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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

The Arizona prison system has recently been experimenting with penile plethysmography, which evaluates accused sex offenders using a ring that detects changes in the circumference of the penis when the subject is shown objects or photographs. Officials say results help determine whether the alleged offender should be released pending trial and in what activities he may not engage.

People in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

An armed robber of Asian descent who did not understand English well memorized his holdup demand phonetically and recited it to the cashier at the Szechuan Delight restaurant in Elmont, New York, in December. However, the cashier did not understand English very well either. After several inquiries, and upon realizing the man's purpose, the cashier started screaming, frightening the robber, who grabbed a bag on the counter (containing a $15 take-out order) and fled.

Vivian Harrison, 52, died in August in Warner Robins, Georgia, shortly after being hit by a train as she was staggering away from the scene of a collision in which her car was hit by another car on a highway adjacent to the tracks.

Stephen Conroy stepped aside temporarily as fire chief of Saint Paul, Minnesota, in October amid an arson investigation of which he was the object. Properties owned by Conroy and by his brother have suffered 11 fires in the past 25 years, and two associates of the brother were convicted of arson in 1986.

The week before Christmas, a 46-year-old man shot himself to death outside a hospital in Tamarac, Florida, intending that his heart be used for the transplant his 56-year-old brother needed. However, he had not warned anyone of the suicide, and by the time medical personnel discovered his body, the heart was useless.

The Litigious Society

After the stock-market crash in October 1987, Arthur Kane made the evening news when he killed his broker and then himself over $4 million in losses. Now, two insurance companies are refusing to pay his widow because they say Kane was really Arthur Katz, a former lawyer who had been given a new identity under the federal witness protection program, and thus was a more volatile person than the allegedly mild-mannered (and insurable) Arthur Kane. (Unexplained in court papers is why federal officials thought "Arthur Kane" was a good name disguise for "Arthur Katz.")

William A. Maruca filed a lawsuit in Denver against the Hyland Hills Golf Course and its manager for a June injury in which, while on the driving range, he was hit in the groin by an errant shot from a fellow player.

In Cincinnati, Edward H. Winter, 83, paralyzed by a severe stroke two days after doctors at Saint Francis-Saint George Hospital ignored his order not to use lifesaving methods, filed a lawsuit against the hospital in November for not letting him die.

A New Jersey appeals court cleared for trial a lawsuit by Vincent Vecere against the Trump Castle Hotel and Casino for negligence. Vecere said the hotel was responsible when he swung his hand back while shaking dice and hit a post on the craps table, injuring his hand.

Robert Brewster of Longmont, Colorado, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in November to claim land he says his family was given by the king of England during colonial times. The land involved is all of the United States north of the 40th parallel (running on a line through Denver and New York City). He seeks to establish a new country for blue- and green-eyed people, who he says are superior to others.

Science Fair

According to the Dutch Applied Physics Research Bureau, a computer will be available next year that can detect water pollution through sensors attached to mussels, which develop cancers quickly.

Residents of Brisbane, Australia, coped with a plague of giant toads in September that disrupted the city with loud noises. Some weighed more than five pounds, and children occasionally used them as footballs.

Scientists at Memphis State University announced success recently in creating a "super male" catfish with genes so strong that it will breed only males. Since males grow more quickly than females, the super male would cause catfish growers' business to increase.

Bat expert Gary Morgan of the Florida State Museum in Gainesville claimed recently that the global warming trend portends the return of vampire bats to the United States after an 80,000-year hiatus.

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

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