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News Quirks 11.22.06 

Curses, Foiled Again A man armed with a shotgun entered the North American Fireworks shop in Lac du Flambeau, Wis., but before getting any money, he fired his weapon, igniting fireworks that in turn set the building on fire. In the confusion, the owner was able to wrestle the shotgun away, and the man fled empty-handed. Vilas County sheriff's deputies arrested a 20-year-old suspect whom they tracked to a home 10 miles away.

* James Snyder of Stout, Iowa, was sentenced to a year in jail for submitting a fake obituary to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier saying that his girlfriend's 17-year-old son died after a lengthy illness. Prosecutors said Snyder hoped the published obituary would get him time off from work. His plan went awry, however, when people who read the obit and knew the teenager spotted him at a Waterloo restaurant and notified authorities.

Avoirdupois Follies Salt Lake City fire investigators blamed a fire at the Garner Funeral Home on a 600-pound man being cremated, explaining that his body fluids seeped out onto the floor and ignited. "Those fluids can be very flammable. Sort of like a grease fire," fire official Scott Freitag said, indicating that the man's weight resulted in significantly more fluids than usual.

* Appetite suppressants are ineffective, according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, because obese people are addicted to food. Gene-Jack Wang at the Brookhaven Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., and his colleagues scanned the brains of subjects that had electrodes implanted in their stomachs to trick them into thinking they were full. The researchers found that the same areas of the brain were activated in the obese as in drug addicts craving their next fix. "They can't suppress their craving," Wang said.

* Martin B. Schmidt, an economist at the College of William and Mary, proposed taxing food purchased at drive-through windows. Explaining his theory in The New York Times, Schmidt said people would expend more calories if they had to get out of their car and walk to pick up their food.

The Times also reported that Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, and his colleagues asked more than 3000 fat people how they responded to stigmatization and discrimination because of their weight. Almost everyone said they ate more.

Rage-a-holics Unanimous After exchanging insults in an Internet chatroom, Paul Gibbons, 47, tracked down John Jones and beat him up with a pickaxe handle. Terming it Britain's first "web-rage" attack, London police said Gibbons, who admitted driving 70 miles to confront Jones for spreading rumors about him, was able to identify his victim using personal information that Jones had posted online.

Disrespected Safety Device of the Week After a cell block flooded at the county jail in Fort Pierce, Fla., sheriff's reports charged inmate Jan Nickerson, 41, who was observed standing on the toilet in her cell "cutting her hair weave on the nozzle part of the sprinkler head." Officials believe Nickerson was cutting her weave to sell for commissary items. Nickerson denied cutting her weave on the sprinkler head, insisting that she was hanging underwear on the sprinkler to dry when water started dripping from it.

* A thousand gallons of water poured into an arts center in Ashland, Ky., after a contestant in the Miss Ashland Area Scholarship Pageant hung her dress from a sprinkler head on the ceiling to remove the wrinkles. "There was all this water flowing down from the ceiling, and all these pageant contestants standing around, some in curlers, some holding their dresses," said Cindy Collins, director of operations at the Paramount Arts Center, which suffered an estimated $30,000 in damage.

Kosher Follies After Orthodox Jewish rabbis in Australia told journalist Ros Reines four days before her son's bar mitzvah that the boy hadn't been properly circumcised and therefore was not Jewish, she refused a second circumcision. "He's undoubtedly circumcised. It's just a matter of degree," she said. Ritual circumciser Dr. Herschel Goldman told the Australian Jewish News that a proper circumcision requires the whole head of the penis to be revealed when erect. Declaring, "Those people have gone mad with power," Reines insisted that if the boy had been in Nazi Germany, he would certainly have been "consigned to the ovens."

* An Orthodox Jewish synagogue proposed stringing fishing line between lampposts and sign poles for several miles through the California beachfront communities of Santa Monica, Venice and Marina del Rey to create a religious boundary known as an eruv. Orthodox Jews within the eruv can consider themselves to be "at home" on the Sabbath, even while they are spending the day at the beach. The Los Angeles Times reported that a website touting the so-called L.A. Coastal Eruv said the project would also boost local tourism, making Venice "an ideal vacation spot for Sabbath-observing tourists."

Hospitality Meccas Iraqi Kurds are building a $300 million airport in Irbil, hoping the mountain region will become a tourist haven, as well as a refueling stop for international airlines between Europe and Asia or Australia. Kurdistan Regional Government Civil Aviation Director Zaid Zwain said he hopes the airport's 3-mile runway will also become a backup landing strip for NASA space shuttles that need to make emergency landings. "If you have any trouble," Zwain told a U.S. delegation, "you can land here free of charge."

* Iran said it would offer cash incentives to travel agencies to encourage tourists to visit the country. "Iran's tourism department will pay $20 per person to those who attract European or American tourists to the country," said Mohammed Sharif Malakzadeh, deputy head of the department, adding that visitors from other countries would earn travel agents $10 for each tourist.

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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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