out carefully, according to police sergeant Bob Stef. Something later apparently caused the fumes to ignite, however. Cigarettes have not been ruled out. Yes, the setting for this was a trailer.
In slightly related news, Sheree Dickens also lost her hair. During a hair treatment in Wake Forest, North Carolina, the town shut off the water. Stylist Tabitha Cole said: 'They couldn't understand. I was like "My client is burning".' When the town turned the shopping centre's water supply back on, it was too late to prevent Dickens's hair from starting to fall out. Dickens said: 'It actually burnt my scalp so it was open sores like running water over a cut.'
It is unclear whether or not the salon had been given advance notice of the outage.
Video is available on WRAL-TV's Web site here I may want to nab this for the Web pages, which I will work on illustrating and preparing for proper unveiling soon, before it vanishess into the mists of 404ville.

People have made jokes about the maximum allowable number of whole or partial insects in a jar of pickles in the US. The USDA is providing new fuel for jokes with its discussion of an appropriate size for holes in Swiss cheese. A 15-page draft regulation requires holes shrink from an average diameter of eleven sixteenths of an inch to three eighths of an inch if the cheeses in which they live are to be designated 'Grade A'. The guidelines, which would supersede 1987 federal rules, came at the request of the cheese lobby, who want a Grade A rating for the more popular small-hole cheese.

A Bognor Regis, England, sand castle building contest became the subject of controversy when organisers ruled that Darryl Hardy would not be allowed to use a miniature bulldozer. Hardy had made public his plan for winning the contest. The organisers thought it would be a bad idea to set a precedent.

ABC News tell us of a delicacy discovered by workers at an Australian fish wholesale firm. As they were preparing a giant cod for sale, they found a human head. Cairns, Queensland, police said a fishing trawler caught the 44-kilo flowery cod over the weekend. 'It was fairly big and the head appeared to be fairly much intact inside it', said police detective Sergeant David Miles.
Forensics experts hope to determine whether or not the head is that of Cairns fisherman Michael Edwards, who fell overboard on Sunday. Police said the search for Edwards was called off after the 5.2-foot fish's innards were revealed.

This next item is the stuff from which urban legends are made. Cosmil Delin had been sent to a Craiova, Romania, prison for theft. He planned a marathon sex session to celebrate the end of his four-year sentence. To aid him, he injected his nether regions with petroleum jelly before he collapsed in pain. The 25-year-old is in a Tirgu Jim hospital and has received an explanation of why petroleum jelly is supposed to be good for sex.

And from The Economist, we have a description of Japan about 50 years ago when 1,900 children fell ill after they drank Snow Brand's powdered milk and how a company executive drank a glass of the product in front of the press before being rushed to a toilet a few hours later. Well, a more recent fiasco involves factory pipes not being cleaned for weeks at a time. This has 'left 14,700 people ill and 100 in hospital'. The Economist also describes investigators finding workers in Osaka who were recycling old milk, which had been returned from supermarkets, 'opening up cartons with their bare hands in the sun'.

20 September 2000

According to a news item passed on to me by a Midwesterner, David Postma was typical enough. He drove a pickup truck. He enjoyed a bit to drink. The two, when combined, helped the 22-year-old evade heavy equipment in Kent County, Michigan, in order to drive over a bridge that hadn't quite been fully built yet. He made it partway across by driving on the I-beams, then the truck fell to the ground. Both he and a passenger went to hospital.

In another item from the Midwest, the Kansas City Star tells us of a man who decided to steal money from the convenience store (a Texaco Starmart) where he worked the night shift. He taped over the security cameras' lenses before taking the money and ringing the police to report that a robber rang and ordered him to tape over the lenses. The supposed robber then entered and demanded money from the 19-year-old clerk at gunpoint. The plan might have worked if the clerk hadn't used transparent tape. 'It's one of those things where [the videotape] looks a little fuzzy, but I don't see any robbery in there', said Shawnee Police Lieutenant Mitch Brim.
The Star also points out a failed 1999 Shawnee robbery, where the perpetrators allegedly locked employees in a freezer and then couldn't find their getaway car's parking space.
While I'm in the fumbled crimes file: a few months ago (March, cited in the Philadelphia Daily News), Edney Raphael ran away from the scene of the stabbing. The 39-year-old was carrying a bloody knife. The chase ended shortly after Raphael turned to see how close his pursuers were, managing to run into a parking meter.

The Times reports that Roman Catholic cardinals celebrating the Jubillee year of the millennium had a rather more interesting accompaniment than they may have imagined. We don't know if it was in answer to one of their prayers or not, but a Luxembourgian satellite television company tech crossed the Vatican video with two hours of a soundtrack from The Fantasy Channel. At the same time, Fantasy Channel viewers may have felt a tug from their consciences as they viewed Babes Illustrated or Stacey and the Hunt to the tune of singing, chanting, and praying from the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The mix-up affected viewers in Italy, Spain, and Latin America.

Don Astorga was stopped in June when police noticed odd bulges in his groin area and decided to search him for drugs. The Las Vegas man has now been convicted of lizard smuggling. Astorga's underwearheld tube socks containing nine dead and three living lizards, mostly geckos but also a water monitor and Nile monitor lizard.

We have heard a lot about the Olympics recently. I'll add to that, courtesy of Reuters. To address concerns that triathletes might be attacked by sharks while swimming, Olympic officials decided to quell concerns over recent shark sightings in Sydney harbor by hiring divers, to be armed with electric shark repellers. The divers are to drive motorised scooters under the swimmers. They should feel a slight tingle but no nibbling.

