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News Quirks 12.27.06 

Curses, Foiled Again Two men in Decatur, Ill., driving a black Nissan with plastic covering one window robbed Malcolm McDaniel at gunpoint, taking half a pack of Marlboro cigarettes and a Bic lighter. While police were interviewing McDaniel at the scene, a black Nissan with plastic over one window drove by, and the driver honked the horn. Officers stopped the vehicle and, after finding half a pack of Marlboros and a Bic lighter, arrested two teenagers, whom McDaniel identified as the robbers.

Let's Make a Deal Police in Davenport, Iowa, said that Marcy Gant, 31, bought a wedding dress from a street vendor but couldn't pay the full asking price. So, according to Capt. Dave Struckman, she "offered her 4-year-old son as collateral."

Side Effects Drug maker Pfizer Inc. announced it was ending trials of a drug intended to boost good cholesterol because of what the company called "an imbalance of mortality" - that is, 82 people died while taking the experimental drug in conjunction with Lipitor, which lowers bad cholesterol. Meanwhile, in another group taking Lipitor alone, there were 51 deaths, which Pfizer indicated was an acceptable number.

* Suicidal patients taking antidepressants have a "markedly increased" risk of attempting suicide but a "markedly decreased" risk of succeeding, according to a Finnish study. Researchers at the University of Kuopio and the Niuvanniemi Hospital reported "current antidepressant use was associated with a 39 percent increase in risk of attempted suicide, but a 32 percent decrease in risk of completed suicide and a 49 percent reduced risk of death from any cause."

Duty Calls Jessica Gaulke, 22, who was chosen Minneapolis Aquatennial Queen of the Lakes, announced she was giving up her title because her National Guard unit was activated and is being sent to Iraq. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that no one connected with the beauty pageant could remember an Aquatennial queen having served in the military, much less called to active duty during her reign.

* Miss Israel, 18-year-old Yael Nezri, received permission not to carry her assault rifle during her 2-year stint in the Israeli army. Nezri said the rifle bruises her legs, making it difficult for her to model in photo shoots.

Life Imitates Monty Python Trading standards officers in Wales notified sausage maker Black Mountains Smokery in Powys County that it could face prosecution because its spicy sausage known as the Welsh Dragon does not contain dragon. "The product was not sufficiently precise to inform a purchaser of the true nature of the food," a county council official told the Times of London, which reported that the company has renamed its sausage Welsh Dragon Pork Sausages.

Always Take the Optional Coverage Claude Hite of Tampa, Fla., embarked on a camping trip to Washington's Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park after renting a PT Cruiser from Thrifty Car Rental at the Seattle airport for 17 days for $425. Hite and a friend became trapped Nov. 6 when floods washed out the only road into or out of the forest. The park service rescued the two men two days later but not the vehicle. Meanwhile, Hite, who declined a waiver from the rental-car company to cover loss or damage because the $28.50 fee exceeded the daily rental cost, is liable for daily rental charges on the vehicle until it is returned. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that park officials have no timetable for repairing the road so the PT Cruiser can get out.

Quips of the Week After the Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ in Memphis, Tenn., donated a $75,000 house to a New Orleans couple who said that Hurricane Katrina left them homeless, the couple sold the place for $88,000, without ever moving in, and went back to New Orleans. Joshua Thompson told a television reporter who asked him and Delores Thompson about flipping the house, "Take it up with God."

* After nine SWAT officers fired 110 rounds of ammunition at Angilo Freeland, 27, suspected of killing a sheriff's deputy in Polk County, Fla., hitting him 68 times, Sheriff Grady Judd told the Orlando Sentinel, "That's all the bullets we had, or we would have shot him more."

Freak Accidents Inga Walen, 69, of Roseville, Calif., was pinned to her kitchen floor after her refrigerator fell on top of her when she reached into it. Four days later, Greg Allen, a candidate for the Placer County Water Board, was campaigning door to door when he heard Walen's cries for help, found an unlocked door and rescued the woman, who suffered a broken collar bone and leg injuries.

Missing the Point When Brandon Dickens, 20, failed to return to jury duty after lunch, Livingston County (Mich.) Circuit Judge David Reader ordered him to spend three days observing a civil trial and write a five-page paper on the history of jury service. A court employee recognized phrases from Dickens' report, and an Internet search revealed that it had been plagiarized. Dickens insisted that the report merely contained "quoted" material, but the judge added another day in the courtroom to his punishment and ordered him to rewrite the paper, telling him, "Really, what I was looking for, Mr. Dickens, was your own work."

Reality TV A television show that makes fun of the news provides just as much substantive information as legitimate newscasts, according to a study by Julia R. Fox, assistant professor of telecommunications at Indiana University, who evaluated "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." A secondary finding was that more young people are turning to it and other news spoof shows for their information about current events. Noting the Comedy Channel program "is clearly a humor show, first and foremost," Fox said, "You have real newsmakers coming on."

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Roland Sweet

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


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