NewsQuirks 629

Undercover Agents

Colorado has outlawed aluminum underwear. Aimed at shoplifters who use "iron pants" to thwart stores' anti-theft scanners, the measure makes it a misdemeanor to make, wear or know others are wearing aluminum underwear for such deceptions. It also gives store employees immunity if they stop shoppers who crackle when they walk. It does permit wearing aluminum briefs and lingerie for personal amusement, however. "This is serious business," State Sen. Stephanie Takis, one of the bill's sponsor, said. "We have laws against using crowbars as theft devices, but if you were lining your underwear with aluminum foil, that was not a crime."

Also in Colorado, Pueblo inventor Buck Weimer has patented stinkless underwear. Explaining he got the idea after suffering through his wife's intestinal emissions while trying to sleep, Weimer adapted a gas mask filter and sewed it into underwear that seals tightly around any openings. His "UnderEase" airtight underpants, which are available for men and women, sell for $25. Replacement filters are $5.

Dana Colwell, 31, was mowing the lawn at her home in Frankenmuth, Mich., when a 1 1/2-inch nail shot out from under the mower and punctured her right breast. According to doctors, Colwell was spared from serious injury by the padding in her "liquid-curved" Maidenform bra.

Incendiary Devices

Twenty-six people were hospitalized in Oxford, England, after inhaling aluminum phosphide fumes during a fire that investigators blamed on a goldfish bowl. "It is an extremely unusual cause of fire -- a million-to-one chance," said assistant chief fire officer Lawrie Booth, explaining the bowl acted as a magnifying glass by concentrating the sun's rays and setting fire to a garden shed containing the potentially noxious chemical, which was used to kill rats. The fumes were released from the aluminum phosphide tablets when firefighters sprayed them with water.

Armando Borracino, 56, died from internal burns during an operation at a hospital in Salerno, Italy. Surgeons accidentally set fire to a breathing tube in the patient's throat with a laser they were using to remove a tumor.

Dangers of Dust

Tiny dust particles in the atmosphere could thwart the U.S. government's $1.1-billion effort to use airborne laser weapons to shoot down enemy missiles, according to Israeli academic Nathan Kopeika of Ben-Gurion University. He said engineers working on the Airborne Laser (ABL) project have overlooked the likelihood that the particles, called aerosols, could sc atter and weaken the laser beam, rendering it ineffective against its target. "If they don't take note of this problem," Kopeika told New Scientist magazine, "they are in for a nasty surprise."

Satellite observations suggest that airborne dust from deserts can stop rain from falling -- the exact opposite of what meteorologists believed. Although dust is essential to cloud formation by collecting water vapor in rising air, which then condenses on the particles, too much dust means that the moisture available is more widely distributed, causing only tiny droplets to form. They don't weigh enough to fall as rain. Daniel Rosenfield of Jerusalem's Hebrew University said these findings "may be crucially important once land degradation processes begin" beyond existing deserts.

Holiday Follies

During a Father's Day tribute to famous athletes, the ESPN cable network played as background music Marvin Gaye singing "How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You." Gaye was shot to death by his father, Marvin Gay Sr., in 1984. "People who worked on the piece were not aware of the significance," a network spokesperson said. "It's unfortunate."

Shortly before the start of Vancouver's Canada Day fireworks, a 38-year-old man accepted a dare from his friends to hang from a 15th-floor apartment balcony. He managed to suspend himself from the railing but was unable to climb back onto the balcony and fell to his death. Police Detective Scott Driemel said the victim was inebriated to the point of being in a "drunken stupor" when he fell.

A group of men "had been drinking heavily" and shooting off fireworks for several hours at the home of a 28-year-old man in Kansas City, Mo., the night before Independence Day, according to Assistant Fire Marshall Jim Duddy. When neighbors called the police, the men hid the fireworks in the oven, then forgot about them. About 3 a.m., the homeowner decided to bake some lasagna and turned the oven on. "It blew the kitchen all apart," Duddy said. "The walls were all blown out. The oven flew right through one of the walls."

Supercilious Consequences

A 33-year-old woman who felt her eyebrows were too thin underwent tattooing for a fuller appearance. According to Family Practice News, the tattoos turned out bright green instead of brown. After more than 10 laser treatments to remove the tattoos, the woman still had green eyebrow tattoos but now also had scarring and had lost what little eyebrows she once had. The journal reported the woman finally got good results from eyebrow transplants, which took a year to complete.

Great Imposter

German police arrested a Munich doctor on suspicion of practicing without a valid license -- for 22 years. Investigators trying to determine whether the man's medical degree had been forged did note that the man is also a trained hairdresser.

To the Rescue

A 26-year-old British man was admitted to the hospital with his penis stuck in a large, tempered-steel octagonal nut. According to the medical report, the nut had been stuck on the base of his penis for four days, causing swelling and stopping urine flow for 24 hours before his admission. After the hospital staff was unable to remove the nut, officials called the fire department, which succeeded by using a ceramic blade circular saw with a metal spatula for protection and saline irrigation to prevent heat injury. "The fire brigade's experience in removing constricting metallic objects without causing soft tissue injury is well known," the report said, adding that since the use of metal rings around the penis to prolong erection is apparently quite common and can lead to complications, "involving the fire brigade at an early stage can be invaluable."

Next Time Send a Check

Ghana's sports minister, Mallam Yusuf Ali Issah, was dismissed after just 30 days on the job following the loss of $46,000 dollars that was intended for the national soccer team. The money disappeared while Issah was on his way to pay the team after a World Cup qualifying match against Sudan. He insisted he put the money in a small suitcase, which his assistant checked into the cargo hold of the aircraft. The government charged Issah with stealing the money, but he accused unnamed officials of the sports ministry of tampering with the case.

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

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