NewsQuirks 659

Curses, Foiled Again

Police in Prince George's County, Md., reported that a man forced a pedestrian at gunpoint into his car, then demanded his wallet. Instead, the victim resisted. During the struggle, the victim was punched in the face, but the kidnapper shot himself in the leg with the handgun he was holding. The victim jumped from the car and notified police, who arrested Gary Warren Hancock, 33.

Make Up Your Mind

Clint Hallam, 51, the Frenchman who lost his hand in a chain saw accident and 17 years later became the world's first hand-transplant recipient, then months later had the new hand amputated at his own request, now wants another hand. Dr. Jean-Michel Dubernard, who led the team that carried out the surgery, said Hallam recently requested another transplant but noted that he has missed his chance. Since the original operation, French medical authorities now allow transplant only when they are considered vital, such as for a patient who has lost both arms.

Don't Play with Fire

Delia Ponce, 20, of Laredo, Texas, went to the home of Sergio Hinojosa, 44, to ask him to cast a spell that would bring her ex-boyfriend back to her. Hinojosa began to mix a concoction containing an alcohol-based fragrance, an onion and a picture of the ex-boyfriend in a caldron where a flame was already burning. According to police Investigator Jorge Maldonado, when the boyfriend's picture was thrown in, "a flash of fire went up, and the girl caught fire."

Nose Job

A New Jersey company has developed a nasal spray that can boost sexual performance, claiming that one whiff of its PT-141 could help improve men and women's sex lives. Palatin Technologies, which has begun human trials of the drug, said that while Viagra acts on the plumbing of the penis, PT-141 is a chemical copy of a hormone and acts on the brain. One sniff will make men good for an hour and encourage women to actively solicit sexual contact from males.

Working on the Problem

Canada's transport ministry said it is considering ordering auto makers to equip all cars with special suicide-resistant tailpipes after reporting that in the past 20 years, between 260 and 385 people have died each year by attaching a hose to a vehicle's exhaust pipe and breathing in the fumes. Transport Canada noted that a suicide-resistant tailpipe would prevent people attaching a hose to the exhaust while venting fumes under the vehicle if a hose or bag were taped to the tailpipe.

Tragic Consequences

Police in Dona Vista, Fla., said Dwight Samples, 21, was drag racing at speeds between 100 mph and 120 mph when he slammed into the back of another car, killing two people. One of the victims was Diane Samples, 45, the man's mother.

High Times

Female members of Britain's biggest trade union announced that the decriminalization of marijuana is a "women's issue." "Cannabis can be used for women to relax and de-stress without calories, in contrast to alcohol or chocolate," women members of Unison's eastern region said.

Driving while high on marijuana is legal in Idaho, according to a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court overturned the conviction of a 21-year-old driver who admitted smoking marijuana at a party, even though he passed two field sobriety tests. The three-judge panel noted that Idaho's impaired-driving law fails to include marijuana as a narcotic, providing a loophole that lets marijuana users drive legally so long as they don't drive erratically and can pass a field test.

Mystery Solved

Women's breasts are larger than those of other primates not to attract mates, according to Gillian Bentley of University College London, but to prevent babies suffocating as the human face became flatter. She pointed out that human infants have lost the protruding jaws and lips that let chimpanzees and bonobos suckle safely from a flat breast.

Oops!

After undergoing surgery to remove a tumor, his appendix and part of his intestine, Donald Church, 49, complained of pain but was told it was normal, even 30 days after the operation. After another month of agonizing pain, Church went to his own physician, who discovered that doctors had stitched a 13-inch metal retractor inside him during the operation. After agreeing to pay Church $97,000, the University of Washington Medical Center admitted that its surgeons have left surgical instruments in four other patients during the past five years.

Reports of doctors operating on the wrong body part or the wrong patient are increasing, according to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. The agency reported 15 cases of wrong body part surgery in 1998, but said that since then it has received reports of 136 cases, including 108 in the past two years. "The preponderance of cases are in ambulatory surgery centers. I think patients are churning through these places," said Dennis S. O'Leary, a physician who heads JCAHO, which accredits most U.S. hospitals. "People are busy, and patients are being put to sleep before there is an opportunity to verify who the patient is, what procedure is going to be performed and on what site."

Stickler for Enforcement

Police in Kagoshima, Japan, arrested sanitation worker Mizuo Tamura, 55, for threatening a bar owner at knifepoint because he refused to separate his trash properly. The Mainichi Daily News newspaper said that Tamura, who oversaw the town's garbage collection, had been arrested several times before for his zeal in trying to enforce Japan's rigid trash-separation rules. "He's so keen on his work," Tamura's boss told the newspaper, "everybody refers to him as the 'God of Garbage.'"

Battered

Police in New Orleans arrested former casino owner Robert Guidry, 55, and his two sons for brawling with Popeye's Fried Chicken founder Al Copeland at Morton's Steak House. Copeland was celebrating his first wedding anniversary, and Guidry was seated nearby when witnesses said the two men began shouting insults at each other. The verbal sparring turned to fisticuffs. Copeland and his fourth wife, who was six months pregnant, were hospitalized. The two men have been rivals since at least 1993, when they competed for a riverboat gambling license, which Guidry won.

Bare in the Woods

Illegal loggers in Indonesia are evading arrest by having their wives strip naked and distract officials while they escape with the hardwood. "However tough the rangers may be," a local government official said, "they don't have the heart to hurt the nude housewives."

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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