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News of the Weird

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Among the recent uses of DNA genetic "fingerprinting": Scientists at Oxford University used it to determine the sex of the world's rarest bird, the Brazilian blue Spix macaw, whose males resemble females. Prosecutors in Panama City, Florida, used it to match sperm samples from Sheriff Al Harrison and his office carpet (even though Harrison had cleaned it); Harrison was on trial in January for forcing female inmates to perform oral sex on him. And authorities in Cocoa, Florida, used it to file cattle-rustling charges against two men in November after matching the DNA of a calf with the DNA in an uncooked slab of pot roast; the men allegedly sold the pot roast after cutting it from the calf's mother, a purebred cow.

The Continuing Crisis

Gordon Davey, 30, was named Britain's most boring man by a London TV show in November after he waxed rhapsodic about his extensive collection of brown paper, which he said has fascinated him ever since he was an art student. Davey responded, "I shall obviously have to try to be more interesting and less obsessive."

Police in Washington, D. C., and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs conducted a three-week campaign in November to increase motorist awareness of traffic signals, including the mass distribution of bumper stickers that read I Stop for Red Lights.

California's January 1994 earthquake officially killed 58 people, but within six months people claiming relatives perished because of the quake made almost 400 requests to the state for $6,000 burial grants from federal disaster funds.

In July in Nashville Vickye L. Phye, 34, pleaded guilty to lesser charges after being accused of raping a 39-year-old woman. According to the victim, Phye demanded to be allowed to perform oral sex on her and then "started rubbing me like a man would." Tennessee law defines rape as "any" sexual penetration.

According to a Thanksgiving press release from the Butterball company about calls to the company's emergency hotline, the highlight was a 1993 call from a woman who reported that her pet Chihuahua had jumped into the cavity of the family's turkey and was stuck.

In November an annual report from Japan's Economic Planning Agency called on Japanese husbands to participate more in family activities. Agency surveys estimated that 85 percent of husbands never help their wives with household chores and that younger women, knowing this, are increasingly declining marriage. The result is a falling birthrate, which alarms the agency.

In October William Soule, 71, who was on probation on DUI charges in Dubuque, Iowa, turned himself in and said he'd rather go to jail. "I can't take another year of probation," he said. And in September Kansas prisoner Joe Carr, 77, who was convicted of murder in 1941, passed up his parole-board hearing for the 15th consecutive time. But another Kansas inmate, murderer Marvin D. Brockett, 64, is seeking parole. Since he was seven, Brockett has spent only three years out of a correctional institution.

What Goes Around Comes Around

In July Robert Minahan, a chef who specializes in crocodile cuisine at a resort in the Kakadu National Park in Australia, was attacked by a six-foot crocodile while swimming at Barramundi Gorge. Said Minahan, "It feels strange to be on the other end of the food chain."

In September four women allegedly used a chemical spray to attack another woman who had beaten them to a parking space at the Galleria mall in Glendale, California; the victim had to be treated at a hospital. Police went to the parking lot looking for the assailants and found the women arguing because their keys were locked inside their car. After finding the chemical spray police charged the women with assault, helped open the car, and discovered shoplifted clothing in the backseat.

In July the Chicago Tribune reported the testimony of a barber in Guangzhou, China, who offered his unwilling wife to a matchmaker for a scam in which they would sell the woman to a farmer, collect the fee, then immediately retrieve her. The barber was cheated out of the promised reward and now faces life in prison for selling his wife. Furthermore, the wife preferred the farmer and will not be returning to the barber.

I Don't Think So

Acting on a tip, police in Juneau raided the hotel room of an Oregon man in November and found cocaine and $10,000 in cash. When police asked him why he had such a large amount of cash, he said it was given to him by a woman, whose name he could not recall, as a reward for great sex.

Ener Arcilla Henson, 34, was arrested in Glendale, California, in January and charged with stealing a "humvee" military vehicle from the local National Guard armory. Police said Henson was driving the vehicle at night without lights and refused to acknowledge them when they signaled for him to pull over. According to police, when Henson finally stopped he said that President Clinton had given him the humvee.

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.

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