Aug 6 - 12, 2009 
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Odds & Ends

By Devin D. O’Leary

Dateline: Mexico—Tourists in Cancún were surprised to find a little piece of paradise ringed in crime-scene tape and filled with gun-wielding sailors. Environmental enforcement officers backed by navy personnel cordoned off hundreds of feet of pristine white beach in front of the Gran Caribe Real Hotel last Thursday, accusing the hotel of illegally accumulating sand. The Mexican government spent $19 million to replace Cancún beaches washed away by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Since then, much of that sand has been erased by tides, leading some property owners to relocate sand from neighboring beaches or from below the breakwater. “Today, we made the decision to close this stretch of ill-gotten, illegally accumulated sand,” announced Patricio Patrón, Mexico’s attorney general for environmental protection. Patron said five people were detained in the raid for allegedly using pumps to move sand from the sea floor onto the beach in front of the Gran Caribe Real. The attorney general apologized to inconvenienced tourists but said this was simply a question of enforcing the law.

Dateline: South Carolina—An employee of Jimmy’s Japanese Hibachi in Conway, just outside Myrtle Beach, told police he used a meat cleaver to fight off a would-be robber dressed in a gorilla suit. According to the police report, the 21-year-old man told officers he was cleaning the restaurant after closing last Monday and was punched in the head while taking trash to a Dumpster behind the business. The man said he wrestled with his hairy attacker then ran back inside the building. When the assailant in the gorilla suit followed and made a run for the cash register, the employee picked up a meat cleaver and hit the fake ape in the right arm. The employee said the attacker then ran out of the hibachi restaurant with the cleaver still stuck in his suit. Police are investigating the incident.

Dateline: Minnesota—A 58-year-old model is suing the Medtronic company for illegally using his photograph in an ad touting its prostate device. Below the model’s picture are the words, “Now I can go like I am 19 again!” Ubaldo Dominguez Ramos said in a Hennepin County District Court lawsuit last week that he has never suffered from prostate problems. He also said the advertisement alarmed his mother in Texas when she saw it. Ramos is seeking a jury trial and more than $75,000 in general damages. He also wants Medtronic to be permanently banned from using his image. According to Ramos’ lawyer, the senior model is the victim of defamation and invasion of privacy through commercial misappropriation. In a statement issued last Thursday, Medtronic said, “Whenever Medtronic uses a photo in association with our product materials, the appropriate rights and permission are obtained.” Ramos contends the contentious photograph came from a 2001 audition for a photo shoot in Minneapolis. Ramos claims he never signed a release for any photo taken there.

Dateline: California—San Francisco robbery suspect Darius Reed is having a hard time getting out of jail. In fact, he’s having a hard time getting out of bed in jail. The 20-year-old is facing a 30-year prison term if convicted for a home invasion robbery but has missed several court dates because he refuses to get out of bed. Reed hasn’t wanted to leave his San Francisco jail medical-cell bed for four months. He doesn’t want to go to court, doesn’t want to bathe and refuses to talk to his attorney, Floyd Andrews. One court-appointed doctor has found Reed mentally unfit to stand trial. Another doctor says he’s just faking his catatonic state. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, District Attorney Kamala Harris’ office isn’t buying Reed’s bedridden status and plans to introduce in court this week jailhouse phone calls between Reed and his girlfriend to prove the suspect is faking infirmity. Whether Reed will get out of his jail bed to attend the court hearing is unknown. Whether he legally has to be there is an as-yet-unresolved question.

Dateline: Texas—A Bank of America call center in Fort Worth was evacuated last Wednesday for what fire officials initially believed to be carbon monoxide poisoning. By the time the situation was brought under control, almost 150 people were sickened by toxic fumes. A spokesperson for MedStar Ambulance told the Daily Telegraph that 34 people were taken to hospitals, 12 of those by ambulance after reporting dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pains and headaches. The eventual culprit? A bank worker who sprayed “strong-scented” perfume on herself. Local fire chief Lt. Kent Worley said the situation started when two workers at the office said they felt dizzy from the perfume. When an announcement was made that anyone with similar symptoms should exit the building, panic spread throughout the building. Due to the overwhelming number of injured, investigators believed they were dealing with some sort of chemical attack, but teams trained in the handling of hazardous materials searched the building and found nothing. Lt. Worley told the media that “psychosomatic behavior” and “contagious fear” had fueled the situation. Investigators have yet to identify the brand of perfume that sparked the medical crisis.

Compiled by Devin D. O'Leary. E-mail your weird news to devin@alibi.com.

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