NewsQuirks 374

BARE ESSENTIALSAfter being convicted of fraud in Kansas City, Kan., Thomas Wayne Whitlow appeared at his sentencing hearing wearing only shackles and a white sheet guards wrapped around him after he demanded to attend the hearing naked. "He told me he was mad at everyone," his lawyer, Barry Albin, said. "They asked me what to do, and I said bring him in naked, and that's what they did." U.S. District Judge Kathryn H. Vratil didn't object to Whitlow's appearance.In Prince William County, Va., a couple who had just finished watching an X-rated video at the 23-year-old woman's house decided to act out a fantasy involving a naked hitchhiker. After dropping her off, the 35-year-old man was supposed to circle the block and pick her up, according to police spokesperson Kim Chinn. "A car began to approach her and, thinking it was him, she jumped out in the road with her thumb out. But it wasn't him." The driver sped by and stopped at a fire station a half-mile away. Firefighters sent an ambulance, which gave the naked woman a hospital gown and called police. After officers arrived, finally the man showed up, only to be charged with driving under the influence.CAMPUS CAPERSColleges have discovered a troubling side effect of the digital age: Growing numbers of students are becoming addicted to the Internet. As a result, the Washington Post reported, some universities are imposing limits on the time students spend on campus computers. Other colleges are debating whether to monitor the time students spend on computer games and chat rooms, then program a warning to appear on their screens when it gets excessive. "Obviously, this is a wonderful tool, and for many students it's perfectly fine," University of Maryland counselor Linda Tipton said. "But for others, it's becoming a tremendous escape from the pressures of college life. Students can become whomever they want, for as long as they want, and many other things in their lives, like classes, start to suffer."When the parents of Brad Wagner came to Virginia Tech this May to attend his graduation, he was nowhere to be found. After some checking, they discovered their son had not been a student at the Blacksburg, Va., school since fall 1993. Since then, he got money from his parents for tuition and rent and talked to his roommates about his engineering classes and homework. "He'd come in and talk about some killer test he'd had that day," recalled roommate Sam Larson. "He'd say: 'I just finished my big project, now I can go out and party.' He had me buffaloed. He had everyone buffaloed."HEAD GAMESConcerned about the number of very short haircuts at his west London Ealing division, police Superintendent Bill Troke-Thomas warned officers who refuse to let their hair grow that they risk being assigned to desk duty. He explained the public may regard such haircuts "as intimidating or even thuggish."Farther north, Manchester's 7,000 police officers began trading their high-topped constable's helmets for American-style caps, despite a protest by Brian Mackenzie, president of the Police Superintendents Association. "The helmet provides stature, height, authority and protection." Chief Constable David Wilmot said the officers were more interested in hats that fit inside a police car and won't fall off during a foot chase. The officers also traded their belted tunics for bomber jackets.ANOTHER REASON NOT TO PHONE WHILE DRIVINGWarning of injuries from inflating air bags, both intended and inadvertent, the American Automobile Association recommended that drivers steer by holding their hands at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions or even lower, instead of the customary 10-and-2 position, and sit farther back to avoid chest injuries.WEIGHTY MATTERSCaterers at Barcelona's European Congress on Obesity, which brought together 1,300 authorities on nutrition and related consumer groups to analyze scientific information on weight, served the group typical Spanish conference fare: sweet pastries, fried dough and greasy sausages. "It's criminal," one member of an obesity association complained to the news agency Reuters while biting into a sugary croissant. "They have no idea what we're struggling against."In Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit on behalf of three students at Indiana High School, claiming they were kept off the majorette squad because they "fell above [an] arbitrarily chosen weight/size limitation," according to ACLU lawyer Marjorie Crist. The girls all wear a size 12 or larger.Full-figured model Laura Valentine, 36, filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against a shopping mall in Dale City, Va., after a platform collapsed beneath her while she was modeling clothes. Her lawyer, Thomas P. Maims Jr., noted that since the incident his client has been "having trouble walking gracefully and elegantly."When Michael Hebranko, 43, needed to be taken to a New York City hospital in May, construction workers had to knock a 10-by-5-foot hole in the side of his home in Brooklyn to remove the 800-pound man, who had been unable to walk for the past 10 weeks and was confined to a love seat in his living room. He was removed through the hole after being loaded onto a special stretcher usually used to move small whales, then transferred to an ambulance by forklift. Hebranko once dropped 700 pounds and became a spokesperson for dietmeister Richard Simmons' Deal-A-Meal program. Simmons said Hebranko had regained the weight because "emotionally, he was not ready to handle the metamorphosis from fat person to nice-looking man." This time he left the hospital two months later, weighing only 500 pounds and claiming he was a "changed man." Able to stand and take a few steps, he announced his first goal on the road to recovery was "to walk around the block."COOL IS HOTFreon, the now-banned refrigerant used in car air conditioners, has emerged as the second-biggest smuggling problem, behind drugs, for U.S. customs agents along the Mexican border. Through the first six months of this year, customs agents in Texas stopped more than 60 Freon smuggling attempts, confiscating 4,380 pounds of the gas worth about $110,000.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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