The Associated Press tell us of an off-duty police officer who went for an MRI test and was told by clinic workers that he could keep his handgun. The gun, we are told, was yanked away from his hand and discharged harmlessly in an exterior wall. 'It took three hours to power down the magnet and free the weapon' says the AP report. Sergeant William Benwitz decided that 'until we send this gun back to the factory, we're not even going to test-fire it. The metal is more brittle than it should be'. It's not the only thing.

A county courthouse in Maryland could not hold its own against a security breach, despite metal detectors and vigilance by private security guards, bailiffs, and deputies. The Prince George's County courthouse was infiltrated by a poisonous snake. The prosecutor, Jack Johnson, saw the presence of the copperhead outside his third-floor office as 'an attempt to intimidate me' for being outspoken about police officers' excessive use of force.
The news report says that sheriff's deputies tried to hold the snake down to capture it. They did this by laying the blade of a shovel across the poisonous snake's back. Sergeant William Ament said that 'it was apparently too heavy and we wound up with a dead snake'. Excessive use of force?

Oooh, another bungled burglary, this one mentioned in the Sacramento Bee. This was a 17-year-old who was arrested in Loomis, California, after he tried to drop into a store via the roof but, after crashing through a false ceiling, broke the sink off when grabbing hold of it to try to get out again. He then climbed into an adjacent store and fell through its ceiling as well. When he, with an injured ankle, finally made his way from the scene, he tripped the burglar alarm.

30 September 2000

Le Lavandou, in the French Riviera, doesn't have anywhere to put its corpses now that the town's lone cemetery is full. Since plans for an additional cemetery were dashed earlier this momth due to seaside building restrictions, the town passed a law forbidding 'without a cemetery plot to die on the territory of the commune'. About 50 per cent of those who die each year would be in violation of the law. In a telephone interview, Mayor Gil Bernardi said the 'absurd' law was 'enacted because of an absurd situation'.
What if people break the law, especially given that the law makes no provision for punishment? One option is to put bodies in a quarry, but the mayor compared this location to a 'dump'. In the meantime, the 19-body backlog is being stored in friends' vaults.

Sillier than this, a Southdown, England, woman said that she has been allergic to electricity ever since a thunderstorm 20 years ago. Christine Moody said that 'I find it difficult to walk on pavements because of the underground cables' and explained that she uses special chrome leather soles in her shoes. A lot of things are difficult for her. However, she need not contemplate a bleak existence. 'I can't get depressed because I don't think about it', she said. Uh-huh.

It was an unlikely setting when three monkeys decided to pester motorists on I-95, near Jarratt, Virginia. State Trooper Mike Scott's attention was caught by a woman who had pulled over after a monkey threw a banana at her car. After he stopped laughing, he investigated the scene of the attack, where a van and station wagon were at the side of the road. As one driver accused monkeys of throwing apples at his car, a crab apple hit the van. The three brown monkeys were believed to have escaped en route to either a state fair in Richmond, VA, or a North Carolina circus.

Here's a new excuse to get the day off work. After several National Pen Corp. employees were hospitalised and the rest evacuated amid dizziness and nausea, HAZMAT crews and blood lab workers scrambled to figure out what the mysterious odour was. Rather than the feared gas leak or chemical spill, it was urinal cakes.
Apparently, cleaning staff went a bit overboard. According to San Diego Fire Department dispatcher Rafael Senior, 'The HAZMATers went in and couldn't find anything and then smelled something coming from the third floor and sure enough [...] they had just put too much in the bathroom'.
Most urinal cakes do come with warnings that the four-ounce fragrant things are an irritant, but recommended daily allowances aren't given.

There are things they don't tell you in skydiving training. One of them is not to get caught under the plane. Andy Judy of Morgantown, West Virginia, probably didn't get this warning before his jump.
When his boot was caught under the Cessna 182 during a group manoeuvre, he was 3,200 metres in the air. Unable to free himself by unfastening his boots and suit, he waited while another plane was sent up to try to help. Since its pilot determined nothing could be done, As police and bystanders cleared a nearby field of sharp objects and rocks, Judy hung for half an hour before the plane landed. He received minor cuts and bruises.
Don Bick, co-owner of the Pittsburgh Skydiving Center, said: 'When we got to him, he looked at us and said, "My gosh, am I lucky".'

Another jumper will not escape so easily. After jumping from the 49th floor of the tallest building in Cincinnati, Ohio, the man snagged on the corner of a hotel and 'then he swung around and smacked into the building', according to a witness. Grasping the ledge of a 29th-storey window, he waited for rescue crews to drag him in the window. Police, who are considering whether or not to press charges, did not release the man's name to the Associated Press. The man told police that jumping is simply 'what I do'.

This isn't a weird news item so much as a reminder not to make pope jokes in Poland. It may not have been in the best interest of Poland's National Security Office chief to take a 'holier than thou' attitude. In a desperate attempt to discredit him and President Aleksander Kwasniewski, the Solidarity party distributed a video of him amusing Kwasniewski by making the sign of the cross and kissing the ground on emerging from a helicopter. Marek Siwiec's imitation of the pope's famous pose from Lithuania in 1993 will, according to the BBC, probably not affect the outcome of the election, however much Solidarity tries to paint the president and his close circle as commie sympathisers with Russia.

Stanley B. Gibson, 18, and Dwayne A. Taylor, 17, decided to ambush a pizza delivery man in Nashville, Tennessee. Gibson's gun went off when he hit the delivery man on the head with it. Although the man was not injured, the shot killed Taylor. Gibson is being charged with criminal homicide.

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