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News Quirks 08.09.06 

Curses, Foiled Again When three people at a bank drive-through in Sylvester, Ga., tried to cash a personal check from Joyce Powell, the teller, who knows Joyce Powell because they work together, alerted Powell and asked the driver for identification. Driver Calvin Barfield, 27, presented his license and Social Security card. Powell, meanwhile, called the police, who discovered that her home had been broken into and later determined that some checks had been stolen. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the three people kept waiting in the car began worrying and drove off, but they left behind Barfield's identification. Police quickly caught up with Barfield and arrested him, Shannon Parrish, 26, and Stacey Ellis, 19.

Cubicle Follies An Iowa tribunal rejected Chris T. Coppinger's demand for unemployment benefits after he was fired from a charitable fundraising company in Davenport for alleged financial mismanagement, drug use and having sex with a woman on his desk. Coppinger didn't deny the sex, but he argued that he shouldn't be fired for that because many other members of the organization had engaged in sex on that same desk.

Perils of Prosperity When China's government began transforming farmland in Sichuan province into an industrial zone, it offered married couples in rural Renhe a small two-bedroom apartment in return for their land and farmhouse. Divorced villagers were entitled to a one-bedroom apartment. Figuring two people could live together in a smaller place and sell or rent out the other, 98 percent of the married couples in the village of 4000 filed for divorce. According to the Los Angeles Times, the government responded by declaring that farmers who divorced after the compensation package was offered would have to pay for the extra apartment. Meanwhile, without the prospect of financial security, many couples aren't getting back together. Some villagers have found new partners, while others have decided to try living single. "We are miserable," said Wang Fen, 58, who lost her husband of 40 years. "We were very happy before. But he had a change of heart and married a younger woman."

--To reduce environmental devastation caused by rapid economic growth, China's Finance Ministry announced it was imposing a 5 percent tax on disposable chopsticks, explaining that producing the throw-away wooden eating utensils consumes 70 million cubic feet of forest annually. China sells 10 billion boxes of wooden chopsticks a year domestically and exports another 6 billion boxes, according to the China Daily newspaper, which reported that the consumption tax also targets wooden floor paneling and wooden yachts.

Vigilante of the Week Police in Somerville, Mass., charged Jeanne Walsh, 46, with, among other things, attempted murder after they said she slammed her sport utility vehicle into a 34-year-old woman whose husband had parked in a handicapped space outside a store. Police said the couple was about to leave when Walsh pulled up beside their car and began cursing at them, then blocked them in. When the woman got out to confront her, Walsh hit the woman in the back of the legs with the SUV. The victim's husband jumped out to yell at Walsh to stop, but police said Walsh again hit the victim in the leg with the front bumper of her SUV. Police added that the couple had parked in the handicapped spot only because store employees suggested it so they could more easily load a large item.

Flat-Chested A nationwide campaign is under way in Cameroon to discourage the widespread practice of "breast ironing," which involves pounding and massaging the developing breasts of young girls with hot objects to try to make them disappear. The most widely used instrument to flatten the breasts is a wooden pestle, used for pounding tubers in the kitchen. Heated bananas and coconut shells are also used. Statistics show that 26 percent of Cameroonian girls at puberty undergo it because many mothers believe it protects their daughters from the sexual advances of boys and men who think children are ripe for sex once their breasts begin to grow.

Vince Lombardi Follies Investigators learned that the Florida Department of Corrections paid former minor-league pitcher Mark Guerra for a no-show job at a prison library so he could lead a team of prison guards to victory in a softball tournament. Guerra pleaded guilty shortly after Gov. Jeb Bush fired Corrections Secretary James Crosby. "I don't know why someone would risk their career for a softball game," corrections official Robby Cunningham said. "It was just a skewed view of what was important."

Opportunity Knocks Online sex-toy retailer LoveHoney.co.uk announced that it is searching for a sexually active couple to test a new pill designed to change the taste of semen. The pill, which is to be taken twice a day for 30 days, claims to mask the traditionally salty taste of male ejaculate with a refreshing apple-like flavor. "A payment is offered," LoveHoney test organizer Ali Carnegie said, "but this is really a job that people should do for love rather than money."

Jobs Are No.1 Even though installing 116 waterless urinals in Philadelphia's new Comcast Center could save an estimated 1.6 million gallons of water a year, their use was put in jeopardy because Plumbers Union Local 690 objected. Seeking help from city politicians, the union complained that the water-saving plan at the 58-story Comcast Center would result in fewer jobs for plumbers. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the building's developer, Liberty Property Trust, was forced to accept a long list of conditions, including agreeing to install standard water lines with the urinals, although they are unnecessary and will not be connected.

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Roland Sweet

Bio:
Roland Sweet is the author of the syndicated column "News Quirks," which appears weekly in Seven Days.

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