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News Quirks 

Published February 17, 2010 at 6:31 a.m.

Curses, Foiled Again

Police said Raul Gaucin-Valenzuela, 33, and a friend broke into a home in Evans, Colo., intending to beat up the friend’s ex-wife’s new boyfriend. The plan failed because the woman living there was baby-sitting Gaucin-Valenzuela’s two children, ages 8 and 11, who recognized their dad, even though a bandanna covered his face. Police said Gaucin-Valenzuela didn’t realize his kids were at the home. (Greeley Daily Tribune)

Craig Owen David Jr., 32, met his ex-girlfriend at a Wal-Mart parking lot in Uniontown, Pa., to borrow money for prescription medication. State Trooper Ozzie Mills said that when the woman pulled out a $10 bill to give him, David grabbed it and two $20 bills, and fled. He was quickly apprehended while making his getaway across the parking lot on a motorized scooter the store owns for the use of disabled shoppers. (Uniontown Herald-Standard)

Respite for Print

The Long Island daily newspaper Newsday became one of the first nonbusiness newspapers to charge customers for access to its website, which it spent $4 million to redesign and relaunch. In the first three months, only 35 people signed up to pay the $5 fee, according to publisher Terry Jiminez, who reportedly told a staff meeting, “That’s 35 more than I would have thought it would have been.” (The New York Observer)

Pre-Slept Comfort

Holiday Inn introduced a bed-warming service at three of its English hotels provided by staff members dressed in fleece sleeper suits and nightcaps. The chain said the human bed warmers at one Manchester and two London locations are equipped with thermometers to assure the temperature reaches 68 degrees F and will leave the bed before the guest occupies it. Spokesperson Jane Bednall likened the bed-warmers’ service to “having a giant hot water bottle in your bed.” (Reuters)

The Power of Suggestion

Helmut Kichmeier, 27, a performer with Britain’s Circus of Horrors whose debut as a sword swallower resulted in his skewering himself in front of the audience, sought the help of British hypnotherapist Ray Roberts to learn to put himself into a trance so he could swallow multiple swords on stage. After his training, Kichmeier was practicing in front of a mirror at his London home when he accidentally hypnotized himself. He remained in a trance for at least five hours, until his wife came home and found him looking like a zombie “just staring at himself in the mirror.” Unable to awaken him, Joanna Kichmeier said she noticed an open book called Hypnosis Medicine of the Mind on the sofa. She also saw a letter from Roberts next to the book and called him. He talked Kichmeier out of the trance. The performer, whose stage name is Hannibal Helmurto, vowed to practice autosuggestion only when his wife is present. (Britain’s Daily Telegraph)

Fruits of Research

Researchers at the University of California Davis said they’ve identified “clusters” of autism in areas where parents have higher-than-average levels of education. For example, children in neighborhoods where parents finished college were at least four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than children of parents who didn’t finish high school. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that higher education causes autism,” cautioned UC Davis MIND Institute researcher Irva Hertz-Picciotto, one of the study’s authors, who explained that the high rates of autism occur where parents are more likely to obtain a diagnosis for their child. (NPR)

More than half of British adults — 25 million — have been injured by cookies, according to a survey by Mindlab International. At least 500 wound up in the hospital. Hidden dangers included flying fragments, burns while dunking cookies in scalding tea, poking themselves in the eye with a cookie, choking on crumbs, breaking a tooth or filling biting a cookie, and falling off a chair reaching for the package. Seven percent of those surveyed said they’d been bitten by a pet or “other wild animal” trying to get their cookie. (Britain’s Daily Telegraph)

Lingerie Model of the Week

Sheriff’s deputies in Lee County, Fla., arrested Lawrence Jay Horowitz, 43, for attacking his girlfriend at her home after she made a comment when he walked into the kitchen wearing one of her nightgowns. She said she thought at first he was trying to be funny “but then realized he had a strange look on his face.” (Naples Daily News)


Albanian Katerina Munguli, 16, not only became the first girl to compete in a traditionally male-only Orthodox ceremony to retrieve a metal cross from the bottom of the Ionian Sea, but she also won, beating out a dozen men and boys for the $111 prize. “We were all happy a girl got it,” said Vladimir Kumi, co-organizer of the event. “She is the youngest of four sisters and behaves a bit like a boy.” (Reuters)

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About The Author

Roland Sweet

Roland Sweet was the author of a syndicated column called "News Quirks," which appeared weekly in Seven Days.


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