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News of the Weird


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Lead Stories

According to Pat Rusin and her team of researchers at the University of Arizona, the toilet seat is actually one of the least bacteria-contaminated surfaces in the home. In results published in a June issue of New Scientist, three times as much bacteria was found on cutting boards and a million times more on dishcloths. Rusin surmised that a toilet seat's nonporous surface keeps it too dry for bacteria to thrive.

Two weeks ago News of the Weird reported on 13 art students at Leeds University in England who spent about $2,000 in grant money to take a beach vacation and called it an art project. After the Daily Telegraph and other British newspapers reported the story, the students revealed they had gotten fake tans and staged beach snapshots; their art project was meant to demonstrate how easy it is to fool the press. Good job.

A May San Jose Mercury News story reported on a craze among Japanese youth for rap, hip-hop, and an African-American lifestyle. The kids curl their hair into Afro-like hairdos, darken their skin, and drink a brand of beer called Dunk, which is apparently popular because it's dark and associated with basketball. And in June Japanese students studying at a workshop in New York City performed gospel music at Harlem's Memorial Baptist Church to enthusiastic applause. Said the former Tokyo jazz club owner who started the workshops, "The black culture is very important in Japan."

The eternal flame under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, a sacred memorial to the nation's war dead, was briefly extinguished on June 30 when two inebriated tourists from Mexico urinated on it. French officials and Mexico's ambassador to France relit it in a joint ceremony the next day. The perpetrators were detained briefly and then released.

Least Competent Pyros

In separate incidents in a three-week period in April and May, three people attempted to set fire to their spouses but only managed to burn themselves: Solonia Gene, 25, of Des Moines, Iowa, who intended to punish her husband for staying out all night; a man in Durham, North Carolina, who wanted to scare his wife after a fight; and Tarance Love, 37, of Saint Louis, after an ordinary domestic dispute.

Their Names Fit Their Games

An inventor in Hollister, California, is named Wilson Q. Invencion; his automatic bingo machine received a U.S. patent in May. And the alleged robber of eight New York City Dunkin' Donuts is named Douglas Duncan. He was apprehended in June, along with his alleged partner, Howard Johnson, who had not attempted a HoJo robbery. And a guy who pleaded guilty in May to assault against singer Bob Seger, in Schreiber, Ontario, is named Ned Basher.

Rumbles in the Reading Room

A 34-year-old woman was hospitalized in Nashville in May after a toilet she had just flushed at the Nashville Arena caught on fire, possibly due to the misuse of fireworks brought in by the World Wrestling Federation. And a 29-year-old man was hospitalized in Saint Paul in June when his bathroom exploded, probably because burning incense ignited the gasoline he was using to clean his hands. And a 32-year-old camper was killed when a campsite toilet exploded near Montabaur, Germany, in April, probably because of leaking gas from a septic tank.

Government Food Policies

In May the British government's broadcasting standards committee criticized the evening program TV Dinners for a February episode that featured a woman who had recently given birth preparing a dish using her placenta. (Recipe: Fry the placenta with shallots and garlic, flambe, puree, and serve on focaccia.) The mother, father, and 20 guests sampled the dish on camera.

Police Blotter

Life imitates a bad sitcom: In June three retired police chiefs from the Syracuse, New York, area started a business to supplement their pensions--a doughnut shop, in nearby Lakeland. Said one, "We took our...police experience and put it toward what we know best."

According to a report in the North County Journal of suburban Saint Louis in May, police in Bellfontaine Neighbors arrested a man driving a stolen automobile. He was released pending a court hearing. Three days later the alleged thief reported being robbed of a gold necklace. Police discovered that the robber was the man whose car had been stolen.

In March the police review board in Oakland, California, ruled that Officer Anthony Toribio had done nothing improper despite an arrestee's complaint that he had been subjected to "the most degrading and humiliating experience" of his life. The officer admitted that upon learning that the arrestee, Julian Aldarondo, was a singer, Toribio began singing the 1970s song "Escape (The Pi–a Colada Song)." He said he was only trying to defuse tension and to ask Aldarondo if he knew where he could find sheet music to the song.

In May police in Toronto arrested a man they had sought since November for a series of bank robberies. According to Detective Mike Earl, witnesses told police the fugitive strongly resembled cartoon character Homer Simpson. Arrested was Gary Hammond, 28, of North York.

Scott Eric Smith, 32, was arrested in Oakdale, California, in June on suspicion that he had stolen 800 copies of the Oakdale Leader. The newspaper contained a report of Smith's recent arrest on drug charges; according to police, Smith said he didn't want his family to know about it.

Least Competent Criminals

Joseph L. Cantey, 22, was arrested in Lindenwold, New Jersey, in May on several charges. According to police, he stole a cell phone from a house, but returned there five days later to get the victim to reactivate the cell phone service. The victim called his company but was unsuccessful, after which Cantey fled. Armed with a description, police soon spotted Cantey, and in the ensuing chase, Cantey dropped 15 bags of crack cocaine. He eventually led police to his brother and two others, who were charged with possession of even more drugs.

Recurring Theme

Bobby Wayne Woods, 32, convicted of capital murder in May in Llano, Texas; Coy Wayne Wesbrook, sentenced to death in June for murdering his ex-wife and four others, in Houston; Dennis Wayne Eaton, executed for the murder of a Virginia state trooper and three other people, also in June; Michael Wayne Gallatin, implicated through DNA tests in five rapes and a murder, in Vancouver, Washington, in May; John Wayne Stockdall, 34, allegedly confessed to police in March that he killed his girlfriend's ex-husband, in Mexico, Missouri; Jason Wayne McVean, 26, still on the lam after allegedly killing a police officer in the southwestern Colorado manhunt that began in May.

Latest Wisdom

New York divorce and palimony lawyer Raoul Felder praised the nation's economy in the Washington Post in May: "I can tell you how the economy is doing by how many mistresses come into my office looking for justice. I don't need no Greenspan."

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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