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News Quirks 11.08.06 

Curses, Foiled Again Police in Clark County, Ore., reported receiving a call from a motorist who said he noticed smoke coming from a public utility district regulator station, stopped and spotted a man on fire inside the fenced area. Police and fire fighters responded, but the live electrical wires prevented them from reaching the victim for 45 minutes until the power could be turned off. After investigators found a hole cut in the fence, they concluded that the dead man had been electrocuted while trying to steal copper wire when he cut a live wire carrying 7200 volts.

Avoirdupois Follies Overweight drivers use almost a billion extra gallons of gas a year to tote the added load, according to researcher Sheldon H. Jacobsen, a computer scientist at the University of Illinois. His statistical study concluded that men today weigh 25 pounds more than they did in 1960, women 26 pounds more. That extra weight requires 983 million gallons more gas, costing, at $2.20 a gallon, $2.2 billion a year. "What we have here is a relationship that exists between the obesity epidemic and fuel consumption," Jacobson said, adding that if people would lose weight, "we're actually going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil very covertly, simply because we're going to be using less."

* Researchers at Oregon State University reported that obese folks prefer a car-centered existence. As a result, the study concluded, "overweight people tend to choose suburban life."

Alternative Medicine Dr. James C. Burda, 58, a chiropractor from Athens, Ohio, insisted he could heal clients by traveling back in time to the date of an injury and realigning bones and joints using telekinetic vibration. Identifying his treatments by the made-up terms "Bahlaqeem Vina" and "Bahlaqeem Jaqem," Burda said he discovered his "God-given gift" when his foot began to hurt while driving from Athens to Parkersburg, W.Va. He said he commanded the pain to stop, and it did. Burda was charging clients $60 an hour for the treatment until he surrendered his license in September after the Ohio State Chiropractic Board discovered his website and accused him of being "a long-distance quack."

When Color-Coded Duct Tape Isn't Enough Oklahoma Republican Bill Crozier, a candidate for state superintendent of school, proposed that schools place thick, used textbooks under desks so students can use them for self-defense during school shootings. Crozier demonstrated his plan with a 10-minute video showing him and his aides shooting math, language and telephone books with various weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle and a 9 mm pistol. The rifle bullet penetrated two books, including a calculus textbook, but only one book was needed to stop the pistol bullet. "People might think it's kind of weird, crazy," said Crozier, a teacher and former Air Force security officer. "It might be a way to deflect those bullets until police go there."

* The Burleson, Texas, school system paid a security company $2500 to teach students at its 11 schools to fight back if a gunman invades the classroom. "Getting under desks and praying for rescue from professionals is not a recipe for success," said Robin Browne, an instructor with Response Options, which conducted the training. Students and teachers should "react immediately to the sight of a gun by picking up anything and everything and throwing it at the head and body of the attacker and making as much noise as possible," Browne declared, insisting that just by using books, pencils and their own legs and arms, "five or six seventh-grade kids and a 95-pound art teacher can basically challenge, bring down and immobilize a 200-pound man with a gun."

The program lasted 18 months, until it made national news in October. After fielding calls from parents, law enforcement officials and other school districts, some expressing fear that the program could get youngsters killed, Burleson officials abruptly canceled the training, insisting they hadn't known what it entailed.

Conclusive Evidence A district court in Finland sentenced a couple in their twenties to a year in jail for overcharging a 74-year-old man to fondle the woman's bosom. The victim, who paid a total of 25,500 euros ($32,000) to enjoy the woman's breasts on 10 occasions, suffers from dementia but told the court he paid the price willingly at the time. "Based on general life experience alone, it is indisputably clear that a 25,500 euro charge is disproportionate to the compensation in question," Judge Hasse Hakki, who heard the case, told Reuters news agency. He added, however, that the court in Kokkola declined to settle the matter of "the proper financial value of the compensation."

Inside the Other People's Republic A bar in eastern China has begun attracting customers by allowing them to beat up the staff. The official newspaper China Daily reported that the Rising Sun Anger Release Bar in Nanjing invites stressed-out customers to smash glasses, rant and attack specially trained workers. Clients can ask the 20 men, who have been given protective gear and physical training to prepare them for the job, to dress as the character they wish to attack. "The idea of beating someone decorated as your boss seems attractive," customer Chen Liang said.

* A Chinese woman in Hohhot, whose dog "was fond of crouching on the steering wheel and often watched her drive," decided to let the dog try to drive her car while she operated the accelerator and brake, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. "They did not make it far," Xinhua reported, "before crashing into an oncoming car."

Fowl Shot Authorities in Lane County, Ore., charged Mary Kay Gray, 58, with shooting her husband in the back after he shot and killed her pet chicken. Stanley Edward Gray, 43, was treated for a shoulder wound, according to sheriff's Sgt. Clint Riley, who noted that the couple had been drinking most of the day leading up to the shootings.

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Roland Sweet

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

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