NewsQuirks 441

Props for PeaceThe CIA once built a foot-high model of Mao Zedong's ear to determine whether the Chinese leader was dead or alive. Kenny Lane, former director of the agency's modeling shop, told the Washington Post in September that whenever the seldom-seen Mao was photographed in the news, "he was always in a river up to his neck. You can identify a person by their ear, so they had us build this 12-inch ear to figure out whether it was him or a stand-in."Serravalle, Italy, began using wooden policemen to deter crime after Mayor Gianluca Buonanno got the idea while watching a local play that featured as a prop a wooden replica of himself. "Between the first and the second act, I swapped places with the dummy," the mayor said, "and for a few seconds nobody noticed."Comeback of the YearCarl Dorelien, a Haitian immigrant who collected a $3.2 million Florida lottery jackpot in June, was subsequently identified as having been the colonel in charge of the armored tank division that helped overthrow President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in a 1991 coup. He served in the military government, which was ousted in 1994. Dorelien fled to Florida, where lottery officials described him as having been so poor that he had to borrow money to pay for the bus ticket to Tallahassee to claim his prize.Lost SolesNew research suggests that Scottish, Welsh and Irish natives have suffered from bunions, blisters and other foot problems for ages as a result of being forced to wear shoes designed to fit the broader Teutonic foot. Writing in the Journal of British Podiatric Medicine, chiropodist Phyllis Jackson indicated that the "entire foot structure" of the Celtic people is different, much narrower and longer than that of the English, who descended from Anglo-Saxon invaders of the fifth and sixth centuries and later dominated the shoemaking industry.Britain's Hindu community protested against one of the country's largest shoemakers for naming two new shoe designs after the Hindu deities Vishnu and Krishna. Hindu leaders said the footwear by Clarks is offensive first because shoes are considered unclean, which is why they are removed before entering a temple, and second because cows are considered sacred, which makes associating leather shoes with the two deities particularly infuriating.Stacking the DeckThe Quebec provincial government announced it has earmarked $2 million to recruit 4,000 engineers, mechanics and cook to move there from France. Officials explained that more French-speaking residents are needed for the province to maintain its French-speaking majority, which is threatened by an influx of English speakers and Quebec's low birthrate.TracesThe Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois reported that it found cocaine on up to 78 percent of the $1 and $2 bills it examined in suburban Chicago, Miami and Houston. Dr. Jack Demirgian, a chemist at the lab, added that despite the high level of contamination, Argonne's research showed that because of the consistency of the paper used to print money, cocaine in the bills does not normally rub off when people touch them, negating the prevalence of tainted bills as a defense in drug cases.An Australian study found that people shed DNA material almost constantly on a variety of everyday objects, and that these samples, no matter how small, can be traced back to the person who left them. The researchers at the Victoria Forensic Science Center also reported that people can pick up other people's DNA on their hands, raising the possibility that a person could plant or accidentally leave somebody else's DNA at a crime scene.Captive AudiencesTelephone companies make well over $1 billion a year from prisoners in local, state and federal penitentiaries, according to U.S. News & World Report. Prison phones force all callers to use only one long-distance carrier and to call collect. In addition, companies can charge the maximum per-minute rate, as high as 46 cents, and a surcharge, up to $3 a call.This lucrative market results in long-distance companies often offering rebates from the revenues to the government agency that awards the prison phone contracts. U.S. News reported that in many instances, the contracts are awarded solely on the size of the commission offered, noting that Sprint offered Florida a 57.5 percent rebate to service state prisons. According to Russ Vitale, who runs AT&T's prison phone program, "Once state, county or city budgeters find out how much money they can get, they become dependent on it."HandicapableWhen Plainfield, N.J., police arrested Ernest Vincent Shallo, 30, on drug-possession charges, they were unable to handcuff him because both hands and most of his forearms have been amputated. Instead, they placed him in the rear seat. According to the police report, Shallo was able to crawl over the seat and open the passenger-side door. He then ran through a series of backyards, hurdling fences, one as high as six feet, before losing pursuing officers.Far Cry from the Walls of JerichoJordan said it has abandoned work on the 12-foot-deep trench dug along its borders with Iraq and Syria to deter smugglers, who found it no obstacle. "They can fill it in a few minutes," Interior Minister Nazir Rasheed explained.Mensa Reject of the Decade (Semi-Finalist)After receiving at least six sweepstakes mailings from American Family Publishers announcing that he "will definitely receive $12 million cash guaranteed," Richard Lusk, 88, followed the instructions and mailed in the accompanying sweepstakes ticket. When the winnings never arrived, he became convinced his entries had gotten lost in the mail. He and his son, Bill Lusk, 63, flew from Los Angeles to Tampa, Fla., at their own expense to turn over the ticket in person and collect the $12 million. After arriving at the Tampa airport, Bill Lusk called home, only to learn from someone who had read the fine print on the announcement that they had made the trip for nothing. Besides being out $2,000 for the trip, Lusk has spent $50,000 in the past several years, his family said, entering sweepstakes and ordering magazines with his entries, although after this experience he insisted "this is the end of it. I've got more magazines than I know what to do with."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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