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News of the Weird



Lead Stories

In January the Wall Street Journal described "dB drag racing," in which the winner isn't the fastest car but the one with the stereo that generates the highest "sound pressure level" (SPL). In the "extreme" category, cars are completely rebuilt and carry racks of amplifiers, which draw enough juice to power several homes; bullet-proof glass and concrete poured into the floor and doors keep the sound inside. Last year's winner, from Germany, created an SPL of 177.7 decibels. (A jet engine can only manage about 165.)

Though state tax revenues are shrinking nationwide, Kansas reported in January that its tax revenue from marijuana sales had risen 4 percent--and tax revenue from cocaine, methamphetamine, and other hard drugs was up 21 percent. The state taxes illegal drugs by selling gold-foil revenue stamps (in denominations from $10 to $1,000) that dealers are supposed to affix to their product before sale. Law enforcement is denied information on the buyers of the stamps, to protect them from unconstitutional self-incrimination, but even so a Kansas revenue department spokesman guessed that just about the only people who buy them are collectors.

War News

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently wrote to Yasir Arafat deploring the January 26 detonation of a bomb on a road near Jerusalem--not because there were human fatalities (one person was treated for shock) but because the bomb was delivered on a donkey. (Said a PETA official, "It's not my business to inject myself into human wars.")

Can't Possibly Be True

According to a January profile in the Austin American-Statesman, 23-year-old Allison Adams, an employee of a local wildlife-rescue operation, warms up traumatized baby animals by carrying them inside her bra. Her report: Squirrels are the hardest, possums the easiest; she's done it about 75 times; no, the animals don't itch, though they can get "grabby"; her fiance is OK with it (even though he's had to forgo greeting her with a hug because of "hissing possums").

In December in Jefferson City, Missouri, freshman state representative Cynthia Davis, at a mock debate intended to teach new lawmakers the ropes, interrupted six-year veteran Chuck Graham, who had the floor, and insisted he was out of order, invoking the rule that members must be standing in order to speak. Graham has been in a wheelchair for 21 years, the result of a car accident.

People With Issues

Retired pediatrician Alva J. Hartwright, 63, pleaded guilty in February to sexually assaulting two boys, now 11 and 14, by giving them enemas as many as three times a week. (The boys had been living with Hartwright for years, though he could not provide evidence of legal custody; they're now in foster care.) When police arrested Hartwright at his home in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, in June, they found human and animal feces everywhere, rotting food, a loaded gun, and thousands of photos of boys receiving enemas. (Prosecutors claim the present case may be part of a 30-year pattern.) Hartwright has insisted that all the enemas were "medically necessary."

Least Competent Criminals

In Los Angeles in February, Tyrone Jermain Hogan, 20, pleaded guilty to attempted carjacking; he'd tried to steal a van carrying a martial arts team visiting from Florida International University. The students, according to their instructor, held Hogan "like a pretzel on the ground" until police arrived.

Updates on News of the Weird Stories

Composer John Cage's As Slow as Possible is now being performed, in a rendition that will take 639 years, at a church in Halberstadt, Germany. (The organizers acknowledge that playing as slowly as possible could in theory produce an infinitely long performance; they chose 639 years because the church's organ was that old in 2000.) In September 2001 the organ's bellows were inflated, and earlier this month the first chord (which will last 18 months) was struck.

Readers' Choice

In Mineral Wells, Texas, a man who'd apparently broken into a western emporium called A Little Bit Country on the night of February 7 was arrested the next morning at opening time: he'd climbed into a bed on the second floor (part of a suite for sale) and fallen asleep. A few coins (the only cash in the till) were scattered around, and he'd left his gun in the rest room; to make matters worse, the store was owned by the wife of the county district attorney.

In the Last Month

In Omaha, Nebraska, a disabled woman without a telephone alerted neighbors to a fire in her apartment by shooting her gun through a wall and out a window....Oklahoma state senator Ben Robinson (of Muskogee) introduced a bill to require barbecue restaurants to supply cloth napkins (a step he said a campaign donor had suggested to him 15 years earlier)....The state tourism director of Liechtenstein (a country of about 33,000 that occupies 62 square miles between Switzerland and Austria) said corporations would soon be able to rent the entire country for their conferences--and even involve certain local officials (with the exception of Prince Hans-Adam II) in special events.

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

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