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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

In April Richard Dickinson, 25, was allowed out of prison in Hobart, Australia, with two chaperones to attend a concert by his idol, Bob Dylan. Dickinson is in a prison for the criminally insane because in 1987 when his mother told him to turn down the music he stomped her to death to the tune of Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee" and then sprinkled instant coffee over her body. He said he thought his mom was an evil character from the song.

The Continuing Crisis

Colombian garbage collector Oscar Hernandez claimed in March that he had been kidnapped by security guards during Carnival in Barranquilla and taken to a lab at the Free University there, where a syndicate planned to kill him for his body parts. In the widely reported police investigation that followed, officials turned up 11 bodies, parts of 22 others, and a report that body bounty hunters received $200 per person. Police identified most of the victims as garbage collectors.

The International Amateur Athletics Federation recently changed its procedures for gender checks of female athletes. The federation, which had used a chromosome smear test for 25 years, decided late last year that it would merely make visual inspections from then on. The federation explained that the chromosome test was "ethically unacceptable."

Iran's official news agency announced in March that men who left the country before 1989 and who feared returning home because they would be drafted could buy a military exemption for about $16,000 (a sum representing about 30 years' work at Iran's minimum wage). Officials promise that if a man pays and then volunteers to serve, he'll get the money back.

In March a truck carrying remaindered pornographic magazines to a recycling center overturned on a busy street in Kansas City, Missouri, causing a rush-hour traffic jam. About 2,000 magazines were scattered about, and drivers stopped their cars to gather as many as they could before moving on.

A federal magistrate ruled in November that the Alabama prison policy of allowing female guards to oversee showers by male prisoners is not "cruel and unusual punishment" for the men but a reasonable policy for prison security and for promoting equal employment opportunities among female guards.

In February a court in Versailles overturned an order banning dwarf-tossing, thus permitting three-foot, 11-inch Manuel Wackenheim, 24, to return to work at the Eclipse nightclub in Morsang-sur-Orge, from which he had been banned by the mayor in October. Though the French interior minister had called such exhibitions "an intolerable attack on human dignity," the government finally acquiesced because the ban would deny a "physically different" person a chance at earning a livelihood.

An 81-year-old woman died of severe burns in December in Columbia, Missouri, when her 15-mile ambulance ride to the hospital took too long. At the time the hospital's emergency helicopter and crew were on a public-relations assignment, with one crew member dressed as Santa Claus.

The natural resources minister of Manitoba apologized in February when news got out that the Canadian government had saved $1,800 in postage by sending a fishing survey through the U.S. mail instead of Canada's. Clerks had gone to Grand Forks, North Dakota, about 100 miles south of the border, to mail the surveys to several thousand U.S. anglers who use Manitoba waters.

Least Competent Person

Paul Gamboa Taylor pleaded guilty in December to the murders of his wife and four others near York, Pennsylvania, six months earlier. He told police that before turning himself in he had tried to take his own life five times: He had slashed both his wrists with a hacksaw, drunk lighter fluid, plunged a knife into his chest, filled a bathtub with water hoping to pass out and drown, and brought a hair drier into the tub with him. Said Taylor, "I love my family; that's why I pleaded guilty."

The Diminishing Value of Life

Isbrain Marquez Pacheco, 53, was indicted in March in East Windsor, New Jersey, for the attempted murder of his wife of three weeks. According to police, Pacheco said he beat her with a baseball bat after he demanded that she stay home from a friend's baby shower and she refused. Pacheco said, "If I had killed her, I would have no regret" because he was "offended by what she said to me."

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

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