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Curious Times No. 179
February 13, 2003

PLAGIARIZED PROPAGANDA
Jeez, you'd think a government that has a bazillion dollars to blow on weaponry for their war machine could spend a bit of cash to have some decent propaganda written for them. Instead, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was forced to admit last week that his government's dossier on Iraq was plagiarized from two magazine articles and a 2002 research paper submitted by a graduate student. The document, titled Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation, was praised and quoted by Colin Powell during his fear-mongering address to the UN, but he failed to explain that many of the "facts" in the dossier were outdated by over a decade, in many cases describing Iraq as it was in 1991, before the first Gulf War. According to the New York Times, the report was so poorly cut-and-pasted together that it included entire verbatim sections of the grad student's research paper, including grammatical errors, but was passed of as the work of British intelligence services. On top of it all, Tony Blair altered some of the phrases from the academic report to make them sound a bit harsher, such as replacing the phrase "aiding opposition groups" with "supporting terrorists." (New York Times)

THE FREAKIEST BOOKS OF 2002
Check out 2002's Anomalist Book Awards for a huge list of book titles that'll make your head spin. If you're looking for some trippy reading, the list at anomalist.com has dozens of obscure titles, including reviews of the best books in a wide variety of strange and unusual categories. Here are some of my favourite book titles of 2002: Faith, Madness and Spontaneous Human Combustion, by Gerald N. Callahan; Shockingly Close to the Truth: Confessions of a Grave-Robbing Ufologist, by James W. Moseley and Karl T. Pflock; The Science of Vampires, by Kathrine Ramsland; The Madness of Adam and Eve: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity, by David Horrobin; Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism, by Daniel Pinchbeck; and Albert Einstein: The Incorrigible Plagiarist, by Christopher Jon Bjerknes.

TIME TO CASH IN ON THAT LITTLE BULIMIA PROBLEM
Perhaps you've given up on most of your childhood dreams, but there's still a chance for some fame and glory by eating like a pig in extreme eating competitions worldwide. Surprisingly, there is actually an International Federation of Competitive Eating which organizes a circuit of events for extreme eaters. From the matzo ball eating championship in New York City each January, to the fish eating competition in Scotland each December, the IFOCE has something for everyone. Check out the website at www.ifoce.com for the complete listing of events, and a cool list of extreme eating world records, including beef tongue (over three pounds in 12 minutes) , butter (seven sticks in five minutes), cow brains (57 in 15 minutes) and mayonnaise (four 32-ounce bowls in eight minutes.)

IS IT HOT IN HERE, OR IS IT JUST THAT MY HEAD IS ON FIRE?
Amazingly, in over three years of Curious Times this is the first time I've had the pleasure to report on a case of spontaneous human combustion. According to a police report out of Romania, Alexei Rusnac, 85, was found dead sitting next to his fireplace, with his head burnt to the size of an orange and his body and clothes unmarked. Initially, investigators thought the man may have suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning and then fallen into the fireplace and set his head on fire, but forensic experts ruled out the theory, saying that a fireplace could not reach the temperature of 250 decrees Celsius, which is required to burn a human body. For now, spontaneous self-combustion remains the only explanation. (Ananova)

TURN YOUR PENIS INTO AN ARMED AND DANGEROUS WEAPON
Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly has launched a new drug which will be able to give a man the ability sustain an erection for about 36 hours. Cialis, marketed as a new and improved rival to the erectile dysfunction drug viagra, comes with the promise that men will be able to have sex for a full day and a half after taking the drug. They don't explain exactly which psychological disorder would cause anyone to want a 36-hour erection, but they promise it nonetheless, stating that the new pill will work in about 16 minutes, a full 44 minutes faster than it's weaker sister drug viagra.Last year, the Cialis family of England pleaded with the drug company to change the name of the new super drug, but to no avail. Cialis will be available by prescription for about $20 a pill. (Herald Sun)

TAKE TWO ASPIRIN AND SHAVE EVERY MORNING
I love it when scientists reveal studies with conclusions for which they haven't got the foggiest clue. This week researchers at Bristol University found that men who don't shave every day have are 70 per cent more likely to have a stroke than men who shave every day. It took them 20 years to find this out, but they admit that even with 20 years of research they don't know why they found these results. Interestingly, they also found that men who don't shave every day have fewer orgasms, are shorter than daily shavers, and tend to suffer from angina. Can you say huh? (Reuters)

THE CLEANEST AIR ON EARTH
Bhutan is on course to become the first non-smoking nation on earth, as the government of the tiny Himalayan country is drafting modern legislation based on a historic precedent set in the 1640s, when the founder of Bhutan enacted the first-ever ban on smoking in all government buildings. The modern version of the non-smoking act will go much further, as tobacco products will be outlawed entirely everywhere in Bhutan.


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