NewsQuirks 318

Short Fuse, Big Bang Just before he was executed in Texas in June for stabbing a man to death, John Fearance Jr., 40, called the incident "a bad psychotic break." He explained that he snapped and went on a rampage that led to the murder after returning home from his job at a car repair shop and finding that his wife had baked him a casserole with meat. He said he liked his meat separately. In England, Elaine Simpson was sentenced to four years in prison after she admitted killing her husband, Charles, because he couldn't stand the time she spent on the telephone. When he finally hid it on her, she stormed out of the home, then returned two days later and stabbed him with a kitchen knife. Mensa Reject of the Week Jeff Summers, 31, of Twins Falls, Idaho, was seriously injured after he parachuted from the roof of Seattle's 76-story Columbia Seafirst Center in May. A gust of wind collapsed his chute and blew him into the side of the building, causing him to break a window on the 17th floor before plummeting to a fifth-floor roof tier. Police Officer Sean O'Donnell said that, according to two companions, Summers was leaving for a medical residency in Honolulu "and apparently he had always wanted to jump off the building."Let's Make a Deal The anti-communist Chinese government of Taiwan, which lost its United Nations seat to Beijing in 1971, offered the cash-strapped body $1 billion to grant it membership. In June, South African President Nelson Mandela sought the support of tribal chiefs who back his political opponent Mangosuthu Buthelezi by offering them higher salaries, housing, secretaries and cars to break their allegiance to Buthelezi.A Place Called Nope In April, Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy called the Oklahoma City bombing "the beginning of the reaction of the masses living in America." Warning that "thousands of militias were currently waging armed popular revolution in America," Khadafy invited President Clinton to take refuge in Libya, "the only safe country in the world."Water Woes A government report warned that Taiwan is sinking into the ocean. Blaming illegal pumping of underground water reserves, the report said that during the past 14 years about 7 percent of the island has sunk into the Pacific. Demand for water in the Persian Gulf states has tripled during the past 20 years, causing ground water levels to sink and the water table to become increasingly brackish. Some marine environmental experts have warned that desalination plants built to meet freshwater demand add to the problem by making gulf waters saltier.Losing Streak Upset that she would not be going to the Super Bowl with her ex-husband, San Diego assistant coach Dwain Painter, Diane Painter, 52, started her car in the garage of their Bellevue, Pa., home and died of carbon monoxide poisoning. A week later, Painter's Chargers lost the Super Bowl game to San Francisco, 49-26. In February, Painter's daughter and son were scattering their mother's ashes along a rocky section of the Pacific coast when the daughter, Debbie Menta, 32, was swept to death by a giant wave.Hardly Wet Although Guy Delage, 42, completed a 2,400-mile solo swim across the Atlantic in February, some critics wondered when he found time to swim. Outfitted with flippers, a wet suit, a high-tech kick board and other gear provided by sponsors, Delage spent at least 14 hours a day on board his 15-foot raft cooking, sleeping, talking with his wife via radio, giving news interviews and making observations for marine scientists. His supporters conceded that Delage made more progress at night aboard the wind-powered raft than while actually in the water. French swimmer Stefan Caron, who won a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics, dismissed Delage's effort as little more than "bathing." Americanitis Preliminary studies indicate that a pill may curb obsessive shopping. Psychiatrist Donald Black reported in May that of the 10 compulsive shoppers in his study, nine cut their shopping at least in half after they started taking Fluvoxamine, which is already used to treat other compulsive behaviors. Toys may spark fantasies of great careers in minimum-wage jobs, Rolling Stone magazine concluded after noting that toy stores now stock McDonald's McNuggets snack maker, french fry maker and pie maker; Burger King play set with plastic buns, pickles, onion rings, fries and plastic burger; Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza play set with four slices, pepperoni, pizza cutter and spatula. Lenny Gilman, whose Shy Kids distributes the Burger King and Pizza Hut toys denied the charge. "We aren't prepping children for the fast-food industry," he insisted. "These are educational toys. Kids can learn about food, coordination and how to make stuff."Want Fries with That? Scientists at Monsanto Corp. announced in May that they had created a bug-killing potato by transferring a gene from a bacteria that produces a natural pesticide so that the potato produces the toxin instead. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the engineered spud doesn't have enough poison to harm small animals and humans who eat it, just enough to kill the Colorado potato beetle. Also in May, the U.S. Senate's take-out cafeteria stopped letting patrons help themselves to as much ketchup as they wanted. Regardless of the size of the order, each customer now receives only three ketchup packets.Scam-a-Rama In Morgantown, W.Va., Melissa Rogers, 19, was charged with obtaining money under false pretenses after authorities said she appealed for donations to pay for her 18-month-old son's heart transplant, then spent $8,000 of the money raised to buy vehicles, furniture and stereo equipment. Court records showed that state welfare would have covered the operation. "The mother scammed everyone," prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said.Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306

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