NewsQuirks 443

Mensa Reject of the WeekAfter Wayne Roth of Pittston, Pa., was bitten by a cobra belonging to his friend, Roger Croteau, he refused to go to the hospital, telling Croteau, "I'm a man, I can handle it." Instead, Roth went to a bar, where he had a few drinks and boasted to other patrons about the incident. He died a few hours later.Cleansed MindsFive former staff members at a Houston psychiatric hospital were indicted on charges they brainwashed patients into believing they had been in a satanic cult so they could bilk the patients' insurance companies of millions of dollars. According to federal prosecutors, the defendants, who worked at Spring Shadows Glen psychiatric hospital in Houston, told a number of patients from 1991 to 1993 that they had multiple personality disorder caused by their participation in a satanic cult. They told the patients they did not remember being in the cult because they had mentally blocked it out, then brainwashed them into recalling false memories of their alleged cult activities.Meanwhile, Patricia Burgus, 41, of Lombard, Ill., received $10.6 million in a settlement with Chicago's Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center and two psychiatrists, who she insisted brainwashed her into believing she was a satanic high priestess. She said hypnosis and other treatments convinced her that she had participated in cannibalism, ritual murder and Satan worship, that she had been sexually abused by numerous men and that she had abused her two sons. None of the incidents happened.Something for NothingAfter making headlines for winning two tickets and an all-expenses-paid trip to the World Series, John Andrew Gregg, 51, of Davie, Fla., was arrested by undercover agents for trying to scalp the two tickets.The Nose KnowsCanadians worried about bad breath can pay $150 ($110 U.S.) to have their mouth odor checked at a new breath-testing clinic at the University of British Columbia. The clinic sucks air from a patient's mouth with a syringe and uses gas chromatography to check for sulfur compounds that cause halitosis. To confirm the finding, an oral biologist specializing in breath malodor gives a subjective evaluation. According to the university, the patient sits behind a privacy screen and exhales into a tube. The breath evaluator sniffs the breath coming from the tube and assesses it.The University of Minnesota announced it needs more specialists to help it establish an "odor emissions rating system" to regulate the state's 35,000 animal feedlots. The three-year, $390,000 program to develop objective standards on types and intensities of odors already employs 35 people to sniff and categorize the nearly 200 chemical components of cow and pig manure.Chow DownEating dirt may be good for you, according to Susan Aufreiter of the University of Toronto and William McHaney of York University. Writing in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, the researchers reported using a technique called Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis to get a precise chemical breakdown of three soil samples. The first sample, which had been used as "famine food" in China, contained iron, calcium, vanadium, magnesium, manganese and potassium -- minerals that would be in short supply during famine.The second sample was soft clay from North Carolina, which was touted as good for general health. It contained iron and iodine -- both important for children and women of childbearing age. The third sample, collected in Zimbabwe as a cure for upset stomach, was found to contain Kaolinite, the main ingredient in Kaopectate.Anthony Valencia, 20, and Fitzgerald Vandever, 20, were arrested in Albuquerque, N.M., and accused of roaming the intensive care unit of Presbyterian Hospital with intent to steal patients' food off warming carts.What a CountryFernando Velasquez, a native of El Salvador, was arrested in Parsippany, N.J., on charges of practicing dentistry on hundreds of people, even though he had neither a license nor a college degree. "He always wanted to be a dentist, he told me," Detective Frank Baran said. "He also said he liked the money."British JusticeWhen police in Doncaster, England, arrested Martin Kamara, 43, for threatening a financial adviser, they wanted to put him in a lineup to get a positive identification, but they couldn't find any other black men who would appear in the lineup with him. So they hired a makeup artist to blacken the faces of seven white men. The incident, plus the fact that the artist forgot to make up the white men's hands, prompted a judge to order Kamara's release on the grounds of police impropriety.Tourist AttractionsMore people are changing sex and going to Thailand to do it, according to a seminar in Bangkok on sex-change operations. Reuters news agency reported that the lure is the quality and natural look of Thai-made sex organs. The surgery costs about $5,000 for a man to become a woman and $10,000 for a woman to become a man. "Thailand has become the most popular place for sex-change operations," seminar organizer Dr Nikorn Dusitsil of the Institute of Medical Science Research said. "Many foreigners are coming here to have the surgery, and I think the income from this area will be able to help shore up the economy to a certain extent."Thailand also has become the world leader in penis reattachments. The reason is that penis amputations have become a standard form of retribution for angry Thai women, with more than 100 cases reported in the past decade. As a result, Thai surgeons have become proficient in microsurgical penile reattachment. "It's not that we have developed better medical technology than other countries," Dr. Surasak Muangsombat, chief of plastic surgery at Bangkok's Sirirat Hospital, said. "It's just that we have performed the operation so many times that we have become experts."Balance of PaymentsThe United States signed a 20-year lease in 1985, agreeing to pay 72,500 rubles a year for its embassy in Moscow. At the time, that amount was the equivalent of $60,000. Thanks to devaluation of the ruble, however, that rent today is worth $22.56. Despite the Russian government's demand to renegotiate the lease, the U.S. government has steadfastly resisted.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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