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News of the Weird



Lead Story

In March in Barnwell, South Carolina, the pilot of a low-flying aircraft was charged with involuntary manslaughter after he accidentally struck and killed a man. The man and some friends had been performing a "moon salute" on the runway for the plane's passengers, who were newlyweds on their way up for a ceremonial "mile-high" sexual experience.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported in May that the major ingredient in Maxwell House Cappuccino is the artificial flavor of "instant coffee." A spokesperson for General Foods Corporation said taste tests revealed that consumers prefer the taste of instant coffee.

Japan Efficiency Headquarters, an "entertainment business company" in Chiba, Japan, rents trained "family members" out to senior citizens who would like to enjoy the benefits of a close-knit family from time to time. The rented family, typically a husband, wife, and child, engage in family-type activities as if everyone were related. Renting three family members for three hours costs about $1,100.

The Institute of the German Economy reported in May that the McDonald's Big Mac is increasingly used by economists as a measure of comparative purchasing power in various countries. For example, 5 Big Macs in the United States can be bought for the same amount of money as 4 in Germany or 18 in Russia.

At the newly opened Talamore golf course in Southern Pines, North Carolina, golfers have the choice of renting either a golf cart to transport their clubs--or a llama. A spokesperson said the course gets about two requests a month for llama service--at $400 per foursome.

Ms. Nui Onoue, 61, pleaded guilty in Osaka, Japan, in January to defrauding several banks out of $1.45 billion for stock-market speculation. Prosecutors said that over a five-year period she had managed to persuade banks to lend her about $26 billion.

Compelling Explanations

In May the Missouri Court of Appeals turned down David Turner's appeal of the automatic suspension of his driver's license after he refused to take a blood-alcohol test. He argued that he was too drunk when he was arrested to realize that he should have submitted to the test.

Darrell Lyons, an inmate in Santa Cruz, California, was summarily rearrested and accused of attempting to escape in November when a routine X ray turned up evidence of a paper clip in his rectum. Sheriff's deputy Ray Flores said he made the quick arrest "because I could not think of any logical reason for having a paper clip up one's rectum except for the purpose of using said paper clip for the purpose of attempting to escape."

Jackie McDonald, candidate for sheriff in Faulkner County, Arkansas, was prohibited from running for office in May by the county election commission because of questions of mental competence. Responded McDonald, "I have been examined and released by the state hospital. This certifies that I have been found by experts to be fit to live and function in a free society. Can the election [commissioners] say the same [about themselves]?"

In February Manuel Bustos Silva, 42, went on trial in Denver on charges that he strangled his common-law wife; Silva's niece testified that Silva believed his wife had put a spell on him. The niece said Silva saw pubic hairs in his food and concluded that his wife was doing "black magic" on him. The niece also said Silva thought "there was no way it could be stopped" and "that he had [the wife] inside his head all the time."

In a confession to the police Joseph Tuminello, 24, admitted to starting a fire in February at Loyola Prep College in Shreveport, Louisiana. He claimed he committed the arson because the school had gone coed, saying, "I was devastated."

Creme de la Weird

The Economist reported in April that researchers at the University of Newcastle in Australia believe the reason Indian yogis drink their early-morning urine is that it is rich in the sleep-produced hormone melatonin. The Yogis believe that drinking it convinces their bodies that they have slept longer than they actually have.

Least Competent Person

Police in Burlingame, California, reported in April that the Towles Coffee Shop had been burglarized. The burglar had unsuccessfully tried to pry open a locked metal cabinet (which contained only toilet paper), then cleaned out approximately 30 cents from the penny cup beside the cash register and fled.

The Diminishing Value of Life

As a result of a yearlong dispute among taxi companies trying to increase their market shares, more than 300 people have been killed in Lebowa, a group of rural areas in northeast South Africa.

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

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