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Compelling Explanations

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In the 2006 take-off crash of a Comair commuter airliner at the regional airport in Lexington, Ky. (which the FAA blamed on pilot error), all 47 passengers were killed, and 21 lawsuits have been filed, with attorney William Johnson defending the only cockpit survivor (the first officer). The Lexington Herald-Leader reported in January that, in court papers filed in the lawsuits, Johnson had offered the defense that the seat-belted-in passengers should share the blame for their own deaths, in that they should have chosen other airports that might have been safer. (Shortly after the newspaper report, Johnson withdrew the defense.)

A prominent British novelist (former winner of the prestigious Whitbread Prize) announced in January that she had won a settlement of the equivalent of more than $200,000 from a shoe manufacturer in the town of Totnes because fumes from its factory so sapped her creativity that she was forced to write down-market thrillers instead of literary works. Joan Brady said numbness in her hands and legs, caused by pollutants, made her settle on simpler plotlines involving violence as she worked out her aggression toward the factory owners.

William Harvey, defending a DUI charge in court in Perth, Scotland, in February, told the judge that his high blood-alcohol reading was because he has a "balloon-like" pouch in his neck (sort of like a pelican's) that collects most of the alcohol he swallows and therefore makes it seem that he is much more inebriated than he really is. (He was convicted.)

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