NewsQuirks 712

Pre-Frontal Dispatches
Despite threats of a U.S. invasion, Iraq doubled exports of oil to U.S. refineries, helping them cope with the most chronic shortage of oil stocks in 27 years and offset the loss of 1.5 million barrels per day from Venezuela because of that country's strike. The report by London's Observer newspaper said that the shipment, which involved diverting oil bound for European and Asian customers, is legal under the terms of the United Nations' oil for food program.

U.S. sperm banks began offering servicemen being deployed to the Middle East free storage and discounts on sperm processing. Lab managers explained that the men making inquiries are concerned less about dying in combat than about returning to discover they're infertile from exposure to anthrax and smallpox vaccinations and chemical and biological agents. "You wouldn't believe the interest we have gotten," said Dr. Cappy Rothman, medical director of California Cryobank, which advertises up to a year's free storage. "We now have about 40 troops in the past two or three weeks who have gone out of their way to store their sperm before they go to war."

Why They Call It Dope
After someone called police in Surrey, British Columbia, then hung up, officers responded to the house from which the call was placed. According to the Vancouver Sun, an unnamed 60-year-old woman who answered the door told the officers that she had heard that if she dialed 911 she would get a recording informing her if the police were tapping her phone. After assuring her that such wasn't the case, the officers found "a reasonably sized marijuana-growing operation" in the house, and arrested the woman and three men.

Crime in Search of a Motive
Authorities in Davenport, Iowa, reported that a man wearing a 12-can beer box over his head with eyeholes cut into it walked into a food store and sprayed produce with a fire extinguisher. Tony Fuhrmeister, the store's assistant director, said that the 13-second assault cost nearly $20,000 because all the produce had to be destroyed, and extra store personnel worked eight hours to clean up the mess.

Fringe Benefits
Italian prosecutors charged 67 air traffic controllers with regularly leaving their posts at Milan's Linate airport to play soccer, shop or attend parties. The prosecutors conceded that no crashes or other incidents resulted from the controllers' absences.

Drooling in Anticipation
Anti-bacterial chemicals formed by the saliva of nursing calves could become essential ingredients of toothpastes and antiseptic creams, according to researchers at Westgate Biological of Dublin. Director Mike Folan told New Scientist magazine that the chemicals, which help protect newborn calves while their immune systems develop, create a protein residue that when added to toothpaste slowed the build-up of dental plaque by two-thirds.

Necktie Party
Paul Connick Jr., the district attorney for Jefferson Parish, La., reprimanded two assistant district attorneys for attending a hearing in a capital murder case wearing ties decorated with a hangman's noose and the Grim Reaper. Defense attorney Clive Stafford Smith accused Donnie Rowan and Cameron Mary of making light of the possibility that his client could get the death penalty if convicted. "They were a joke," Connick explained, "although a poor joke."

Little Things Mean a Lot
Police in the Philippines accused Arnel Orbeta of shooting Eduardo Cristomar, 40, who challenged the men at a drinking party in Antipolo City to show their penises to determine whose was the biggest. Officer Joseph Pueblo said that Orbeta immediately unzipped his pants and showed his organ, but Cristomar responded by laughing at Orbeta and refused to show his penis. Orbeta pulled a gun and shot Cristomar several times.

Cracking Down
California's Valley College imposed a speed limit of 4 mph for wheelchairs on campus. "It's a safety issue, pure and simple," said Tom Jacobsmeyer, vice president of administration, who proposed the rule after seeing a student nearly hit by a woman "going very fast" in a wheelchair. Violators will receive a warning, but repeat offenders risk being cited, suspended or expelled.

Airport Security to the Rescue
Four months after having abdominal surgery, a Canadian woman was suffering from persistent stomach aches, but doctors didn't know why until she set off a metal detector at the airport in Regina, Saskatchewan. Despite repeated scans, security guards couldn't find any metal on her body. A few days later the woman had an X-ray, which revealed a 12-inch long surgical retractor that had been left in her abdomen during the operation.

Beating Alzheimer's
Engineers at Microsoft's Media Presence lab in San Francisco said they are developing multimedia databases that chronicle people's life events and make them searchable. "Imagine being able to run a Google-like search on your life," Gordon Bell, one of the developers, told New Scientist magazine. The venture, dubbed the MyLifeBits project, aims to create a surrogate brain that will overcome the whims of human memory and become an accurate repository for most of our experiences. "Users will eventually be able to keep every document they read, every picture they view, all the audio they hear and a good portion of what they see," said Microsoft's Jim Gemmell. The system will require abundant computer memory, but the researchers calculate that within five years, a 1,000-gigabyte hard drive -- enough to store four hours of video every day for a year -- will cost less than $300.

Gotta Dance
Authorities fined a British pub chain $7,850 after undercover inspectors caught patrons at two of its popular bars violating licensing laws that forbid "rhythmic moving." Another pub was served two written warnings when customers were observed "swaying." The movements were determined to constitute dancing, which is banned in pubs without public entertainment licenses. "We have spent ages trying to stop people dancing," insisted Derek Andrews, a representative of the owners of the Pitcher & Piano chain, which pleaded guilty to the offenses in London. "We have signs up everywhere. Managers instruct customers. We turn the music down, rearrange the furniture and so on."

Not in Our Back Yard
Asbestos was found at the headquarters of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle, N.C. The federal agency helped educate the world about the dangers of asbestos.

Compiled from the nation's press by Roland Sweet. Submit clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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