News of the Weird | News of the Weird | Chicago Reader

News & Politics » News of the Weird

News of the Weird


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Lead Story

After visiting all 78 army storage sites for the hand-held Stinger, Redeye, and Dragon missiles, employees of the congressional General Accounting Office discovered in October that thousands were unaccounted for in the army's records. More Stingers and Redeyes were on hand than records indicated, but 9,744 fewer Dragons were found. An army spokesperson blamed it on paperwork, saying there were no reports of any missiles being lost, stolen, or misplaced.

The Weirdo-American Community

In March in Hollywood, Florida, police charged Brenda Persing, 34, with two counts of child abuse when they found the stay-at-home mother's house filled with "years' worth" of rotting garbage, dog feces, and used tampons. They also found a refrigerator full of roaches. According to police, Persing admitted she was just too lazy to clean.

Government in Action

Auditors from the Department of Energy disclosed in August that the agency spent $1.4 million in 1992 for 407 security people at Colorado's Rocky Flats nuclear site to exercise during working hours. Law requires nuclear security people to be physically fit, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which regulates civilian nuclear plants, claims personnel stay fit at their own expense.

In October New York City police arrested Herbert Steed, 63, outside his $4,000-a-month Trump Tower apartment and charged him with welfare fraud. For the last three years, Steed received $88 a week in welfare payments, claiming he had no assets or income. The district attorney said the "welfare payments he collected just about covered his health club dues."

A New York City woman who used 15 names and falsely claimed to have 73 children pleaded guilty in August to defrauding state and local welfare authorities out of $450,000. And in March, the district attorney announced that of 1,800 welfare recipients spot-checked in a single Newark neighborhood, 425 were illegally receiving New York City welfare benefits.

In October a distraught Washington, D.C., mother turned to volunteer searchers, including felons living in a halfway house, to find her 11-year-old son after police told her they could not immediately search for him because of department regulations. Police told the mother they could only search immediately if the missing person is under age 6 or over 85, has a mental condition or disability, or is on medication.

In August the Wall Street Journal reported on Idaho scrap-metal dealer Tom Johansen's legitimate 1993 purchase of state-of-the-art nuclear reprocessing equipment from a Department of Energy (DOE) surplus sale. Johansen also obtained operating instructions for making bomb-grade uranium with the equipment by paying DOE a $280 photocopying fee. The Wall Street Journal said the sale went through because the DOE man responsible could not persuade his superiors of the inappropriateness of selling such dangerous materials.

According to an October report from U.S. representative John Dingell, defense contractors recently billed the federal government for such inappropriate employee perks as $263,000 for a Smokey Robinson concert; $20,194 for "professional quality" golf balls; $63,000 for crystal decanters for employee awards; and $17,000 to hire referees and umpires for office sports leagues.

In August postal clerk Joannie McCaughey and three others in Cambridge, Massachusetts, were issued formal reprimands by their supervisor for punching in for work at 8:59 AM when their shift began at 9. "Future deficiencies . . . will result in more severe disciplinary action," read the reprimand, "including suspension or removal from the Postal Service." The supervisor, Michael Hannon, said, "It would become an abusive situation" if every employee were to punch in one minute early every day.

The federal government reopened its large office building in Binghamton, New York in October--more than 13 years after it had been closed because of a brief electrical fire in the basement. The 1981 fire spread the chemicals dioxin and PCB throughout the building. The government spent $53 million to clean, gut, and restore the inside, and then clean it again to pass environmental inspection. The building cost only $17 million to build.

The government of Switzerland announced in July that its value-added tax would apply to sales by prostitutes and that beginning in 1995 customers should be given itemized receipts showing the 6.5 percent tax.

Miscellaneous Eloquence

Frederick Treesh, 30, one of three men accused of being the "spree killers" who terrorized the Great Lakes states this summer, allegedly told a police officer "Other than the two we killed, the two we wounded, the woman we pistol-whipped, and the light bulbs we stuck in people's mouths, we didn't really hurt anybody."

A December Associated Press story on body branding revealed that having one's skin artistically seared as a "personal statement" is growing in popularity, especially in San Francisco. The branding customer endures from one to hundreds of one-second strikes with a piece of blowtorch-heated, white-hot galvanized sheet metal--whose design is selected or created by the customer. Each branding scar takes six weeks or longer to heal. One customer interviewed by the San Francisco Examiner said she got a large, elaborate African sunburst on her lower back because she thought it would help "keep me more centered" because "I couldn't get in balance myself."

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment