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News of the Weird



Lead Story

Among the births recorded in July: a son to fifth-grade teacher Janice Burke of Mesa, Arizona, delivered on the floor of her classroom shortly after the beginning of a math test; a daughter to Jennifer Zandarski, delivered in a jail cell in Saint Joseph, Michigan, after she was arrested for allegedly stabbing her boyfriend; and a son to a 16-year-old Texan softball player minutes after she left her position at third base during a state tournament in Abilene.

The Continuing Crisis

The Associated Press reported in July that lawyer Allan Gerson was pressured to leave the prestigious firm of Hughes, Hubbard and Reed in June so that it could take on as a client Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy. Gerson was representing the family of a victim of Pan Am flight 103, and because Libya is alleged to have had a role in blowing up the plane the firm's representation of both the family and Khadafy would have been viewed as a conflict of interest.

In July the government of Thailand started a hospital program to treat elephants addicted to amphetamines. The elephants, used to haul logs out of the jungle, had been given the drugs to make them work harder and to help them withstand injury.

In a July article on Northern Ireland's aggressive tourist industry, Newsweek reported that despite its long-running bloody civil war, the country's crime rate is only one-quarter that of Sweden and its murder rate one-15th that of Washington, D.C.

In the first seven months of the year at least 58 people were killed in New Delhi in bus-related accidents. Officials attribute the problem to increased competition following government deregulation: drivers frequently ram through crowded intersections to beat competitors to bus stops. The government's only remedial program so far has been administering a drivers' test, but only a few of the several thousand drivers showed up to take it and only one driver passed.

Russian scientists investigating unusually high levels of radiation at a children's camp in Siberia announced in July that they believe the radiation's source is bats: they hang out at the camp after feeding at Lake Karachai, where a chemical plant dumps its waste.

In July zoning officials in Virginia Beach, Virginia, began investigating neighbors' complaints against Anthony and Teresita Rodriguez, who have turned their modest home into a church and built an air-conditioned chapel in the backyard, where only a woodshed was authorized. The Rodriguezes said God told them to build the chapel so that Teresita could conduct healing services. As many as 50 people at a time come from as far away as California and Canada to attend, and the Rodriguezes' neighbors complain that noise from the services lasts until 2 AM and that the worshipers take up all the street parking.

The Syracuse Herald-Journal reported in January that its telephone hot line, featuring excerpts of presidential debates last fall, was successful except for one glitch: Ross Perot's voice sometimes hit the same pitch as a certain telephone tone that automatically shuts down the system.

A June Baltimore Sun report on odd philanthropic organizations included the Anna Emory Warfield Memorial Fund, which dispenses grants "to try and keep elderly women in independent living status in the style to which they were accustomed." (Translation: it helps women who, without support, can no longer afford to stay in their posh homes.)

A June Boston Globe story on the Soiree strip joint in South Boston disclosed that dancer Taylor Monet, 33, believes she has the world's first inflatable breasts, the result of a "valve and hose" implantation that allows her to inject or extract a saline solution to vary the size of her silicone breasts between 40-D and 96.

More Bad Times for Body Parts

In July Donald Wyman, 37, gained national notoriety when he rescued himself from underneath a fallen tree near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, by amputating his own leg at the knee with a small pocketknife and then driving for help. A few days earlier a 31-year-old Tacoma, Washington, man had cut off his arm and nose with a bread knife because he was depressed. And the family of a 15-year-old boy in Elkton, Maryland, is suing the county board of education for $3 million because a dog stepped on the boy's groin in the schoolyard one day, resulting in the need to amputate a testicle.

The Weirdo-American Community

After reclusive retiree Jack D. Crain passed away at his modest trailer home in Watsonville, California, in May, 4,000 model-car kits dating back to the 1950s, still in their original unopened packages, were found stacked floor to ceiling in all the rooms. Collectors were ecstatic at the prospect of being able to purchase so many discontinued models.

I Don't Think So

Chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a June public statement that the "real culprit" in the priest sex scandals is a society that is so "irresponsibly permissive" that it induces even priests to commit gravely immoral acts.

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

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