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The New York Times reported in June that NASA has successfully field-tested an oil-spill cleanup method that uses hair to soak up oil. A hairdresser in Huntsville, Alabama, named Phillip McCrory came up with the idea to put discarded hair into mesh pillows, and a NASA researcher determined that 1.4 million pounds of hair would have soaked up the 11 million gallons of oil spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in around a week. In contrast Exxon spent $2 billion over several years and cleaned up only about 12 percent of the oil.

Televangelist Pat Robertson told his 700 Club audience in June that the city of Orlando, Florida, was taking a big risk by sponsoring the recent Gay Days festival. "I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes," he said, "and I don't think I'd be waving those [Gay Days] flags in God's face if I were you." Homosexuality, he said, "will bring about terrorist bombs; it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor."

A new, baggier condom produced by Mayer Laboratories in Oakland, California, went on sale in the Netherlands in May, but company president David Mayer says it will be at least a year before it gets FDA approval. The condom is tighter at the base but otherwise much looser than other condoms, providing "more sensation," according to Mayer; it will sell for about twice as much as a standard condom.

Pushing the Advertising Envelope

In May the Korean car maker Kia had to scrap an ad depicting a Princess Diana look-alike surviving a paparazzi chase because she was riding in a Kia. And in June the Leo Burnett agency discarded a planned ad campaign in Thailand featuring Adolf Hitler stripping off his Nazi uniform and dancing merrily after eating a new brand of potato chip.

Things You Can Do Legally

(1) Peep in the daytime: After an April incident at a University of Missouri dormitory, Columbia police acknowledged that the city's ordinance against peeping into windows applies only at night. (2) Take hidden-camera photos at the beach: In May police detained, but had to release, a man in Huntington Beach, California, who put a video camera inside a hollowed-out boom box so he could tape sunbathing women. (3) Eat your roadkill: In March the West Virginia legislature repealed its law against eating fresh roadkill.

More El Ni–o Fallout

After a surprise two-foot snowfall in Moscow in April, mayor Yuri M. Luzhkov fired the city's meteorologists, saying he would get forecasts by other means. And in May the mayor of the northern Thailand town of Sena tried to end a six-month drought by putting up two dozen ten-foot-long inflated phalluses, which according to local folklore would bring rain. Citizens rebelled when fires followed instead.

Tough Guys

In a March letter to Britain's Navy News, a group of sailors on the HMS Brave pointed out that their ship is one of only a few in the royal navy with a name they could be proud of, unlike, say, the HMS Beaver. Also in March police in Fullerton, California, proposed that the city council emasculate the troublemaking Baker Street Gang by renaming its current stomping grounds Pansy Circle. The council rejected that name as possibly offensive to gay men and settled on Iris Court.

Latest Religious Messages

According to a Purdue University study released in May, avidly religious Christians are more likely than other people to be overweight, with Southern Baptists at the top of the list. "I fit the mold," Reverend Jerry Falwell told a reporter, but, he said, "I don't think God gives a flip either way."

In April computer programmer Andrzej Urbanski of Warsaw announced the debut of his confessional software for Roman Catholics. The program asks 104 questions to determine the particular sins to which the parishioner is confessing, then ranks the sins by gravity to suggest penance.

Recent rabbinical rulings, according to the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot: No nose picking on the Sabbath, and wives must be home by midnight, even if the husband stays out longer.

Evangelist John Holme was fined about $1,700 in March in Salisbury, England, for a stunt in which he used a motorized paraglider to preach to sinners on the ground. Said Holme, "I thought that maybe if they heard this voice booming out from the sky, they would think it was God." Holme had steering problems and had to make an emergency landing close to some houses. No one was injured, but he was fined for creating a dangerous condition.

In March Reverend Flip Benham of Operation Rescue protested that the bookstore at Reverend Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, is managed by indicted child pornographers. Benham was referring to the Barnes & Noble chain, which runs the store and was recently indicted in Tennessee and Alabama for selling books featuring pictures of nude children by prominent photographers. "It's a bald-faced lie," said Falwell in response. "I don't know who [the Operation Rescue people] are, but I wish they'd stop calling themselves Christian leaders."

Least Competent Criminals

Edward DeWald, 45, was arrested in Loomis, California, in May and charged with robbing two Hallmark stores earlier that week in nearby Auburn. According to the Hallmark clerks in Auburn, in both cases a man entered the store, asked a salesperson if he carried crystal turtles, and then robbed him. Police decided to stake out the nearest Hallmark store, in Loomis, about eight miles away. Two days later, DeWald walked in, again asked for crystal turtles, and was pounced on by police, who said he quickly confessed to the two earlier robberies.

Recurring Themes

Latest child-sales news: In May a man in Frederick, Maryland, allegedly sold his year-old son for $100 and a used car. And in April authorities in Tucson found a homeless 14-year-old girl who reported being sold twice last year, first to a California family for $10,000 and then, when she couldn't get along with them and was returned to her mother for credit, for $5,000 to a Phoenix family. And a woman in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, was charged in May with selling her two-year-old daughter for $10; she attracted the attention of authorities when she called the police department to ask for a background check on the buyer.

The Only Way Out

In April engineer Suhrid Ganguly, 22, hanged himself in Calcutta after becoming despondent at his attempts to have his telephone fixed without having to pay a bribe. Wrote Ganguly in his suicide note, "There is no other way to change the system and get an honest right to live."

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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