News at a Glance

By Sarah Masker

Elm Staff Writer

1.) Ask John Toomey, a veteran Santa impersonator, why he’s so jolly, and he’ll joke, “It’s because I know where all the naughty boys and girls live.”  Twenty years of this “inappropriateness” eventually got Toomey into trouble when two elderly customers at a San Francisco Macy’s complained, resulting in his dismissal from the store. Apparently even Santa gets on the Naughty List every now and then.

2.) Forget “Snakes on a Plane:” Introducing Mandy, a 12-pound Manchester terrier who was released from her carrier and proceeded to bite a flight attendant and passenger en route to Phoenix.  The plane, having departed from Newark, N.J., diverted to Pittsburgh in order for the bite victims to receive medical attention. When it departed yet again for Phoenix, Mandy and her owner were not onboard, having been placed on a different flight with unsuspecting passengers.

3.) The regular winter escape to sunny Florida may not provide as much sunshine and warmth as in past years. Unusually low temperatures are chilling the state, and some cities are dipping even as low as freezing. Orange farmers are crossing their fingers, hoping that damage, which occurs when temperatures go lower than 28 degrees for at least four hours, will not become an even bigger concern than it already is. Enjoy those screwdrivers while you can, because it sure looks like orange juice is facing a grim future.

4.) While debates about the death penalty used to concern whether it is right or wrong, today’s state deficits are forcing states to evaluate the cost of the policy rather than its morality. States like California, New Hampshire, and Illinois are all citing cost as a reason to discontinue the death penalty. Maintaining the criminal justice system in California, where there are almost 700 death row inmates, costs the state about $137 million annually; if the death penalty were abolished, that number would drop to $11.5 million.  A recent study has found that unless California replaces capital punishment with permanent imprisonment, the state will spend over $1 billion in the next five years.

5.) Tocophobia, the fear of childbirth, is on the rise, plaguing more than just those enduring the walk of shame.  According to British reports, as many as one in six women have extremely high anxiety, and some women admit to experiencing phobia symptoms just by the sight of a pregnant woman.  In some cases, tocophobics have confronted an eating disorder or sexual abuse in the past; all phobias are triggered by events or traumas in people’s lives.

6.) Never flush live goldfish down a toilet—not only because they are an invasive species and do not belong outside the fish tank, but because fish can feel pain.  At least, that’s what Penn State professor Victoria Braithwaite claims.  In a press release, she stated, “In our experiments we showed that if we hurt fish, they react, and then if we give them pain relief, they change their behavior, strongly indicating that they feel pain.”  In a country facing issues regarding animal welfare in agriculture, it seems we should be concerned about aquaculture, too.

7.) Facebook just refuses to stay the same for long.  What’s all this new profile business?  The emphasis is now being placed on photos and relationships, with a larger profile picture than ever before and five more below your name.  On the side, you can see a list of family and friends–a new feature.  Further emphasizing relationships, you can see exactly what you have in common with another person, conveniently located at the top right hand corner of the page.  So, will these changes be accepted, or will they only hurt Facebook’s relationship with 500 million people?

8.)  Wyclef Jean may not be in the running anymore, but the Haiti election is still keeping people on their toes.  After dealing with an earthquake and the subsequent cholera epidemic, the struggling nation has had to deal with political tension and protests by the general public.  With a ballot of 19 candidates, the election has proved a nightmare for Haitians and other countries that have supported the nation.  22 year old journalist student Fredel Jean has said that the election cannot be thrown out, not after $29 million was spent to make it happen.

9.)  To avoid identity theft, simply keep your Social Security number to yourself.  For military personnel, however, it isn’t quite so easy; our nation’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines use their Social Security numbers as personal identifiers in dozens of settings every day.  Steve Muck, the Navy’s chief information officer, said, “If you’re operational and you’re out there, you can’t do anything about the harm being done in the United States,” which makes soldiers overseas the ideal victims.  In a statement last week, the Defense Department announced that the numbers would no longer appear on military I.D. cards as of May, which will hopefully reduce the risk of identity theft.

10.)  Burning pictures of ex-lovers is not something only women do.  Following an argument with his current girlfriend, 33 year old Leonard Spagnolo was arrested after losing control of a fire that was meant to burn items belonging to a former girlfriend.  Bonfires like that, although potentially cozy for the holiday season, should be contained to the outdoor fire pit or the fireplace—not the living room floor.

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