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News of the Weird


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Last year News of the Weird announced that an Australian scientist was trying to grow human sperm inside mouse testicles; in February a team at Tottori University in Japan announced it had succeeded in doing so. And recently prominent British fertility researcher Lord Robert Winston told reporters that his forthcoming book will show how an embryo could be implanted in a man's abdomen, nourished by certain organs, and delivered by cesarean section.

In February Eastern Illinois University officials declined to refund $364 in tuition to April Hixson for a course called "Nonwestern Music." Hixson, who received an A, said Professor Douglas DiBianco barely discussed music; instead he lectured and provided visual aids on enemas, penis amputation, incest, and student orgies. The university acknowledged at least one other complaint about DiBianco. Said the professor, "You have to understand the extremes of art to appreciate art in general."

Despite the high-profile nature of his job, David Williams, sheriff of Tarrant County, Texas, has apparently stopped meeting with police and county commissioners and rarely goes to his office, according to a February Houston Chronicle report. His defenders say he is extremely shy, but some say he's reacting to criticisms of his ties to the Christian political right; his eccentric new projects, such as attempting to assemble a helicopter fleet; and his attempt to acquire sovereign powers from the county under an 1836 law of the Republic of Texas.

Leading Economic Indicators

In December a telephone company in Ukraine cut off service to the Russian naval fleet patrolling the Black Sea because of unpaid bills of about $150,000. The fleet also owes about $3 million for heat and electricity to the port city of Sevastopol. Also in December, the chief surgeon at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn Hospital told reporters that Thailand is now the world's most popular destination for sex-change operations, good news for the nation's anemic economy.

Fashions of the Season

From recent police reports: In December in Fort Lupton, Colorado, a woman tried to rob a bank wearing a large garbage bag. Also in December, a man in Huntsville, Alabama, robbed a convenience store with his face swathed in toilet paper. In January in Bexley, Ohio, a man robbed a bank wearing checkered pajamas and bedroom slippers.

Work-Study Programs for the Gifted

Zolton Williams, 29, a top Columbia University law student, was convicted in December of running a cocaine-smuggling operation to help finance his studies. In January Emma Rose Freeman, 18, a National Merit Scholar at the University of California at Santa Cruz, was charged with robbing a beauty salon and a store at gunpoint with her philosophy-major boyfriend. And honor student and athlete Sarah Plumb, 16, of Berkley, Michigan, was charged with robbing a gas station on her way to gymnastics practice in December, allegedly to feed a two-year-old heroin habit.

Crises in the Workplace

Grocery cashier Sandi Lewtschuk was fired in October after 20 years at a Safeway in Carmel Valley, California, because managers felt she hadn't been smiling enough, as required by company policy. (Some female Safeway employees in San Francisco say the policy leads male customers to believe the workers are flirting.) And in January flight attendants at Cathay Pacific Airways, feuding with management over automatic pay hikes, threatened to violate that company's smile policy by frowning for one hour per flight.

Brian Mills, 20, was charged with malicious destruction of property in December after he returned to a fast-food restaurant where he used to work in Lincoln Township, Michigan, and urinated in the deep fryer. Local health officials said the risk to the public was minimal because the frying temperature is so high.

In January a union filed a complaint on behalf of a male civilian employee at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida who was recently barred from wearing earrings, makeup, and a bra to work. In Canada last year the armed forces approved the application of a 35-year-old male combat-leadership instructor to continue his career as Sergeant Sylvia Durand after undergoing hormone treatment and surgery.

Latest Civil Rights

Inmate George Davis, 58, filed a lawsuit in February against the federal correctional center at Fort Dix, New Jersey, for its failure to treat his sleep apnea, a condition that causes loud snoring. He said inmates beat him up because his snoring keeps them awake.

In Dayton, Ohio, the lawyer for suspected bank robber Donnie D. Tunstall said she might challenge a police search that turned up a shotgun. Tunstall and the gun were discovered in a Dumpster, where the lawyer said Tunstall lives; therefore, she said, police needed a warrant.

Wim de Nijs had his flight privileges restored by the airport in Groningen, Netherlands, in August after a court ruled the airport had gone too far in punishing him for abusing radio frequencies. De Nijs was notorious for tying up air-traffic controllers' channels by singing the theme song to The Flintstones for up to 20 minutes at a time.

Least Competent Criminal

Police in Fort Smith, Arkansas, arrested James Newsome, 37, in January and charged him with holding up a convenience store. Newsome was caught on a surveillance tape, and the coat worn during the robbery was found in his car. Also, Newsome's wife said the family car had a radiator leak, and a puddle of antifreeze was found where the robber had parked. Finally, the robber wore a hard hat with "James Newsome" printed on it.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported several times on people who have swallowed large quantities of metal objects. In Ankara, Turkey, in February Omer Faruk Cetinkaya arrived at a hospital with abdominal pains, which turned out to have been caused by the screwdriver, 20 nails, six magnets, and several lengths of wire in his stomach. The patient's father said his son had recently undergone counseling but that it had not been successful.

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/Shawn Belschwender.

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