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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

While cigarette ads a la Joe Camel lose favor in the U.S., ad campaigns in other countries are stepping up their use of potentially sensitive images, according to an April San Francisco Examiner report. A Marlboro ad in Cambodia features girls around eight years old; in Poland the backdrop of a Camel ad is a school; and in the Philippines the tobacco industry association used an image of the Virgin Mary on its 1998 promotional calendar.

Clive Winter, 45, an official of the provincial health board of Lothian, Scotland, was convicted in February of several assaults carried out by a secret gang he had formed. Winter, said his boss, was "extremely intelligent, quiet, and a placid man in the office," but according to a detective who testified at his trial, he roamed the streets at night "to gratify his own lust for violence."

An April Associated Press story from Decatur, Alabama, reported on a reclusive mother and daughter, Evelyn and Marilyn Arnold, who died of natural causes within a week of each other in December. According to neighbors and relatives, Evelyn, 85, had controlled every aspect of her daughter's life, perhaps impairing Marilyn's ability to fend for herself after Evelyn's death. Among the pair's idiosyncrasies: Marilyn was afraid of the telephone; Evelyn recorded every wrong number she received in a notebook; they wouldn't use the bathtub because they feared the previous owner's germs; and they used a bucket instead of the toilet, even though the plumbing worked fine.

Maybe Saddam Hussein Will Fall for Roseanne

In January the London Daily Telegraph reported that in 1983, during the civil strife in Beirut, Syrian general Mustafa Tlass told his men not to attack Italian peace-keeping soldiers because of his lifelong obsession with the Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida. Tlass told his men to "do whatever you want with the U.S., British, and other forces, but...I do not want a single tear falling from the eyes of Gina Lollobrigida."

Puzzling Joyrides

Shirley Jean Shay, 41, was arrested near Salt Lake City in April after commandeering a 25-ton fire truck and leading police on a 50-mile chase at speeds up to 70 mph, the last 20 miles after all six tires had been punctured by road spikes. Shay apparently became angry when police officers wouldn't give her a lift after her car broke down. And in March a man led police on a brief chase on I-215 in Perris, California, before being subdued. The chase ended when the man's car ran out of gas and he got out to push it.

Never Give Up

In March, after four hours of questioning, police in Springfield, Illinois, gave up and got a search warrant for the mouth of Mr. Eunice Husband, 27. Husband had stuffed three bags of crack cocaine in his mouth and refused to open up. After getting the warrant, police took Husband to a hospital, where he was sedated and the bags were removed.

Maybe India and Pakistan Could Have Done This Instead

In April Malaysian skydivers guided a Malaysian-made car, a Proton Wira, in a parachute to a landing site at the north pole; the engine started right away. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the drop "bolsters our spirits," but critics said it was a government stunt to get people's minds off the dismal economy.

Recent Protests

As the conflict between the U.S. and Iraq heated up in February, two jailed members of a Canadian pacifist sect called the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors attempted to revive their tradition of protest in Burnaby, British Columbia, by going on a 25-day hunger strike. Each is serving a two-year sentence for setting fire to his own home, which they said was a symbolic protest against evils like taxation and public education. The other hallmark of Doukhobor protests is public nudity, which they say shows a rejection of wealth and status.

Charles Collins III was indicted in Albany, New York, in April for his January protest at the state court of appeals building over a child custody case. Shortly before dawn, according to the indictment, he hooked a spray gun to a 55-gallon drum of chicken manure and covered the front of the building. Also in April in nearby Guilderland, New York, a critic of newly elected town supervisor Jerry Yerbury broke into his office and left a stack of color photographs of excrement.

In April Jose Albeiro Forero and two other municipal employees in the town of Cartago, Colombia, nailed themselves to wooden crosses to call attention to their demands for salary increases and other benefits.

Last year the six-member city council of Glendale, Colorado, passed tough restrictions on strip clubs, angering many citizens enough to join club owner Debbie Matthews in forming the Glendale Tea Party, whose candidates in April's council election won all three contested seats. Said Matthews, "I don't think [the old council] realized [how many] people like the club."

According to a Chronicle of Higher Education roundup in May, in recent months students at at least six colleges have engaged in protests marked by a degree of violence "not seen since the Vietnam war," asserting their "right" to drink in violation of the law.

Least Competent Criminals

In April indictments were brought against New York City inmates Hector Muniz, Carlos Martinez, and Troy Jennings for their alleged get-rich-quick scheme at Rikers Island prison. Authorities said Muniz, who was allowed to leave the prison during the day to work, smuggled a gun inside so that Martinez could shoot Jennings in the leg, which he did. The plan was that Jennings would sue the city for "millions" for negligence and insist on the release of all three men as a condition of the settlement.

Recurring Themes

The latest British institution to hire a poet in residence is the London Zoo. According to director general Richard Burge, the poet's job will include writing guides in rhyme and "helping to interpret the lives of the animals." Earlier this year News of the Weird reported that the department store Marks & Spencer had hired a poet part-time, and since then the BBC and a professional soccer team have also hired poets.

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: An older female schoolteacher's sexual relationship with a much younger male student; Julie A. Feil, 31, of Hastings, Minnesota, received very little press in February when she was arrested for seducing a 16-year-old boy, after allegedly failing with a 13-year-old. And the firefighter who sets fires to create work for himself, as at least two members of the fire department in Centreville, Illinois, are alleged to have done in April; also, at press time, prominent firefighter and arson expert John Orr was on trial in Los Angeles for a death caused by one of the estimated 30 fires he has set since 1984.

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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