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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

In April an AIDS activist organization in Madras, India, made a public plea that eunuchs convening for their annual festival near the city later in the month use condoms during their wild celebration. Fewer than half of the country's 400,000 eunuchs retain their penises, but Community Action Network estimated that 10,000 sex acts would take place at the close of the 15-day gathering. An AIDS activist said that because most eunuchs were recruited by force they're "angry" and show little sexual restraint.

The Litigious Society

New Mexico state patrolman Norman Martinez filed a lawsuit in February against a Santa Fe bar and its bouncer for injuries he suffered during an off-duty fight. Martinez is asking for additional compensation for his broken nose because he can no longer properly sniff for alcohol on the breaths of drivers.

Frances Bobnar of Adamsburg, Pennsylvania, filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Lottery Commission in March, claiming that she and family members have spent more than $150,000 on lottery tickets during the last ten years but have never won.

In November Tom Stafford of Mission Viejo, California, won $8,500 in a lawsuit against a local golf course. He hit an errant shot that ricocheted off a steel pole and smacked him in the forehead.

In February Bernadette French, 36, won $1.1 million in a lawsuit against the Wilmington Hospital in Delaware. French, who suffers from manic depression, gouged her own eyes out, then claimed the hospital staff was negligent in allowing it to happen.

In Louisville, Kentucky, in March former paralegal Merrell Williams, 52, added a claim to his disability lawsuit against his former law firm, Wyatt Tarrant & Combs. He admitted that a 29-year smoking habit contributed to his heart problems, but he also claimed that in the course of working for the firm's tobacco clients he was "horrified" to learn about complicity between tobacco companies to suppress data on the dangers of smoking and that he suffered stress knowing he had to keep such information secret.

In January Emmerson Phillips filed a claim against his employer, the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority, after he was turned down for sick leave. Phillips had informed his employer that his daughter was getting married the following Sunday, that he intended to get roaring drunk at the reception, that he would probably have a hangover, and that he would therefore be taking sick leave on Monday. A local arbitration panel ruled in his favor.

In September Bob Jones of Berkshire, England, filed a claim for about $1,200 with his insurance company for a loss he suffered during a power blackout. Jones had been keeping the body of his parrot, Polly, which had recently been killed by Jones's dog, in the family freezer for posterity, and during the blackout Polly thawed and decomposed.

Names From Hell

In a July story on odd names in England the Wall Street Journal reported on the plight of a women's scholarly organization in the town of Ugley. Said spokesperson Irene Camp, "We try to call ourselves the Women's Institute of Ugley, but it never sticks."

In November the new telephone system in the public library in Edmonton, Alberta--which ordinarily permits a machine to dial a customer and announce by synthesized voice that requested materials are ready to be picked up--malfunctioned. The system, the Electronic Library Voice Information System, is generally referred to by its acronym.

Among recent names in the news: Operator of a suicide hotline in Amsterdam: Jan Hilarius. PhD candidate in demography at the University of California, Berkeley: Long Wang. New Orleans writer: Quo Vadis Gexbreaux. Cocreator of a just-released map of the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C.: Outerbridge Horsey. Mansfield, Louisiana, jailer recently suspended after being accused of buying crack cocaine: Billy Blow. Columbia, Missouri, man sentenced to three years in prison in January for sexually abusing a seven-year-old boy: Fred Rogers.

Least Competent Criminal

Fargo, North Dakota, police reported that late in the evening on April 9 a person who had stolen a car tried to get through a stretch of mud and water on a road but became stuck. The person then stole another car from three blocks away and tried to drive through the same mess, again becoming stuck. He or she then stole a pickup truck from a block away and tried again. All three vehicles were found the next morning firmly stuck in the mud.

I Don't Think So

In January British actress Gillian Taylforth testified in court that, contrary to a police officer's assertion, she was not performing oral sex on her fiance, Geoffrey Knights, in the front seat of a car on a public road. Rather, she said, he had just suffered a gastrointestinal attack, and she was merely comforting him by massaging his abdomen with her hands. Taylforth had filed a libel suit against England's Sun newspaper for reporting the incident as oral sex. The judge allowed the jurors to go to the courthouse parking lot, where Taylforth and Knights took their seats in the vehicle, seatbelts fastened, and Taylforth demonstrated what she said she did. The jury ruled against her.

Undignified Death

In March George William Corrao, 41, was charged in the shotgun death of his mother in Milwaukee. According to police, the two were watching television, and Corrao became agitated because she was talking incessantly about Olympic skater Dan Jansen.

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

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