NEWS AND BLUES
by Roland Sweet - Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

03-26-2014

Curses, Foiled Again

  • British authorities said habitual burglar Daniel Severn, 27, got his foot caught while climbing through a bathroom window of a house in Howden and wound up hanging upside down over the toilet for an hour and a half. He was found by homeowner Richard Wilson, whose wife took a photograph of Severn before her husband called police. Severn admitted trying to burglarize the residence and explained he tried to call police himself to come rescue him, but he dropped the phone into the toilet. “It would be funny,” Judge Amanda Rippon told Severn after sentencing him to 28 months in jail, “if it were not such a serious offense.” (Britain’s Daily Telegraph)
  • Surveillance cameras recorded Joshua M. Pemble, 23, stealing a security camera system at a Wal-Mart store in Joliet, Ill. When store security employees tried to stop Pemble after he exited the store, police Capt. Tab Jensen said he took off running but was arrested nearby and charged with shoplifting. Jensen said a charge of unauthorized use of a handicapped parking space was added after security footage showed Pemble parking in one “without a placard in his vehicle.” (Joliet’s The Herald News)

Modern Maladies

  • Sleep texting is the latest side effect of technology, according to Seattle neurologist Dr. Lina Fine, who reported growing numbers of patients expressing concerns that they’re texting in their sleep but don’t remember. “The smartphone has become a common way to communicate,” Fine said. “It’s reflexive to go for something we use the most.” She added that people are engaged with so many digital devices nowadays, “we never really fall asleep.” Sleep medicine specialist Dr. William DePaso said people have to be awake at least 30 seconds to remember. “My son can probably send 20 text messages in that time,” he commented. (Seattle’s KOMO-TV)
  • Scottish health authorities reported a rash of injuries to babies from swallowing laundry detergent capsules. The brightly colored pods attract infants, but their alkaline chemicals can burn throats and prove fatal, according to the National Health Service Greater Glasgow and Clyde. In response, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents launched a safety campaign that includes distributing 16,000 cabinet door latches to all families with 12- to 16-week-old babies to help keep the pods out of reach.
  • In Florida, meanwhile, authorities reported the death of a child in August who ate a detergent pod. The capsules “just became available in the United States last year, and within weeks to months of them becoming available we began to get reports through the poison centers of children ending up in the hospital following exposure to these packets,” Dr. Cynthia Lewis-Younger, medical director of the Florida Poison Information Center of Tampa, said. (Scotland’s STV and ABC News)

Mystery Meat

  • Chicken nuggets contain only 50 percent or less chicken muscle tissue from breasts and thighs, according to Mississippi researchers. The rest is a mix of fat, blood vessels and nerves from skin and internal organs. “Some companies have chosen to use an artificial mixture of chicken parts rather than low-fat chicken white meat, batter it up and fry it and still call it chicken,” said Dr. Richard D. deShazo of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, who reported the study’s findings in the American Journal of Medicine. (Reuters)
  • Two years after concerns over pink-slime prompted Fairfax County, Va., to replace additive-filled hamburgers on school lunch menus with all-beef patties, it’s returning to adulterated burgers because students complained the beef burgers didn’t look or taste right. For one thing, their centers were pink, since the all-beef patties lacked caramel coloring. The old burgers contained 27 ingredients, including caramel coloring and pink slime, a combination of beef scraps and connective tissue sprayed with ammonia gas to kill pathogens. The all-beef burgers contained only beef. The new patties have 26 additives, including the caramel coloring but lacking pink slime. “Students are our customers,” Penny McConnell, the county’s food and nutritional service director, said, “and we listen to them and implement their requests if possible.” (The Washington Post)

Supply and Demand
Coupon-dealing Groupon offered its Indian users onions for 9 rupees per kilo (6-plus cents a pound) just as the price of onions skyrocketed to 100 rupees per kilo. Groupon sold 6,613 pounds of onions in 44 minutes and 15,000 pounds total by the time its website overloaded and crashed. Explaining that the promotion was aimed at getting shoppers’ attention, Anur Warikoo, CEO of Groupon in India, said that even before the price of onions tripled in two months, they hadn’t been priced at 9 rupees since 1999. “We wanted to sell it at a price that most of us have completely forgotten,” he said. (Al Jazeera America)

It’s All Happening at the Zoo
A British safari park hired guards to enforce a new dress code aimed at keeping visitors from scaring the animals. The restrictions against clothing resembling the hides of giraffes, zebras, leopards, cheetahs and tigers affect a 22-acre, Serengeti-style reserve at Chessington World of Adventure, where visitors are driven while animals roam free. “Animals are getting confused when they see what looks like zebras and giraffes driving across the terrain in a 7.5-ton truck,” park official Natalie Dilloway said. (Britain’s The Guardian)

