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News of the Weird

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A California proprostitution organization called the National Sexual Rights Council appealed in April for donations to its campaign to get teenage hookers off the streets. For a $250 contribution the donor receives a T-shirt and a membership card, and for $150,000--which the group points out is the same price as a White House sleepover--the seven prostitutes on the council's Pretty Woman Committee promise to sleep with the donor in Nevada. Critics note that the campaign would also result in less competition for council members.

In April the human rights organization African Rights, based in London, England, accused two Roman Catholic nuns from a Benedictine abbey in Maredret, Belgium, of ordering dozens of frightened Tutsi refugees out of the nuns' compound in Sovu, Rwanda, and into the custody of Hutu soldiers, who almost immediately killed them. According to African Rights investigators, the sisters helped the Hutus in order to protect their compound.

According to a May story in the Boston Globe, relations between Israeli and Palestinian car thieves are running smoothly. Israel has the highest rate of car theft per capita in the world, and police say several Israeli-Palestinian car-theft rings operate together fencing cars and parts to dealers on both sides of the border.

Just Can't Stop Myself

In Norfolk, Virginia, Todd Jacob Sherman, 24, pleaded guilty in March to swindling an elderly woman out of $70,000. According to the prosecutor, not only did the woman fall for Sherman's initial pitch, in which he told her to wire him "advance taxes" on a $130,000 sweepstakes prize, but she sent him money over 100 times during the next 33 months.

In December Lewis Ecker II, a diagnosed sexual sadist, lost his bid to be released from Saint Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. Ecker has made considerable progress during his stay, even being elected to local office as an advisory neighborhood commissioner three times. However, according to hospital officials, Ecker hurt his chances of release by secretly composing 21 narratives featuring himself as a sexually sadistic protagonist who humiliates and injures female victims. The stories were discovered in a search of the office he had been given the privilege of using.

The executive director of the New York State Council on Problem Gambling told the New York Times in May that printing its 800 number on lottery tickets for gambling addicts to call when they decide they need help has instead resulted in many calls from lottery players seeking help selecting the winning numbers. And operators of the Casino Niagara in Niagara Falls, Ontario, told the Ottawa Citizen in April that customers who urinate around slot machines have become a severe problem. Reluctant to leave a machine that they are certain will soon pay off, some customers urinate into the plastic coin cups supplied by the casino, some wear adult diapers, and some merely urinate on the floor beside the machine.

Paul Millhouse, 49, pleaded not guilty in February to assault on an animal after he was arrested in Lakeside, California. He is suspected of being the man police have sought for 11 years in connection with various horse stalkings. According to police, Millhouse was caught on videotape entering a private pasture, taking off his clothes, and fondling a horse.

People With Too Much Time on Their Hands

In December a man from southern England named Nigel paid about $128,000 at a London auction for a personalized license plate reading "N1 GEL." Eighty other plates brought in about $2.7 million. A month earlier in London, Dave Parker paid a $40 filing fee to legally change his name to C 539 FUG, which is his current license plate number.

The Globe & Mail of Toronto, Ontario, reported in February that local physician Ron Charach, who is the editor of a volume of poems by Canadian doctors, recently had one of his works selected for publication in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet. The poem takes its name from the last two words in the passage that reads "In silence after heavy rain / You can hear prostates growing."

In a brief interview published in Fortune magazine in February, Todd Sloane, a marketing executive with the Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes, said that some entrants worry that the PCH prize patrol won't be able to find them if they win. Sloane explained, "We get thousands of calls from entrants warning us their house is hard to get to [or] they'll be at Uncle Jack's, whatever."

TV mania: In April an executive of the Weather Channel said their research shows that one in five viewers watches the channel for at least three hours at a sitting. The company calls these people "weather-involved." And Andrew Thomas, 27, apparently healthy except for being depressed about being laid off from his job four years earlier in Glamorgan, Wales, died in April of natural causes in front of the TV set he had watched almost constantly since then.

In December the Toronto Star reported that a poll of Ontario residents revealed that a majority believe in miracles, although the Star pointed out that some respondents' standards about what constitutes a miracle are lower than others. One man claimed he had witnessed a miracle when "I went to someone's house and got a good deal on a power tool that I wanted for a long time."

Well Put

In May Patricia Walsh of Carmel, California, defended her decision to spend $6,000 to dress up a rock to look like General Douglas MacArthur by saying, "I'm an old lady, and I can amuse myself doing whatever I like."

In April Sir Roger Penrose, a British math professor who has worked with Stephen Hawking on such topics as relativity, black holes, and whether time has a beginning, filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against the Kimberly-Clark Corporation. Penrose said the company copied a pattern he created demonstrating that "a nonrepeating pattern could exist in nature" and used it on its Kleenex quilted toilet paper. Said Penrose, "When it comes to the population of Great Britain being invited by a multinational to wipe their bottoms on what appears to be the work of a Knight of the Realm, then a last stand must be taken."

Philip Morris president James Morgan, in a lawsuit deposition released in May, explained why he believes cigarettes are not addictive: "I love Gummi Bears...and I want Gummi Bears, and I like Gummi Bears, and I eat Gummi Bears, and I don't like it when I don't eat my Gummi Bears, but I'm certainly not addicted to them."

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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