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News of the Weird



Lead Story

In August the City Union Mission in Kansas City, Missouri, announced it intended to convert a building it owns into a homeless shelter, a need that it says was created by a shortage of low-income housing in the area. To do so, the organization said it would have to evict low-income tenants Violet Williams, 86, a resident for 27 years, and Bob Dodson, 71.

The Democratic Process

In June the owner of the only adult bookstore in Clarksville, Tennessee, petitioned a federal court to overturn a recently passed city ordinance. The city council had intended to prohibit operators of such stores from having sex in the store but omitted the words "on the premises," thus ostensibly prohibiting the owner and his employees from having sex anywhere.

In July the former mayor of the 1980s cult-dominated town of Rajneeshpuram, Oregon, said in court that he'd used various schemes to keep people who weren't affiliated with the cult from voting, including tampering with the food at a restaurant to make them sick and coating courthouse doorknobs with a chemical irritant as election day approached.

In the June 13 mayoral election in Sutton, West Virginia, Ed (for Edward) Given apparently beat Ed (for Edgar) Given by two votes. In the recount, however, Edgar won by six.

In August the city council of Lierne, Norway, acted to increase interest in the September elections by making voters eligible for an expense-paid vacation to a resort in southern Europe. And in May model Yelena Mavrodi, 25, finished third in an election to represent Kolomna in the Russian parliament, despite her campaign promise of an unspecified gift for everyone who voted for her. Also in May the Wall Street Journal reported that Argentina was considering a proposal to pay about $100,000 to each resident of the Falkland Islands if they would vote to leave British sovereignty and become Argentine subjects.

Newly elected Ontario legislator Dominic Agostino was denied his seat at his swearing-in ceremony in June after pledging allegiance to Canada. The constitutional oath requires legislators to "bear true allegiance" only to the queen of England.

In April Naoko Asaki, 27, gave up the seat she won in the municipal assembly in Higashimurayama, Japan, to Hozumi Yano, who finished fourth. "Mr. Yano has more experience than I," she said, "and he's more qualified for the job."

New Rights

In August Michigan prison inmate Janet Cohen, 42, serving three to five years for tax evasion, complained that a rule requiring female prisoners to wear brassieres is unfair to her because she is so flat chested. Warden Sally Langley said the rule is necessary for "security."

A superior court judge in Danbury, Connecticut, ruled in July that middle school teacher Nancy Sekor was wrongfully dismissed. She'd been found incompetent in two of the three courses she teaches (English and social studies) but competent in business courses and thus, said the judge, must be rehired to teach business.

In July, according to U.S. News & World Report, a federal agency that helps administer the Americans With Disabilities Act told a disabled employee who uses a Labrador guide dog that he couldn't bring the dog to work because a coworker is afraid of dogs.

Among the incidents reported by the Wall Street Journal in a July story on the Family and Medical Leave Act was the pending case of June Manuel, who was fired in February 1994 by Westlake Polymers Corporation for excessive absenteeism, including four days' leave when her cat died and seven weeks following the removal of an ingrown toenail.

In March a superior court judge in Boston found John J. Locke not guilty of assaulting the police commissioner's driver, who is also a police officer. Testimony showed that Locke, who is white, shouted a racial epithet and, with no provocation, pounded the officer, who is black, leaving him with cuts, a black eye, and loosened teeth. The judge found that Locke, a manic-depressive, had failed to take his prescribed doses of lithium for two months prior to the attack and let him go on the promise that he'd take his medication.

Charles Diaz, a former Hells Angel now on death row for the 1986 murders of a family of four in Fort Bragg, California, recently petitioned a judge to provide him a free laptop computer to help him analyze documents as part of his appeal. According to Diaz's lawyer, "It's 1995. Computers are part of law practice."

The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in July that taxpayers in Orange County, California, had to pay for special private schooling for a high school student suffering from attention deficit disorder. School officials said the boy had peddled cigarettes on campus, set fires, threatened to kill classmates, and kicked his pregnant mother in the stomach (causing her, out of fear of her son, to move away from the family for several months). Said a state education official explaining the court's ruling, "What really matters is the individual needs of the child."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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