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News Quirks 

Curses, Foiled Again Authorities investigating a report of a cab in flames near Washington's Seattle-Tacoma airport found the body of driver Jagit Singh inside with two gunshots in the back of the head. They also noticed a trail of pennies leading from the burning cab to the driveway of a nearby home where Earnest L. Collins, 18, lived. A search of the home turned up clothing with burn marks. Collins was arrested and charged with murder.

* A police officer who pulled over a car in Easley, S.C., noticed it contained bags of uneaten food from several fast-food restaurants, as well as a large amount of cash. The officer went back to the restaurants and learned that people matching descriptions of those in the car had paid for the food with bogus $100 bills and received legitimate currency in change. A search of the car turned up $6,000 in counterfeit bills, leading to guilty pleas by driver Henry Lee Orr, 45, and passenger Michele Ann Reynolds, 35.

Litigation Nation The drug company Johnson & Johnson filed a lawsuit against the American Red Cross, demanding that the charity stop using the red-cross symbol. Johnson & Johnson, which also uses a red cross as its trademark, objects to the Red Cross using the symbol on products it sells to the public, such as baby mitts, nail clippers, combs, toothbrushes and humidifiers. Accusing the Red Cross of licensing the trademark "for commercial purposes," Johnson & Johnson wants the Red Cross to turn over the products in question to be destroyed and seeks unspecified punitive damages.

* Former IBM employee James Pacenza, 58, sued the company for $5 million after he was fired for visiting adult Internet chat rooms while at work. Pacenza explained that he was addicted to online chat rooms and insisted that IBM should have offered him sympathy and treatment instead of firing him. Pacenza's lawyers said their client was using the Internet to self-medicate and that his addiction to adult Internet sites should be treated in the same way as other employees' addictions to drugs or alcohol.

What Could Go Wrong? American commanders in Iraq are turning to a new strategy to curb insurgent attacks: arming Sunni Arab groups that promise to fight militants linked with Al Qaeda - militants, incidentally, who used to be Sunni allies. The New York Times reported that the Sunnis, who have received cash, fuel and supplies, in addition to arms and ammunition, pledged not to use the weapons against U.S. forces, whom they have attacked in the past, or Iraqi troops and police, both of whom are dominated by arch-rival Shiites.

The Joy of Housecleaning Joanne Drysdale, a 49-year-old mother of three, has invented a sex toy that connects to a vacuum cleaner and gives multiple, back-to-back orgasms lasting up to a minute each - all without ever touching the skin. She said her Vortex Vibrations device works by concentrating the airflow to create a rapid and gentle vibration. Drysdale got the idea while cleaning her carpets when she noticed how a piece of rubber that got caught in the nozzle was gently resonating in the airflow. She also felt a soft stimulation to her fingertips as she tried to remove the rubber. At the time, the Utah woman had not had sex for 15 years following her divorce. "In my attempts to alleviate frustration, I began to think what I could do. I noticed how the rubber moved in the top of the vacuum," she recalled. "After several hours, I came up with the prototype. The first time I tried it, I reached an orgasm within 10 seconds."

High-Stakes Accountability High-end steakhouses popping up in and around Phoenix, Ariz., charge as much as $15 an ounce for beyond-prime beef. That's what customers at Yasu Sushi Bistro pay for Wagyu meat, which chef Yasu Hashino assured the Arizona Republic "melts in your mouth." The Wagyu cows not only are pampered and massaged in Japan to assure a high fat content, but also each cow has its nose print taken and recorded on a special certificate that accompanies each shipment. "If something is wrong with the beef I purchase," said Yasu, who buys 5 pounds of Wagyu a week, "I can go back and find out who the farmer is and exactly what cow it was."

Dedicated Professional After Melissa A. Duhamell, 21, was picked up on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court in Hammond, Ill., she avoided going to jail when Judge Jeffrey Harkin ordered her release. She left the police station at 10:40 a.m., but was back by 10:44, having been arrested after she met an undercover detective driving an unmarked police vehicle and offered to perform a sex act for $30.

Crusade of the Week When Linette Servais, 50, was summoned to a meeting with her priest, she expected to receive thanks for her 35 years of service as organist and choir director at St. Joseph Catholic Parish in New Franken, Wis. Instead, she was given an ultimatum: quit her sales job or be fired from her volunteer church work. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Servais' employer, Pure Romance, sells spa products and sex toys. The priest, the Rev. Dean Dombroski, declared that her sale of sex toys was not "consistent with church teachings." Servais chose to stick with her day job. "After I got over the initial shock, I prayed over this a long time," Servais said. "I feel that Pure Romance is my ministry."

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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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