Hazards of (e)Smoking
A 3-year-old boy received first- and second-degree burns while riding with his mother in Provo, Utah, after an e-cigarette exploded in their car. Kinzie Barlow said she noticed a strange smell while charging the device, “then there was a big bang, and kind of a flash, and there’s smoke everywhere.” She explained that a white-hot copper coil shot out into the boy’s car seat, where it burned through the fabric, melted the hard plastic and sent flames up the boy’s body. Barlow tried to smother the flames with her shirtsleeve, but it caught fire. She finally doused the flames with iced coffee. (Salt Lake City’s KSTU-TV)

Tax Dollars at Work
Taxpayers in Arlington County, Va., are paying $13,000 for an electronic billboard sign instructing motorists, “Don’t hit the car in front of you.” Police Lt. David Green Jr. defended the sign, saying that previous signs with more subtle messages didn’t reduce accidents at the location, almost all of which “are rear-end collisions.” (The Blaze)

Slip-Shod Education

  • Mexico’s Education Department acknowledged finding at least 117 mistakes in new textbooks after printing and distributing 235 million of them to the nation’s elementary schools. Although officials wouldn’t release a list of mistakes, an independent review by the news blog Animal Politico found many words had been written with a “c” instead of an “s,” commas had been overused, words lacked correct accent marks, and a geography textbook located the Caribbean resort city of Tulum in Yucatan state instead of Quintana Roo. Officials promised to give teachers a list of the errors to correct textbooks manually. Mexico’s National Commission of Free Textbooks, which prints books that are mandatory for both private and public schools, blamed freelance editors for missing the errors. “The telephone rings, you have to go to the bathroom,” commission head Joaquin Diez-Canedo said. “You get distracted. You miss a word.” (Associated Press)
  • The same day that Georgia state school superintendent John Barge announced his gubernatorial candidacy, his official website misspelled the word “governor.” It appeared as “govenor” until reporters alerted Barge’s campaign staff, which corrected it. (Atlanta’s WXIA-TV)

Shortcomings

  • The International Paralympic Committee declared swimmer Victoria Allen, 19, ineligible for last summer’s world championships because she wasn’t disabled enough. Having won four medals and set a world freestyle record the year before, she “failed to provide conclusive evidence of a permanent eligible impairment,” the IPC ruled on the eve of the 2013 competition. A star child athlete, Arlen developed a neurological condition that led to her spending three years in a vegetative state before she awoke in 2010 with paralyzed legs. She insisted she was being punished because her doctor believes that her condition might improve. IPC official Peter Van de Vliet defended the ruling. “If you’re classifying an amputee, either they’ve got a leg or they haven’t, and in 12 months they still won’t have a leg,” he said. “But when you get to these types of wheelchair athletes, it gets tricky.” (The New York Times)
  • After Jakiya McKoy, 7, won the Little Miss Hispanic Delaware contest, pageant officials took away her crown because of concerns that she wasn’t Hispanic enough. Contestants are required to be at least 25 percent Hispanic, but Maria Perez, president of the sponsoring Nuestras Raices, said the verification the child provided “does not specify she was 25 percent Hispanic or Hispanic at all.” The McKoys protested that the real reason their daughter’s reign was cut short was her dark skin, not the lack of documentation. (New York’s Daily News)

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
Ed Gemar decided the best way to eliminate a fire hazard from a storage building in Great Falls, Mont., was to burn weeds and grass away from the part of the building that was brick and concrete. The fire spread to some dry weeds near a wooden section of the building and destroyed the building and its contents, which included vintage automobiles and farm machinery. (Great Falls Tribune)

Mistaken Identity
Sculptor Robert S. Davison is suing the U.S. government for copyright infringement because the U.S. Postal Service used his sculpture of the Statue of Liberty on a stamp, instead of the original statue in New York Harbor, without his permission. Davison’s replica welcomes visitors to the Las Vegas casino hotel New York New York. Davison’s attorneys contend that the post office chose their client’s image, which appeared on more than 5 billion forever stamps printed in 2011, because it was more “fresh-faced” and “sultry” than the original. (Associated Press)

Gangnam Style
South Korean teenagers who can’t afford plastic surgery are turning to do-it-yourself cosmetic enhancements, using cheap tools bought online. Instead of double-eyelid surgery to give them a “Hollywood look,” for example, some teens wear glasses, costing $5 to $20, that force their eyes to stay open without blinking. Another popular item is a $6 jaw roller intended to push the jaw line into a petite, oval form. Another device promises to raise the nose bridge to give a pointed nose. It’s painful but costs only $2. “We want to become pretty without spending all the money,” 17-year-old Na said, explaining that she and her friends started ordering online after seeing Korean talk show guests demonstrate various gadgets. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, South Koreans are the world’s most cosmetically enhanced people. (GlobalPost)

News and Blues is compiled from the nation’s press. To contribute, submit original clippings, citing date and source, to Roland Sweet in care of the Syracuse New Times.

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