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Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 12:01 am

Problem solved (Chinese style)

Curses, foiled again
Police charged Nace Eugene Houchin Jr., 33, with murdering a woman in Williamsburg, Va., after they found a handwritten note in his wallet “confessing to the homicide,” according to the arrest report. Besides detecting multiple fingerprints on the note that matched Houchin’s, a handwriting analysis concluded that he “more than likely” wrote the letter. (Williamsburg’s The Virginia Gazette)

After reporting that his vehicle had been stolen from his garage in Prescott, Ariz., Wade Dickinson, 28, filed an insurance claim and received a check for $53,000. A suspicious Yavapai County sheriff’s deputy investigated and learned that Dickinson had sold the vehicle on Craigslist for $35,000 before he said it was stolen. (Phoenix’s KTVK-TV)

Problem solved (Chinese style)
Chinese people are coping with rampant air pollution by sticking cigarette butts up their noses, believing that the filters will lessen the ill effects of smog. “Take two cigarette filters, strip away the wrapping papers and insert them in the nostrils,” one user posted on the social media website Sina Weibo. State media reported that some doctors agree that the technique effectively restricts polluted air from entering the nasal cavity, although it also obstructs normal breathing. (India’s Business Standard)

Guangming Road Primary School in China’s Hebei province began teaching children kung fu to defend against air pollution. The school has developed 23 moves, two of which involve pressing an acupoint to help promote lungs’ detoxification and breathing deeply into the belly to dispel residue gas left in human organs, according to the school’s deputy dean, Wei Huangiang, who designed the program. The school requires its 470 students to do the exercises, which take two minutes to complete, four times a day on smoggy days. (Britain’s International Business Times)

’Tis the season

More than $1 billion on gift cards goes unredeemed each year, according to CEB TowerGroup, even though a law enacted in 2009 requires cards to remain valid for five years. That timeline turns out to be the problem. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only half of small businesses last five years. What’s more, Elliot Bohm, CEO of CardCash.com, which buys gift cards at a discount from consumers and resells them, the five-year time to expiration encourages people to delay using the cards, thus increasing their chance of getting lost. (The Wall Street Journal)

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales ordered 300,000 government workers to be given an extra month’s pay as a Christmas bonus, on top of the extra month’s pay already required by law. “The country’s growth should return to the workers,” Morales declared. (Britain’s International Business Times)

McDonald’s worker resource website offered employees advice on tipping au pairs, personal fitness trainers, pool cleaners, dog walkers, massage therapists. The fast-food giant, which pays its workers an average wage of $9 an hour, previously suggested they get out of holiday-season debt by returning unopened gifts. (CNBC)

Play with your food
Officials in Taiji, Japan, proposed building a water park where tourists can swim and play with dolphins and then eat them. The park would tie in with the town’s annual custom of rounding up and killing thousands of dolphins, whose meat is considered a delicacy. (Singapore’s The Straits Times)

Follies of democracy
Nobody voted in November for mayor and city council in Wallsburg, Utah, and no candidates ran for office because the city forgot to hold the election. The new recorder in the town of 275 failed to announce the filing period or make arrangements to hold the election. By the time someone noticed the oversight, it was too close to Election Day to field candidates and print ballots. “They’re going to have to appoint the current mayor and council for two more years,” Wasatch County Clerk Brent Titcomb said. Wallsburg also forgot to hold an election two years ago, and the council had to be appointed then. “We will remember them in 2015,” Titcomb vowed. “They will definitely have an election in 2015.” (The Salt Lake City Tribune)

Irony of the week
Jennifer Whiteley, 27, was celebrating her new job, helping drug addicts at England’s Cheadle Royal Hospital, when she died from drinking alcohol and taking drugs. A postmortem found a number of drugs in her system, including Benzo Fury, a recently outlawed amphetamine-like designer drug. “Jennifer and I have taken drugs hundreds if not thousands of times before,” said boyfriend Andrew Tunnah, who was partying with her. “It was how we would chill out together.” (Britain’s Daily Telegraph)

Worth waiting in line
Hoping to raise $9,000 to lease a new squad car, Knightstown, Ind., Police Chief Danny Baker volunteered to be shot with his Taser. He received three times his goal and said he might be able to get a second car. Baker said that being shot with 50,000 volts of low-amp electricity felt like someone hitting him in the back of the head repeatedly. (Associated Press)

Second-Amendment follies

A man who set his pistol on the toilet-paper dispenser while using a restaurant bathroom in Elizabethtown, Ky., told police he suffered a gunshot wound to the leg when the weapon slipped off and accidentally fired. Sgt. David Neary said the evidence confirmed the man’s account and that he had a concealed carry permit. (Hardin County’s The News Enterprise)

After Justin Holt and some friends finished pretending to fire an empty handgun at each other at a home in Boca Raton, Fla., the owner loaded the weapon and set it on the table. A couple of hours later, Holt’s girlfriend, Erin Steele, who had seen the friends playing with gun but not noticed the owner loading it, picked up the gun, playfully aimed at Holt and pulled the trigger. The shot hit him in the chest. Police said that Holt died soon after arriving at the hospital. (West Palm Beach’s WPBF-TV)

Next step: handicapped parking

Former New Jersey Transit Officer Christopher Onesti acknowledged that a video showing him firing a sniper rifle while collecting $46,000 a year in disability pay for a staple wound to a finger looks “ridiculous,” but he blamed the all-or-nothing pension system. He explained that the staple injury left his left hand too weak to perform all police duties, qualifying him for a disability pension. (Associated Press)

Slightest provocation
Police accused Jacob Dale Engle, 23, of going on a rampage at a restaurant in Beaverton, Ore., because an employee said she wasn’t going to continue serving him alcohol after he told her she had ugly shoes. (Portland’s The Oregonian)

Compiled from mainstream news sources by Roland Sweet. Authentication on demand.

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