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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

In July the director of Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island formed a committee of physicists to explore whether the lab's replication of nuclear collisions similar to the big bang, scheduled for later this year, could possibly backfire and destroy the earth. Some physicists believe there is a small chance that the collisions could form mini black holes that would suck in all surrounding matter.

In July Zoe Bernadette Dawes, 25, and two men were scheduled for trial in September on charges that they raped a 24-year-old man at a party in Queensland, Australia, last year. According to prosecutors, the victim was held at gunpoint, tied down on the floor, and straddled by Dawes after he had been given an erection-inducing injection.

Because You're Evil

A physician in Canton, Illinois, told a judge in February he didn't know why he filed 150 false medicare claims. A man in Calgary, Alberta, told a prosecutor in June he didn't know why he killed a guest at his sister's wedding. In New Jersey Samuel Manzie told a judge in April he didn't know why he killed an 11-year-old boy. Quebec union leader Lorraine Page told a court in April that she didn't know why she left a store with leather gloves she hadn't paid for. A lab technician in Palo Alto, California, told her supervisor in April she didn't know why she reused needles to draw blood from thousands of patients. Seventy-year-old Marie Noe of Philadelphia told her lawyer in June she didn't know why she killed her eight young children decades ago.

Compelling Explanations

Veteran radio reporter Larry Matthews, 55, told a judge in Greenbelt, Maryland, in March that he swapped pornographic pictures of children with pedophiles over the Internet because he was working on a story. However, he couldn't produce the name of any editor he talked to about the article. And in Washington, D.C., Ralph Vitale faces a big bill after a U.S. Tax Court finding in April that disallowed $9,000 in prostitute visits as "research" expenses for his novel set in a Nevada brothel. Vitale said he is just a stickler for detail, but one reviewer said the average woman in the book "has the complexity of a blow-up doll."

In March about 5,400 descendants of a Welsh pirate filed papers to revive their lawsuit in Pittsburgh in which they lay claim to 77 acres of prime real estate around Wall Street in New York City, valued at about $680 billion. Robert Edwards supposedly was given the land by the British Crown in exchange for the booty from his raids of Spanish galleons. His descendants argue that the statute of limitations should not apply because of colonial record-keeping errors.

Just before his Toronto sexual-assault trial was postponed in April, former United Church minister Anthony Gifford, 57, admitted having had consensual sex with troubled female parishioners but said he was only counseling them. Said Gifford, "I tried to follow the ways of Jesus. . .to get back to the basics of Christianity." Gifford also admitted that he and his wife once had a three-way, and one man testified that the Giffords separately sexually ministered to him and his girlfriend after Reverend Gifford gave him a book titled Open Marriage.

Crises in the Workplace

In England Greater Manchester police officer Jackie Smithies, 36, recently had breast-reduction surgery so that she could fit into the required body armor inside her uniform, according to a May report in the Times of London. She went from a 36-F to a 36-C.

Recent contested firings: University of Victoria sociology professor Jean Veevers was fired in December after being convicted of running a large marijuana-growing operation in her home. She's arguing that the crime had nothing to do with her job. Hospital secretary Joan Ramprasad, 55, was fired for frequently weeping and speaking in tongues at work but cited freedom of religion. And Toronto air traffic controller Barry Green, 50, was fired for leaving the tower unattended for 35 minutes because of gastrointestinal distress that caused him to soil his pants.

A July Wall Street Journal dispatch from Brazil described a $1.2 million employee-morale program at the Volkswagen plant near Sao Paulo, in which workers can escape into characters from Camelot and King Arthur's Round Table. A VW executive said the company chose the themes for their messages of perseverance in times of upheaval.

Proofreading Matters

The Bangkok Post reported in February that Wang Xinzhang had filed a lawsuit against Red Flag Publishing Co. in China to collect damages for a shoddy product: his book Five Thousand Years of China, which had 984 typos. And Texas court reporter Sandra Halsey lost her certification in June for inadvertently helping convicted child killer Darlie Routier's appeals; there were reportedly 18,000 errors in Halsey's 6,000-page transcript of Routier's trial.

Update

Earlier this year News of the Weird reported on criticisms that private U.S. disaster-relief donations for Russia and Honduras were rife with unwanted contributions such as old clothes and microwave popcorn. In June relief workers in Albania and Macedonia told the New York Times that as much as half of U.S. pharmaceutical company relief donations (which are double-tax-deductible) are useless and that relief agencies must pay to have them destroyed. An executive with Project Hope defended the contributions: "Refugees need Chap Stick and Preparation H."

Least Competent Criminals

Shawn Socha, 35, was arrested in Huntington, West Virginia, in June as a fugitive from justice and now faces bank robbery and other charges in Ohio. He blew his cover when he called the Huntington police to ask if they had seen any arrest warrants out on him.

In the Last Month

A 19-year-old speeder was ticketed, clocked at a Toronto-area record of 141 miles per hour. Cocaine that a 28-year-old man stashed in the crotch of his pants during a traffic stop in Astoria, Oregon, suddenly began to burn, causing him to shriek and give himself up. A burglar was killed fleeing a convent he had broken into, shot to death by a 56-year-old nun in Tunja, Colombia. Three workers testing a pistol at a handgun factory in Cocoa, Florida, were hit by one accidentally fired bullet. A German descendant of one of the Christian knights who conquered Jerusalem in 1099 apologized to the whole world for the Crusades.

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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