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News of the Weird



Lead Stories

Life imitates the movie Take the Money and Run: Vincent E. Rudolph, 36, was arrested in York, Pennsylvania, in March and charged with committing three robberies. In at least one of them he allegedly used a holdup note that read "Give me the money I got a gum."

In April the Associated Press reported that the Tanzanian government has been offering families $100 to move relatives' bodies from a graveyard in Dar es Salaam, to make way for a new road. Those who refuse must stand guard over the graves every night lest others move the bodies for the bounty. The story said one woman who guarded a grave every night for weeks missed one night due to illness and discovered her sister's body missing in the morning.

In May a jury in Birmingham, Alabama, ruled in favor of Barbara Carlisle and her parents in their lawsuit against two companies that charged them 18 more monthly payments for two satellite dishes than the salesman had originally promised, a total overcharge of $1,224. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $581 million.

Lessons From the Business World

The Asian Wall Street Journal reported in April that a Muslim organization in Jakarta has decided to establish a formal recruiting and registration office for suicide bombers. "We got 600 applicants in two days," said the office director. And in March authorities investigating suspected kidnapper and sex offender David Parker Ray in Elephant Butte, New Mexico, said Ray had prepared an orientation videotape that showed his victims what they could expect to happen to them.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Inventor Alla Venkata Krishna Reddy, who one sex-shop owner called "the Leonardo da Vinci of the condom," is embroiled in a patent dispute in Newark, New Jersey, because he designed a second model of condoms that supposedly increases sensitivity through built-in bulges. According to an April New York Times story, financial backers of Reddy's first model, the Pleasure Plus condom, say that his new Inspiral condom has the same basic design, but Reddy says that the Pleasure Plus uses a pouch to cause friction while the Inspiral uses a "shock absorber" effect.

Recent inventions: In March Bruce Bryan of Pittsburgh received a patent for making food that glows, using a substance from jellyfish and fireflies. In February three apparel companies in South Korea began marketing men's suits containing scent microcapsules that burst when touched. And fifth-grader Christie Brown of Prince George, British Columbia, said in March that a company was interested in her science-fair-winning project: a frozen cracker that doesn't get soggy in hot soup.

Recent inventions (unmentionables): A spokesman for the Canadian defense department told reporters in March that his office could soon develop the world's first "combat bra," which would be strong, durable, and comfortable enough to be worn for several days at a time. Also in March a company called Wisdom Marketing in Bangkok announced it would soon start selling rape-preventive chastity-belt underwear for women, complete with a small combination lock, for about $40.

The New York Times reported in January on the booming market in spiritual cosmetics. One manufacturer cited had originally sold chakra nail polish and other items as an ironic commentary on the beauty industry but created a complete line when he discovered how popular his products were.

Ronnie Brock's Alibi Agency opened in March in Blackpool, England, to help clients produce fake receipts, invitations, telephone calls, etc, to cover up illicit romantic liaisons. Brock believes his agency supplies a social benefit, claiming that in "99 percent" of affairs the participants return to their original partners provided that the affair has not been discovered.

Engineers at Imperial College in London recently produced a robot they believe is more accurate than humans at finding a vein and properly inserting a needle, according to an April New Scientist story. But an exhibition of robots at Trinity University in Hartford, Connecticut, included a number of robot firefighters that incorrectly walked directly into flames, causing extensive damage, according to a story from Knight-Ridder.

Latest Rights

In February a group of scientists and lawyers in New Zealand proposed legislation to grant "near-human" rights to gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans because they are genetically so close to humans. Opponents fear that such rights might eventually be extended to other animals, which could significantly curtail medical research.

Human-rights stretches: In February the Maine and Arizona state legislatures rejected proposals to prohibit discrimination against motorcyclists, but a similar effort continues in Pennsylvania. (Last year, the Minnesota legislature passed an obscure provision in a finance bill barring antibiker discrimination by restaurants and bars.) And in California a legislative proposal pending from last year, the Open Waves Act, would guarantee surfers visiting a beach the same right to a wave as local surfers.

In March an Ontario provincial court upheld the right of convicted public masturbator Marvin Mezquita-Duenas to not have to stand in front of city hall holding a sign proclaiming his crime. The trial judge had sentenced him to 18 months of probation and five days of openly admitting his perversion.

Undignified Deaths

Within a three-day period in April, two people accidentally hung themselves. A 73-year-old woman in Pittsburgh strangled herself when she fell down while unlocking her door with a key on a chain around her neck, and in New York City, suspected burglar Terrence Adams, 55, hanged himself when his sweater caught on a piece of metal as he was lowering himself through the ceiling of a clothing store. The store's name: the Dum Dum Boutique.

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/Shawn Belschwender.

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