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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

The district attorney's office in Ventura County, California, investigating lawyer Douglas Andrew Palaschak on drug charges, disclosed in August that he asks each of his female secretaries to sign an employment contract informing her that she has been hired "primarily on the basis of sexual appeal." The contract reads, "Mentor and protegee hereby mutually consent to all words, acts, sexual innuendo, sexual acts, touching, lewd behavior, etc." Palaschak told a Los Angeles Times reporter, "Most of the girls who worked for me were not exploited," and that the contract was designed primarily to protect him from sex-harassment claims. He said his contract was "part of the men's movement. . . . Men are vulnerable. The sex laws are biased against men. To overcome the bias, you have to do something like this."

Seeds of Our Destruction

In March the new superintendent of the Statue of Liberty banned gum chewing by visitors, reporting that about 1,000 chewed pieces a day get left behind, requiring five full-time cleanup people.

An environmental advocacy group called the National Toxic Campaign Fund revealed in March that according to its study of Pentagon documents, U.S. military installations are responsible for more than 14,000 toxic dumps in the country and 100 installations are among "the most polluted pieces of real estate in America."

Rabbinical authorities in the religious township of B'nei B'rak, Israel, banned hot pizza in fast-food stores and kiosks because they believe it could lead to improper contact between the sexes. They reasoned that boys and girls might have to wait in line at stores for their pizzas to heat. "They might look at each other," said one rabbi's aide, which would be "an offense against modesty, or, God forbid, even touch each other." It is not forbidden to sell cold pizza.

Models working for a British tabloid newspaper protested outside European Community headquarters in Brussels this summer because they objected to the proposed EC code on sexual harassment in employment. The models believe that the code, which bans nude pinup photos in workplaces, would cost them jobs.

In August the government of Finland proposed that kids as young as five be allowed to vote on a referendum on the age at which children will start school next year. "Preliterate" voters would be presented drawings of five-, six-, and seven-candle birthday cakes and would be asked to mark one of them.

In June Time magazine reported on a growing trend in Third World countries: people selling their organs to brokers in order to improve their standard of living. In high demand are kidneys (typical price $2,000), corneas ($4,000), and skin ($50 a patch). A tailor was interviewed who sold a kidney to pay for his daughter's wedding.

In July police entering a suburban Detroit home found an intoxicated five-year-old boy smoking a cigarette and demonstrating a sex act. He said he had just been given gin by his father.

Robert L. Barber, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the federal office building in downtown Atlanta, collects bullet shells during his lunch-hour walks. He claimed recently to have acquired more than ten pounds of lead and brass casings in the last four years just within a five-block radius of his office.

The Texas Department of Human Services rushed out radio public-service announcements in July to combat the "crisis" in teenage pregnancy. They'd been prompted to action after learning of a 24-year-old grandmother.

Oops!

Tony Zappia, 33, of Santa Monica, California, was seriously injured in April in an incident that began when a bird sitting on a lamppost relieved itself on Zappia's head. Angered, Zappia began shaking the lamppost but only succeeded in loosening a large bulb, which crashed onto his head, fracturing his skull.

A 41-year-old man was hospitalized in March in Kansas City, Missouri, after a botched burglary attempt. He had been surprised by an off-duty police officer outside Dillard's department store, and his accomplice had jumped in their getaway car and attempted to run over the officer, who managed to get out of the way. The burglar didn't, and was run over and injured severely.

Five employees at the Pacer Industries plant in Pensacola, Florida, which makes auto parts, were overcome by carbon monoxide in a workplace accident this summer. One of the company's products is a device to detect carbon monoxide.

During the Firefighters Association cook-off in San Antonio, Texas, in March, a fire started in the grassy area housing the outdoor grills, spreading and ultimately damaging more than 100 cars before it was contained.

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

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