NewsQuirks 568

Too Much of a Good Thing

The European Space Agency announced it is seeking 24 volunteers willing to spend three months in bed. The catch is that they will have to lie horizontally the whole time without being able to stand or sit. The project is designed to study the physiological effects of weightlessness that astronauts may experience aboard the International Space Station or during a journey to Mars.

Too Much of a Bad Thing

In an 18-hour operation, doctors at the University of Chicago removed a 200-pound tumor from the abdomen of Lori Hoogewind, 40. The tumor had grown in less than a year, enveloping the 120-pound woman and threatening to kill her by leaching away life-sustaining blood and nutrients.

Clap Tax

Raising the tax on a six-pack of beer by 20 cents could reduce the nation's gonorrhea rate by as much as 9 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A CDC study found that whenever the beer tax goes up, the gonorrhea rate among young people goes down. "Alcohol has been linked to risky sexual behavior among youth," CDC health economist Harrell Cheson said. "It influences a person's judgment, and they are more likely to have sex without a condom with multiple partners or with high-risk partners."

Grave Matter

Ann Patterson, 61, a teacher in Middlebury, Conn., received a six-month suspended sentence for spraying weed killer on flowers at the grave of Jessica Puglio, whose cremated remains are buried in a cemetery near the plots of Patterson's parents. Police who arrested Patterson said she told them she "felt the cremation was wrong and that she did not want a cremated body" next to her parents' grave.

When Guns Are Outlawed

When President Clinton touted a Department of Housing and Urban Development program to encourage city housing agencies to buy back and destroy unwanted firearms, Annapolis, Md., Alderman Cynthia A. Carter proposed that the city set up a buy-back program for cap guns, water pistols and other toy weapons. "Children can't distinguish between a real gun or a play gun," the first-term Democrat said, "nor do they understand the difference between life and death."

Jamie Hinderliter, 16, was charged with disorderly conduct for waving a chocolate gun on a school bus in Rimersburg, Pa. The youth bought the candy weapon at his high school Spanish club's fund-raiser.

Foot Feats

A shortage of poplar wood spells doom for Dutch clogs. Noting the price of poplar hasn't changed in 30 years, thus discouraging growers, de Volkskrant newspaper reported the 100,000 poplar trees planted each year fall far below the 700,000 minimum needed to make the country's famous wooden shoes.

A Japanese court ordered the Ho-no-hana Sampogyo cult to pay $2.12 million to 27 people it coerced into paying exorbitant fees. The cult, led by guru Hogen Fukunaga, claimed it could cure illnesses by examining feet and insisted the shape of people's feet revealed their personality. Judge Motoaki Kimura ruled that the cult "significantly deviated from the range of what is permissible in the name of religious training."

Freak Accidents

Several hundred motorcyclists were riding through Syracuse, N.Y., when some of the bikers ran a red light and were hit by a car that had the green light. The riders were on their way to have their bikes blessed by a Catholic priest to mark the start of the year's riding season. "They must have thought it was like a funeral procession," police Sgt. David Sackett said. "Since they were all traveling together, they didn't think they needed to stop."

Jay Perrin, 19, was coming in for a landing in Plant City, Fla., but didn't see another single-engine plane below him being flown by a 56-year-old student pilot and his instructor, Alan Vangee, 65. At about 200 feet above the ground, Perrin's front wheel broke the lower plane's windshield, and the two planes became wedged together one on top of the other. Vangee landed the interlocked planes safely on the grass. "It should have been a double-plane fatality crash," sheriff's Sgt. Rod Reder said. "If I was the student pilot, it would be my last flight."

Czech runner Zuzana Krejcova, 18, died after being hit in the head by a hammer, which broke loose while being thrown by Vladimir Maska at a track-and-field meet in Turnov. She was sitting 10 meters outside the throwing circle.

A 19-year-old student at the University of Michigan was pretending to fire an air-powered BB gun he thought was unloaded at the groins of several fraternity pledges to scare them. The gun was loaded, however, and a BB struck a 19-year-old pledge in the penis, requiring surgery. "The BB gun was extremely powerful, and the shooter was about two inches away from the victim's groin when he shot," Ann Arbor Police Sgt. Greg O'Dell said. "Everyone thought it was a joke -- until they saw the blood."

Thanks for Nothing

A $1.37-million consignment of woolen blankets destined for survivors of last October's devastating cyclone in the Indian state of Orissa arrived in April in the middle of a heat wave. Temperatures topped 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Israel sent three tons of hard-to-digest unleavened bread to help stave off famine in drought-stricken Ethiopia after rabbis ruled that regular bread could not be shipped during the Passover religious holiday. An Israeli nutritionist said the unleavened bread, or matza, tends to cause constipation, noting, "It's so hard and dry that things get stuck."

Blessed Are the Peacemakers Edward de Bono, a specialist in "lateral thinking" who has lectured to the British Foreign Office about the Middle East situation, said the Arab-Israeli conflict could be solved by adding zinc to people's diets. Noting that lack of zinc makes people irritable and belligerent, de Bono told the London Independent that zinc comes in yeast and that much of the bread in the Middle East is unleavened. He insisted that peace could be achieved in the region if it were provided with Marmite, a yeast spread. The English town of Colchester has banned the combative puppets Punch and Judy, claiming they promote domestic violence. Punch-and-Judy shows, which feature Mr. Punch relentlessly hitting his wife Judy with a slapstick, have been popular with children since the 17th century. The Colchester Borough council declared, however, that wife-beating is no longer funny.

Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to P.O. Box 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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