NewsQuirks 656

Strange Cargo

Six passengers were booted off a Caribbean-bound cruise ship in Miami for bringing live bees aboard. According to Carnival Cruise Lines spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz, crew members became suspicious after noticing the passengers leaving and reboarding the ship repeatedly, then discovered that each time, they brought back bees -- 160 altogether before being caught. The bees were in bottles, de la Cruz said, and the passengers insisted they intended "to use the bees for medicinal reasons."

Mind Over Matter

Thinking about exercising can actually increase muscle strength, researchers at Ohio's Cleveland Clinic Foundation reported. They found that volunteers who imagined flexing their biceps measured a 13.5 percent gain in muscle strength. Exercise physiologist Guang Yue explained that since muscles move in response to impulses from nearby motor neurons, which in turn respond to electrical impulses from the brain, "you can increase muscle strength solely by sending a larger signal to motor neurons from the brain."

Survey Says

Forty-six percent of British smokers believe smoking must be safe or else the government wouldn't allow cigarette advertising, according to a poll by the anti-smoking group ASH (Action on Smoking and Health). "It simply beggars belief," ASH public affairs manager John Connolly commented, "that, 40 years after we first found out about the dangers of smoking, half of all smokers still don't appreciate just how dangerous cigarettes are."

Keeping the Homeland Safe

When U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who has a steel artificial hip, set off a metal detector at Washington's Reagan National Airport, he was taken to a temporary office and ordered to lower his pants while an airport security worker waved a metal-detecting wand over his underwear. "I complied," Dingell told The Washington Post, "but tried to do it with some small bit of dignity."

A sealed package that was irradiated as part of the government's anti-anthrax screening gave off noxious fumes, causing at least 11 workers at the Commerce Department in Washington, D.C., to complain of nausea, breathing problems and throat irritation. Alan Etter, a spokesperson for the D.C. fire and rescue department, said that the irradiation machine had burned the shrink wrap covering a box of copy paper, producing a toxic gas that made a mailroom employee ill when she opened the box. Ten other people who worked nearby were also affected. Etter added that irradiated mail had made people sick at least five times in Washington in the several weeks before this incident.

Fowl Play

Leon Resnick, 31, drowned while testing a personal watercraft on a lake in Deerfield Beach, Fla., when, according to investigators, he was knocked from the craft by a duck, which struck him in the face as he sped along at 55 mph. Broward County sheriff's spokesperson Hugh Graf said a duck's carcass was found nearby, and there were feathers on the watercraft's handlebars. David Bamdas, an owner of the dealership where Resnick worked, explained that at the speed Resnick was traveling, the 10-to-15-pound duck "might as well have been a cinderblock."

Bad Hair Day

Indian barber Ramzan Ali, 35, announced plans to train at least 50 blind boys to cut hair. Explaining that the idea occurred to him after he cut a customer's hair with his eyes closed to demonstrate his mastery of the craft, Ali said he teaches his blind pupils to map the hair with their fingers.

Call of the Wild

Logan Stiffler, 45, of Altoona, Pa., was paralyzed from the chest down in a 1988 car crash that killed a 69-year-old man and spent three years in prison for drunk driving. In 1999, he requested $26,000 from the Pennsylvania Catastrophic Loss Trust Fund to pay for a special vehicle to let him hunt on terrain he couldn't otherwise reach. The fund, which was established to help pay medical expenses for anyone injured in an auto accident, was discontinued in 1989 but still applies to victims during the five years it was on the books. Stiffler, an avid hunter, sought money from the fund because he insisted that hunting was "medically necessary" for his mental well-being. In November, an appeals panel denied his request.

Government in Action

When Sydney Locke found a sawed-up totem pole in a trash bin while overseeing the demolition of the Edmonds, Wash., public safety complex, he took it home and spread the pieces in his front yard. When the city found out, it sued Locke to regain the 60-year-old cedar pole so it can throw it away again. Even though the city discarded the totem pole after the Edmonds Art Commission declared it has no artistic value, Edmonds City Attorney Scott Snyder charged that Locke interfered with "representative government" by taking an item that elected officials had chosen to discard.

Instant Punishment

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police warned that whoever stole $300 worth of tools from an unmanned weather station on Vancouver Island also was exposed to radiation that "could result in permanent damage to soft tissue, i.e. eyes and testicles." Police said the thief ignored warning signs, climbed three barbed-wire fences, cut through a chain link fence and climbed an 80-foot ladder to enter an area where workers never venture without wearing full body suits. "It's not like body parts are going to fall off," RCMP Cpl. Brain Brown said, "but he is at risk and should seek medical assistance."

Man of His Word

When the body of Harold Saber, 80, was found at the wheel of his 1991 Oldsmobile in the parking lot of the Bernheim-Apter-Goldsticker Suburban Funeral Chapel in Maplewood, N.J., his wife recalled that he often told his family that when he was ready to die, he would drive himself to the funeral home. "He never wanted to bother anybody," Sylvia Robinson said. "He felt evidently it was his time, and he drove himself there."

Cancel the Barbecue

A pre-Christmas pig-killing party in Darvaspuszta, Hungary, ended when a visiting Croatian man trying to use a homemade electric stunner on a pig accidentally electrocuted himself. The national news agency MTI reported that a local man who tried to rescue the victim by unplugging the device instead received a shock and was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat. Meanwhile, the events so upset the pig's owner that he suffered a heart attack and died.

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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