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News of the Weird



Lead Stories

According to a January story in U.S. News & World Report, 44-year-old "business psychic" Imara has attracted a following of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who pay her for investment and business-development advice she bases in part on extrasensory perception (she also has an MBA). "In these troubled times," said an Imara associate, "people are looking for a different insight that gives them a competitive advantage." Said Imara: "Companies don't [always] have time to do market research studies, which can take months. I can give them feedback in an hour."

Scheduled for unveiling in May at Britain's National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire, is a World War I commemorative statue honoring 306 deserters. According to the arboretum's director, there has been a "change in attitude, towards more understanding" of the plight of those who abandoned their comrades, especially the 100 or so teenagers who ran away because they feared they would be punished for lying about their ages in order to enlist. The director said some veterans' organizations support the memorial.

Election 2000

William R. Macera was reelected mayor of Johnston, Rhode Island, despite being found in a car that police said reeked of marijuana smoke in October; he narrowly edged out write-in candidate Louis L. Vinagro Jr., who had been arrested hours before the election for threatening the state official inspecting his waste-hauling business. Paroled felon Bobby Banks, 20, elected to the New Bern, North Carolina, soil conservation board, was later arrested for having illegally registered to vote. And tied races in Delhi, Minnesota (mayor), Fife Lake, Michigan (township supervisor), and Hickman, Kentucky (school board), were settled, respectively, by a draw of cards, a draw from a hat, and a coin toss.

Unclear on the Concept

In November Ms. Lucia Love won San Francisco's sixth annual Faux Queen Pageant, the world's only contest for female drag queens. Said Love of her fondness for impersonating female impersonators, "Drag queens would be nowhere without women."

Three Mexican migrant workers told reporters in November that the owner of Poncho's Cantina in Auburn, Maine, forbade them to speak Spanish at the table while they dined and that they were considering filing a complaint with the state human rights commission.

Sean Dix has been angry at CNN since 1996, when an eight-minute news segment made fun of a device he had invented to hold dental floss. In the ensuing years Dix has reportedly sent 6,000 faxes to Ted Turner and CNN protesting the televised report. In an April 18 fax (according to a report in the Village Voice), Dix intimated that he would kill Turner, prefacing his remark this way: "It is at this point that I have come to the end of my attempts to deal with you in a rational manner." (Dix was arrested the following day, and in December an Atlanta jury found him guilty of "transmitting a threatening communication" across state lines.)

Angela L. Pearn, 30, of Akron, Ohio, won a lawsuit in December charging Daimler Chrysler and Rolling Acres Dodge with fraud for concealing that the car they sold her had a history of trouble and was officially a "lemon" under state law. An elated Pearn told reporters afterward: "Now people will know that not all car dealers are honest."

Bright Ideas

Jennifer Garves, 22, and her mother, Karen Krause, 43, were charged recently in Waupun, Wisconsin, with child neglect and concealing a corpse following the June death of Garves's two-day-old boy due to blunt trauma. According to police, the women took the baby's body to a restaurant, dined while pretending the boy was still alive, and then expressed alarm that he had suddenly stopped breathing. Hospital and restaurant employees later expressed their suspicions to police, and after an investigation the women were arrested in December.

To help boost meat exports out of the Netherlands, which covers an area half the size of South Carolina, agriculture minister Laurens-Jan Brinkhorst recently endorsed a think tank's proposal to build a six-story "agropark" of pig pens, chicken coops, and salmon pools. An Animal Protection Society spokesperson likened the building to a concentration camp for animals, but proponents said the facility would be less animal-dense than some farms. Said one developer, "If people can live in apartment buildings, so can pigs."

Things You Thought Didn't Happen Anymore

Nathaniel Bar-Jonah, 43, was arrested in Great Falls, Montana, in December and charged with killing a ten-year-old boy in 1996; based on his notes and a psychiatric evaluation, police believe he may have used parts of the body in casseroles. In December in the Dutch town of Best, two men were sentenced to 12 months in jail for conducting a duel with pistols. And in November accountant Gnanasuravi Raveendran, 51, told a UK Regional Press reporter in Bexley, England, that his brother had suffered an attack of epilepsy shortly after trying to prune Raveendran's allegedly "cursed" hedge, following fatal attempts to prune it by his sister in 1997 and his brother-in-law earlier last year.

Least Competent Criminals

Seven soldiers from Fort Carson, Colorado, were arrested in December after allegedly robbing a McDonald's of $400; though they reportedly told police they had spent hours meticulously plotting the crime, they netted less than $60 a man. In December in Springfield Township, Ohio, three men were charged with stealing 2,000 items from a Marc's store and trying to resell them from the basement of a home. The goods were mostly small-ticket items, retailing for as little as 39 cents, with an average price of $4.12; they needed to be discounted to move quickly and would have required dozens of man-hours to resell.

In the Last Month

Files stolen from a police internal affairs investigation turned up in a Dumpster behind a Baltimore Dunkin' Donuts shop. A 17-year-old girl in Hamilton, Ontario, who suffered disfigurement and mental impairment six years ago when struck while pushing her then seven-year-old friend out of the path of a speeding 18-wheeler, sued the friend for nearly $4 million. A 27-year-old blind man in Fargo, North Dakota, was issued a permit to carry a gun, which he says he needs because blind people are vulnerable to robberies. It was reported that show-business people gave awards to themselves in 564 ceremonies last year, up 65 percent from 1999.

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

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

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