Odds & Ends

Devin D. O'Leary
5 min read
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Dateline: Massachusetts—Last week's New England Journal of Medicine reported on a case in which French surgeons removed 12 pounds of coins from the stomach of a 62-year-old patient. The man, who had a history of psychiatric illness came to the emergency room of Cholet General Hospital in western France in 2002 complaining of stomach pain and an inability to eat or move his bowels. An X-ray revealed an enormous opaque mass, which turned out to be around 350 coins—approximately $650 worth. Readers of the New England Journal of Medicine wrote in and correctly diagnosed the unnamed man as suffering from a psychological condition known as pica, a rare compulsion to eat things not normally consumed as food. The man had his expensive stomach contents removed, but died 12 days later from complications.

Dateline: England—A British woman has been fined for trying to register her livestock to vote in local government elections—for the second time. Mrs. Brenda Gould from Newmarket, near Cambridge in eastern England, listed two names on her voter registration form that turned out to be cows. According to the East Cambridge District Council, this was the second year in a row that “Henry and Sophie Bull” were listed as eligible voters residing at Gould's address. Last year, the woman also registered a “Jake Woofles,” who turned out to be her dog. Gould had been scheduled to appear in Ely Magistrate Court last Tuesday but did not arrive. The judge convicted her in her absence and ordered her to pay a 100-pound ($189) fee and 110 pounds ($208) in court costs. “This was the second time that Mrs. Gould had given false information on electoral forms and so, regrettably, the council felt it was necessary to take action to prevent this abuse of the election system from continuing,” said Maggie Camp, the council's senior legal assistant.

Dateline: Botswana—A senior government official in Botswana is begging citizens not to commit suicide by throwing themselves in front of moving trains: She's asking them to jump out of trees instead. The country's minister for Works and Transport, Tebelelo Seretse, made her plea in a newspaper based in the capital city of Gaborone. “I am appealing to the people not to use the trains to kill themselves,” Seretse said in her editorial. “If people want to commit suicide they should use trees, not our trains.” According to the South African Broadcasting Company, Seretse has offered counseling to drivers who have to deal with suicides. “I am sick of these people who throw themselves in front of trains. The drivers are people—why turn them into murderers,” she said.

Dateline: Pakistan—The words “kite festival” and “blood bath” don't usually go together, but seven people were killed and more than 100 injured recently in Pakistan during an annual kite-flying festival honoring the arrival of spring. One victim was an 18-month-old girl who had her throat cut by a stray kite string while she was traveling on a motorbike, witnesses said. Three others were electrocuted when metal wires they were using to fly kites came in contact with live electric lines. Two others fell off rooftops and a third was struck by a car while chasing a stray kite across the main roadway of Lahore. Officials at Lahore's Mayo Hospital said 42 children and 60 adults were treated for injuries during the festival. More than 20 people have been killed in kite-flying accidents in Lahore since last year's spring festival. Relatives of those killed or injured by kites held a demonstration in the town last year urging the government to maintain its ban on selling and flying kites. The frequency of electrical deaths has forced the government to ban the sale of kites and metal wire, but those restrictions were lifted this month to celebrate the festival.

Dateline: Alabama—Milk cartons containing cleaning fluid were accidentally shipped to the E.R. Dickson Elementary School in west Mobile, but no one was injured—mostly because none of the kids wanted to drink the milk anyway. Oxonia active, a disinfectant used to clean equipment in milk plants, had mistakenly been packaged into 100 cartons of fat-free milk at Dairy Fresh Milk Corp. and delivered to the school last Tuesday. Oxonia active contains peroxyacidic acid—similar to what is found in vinegar—and hydrogen peroxide, which can cause mild nausea if ingested. Fortunately, only three students and a teacher picked up the half-pint cartons last Wednesday. The teacher noticed a strong vinegar taste and notified cafeteria workers that the milk was contaminated. Principal Barbara Freeman said that only one of the students had actually tried to drink the sanitizer, but did not get ill. “I'm glad it wasn't chocolate milk,” Freeman told the Mobile Register. “We don't usually get a lot of takers on the fat-free milk.”

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

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