NewsQuirks 672

Curses, Foiled Again

Police arrested Nira Kay Nevins for robbing a bank in Shrewsbury, N.J., after a teller filled her plastic bag with $5,000, then responded to her request for a ride. Moments later, Nevins was captured at a red light. Authorities said they caught up with her so quickly because the teller had an anti-theft device on her steering wheel that took the two of them a long time to unlock.

He Who Hesitates

Arsenal Whittick, 39, spent 10 months studying to become a driving instructor, only to have the British School of Motoring turn him down because he stutters and couldn't say "stop" fast enough in an emergency. Undeterred, Whittick set up his own business: the H-h-h-happy Hour D-d-d-driving School.

Weighty Matters

Heavier people face a greater risk death or serious injury in car accidents than lighter people, according to Seattle researchers. The study, which looked at more than 26,000 people who had been involved in car crashes, concluded that people weighing between 220 and 260 pounds are almost two-and-a-half times more likely to die in a crash as people weighing less than 132 pounds. Charles Mock, a surgeon and epidemiologist at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, who led the research team, speculated that car interiors might not be suitably designed for heavy people or that obese people might have weight-related health problems that make their recovery from injury more difficult.

After losing 800 pounds over the past 10 years, Jeanette Standard of Pendleton, Ore., declared that she is grateful to now weigh just 435 pounds. "I have more mobility," the 5-foot-2 woman said after surgeons at Oregon Health Sciences University removed 110 pounds of lap that hung down to her shins. "I can go to Wal-Mart and buy clothes off the rack. And I can go out with pride without worrying about people saying, 'Look at that fat person.'"

The Internal Revenue Service ruled that Americans whose doctors certify them as obese are eligible to deduct out-of-pocket costs for certain weight-loss programs as a medical expense. In recognizing obesity as a disease, the IRS cautioned that individuals who are closer to their normal weight and want to slim down to improve their general health or appearance do not qualify for the deduction.

Scientists announced the discovery of an enzyme in muscle that, when activated, can mimic the effects of exercise. R. Sanders Williams, dean of Duke University School of Research, who led the research with colleagues at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, indicated that the finding could one day lead to "exercise in a bottle" pills.

Grand Acquisitors

Police in Prince George's County, Md., arrested Derrick A. Cobb, 25, who they said tricked teen-age girls into giving him the socks off their feet. His modus operandi was to approach the girls and tell them he was taking a survey, then ask them their favorite brands of shoes and socks. After somehow persuading the girls to remove their socks, police said he would grab them and flee.

Police who searched the home of Melvin G. Hanks, 54, of Springfield, Ill., reported finding 93 ponytails and enough loose hair to make 60 more. The hair was intended for Locks of Love, a Florida group that makes wigs for children who have lost their hair because of medical reasons. Last year, Hanks began collecting the hair from a Belleville salon by posing as a courier from Locks of Love sent to pick up the donated hair. When he was rude to a salon employee on a recent visit, owner Gerry Dahm called Locks of Love to complain, learned the group had no such courier and notified police.

Better to Curse the Darkness

City officials in Syracuse, N.Y., have asked groups planning candlelight vigils to use flashlights instead. The request followed a vigil last September when thousands of lighted candles dripped wax into concrete, covered granite, plugged up water filters and clogged fountains in a newly renovated city square. Public Works Commissioner Jocko Collins said the cleanup cost nearly $2,000.

Out on a Limb

Larry Alford, 28, reported that someone stole the $15,000 artificial arm he uses for charity golf matches. The custom-made prosthesis, known as the "One-Armed Bandit," was in Alford's sport utility vehicle when it was stolen from an apartment complex in Spring, Texas. Alford, 28, a promising amateur golfer until he lost his arm below the elbow after a car wreck 10 years ago, now takes on able-bodied golfers in charity fund-raising exhibitions. "This is pretty serious," he said, "because it's how I make my living."

Two days before he was scheduled to be executed at a state prison in Huntsville, Texas, Rodolfo Hernandez, 52, requested an artificial leg so he could "walk like a man" to the death chamber. "I came in with two legs, I want to go out with two legs," said Hernandez, who lost the leg to diabetes while in prison. Texas prison officials denied the request, explaining that a new leg would cost taxpayers $8,000 and wasn't considered a medical necessity.

Little Piggies

After health officials in Madison County, N.C., filed animal cruelty charges against Hugh and Karen Koontz for housing more than 100 pot-bellied pigs, 20 dogs, two dozen cats and several chickens and ducks inside their filth-encrusted home, Hugh Koontz insisted that there were only 96 pigs inside the house. He admitted, however, health and financial problems made it difficult for the couple to keep up with the growing number of animals they had rescued, explaining, "Things just get away from you."

Pig farmers in Denmark have helped design a robot to clean pigsties. The $20,000 device consists of a wheeled blue box 5 feet long that carries a spray nozzle attached to a 6-foot arm. The nozzle prays large volumes of water at the mud and manure until it floats down drainage channels. Infrared sensors keep the robot on track between the pigpens, and pressure switches reverse its course if it bumps into anything.

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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