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News of the Weird



Lead Stories

Another distinguishing characteristic: According to an October Reuters news report, a man who was fined about $357 for mooning German chancellor Helmut Kohl in a political protest two years ago near Vienna, Austria, has decided to appeal. The man has asked a court to require Kohl to come back to Vienna, take a look at the protester's bare bottom, and certify that he was not among the mooners.

In October Santa Cruz, California, attorney Jay BloomBecker began offering a weekly support group and school for people who have filed lawsuits. For $15 a session BloomBecker guides plaintiffs through the process while sympathizing with the anguish that brought them to litigation. "The basic problem," he told the Metro Santa Cruz, "is that people come to me not because they want money but because they're hurt."

8 The King's continuing influence: Birger Niels Petersen, running for city councilman this month in Tornved, Denmark, made a campaign promise to rename the town's main street Elvis Presley Boulevard and the town hall Graceland. And in a story on the U.S.-China summit in October, the New York Times reported that on a visit to the Philippines in 1996, Chinese president Jiang Zemin initiated a duet with his host, president Fidel Ramos, in which the two sang "Love Me Tender."

Questionable Judgments

A recently completed work by well-known sculptor John Waddell commemorating the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing that killed four little girls has been offered for free to several museums and churches in the area but has so far been turned down by all of them. Waddell's piece shows four nude black women in a fountain, representing the adulthood the girls were never allowed to achieve. A committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church says the sculpture resembles a "slave auction." However, the mayor of Birmingham and the father of one of the bomb victims say they like Waddell's piece.

In June Kenyon Bowe was picked up by the coast guard after drifting for 15 hours in the Atlantic Ocean on his Jet Ski, which he had intended to ride from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Freeport, Bahamas, about 100 miles away. He said he lacked the patience to wait for the next cruise ship. And in August Lawrence Tervit was picked up in the English Channel after he had set out on the 30-mile trip to England from Calais, France, on a three-by-three-foot wooden pallet. He said he ran out of money in France and couldn't afford a ferry back.

Jamaal Lou Wallace, 27, was arrested at a traffic checkpoint near Knoxville, Tennessee, in July when officers found 300 pounds of marijuana in his trunk. He had attempted to mask the smell with air fresheners but had used "15 to 20" of them, creating an odor that "would nearly knock you down," an officer said.

In September in Edmonton, Alberta, a man attempting to dislodge a partially flushed foam toy from his toilet by pouring five gallons of gasoline into it created enough fumes to ignite a furnace pilot light, causing an explosion and $60,000 in damage. And also in September an elderly woman in Hazel Park, Michigan, whose children had put a lock on her car's steering wheel to prevent her from driving tried to burn it off. The resulting fire left only the car's charred outer frame.

In Superior, Wisconsin, administrative law judge Charles Schaefer denied unemployment benefits to June Lauer in September. Lauer had quit her job at a Kentucky Fried Chicken because she was disgusted by the prevalence of vile language in the workplace. Schaefer ruled that Lauer did not have good cause to quit because, he wrote, "use of vulgar and obscene language and terms can serve to promote group solidarity."

First Things First

Mary Samuel, 34, a food seller in Monrovia, Liberia, was quoted in the New York Times in July as supporting presidential candidate Charles Taylor in the national elections that were to end years of civil war. Said Samuel, "He killed my mother, and he killed my father, and I don't care--I love Charles Ghankay Taylor." Taylor won.

David Ash, 21, was arrested in August in Northport, Alabama, and charged with holding up a convenience store. As David entered the store with a knife, he didn't notice that he passed right by his father, Frankie Ash, who was walking out after making a purchase. Frankie told his wife, waiting in the car, that David was probably in a hurry to use the bathroom, but the couple watched as their son carried out the robbery. When David's car broke down during his getaway, he called his parents for help. They urged him to surrender, which he did.

In September relatives of the late Donald Blaul Sr., who died of cancer in July, filed a lawsuit in Detroit against his fiancee, Joann Small, to recover Blaul's two season tickets to University of Michigan football games, worth $448 at face value. Small said Blaul gave them to her. A relative said, "It's a very serious and highly personal matter that is very painful to the family."


Latest truck spills: 3 tons of liquid chocolate on Route 15 near Belleville, Illinois, 10 tons of ketchup in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, and 4,000 gallons of milk on I-35 north of Norman, Oklahoma, all in July; 20 tons of jalapeā€“os on I-10 in San Antonio in September; a truckload of turkey innards on Route 119 near Longmont, Colorado, and a partial load of putrid cow hearts and intestines on I-35 in Minneapolis, both on the same day in June.

Cary L. Rider, 43, was arrested for burglary in Wood River, Illinois, in September after police found him in a hospital. The burglar had attempted to move a safe, but it fell on his hand; his glove, found underneath it, contained the top part of the middle finger of his left hand, exactly the part that Rider was missing when he reported to the hospital. Said one officer, "He admitted it. What can you do if your finger's there?"

In August Frederick Yuzyk, 34, was convicted in Edmonton, Alberta, of mailing obscene material in the form of a photograph of his genitals. He said he intended to send it to be published in a men's magazine so he could meet women, but it wound up in the mailbox of a Calgary businesswoman by mistake. And Michael E. Starks, 31, and Ginger Edwards, 28, were arrested in Collinsville, Illinois, in September after they dialed a wrong number trying to reach an escort service to request a female for a threesome. Instead, a 63-year-old great-grandmother in Florissant, Missouri, got the call, played along, arranged a meeting, and notified police.

John and Margaret Ruppel's new $3.5 million mansion near Tampa, Florida, burned to the ground in May after a maid accidentally closed a kitchen cabinet door in such a way that a toaster was activated. The Ruppels had recently made a decision not to insure the house.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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

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