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In November actress Anya Pencheva announced a plan to divert her fellow Bulgarians' attention from the grim economy: She would have a plaster cast made of her breasts and display it in the National Theater in Sofia. Said Pencheva, "It is a pity to focus everything on [budget cuts] when there are such beautiful breasts around."

Can't hold it in: The school board in Durham, North Carolina, suspended a substitute teacher at Hillside High School in November after she urinated into a trash can during class, allegedly because of a medical condition. In December fifth-grade teacher Dow Ooten, 36, was suspended in Charleston, West Virginia, after he brought his soiled trousers to a school board meeting to show what he was forced to do because the faculty rest room door was locked. And in November a similarly soiled Tom Pak won a $45,000 settlement from Los Angeles County, whose property-tax-office clerks made him wait at a desk without a restroom break in retaliation for his having arrived 15 minutes before closing to make payments on more than 200 properties.

Ear technology: In November police in Independence Township, Michigan, charged a 45-year-old man with peeping into windows at the Clarkston Motor Inn, basing the arrest on the ear prints he allegedly left on the windows. And in December in Vancouver, Washington, Judge Robert L. Harris ruled that an ear print found on the bedroom door of a murder victim could be presented as evidence in the trial of the suspected killer.

The Continuing Crisis

According to a September report in Toronto's Globe and Mail, the University of Toronto's medical school pays actors and other people $12 to $35 per hour to be practice patients for its students. Bob LeRoy, 45, receives the top pay because he's a rectal-exam patient. Said LeRoy, "I always hope the student with the biggest finger goes first."

According to a September report in the Wall Street Journal, about 100 "laughing clubs" have sprung up in India in the last year based on the philosophy of Dr. Madan Kataria, who believes yoga breathing and laughing exercises can help people build self-confidence, stop smoking, alleviate high blood pressure and arthritis, and stop migraines. After conventional stretching, participants engage in silent laughs, out-loud laughs with their lips closed, and the roaring "Bombay laugh." Kataria says he only worries that someday the government might try to tax laughter.

Students rioting in August at South Korea's Yonsei University apparently found weapons in short supply and used whatever was available; after the protest ended the geology department faculty discovered that about 10,000 rare rocks were missing. A few were recovered from the streets chipped or broken.

At the British Psychological Society's annual conference in September, David Cook of Scotland's Caledonian University, reporting on the results of his three-year study, said politicians have significant behavior patterns in common with criminal psychopaths. Cook also said that criminals were relatively easy to analyze but that politicians "don't like to be studied."

In October Miss Canada International, 20-year-old Danielle House, was removed from further competition after being charged in Saint John's, Newfoundland, with punching out her ex-boyfriend's current girlfriend in a bar. House said she had been in counseling recently for "low self-esteem."

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, Christine Bodman announced in November that a group of massage therapists has formed the Massage Emergency Response Team. The group will be on hand to give free massages to stressed-out firefighters, police officers, and paramedics.

In August a federal judge in Springfield, Missouri, dismissed the lawsuit of Jennifer Stocker Jessen, 24, who had claimed that repressed memories of childhood abuse by her stepgrandfather returned to her in 1988. Jessen said her memories had been triggered after she hit an opossum in the road with her car.

The Weirdo-American Community

In September in East Orange, Vermont, Christie's auction house sold almost $2 million worth of automobiles that belonged to eccentrics A.K. Miller, who died at 87 a few years ago, and his wife, Imogene, who died in 1996. The couple, who left millions more in gold and silver and other valuables, had lived like paupers, sometimes dressing in rags and eating dog food or bread made of flour they had swept off the floor. As treasurer of his church, Miller had once refused to accept a small increase in electricity rates and converted the entire church to kerosene lamps. The Millers paid property taxes but no other taxes, and the federal and state governments are now claiming $8.2 million.

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but that now occur with such frequency they must be retired from circulation: (13) the gun expert who accidentally shoots himself while demonstrating safety techniques, as did Constable Randy Youngman, who shot himself in the leg while teaching a safety class in Medicine Hat, Alberta, in December. And (14) the periodic warnings about global warming caused by excessive methane production by flatulent livestock, as was announced in a European Commission strategy paper released in November in Brussels.

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 by Shawn Belshwender.

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