NewsQuirks 459

Sorry About ThatAfter years of requiring motorists to yield to any vehicle approaching from the right, even in traffic circles, Belgium changed its road rules to give vehicles already in circles the right of way. Officials neglected to provide any advance notice of the change, however, and didn't put up signs until weeks afterwards. As a result, circles were "littered with wreckage," reported The Guardian, which observed, "Only in Belgium could a law designed to increase road safety actually make driving more dangerous."A pepper spray that is popular with hikers in Alaska for protection against bears actually attracts the animals, according to U.S. Geological Survey researcher Tom Smith. While observing brown bear activity, he noticed a bear rolling on a rope that had been sprayed with the red pepper extract. To test the link, Smith said he sprayed the extract on the beach. Several bears approached and began rolling in it like "a 500-pound cat with a ball of catnip," Smith said. "Little did we know this stuff was like mayonnaise on bologna."The maker of the pepper spray, Counterassault, reacted to Smith's findings by changing its package description from bear repellent to bear deterrent. General manager Pride Johnson explained the product still does its job because it's designed to be sprayed into an attacking bear's face, not worn like mosquito spray. Even so, he noted, "We've had some parents spray it on their children because it says bear repellent."Curses, Foiled AgainThree New York City robbers figured out how to bypass the World Trade Center's extensive security measures, then accosted Brinks guards delivering currency to a bank office. After making off with $1.17 million, the robbers again eluded multiple checkpoints and security guards. Before leaving the building, however, they removed their masks, enabling security cameras to film them. The suspects were quickly apprehended after the news media showed their faces, and police received more than 60 calls from people claiming to know at least one of the men. "Me and my friend Joey opened up the newspaper and said, 'Holy cow! There's Mikey!'" bartender Bill Stout told the Associated Press. "They're like the gang that couldn't shoot straight."X Marks the SpotFamilies of some of the 34 other victims of the 1996 plane crash that killed Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in Croatia blamed the accident on an inaccurate navigation chart used by the U.S. Air Force pilots and announced they were suing the map maker, Jeppesen Sanderson Inc.The New York Times reported that the crew of the Marine Corps jet which hit a ski lift in northern Italy in February, killing 20 people, relied on a U.S. military map that did not depict the ski-lift cable, even though an Italian military map provided to the crew's commanders and ordinary road maps clearly showed the ski lift, which was built 31 years ago. The Pentagon said its policy is not to use maps made by foreign countries.Lost & FoundTwo weeks after surgeons at a Richmond, Va., hospital removed Virginia Broache's cancerous bladder, her home nurse found the organ in a bag containing personal items from her hospital stay. "I never thought anything like that could happen in the hospital," Broache said. "That bag followed me from the operating room, to the recovery room, to intensive care, to my room on the fifth floor. Then it came home with me." Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital apologized and sent a courier to retrieve the specimen, which should have gone to the pathology lab, not the patient, according to spokesperson James M. Goss, who added, "We're still investigating how that step was missed."After a funeral home in Orangeburg, S.C., buried Shuford Strock, it handed his son-in-law Larry Nettles a plastic bag it said contained his hearing aid and clothing. A few days later, Nettles said the bag began to smell, and the family cat clawed into it, revealing Strock's heart and other organs that had been removed during an autopsy. "It was him in the bag," Nettles said, "not his personal belongings."When Nettles reported the discovery, he said the funeral director told him to bury the organs in the back yard. Instead, he returned them to the funeral home for burial, then filed a civil lawsuit against the funeral home.Life & DeathMany hospitals have stopped automatically sending birth notices to local newspapers as a result of the persuasive efforts of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which insists such announcements endanger newborns and violate parents' privacy. "If we had our way, we would say don't ever, ever, ever put a birth announcement in the paper," the center's Cathy Nahirny told The Washington Times. "I'd love for us to use detailed birth announcements, but our society has changed. All it takes is one." Despite the center's fears, the Times cited Census Bureau and law enforcement records showing that of 50 million U.S. babies born in the past 11 years, only four have been abducted because of information that may have come from published birth notices. All four babies were safely recovered.A growing number of newspapers are charging money to publish obituaries, according to U.S. News & World Report, which noted that deaths previously reported by obituary writers are now handled by classified-ad salespeople, who charge according to length. The trend began in the 1980s, according to Tonda Rush of the National Newspaper Association, as a way of increasing revenue in spite of declining circulation. Today, noted Pat McDonald of the McDonald Classified Service, some 90 percent of all major newspapers charge for obituaries.Spice of LifeCircumcised men experience a wider variety of sexual practices than uncircumcised men, according to University of Chicago researchers. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, they reported that besides being more likely to engage in oral and anal sex, circumcised men also masturbate more frequently. That finding is particularly interesting, the researchers noted, because circumcision was once widely advocated to prevent masturbation.Dutch doctors announced they have developed a new surgical technique "to reconstruct the hymens of adolescent girls who are no longer virgins but wish to appear so." Rotterdam gynecologist Adrian Logsman reported in the British Medical Journal that the operations are intended chiefly for "immigrant women" from cultures that require brides to be virgins.Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306. Fans of quirky news will enjoy the newest collection, "More Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest," by John J. Kohut & Roland Sweet (Plume paperback).

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