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News of the Weird

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In May film critic Roger Ebert wrote that the popular Japanese animated film Pompoko, which features a family of cute badgerlike animals, was not likely to be successful in America. The animals' secret weapon is the ability to make their testicles grow so large that they can crush opponents. Said a Japanese film fan, "The Japanese are more open about body parts," adding that kids in Japan find the secret weapon hilarious.

The Litigious Society

Etta Stephens filed a lawsuit against Barnett Bank in Tampa in May, seeking damages for personal suffering. She had been stricken with a heart attack after opening her monthly statement and finding, due to bank error, that her $20,000 account was empty.

In May in Toronto the Toronto-Dominion Bank went to court to recover the $3.5 million that Edward Del Grande had borrowed for his businesses. Del Grande countersued for $30 million, saying the problem was that the bank had loaned him too much money. Del Grande charged that if the bank had been more prudent, his companies could have survived the down market in real estate.

In June in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the family of radio station executive Jefferson Ketcham filed a lawsuit in connection with his recent death, charging Cobb's Mill Inn and a waiter, Paul Kane, with negligence. The family claims that when Kane drove the intoxicated Ketcham home from the bar as a favor, he merely let him out of the car, failing to accompany him into the house. Ketcham tripped on the front steps, hit his head, and died.

Bob Glaser filed a $5.4 million lawsuit in March against the city of San Diego for the "emotional trauma" he suffered at an Elton John-Billy Joel concert held at a municipal stadium. Some women, who didn't want to wait in long lines for their rest room, had entered the men's room. Glaser said he was "extremely upset" at the sight of a woman in front of him using a urinal.

Tucson lawyer Howard Baldwin filed a lawsuit in February against the local electric company, charging that meter reader Chuck Leon frightened Baldwin's poodle, Jasmine, to death. According to Baldwin, when Jasmine saw Leon in the backyard, she crashed into a glass door, "involuntarily urinated," then escaped out the rear gate. She was found dead the next day, allegedly of exhaustion.

Litigious Prisoners

Recently Robert Lee Brock, an inmate in Chesapeake, Virginia, filed a $5 million lawsuit against Robert Lee Brock--accusing himself of violating his religious beliefs and his civil rights by getting himself drunk enough to engage in various crimes. He wrote, "I want to pay myself $5 million [for this breach of rights] but ask the state to pay it in my behalf since I can't work and am a ward of the state." In April the lawsuit was dismissed.

New York prisoners recently have filed lawsuits alleging they've received defective haircuts from the prison barber, white towels instead of beige ones, and an ice cream dessert that was mostly melted. Minnesota inmates have filed lawsuits demanding damages for being provided with an improper variety of beans on the menu, a lack of salsa, a surfeit of bologna, and underwear that was too tight ("cruel and unusual punishment"). One Minnesota inmate said his primary purpose in filing his lawsuit was "pure delight in spending taxpayers' money."

In Indiana a new law will allow prison officials to deny good-time credit to prisoners who file frivolous lawsuits. Among Indiana's most frivolous pending lawsuits is one asking damages because meat and vegetables were served somewhat mixed together on a dinner plate.

In Idaho in April three inmates filed a $10.7 million lawsuit against Cassia County because jail guards failed to give them late-night snacks.

A public employees' union in Ontario, among whose members are prison guards who staged a walkout in 1989, agreed in February to pay 11 hospitalized criminals $45,000 for their having been "inconvenienced" during the labor dispute. Murderer Michael Krueger got $2,250.

Cliches Come to Life

In May in Amarillo, Texas, citizen Joe Brooks, spotting a man who was fleeing police officers in a public park, galloped after him on horseback and lassoed him.

In October, according to police in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Thomas A. Hunt, 48, roughed up the boyfriend of his 15-year-old stepdaughter, wrapped him head-to-toe in duct tape, and abandoned him in a nearby town. And in January in Toronto Desmond Kelley was sentenced to 15 months in jail for a 1993 incident in which he forced his daughter's boyfriend to leap from a fifth-floor balcony after catching the couple naked.

Poetic Justice

In December Jack Horkheimer, who is host of a public television astronomy show and who ends each show urging viewers to "keep looking up," broke four toes in his left foot when he misstepped one night while watching the star Canopus.

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

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