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News of the Weird

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At the 12th Pat Pet Friend Festival in November in Bangkok, designers unveiled new fashions for dogs, including a red-and-black military coat, a yellow-and-black bike-racing jacket with bike-style helmet, a silver cape, and a blue silk gown. According to designer Vasinee Apornpanit, the biggest market by far for the outfits is Japan, where pet owners are now asking for cell phones and other high-tech gadgets to be sewn onto the clothes.

Patrick J. Murphy, deputy superintendent of schools in Cambridge, Massachusetts, resigned in December after admitting that he had solicited two of his staff members to write papers on Shakespeare for his 19-year-old daughter, a student at Stonehill College in nearby Easton. The scheme blew up when one of the papers received a D and Murphy tried to get the employee to rewrite it.

Schools That Need Zero-Tolerance Policies for Teachers

In October a first-grade teacher in Rialto, California, taped a disruptive student's head to a classroom wall. Also in October seventh-grade teacher Carrie White was accused of flinging a dictionary and a calculator at two unruly students in Lodi, Ohio. In June high school substitute teacher Steven M. Catena was fired in Keansburg, New Jersey, after reports that he wrapped one student in masking tape and butcher paper in class and suggested students give another classmate a "swirly" (dunk his head in a toilet and flush). And in Durban, South Africa, in May, a high school teacher and principal pulled guns and opened fire on students who were protesting higher fees.

Inexplicable

In August the San Francisco Chronicle featured a story on Houston's Forbidden Gardens, a replica of the Forbidden City in Beijing a 20th the size of the original that cost $20 million to build. The reporter called it "one of the world's least-known theme parks," noting only a tour group of 16 kids in attendance.

After arresting Teri Harrington, 31, and Deana Watson, 28, in September, police officers in Sacramento, California, told reporters that the women had apparently stolen from local stores at least 14 times in the previous two weeks, each time casually walking out with 20-gallon bins filled with clothes, videos, CDs, games, and cosmetics.

In Windsor, Ontario, in August, a man's wheelchair got stuck on railroad tracks in front of an oncoming train. A female passerby in a wheelchair rolled out to help him, but one of her wheels got stuck in the same rut. Both suffered minor injuries when the train could not stop in time.

First Things First

In October, Argentina exiled former Paraguayan military leader Luis Oviedo to remote Tierra del Fuego for violating the rules of his political asylum, granted six months earlier. Oviedo unsuccessfully requested a stay of his banishment, arguing that he had recently undergone a hair transplant and that the windy weather in Tierra del Fuego would disrupt his new plugs.

In November, Robert Horton, 52, walked into a Phoenix courthouse carrying his wife, Belinda, whose legs, arms, and mouth were bound with duct tape. He told a security officer that she was due in court that day on a charge of assaulting a police officer, that he had posted bail for her, that she had threatened to skip the court hearing, and that he had taped her up and lugged her downtown to make sure he got his bail money back. Unknown to the Hortons, the charge against Belinda had been dismissed earlier that day; prosecutors are still deciding whether to file charges against Robert for kidnapping her.

Ew, Gross!

Convicted killer Kenneth D. Williams escaped from prison in Arkansas in October by hiding in a 500-gallon barrel of hog slop being towed to a prison farm; he was apprehended 36 hours later. And two weeks later, robbery suspect Roderick King, 19, was found in a Dumpster full of garbage in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he had been hiding from police who had chased him from the home of the victim's aunt, where he'd gone to profess his innocence.

Diana Thorneycroft's government-supported art exhibit on view in September in Winnipeg consisted of 12 dead rabbits hung from trees in the woods outside town. Said the artist, "I'm celebrating the gloriousness of putrefaction." And in November an artist submitting a project for a show in the village of Accrington, England, acceded to sponsors' wishes and redesigned his exhibit of live maggots, which was opposed by environmental officials.

People Who Should've Held It Until They Got Home

Margaret Barrs filed a lawsuit in Houston in November against Jack in the Box restaurants because she lost a fingertip when a heavy rest-room door slammed on her hand in 1998. And Toronto lawyer Edward Skwarek, 37, filed a $1.5 million lawsuit in November against Starbucks for a rest-room injury he suffered in one of the chain's New York City locations; Skwarek said he was seated on the commode and that when he turned to reach for toilet paper, the seat slipped and trapped his penis between it and the top of the bowl, mangling it.

Least Justifiable Homicides

Insufficient reasons to kill someone: Resisted taking a shower (Joseph Meehan, charged with strangling his eight-year-old son in Toronto, in November). Violated chess etiquette by moving a knight to a new square and then moving it back (Buth Ratha, charged with clubbing his opponent to death with a wooden pestle in Prey Veng, Cambodia, in July). Got accepted into kindergarten while her playmate did not (Mitsuko Yamada, 35, the mother of the rejected child, charged with strangling the accepted one in Tokyo, in November).

In the Last Month

In Pittsburgh a black man defended himself against a bank-robbery charge by claiming a 44-year history of brain damage caused by racism. A 23-year-old woman climbed down from an ancient redwood tree in Stafford, California, she had lived in for two years to prevent a logging company from clear-cutting the site. A Filipino man received 75 lashes for having two liquor-flavored chocolate bars at an airport in dry Saudi Arabia. In York, Pennsylvania, a man was arrested with a stolen TV and VCR, having called attention to himself by hauling them down the street in a U.S. Postal Service cart. A Wicca-store owner at a mall in Cape Cod sued a psychic-store owner at the mall for slander in their heated business rivalry.

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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