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News of the Weird

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The 3M Company announced in April that at least 20 people have died in the last two years from intentionally sniffing Scotchgard fabric protector to get high. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says more people use inhalants to get high than cocaine. Other drugs of choice include Freon, room deodorizers, typewriter correction fluid, and nonstick cooking spray.

Odds and Ends (Mostly Odds)

San Francisco police officer Bill Langlois retired from the force in December after 28 years, many as a decoy, during which he was mugged 256 times in attempts to stop street crimes against the elderly. Said Langlois of his career, "I found it fascinating to see a crime from its inception."

On a bus trip to California in November, a youth group from the Chicago Apostolic Assembly Church endured the following: a two-delay delay getting out of Chicago; numerous breakdowns, including a tire blowout in Missouri; a junk-food Thanksgiving dinner aboard the bus instead of the planned sumptuous meal in California; clutch failure on the bus as it climbed an Arizona mountain during a blizzard; two days in a small motel in Flagstaff, Arizona, awaiting heater and engine repairs and emergency cash (which never arrived); the stench of uncleaned lavatories; convulsions by the driver while at the wheel due to a diabetic reaction; and citations issued by New Mexico police for having an unsafe vehicle (which finally ended the trip).

As part of coordinated global efforts to celebrate the third annual World AIDS Day on December 1, sponsors in Amsterdam dressed a man as a giant penis and had a group of nurses unroll a giant condom onto him.

A 35-year-old man in West Valley City, Utah, was charged in August with a burglary in one apartment and trespassing in a nearby apartment. Police said that after the alleged burglary, the man heard a baby crying and entered the second apartment. He awakened the mother and asked her to feed the baby, but she refused. After suggesting that the baby might need to be changed and receiving no response from the frightened mother, he changed the baby's diaper himself, lectured the mother, and left. He was picked up shortly afterward by police.

Last September the U.S. Board of Geographic Names complained publicly about the difficulty of placing more Indian names on official maps. Two examples: The closest English spelling of a waterfall near Spokane, Washington, is "Stseqhwlkwe." And the native name of Lake Char in Massachusetts is a word containing 44 letters and meaning, "You fish on your side, I fish on my side, nobody fishes in the middle."

Last summer ranches in Wyoming began to import Mexican cowboys because the federal government certified for the first time that no qualified U.S. citizens wanted the work. Said a local civic leader, "The status of being a cowboy just doesn't exist anymore."

The 19-member Odor Mitigation Task Force in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, was called to action last summer to identify a rotten-egg smell permeating the city. Arrangements were made with a Chicago research company to identify the smell, and residents were required to use special devices to bottle the smell and send it away.

As part of last fall's primary campaign for the state legislature in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, incumbent Jeff Potts, charging opponent John Monks with playing dirty, made a citizen's arrest of two women carrying "Vote for Jeff Potts" signs but wearing skimpy clothing and occasionally baring their breasts to passersby on a busy street.

Weapons of Choice

According to the constable in remote Alice Springs, Australia, aborigines attacked three policemen in February by beating them with frozen kangaroo tails and then ate the evidence.

A 13-year-old boy was arrested for assaulting his mother near Los Angeles in January by throwing the family's pet chihuahua at her during a fight.

Ronald Clark, 30, was charged with assault in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in February for reportedly hitting Thomas Jones in the face with a frozen fish, breaking Jones's nose. Clark had been confronted in his home by Jones in an argument over a woman.

Vera Williams, 73, was sentenced to five days in jail in March in New Brunswick, Canada, for assaulting two mounted police officers with a toy badminton racquet. The officers had begun to question her and her sons about suspected salmon poaching.

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

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