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News of the Weird

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In May a religious sect in Plainfield, Connecticut, called God's House filed a $200,000 lawsuit against the state department of children and families for sending the young daughter of sect leader Sister Rachael to foster care. According to Sister Rachael, the little girl is the result of Rachael's impregnation by God.

Jim Gordon, running for the office of South Carolina agriculture commissioner, told an audience at a campaign stop in Greenville in May that the two most important issues facing the family farm are access to technology and "the homosexual agenda." As for how that relates to agriculture, Gordon said, "We can't have Bob and Bob being married" without hurting the concept of the family farm.

In May Bob Kern won the Democratic nomination to challenge powerful incumbent Dan Burton in November for Indiana's sixth-district congressional seat. According to an Indianapolis Star report, Kern, who changed his name from Hidalgo before entering the race, has impersonated a local female judge, was imprisoned for doctoring a check, was charged with offering oral sex to an undercover policeman (he was acquitted and maintains that he is a virgin), and has extensively used the name of former Charlie's Angels actress Tanya Roberts, without her consent, to gain access to local events and people.

Job Training That Works

In February police in Bemidji, Minnesota, raided a methamphetamine lab and discovered that several of the lab workers were local jail inmates on a work-release program. The alleged kingpin was an area contractor who had requested the inmates under the guise of using them for his legitimate business.

Unclear on the Concept

In a 32-part series ending in December, Rhode Island's Providence Journal-Bulletin chronicled Wendy Moricas's pregnancy. Moricas was impregnated with sperm from her sister's husband, Joe, so the couple could have a child with their family's genes. Said sister Kathy, after having given Wendy a syringe containing Joe's sperm, "This is God's will." Also in December Pietra Thornton (estranged wife of actor Billy Bob Thornton) told USA Today that she was proud of her surgically enhanced breasts. "Suddenly everyone's looking," she said. "God gave me this body, and I shouldn't be ashamed of it."

Postal Services Still Have Some Issues

In April an assistant to Vice President Gore told the New York Times that Gore's Hammer Award to the New York City Police Department for creative excellence in government "will probably be FedExed" to the mayor, rather than sent by the post office's overnight mail. And in Italy the family of kidnapped businessman Giuseppe Soffiantini gathered about $2.3 million to pay his ransom, but the kidnappers' drop-off instructions were lost in the mail.

Nurture Versus Nature

Nurture: Vying for a council seat in the town of Beaufort in eastern France this spring were identical twins Christian and Claude Buchots. Christian is of the Gaullist (conservative) party; Claude is a Socialist-Green candidate. Nature: In March the jail in Albuquerque, New Mexico, housed John Simms, 52, and his son Stacy, 27, both charged with rape.

Cultural Diversity

In March, according to an Associated Press report, there were calls in Thailand to end the Padaung tribe's custom of outfitting women with up to two dozen metal coils around their necks. A set of coils can weigh 11 pounds and severely elongates the neck. The practice continues largely because the tribe charges tourists about $6 to take pictures of the women.

Also in March a representative of the former Soviet republic of Ingushetia made a formal plea to Boris Yeltsin for the Russian government to cease trying to put a stop to the Ingush tradition (and that of most of the surrounding Caucasus) of a man's selecting a wife by kidnapping a woman and carrying her away. Said the Ingush lobbyist, "This practice should be [regulated] by local authorities, who understand local needs."

The chief justice of Sudan, Obeid Hajj Ali, issued a decree in April to halt the flogging of women, following an outcry over the recent beatings of 40 females who had merely presented a government official with a note protesting Sudan's recent military actions. However, the chief justice said women could still be flogged for drinking alcohol or committing adultery.

The French health ministry disclosed in March that it had produced five short sex-education films, but critics have charged that they are graphic enough to be called hard-core pornography. One film director defended the movies, saying, "I had to show that if a man has sex with two women together, he must use a different condom with each one." Men's ignorance in that circumstance, said a ministry spokesperson, is "a big problem."

The Austrian parliament approved a law in February requiring that husbands assume half the household and child-rearing responsibilities. But in March Jean-Claude Kaufmann, a sociologist at the Sorbonne, reported that his study of 1,000 women showed that more than half found housework pleasurable, with nearly all who worked in the home saying it could heighten emotion or even be erotic. One said she ironed immediately after breakfast to experience "explosions of joy"; another became "inflamed with passion" by touching "the merest dishcloth."

Least Competent Criminal

FBI agents arrested Jeffrey Brian Whitlock, 26, in Richmond, Virginia, in February and charged him with telephoning bomb threats to three downtown federal buildings. Agents went to the ransom drop-off point and found it to be the office of a telemarketing firm; when the agents explained why they were there, the manager looked over his staff and suggested that Whitlock might be the guy. According to the FBI, Whitlock soon confessed.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported several times on charity bingo games in which a recently fed cow is let loose in a pasture marked into squares, with the winning square being the one onto which the cow first relieves herself. In March of this year a primary school in Johannesburg, South Africa, raised about $60,000 with "elephant-patty bingo," played the same way except with larger squares.

Least Justifiable Homicides

Cheung Tat-kwong, 76, was found guilty in March in Hong Kong of murdering his roommate, Wong Fai, 75, after Wong had complained one time too many about Cheung's habit of scratching his butt around the house. And in a two-week period in March, a 20-year-old man was shot and killed in New Orleans, allegedly by his brother, and a man from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was sentenced to ten years in prison for the murder of a friend; both incidents started as fights over the TV remote control.

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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