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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

Barra da Tijuca, a wealthy suburb of Rio de Janeiro, is preparing for the October wedding of Pepezinha, a shih tzu, and Winner, a cairn terrier. The estate of Pepezinha's owner, Vera Loyola, is just down the road from the notorious Rocinha slum, symbol of Rio's overwhelming poverty. Said Loyola (who always serves her pooch's food on silver platters), "I believe my little Pepezinha is worth every cent."

According to the speaker of the Massachusetts house of representatives, the legislature's all-night session on April 13 to vote on the state budget was more a giant "keg party" than serious deliberation, with members drifting into the chamber from various receptions and some falling asleep at their desks. At one point, according to a Boston Herald story, when the presiding officer asked the members, "Are you leaders or followers?" the members chanted "We lead!" which segued into "Toga! Toga!"

Duct Tape in the News

In April, in the woods near Tampa, tourist Gemini Wink went off to photograph alligators, got lost, climbed a tree for safety as night approached, and decided to protect himself against falling by duct-taping himself to a branch; rescuers found him several hours later. In March, Massachusetts officials shut down a day-care center in the town of Hudson following reports that a caretaker duct-taped an infant to a wall for amusement. And a February Associated Press report out of Harrisburg, Illinois, touted artist Keith Drone's line of duct-tape clothing, including baseball caps, wallets, pants, belts, and a bikini. Drone said the products are "really cool looking," and added, "If it breaks, just put a piece of duct tape on it."

Leading Economic Indicators

Why we have the Justice Department antitrust division: In January, at an open-air market in Kunming, China, an appliance dealer had a hand chopped off by a competitor who was upset that his rival was underpricing him.

Recent CEO retirement packages: Douglas Ivester, who retired in February from Coca-Cola just after laying off 6,000 employees, received $17.8 million plus $3 million dollars a year. John B. McCoy, who retired from Bank One in March after laying off 5,100 employees, got $10.3 million and will also receive $3 million per year. On the other hand, Sidney H. Kosann, CEO of Shelby Yarn of Shelby, North Carolina, who reportedly earned a $300,000 salary and lives in a $500,000 home, filed in February for state unemployment compensation just after closing the company and laying off 650 people.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, cited by the London Daily Telegraph in March, hundreds of Pakistani women are deliberately burned to death each year by their husbands, either for suspected infidelity or because some Muslim men are finding it harder to maintain a two-wife household during lean times.

Eighty-eight satellites worth $5 billion in all were scheduled to be allowed to burn up in the atmosphere by the owners of the Iridium telephone company, which had gone into bankruptcy. The company went bust in just a little over a year due to rapid and supposedly unanticipated improvements in digital cellular technology that made its bulky and expensive handsets practical only in remote areas. (Among users of Iridium telephones were the Chechen rebels.)

Questionable Judgments

Brazilian legislator Wilson Lima told reporters in April that he still thought his proposal to require clubs and bars to have three rest rooms (male, female, and one for gays and transvestites, for their own protection from homophobic men) was a good idea, even though Brazil's largest gay-rights organization opposed such a prospect.

A police ethics committee in Montreal reprimanded Officer Robert Royal in March after he forced a motorist he had pulled over to follow him on a high-speed chase. Royal had stopped Pierre Boileau for an illegal U-turn when another officer summoned Royal to help him go after another car. Rather than let Boileau go, Royal ordered him to follow the chase, which hit about 70 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone. After Royal caught up to the second car--which turned out to be the wrong one--he finished writing Boileau's ticket and sent him on his way.

Four years ago Edward Weslock left his wife and fled New York City for France with the couple's entire savings of $4 million, leaving his wife to support herself with modest jobs and eventually to be evicted from their apartment. Since then she has won several court orders against Weslock in the U.S. and his native Canada, but he avoided the judgments by staying away from both countries. However, when Weslock briefly returned to the U.S. in April to have a new hairpiece fitted, Ms. Weslock found out and had him arrested.

The Power of Snickers

In April, Kenneth Payne, 29, who's been convicted ten times of relatively minor crimes, was sentenced by a jury in Tyler, Texas, to 16 years in prison for shoplifting a Snickers bar from a grocery store. (The cost of incarceration per inmate in Texas is reportedly $13,000 a year.) And at a high school sex-education rally in Chicago in April, abstinence advocate Pat Socia told the assembled teenagers that if they feel a sexual urge coming on, "Just eat a Snickers bar. You'll be fine!"

Recurring Themes

More sex crimes you'd rather not know about: James Donald Ray, 39, convicted of molesting sheep in San Diego in May; Daniel Bruce House, 54, arrested for molesting a horse in Malibu in February; Jason Carl McRoberts, 19, arrested for molesting a lamb in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, in April; Roger Powell, 59, arrested in Enfield, North Carolina, in May for molesting a pig, which he explained by pointing out that sex with his human girlfriend is undesirable because she is a "crack whore."

Undignified Deaths

Saint Pancras Coroner's Court in London ruled in April that the 38-year-old man who plunged ten stories to his death in Islington last August had lost his balance while on his balcony searching for a signal on his cell phone. And a 30-year-old marathon runner who hoped to qualify for the Olympics was killed in Las Vegas in February when he was hit by a van as he ran to catch a bus.

In the Last Month

A 68-year-old man in Proberta, California, hit too much toe while attempting to shoot a corn off his foot. The Immigration and Naturalization Service said drug-sniffing dog purchases would be limited to two European breeds, which officials said were relentless compared to easily exhausted American breeds, such as Labradors. In Southaven, Mississippi, police arrested a 28-year-old man who had set out to rescue a seven-year-old girl in a lake, but when currents increased, he snatched her life preserver, allowing her to drown. At a national breast-feeding technique pageant in Bangkok, 270 women competed for a prize of about $2,400. A visitor to an art gallery in Minneapolis accidentally sat in and broke a chair that dates from the Ming dynasty and is valued at around $100,000; it was repairable.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weird@compuserve.com.

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

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