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News of the Weird

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In March Frenchman Richard Moureau upset Brit Terry Burrows in the European Window Cleaning Championship in Paris by wetting and wiping three standard panes in 14.31 seconds. Moreau may have set a new world record, but it cannot be verified because a jurisdictional dispute between the International Window Cleaning Association and France's National Federation of Cleaning Contractors has resulted in conflicting records. Both Moureau and Burrows used the "American stroke," which is said to be much faster than the standard "French stroke."

In April 300 rioting inmates at Mexico's Villahermosa Social Rehabilitation Center gathered along the prison's fences and chanted demands for marijuana and alcohol. Also in April Reuters reported that inmates at the privately run Wolds Remand Prison in Hull, England, complained that life there was too soft, objecting to prisoners eating with guards and calling them by their first names.

A military official told the Pensacola News Journal in April that the navy would begin training pilots at its station in Corpus Christi, Texas, using copies of Microsoft's Flight Simulator software instead of spending millions of dollars on commercial simulators. Several years ago the marines adopted a customized version of the video game Doom for infantry training. (According to news reports from Littleton, Colorado, the two Columbine High School killers were obsessed with the game.)

Questionable Judgments

Build it and they will come: The $330 million MidAmerica Airport, built last year in an Illinois suburb of Saint Louis, has not attracted a single prospective commercial airline flight, according to a March Associated Press story. Politicians who advocated the airport projected it would handle a million passengers by 2000, but so far all the major carriers say they have no plans to stop using the Saint Louis international airport. Already the county government has spent $2.5 million on upgrades at the new airport.

In March in Ottawa, Ontario, convicted child molester Owen Dulmage tried to persuade a judge that he was no longer a threat to children because of his age and should not be imprisoned for molesting a boy in 1960. Said Dulmage, who's 77: "I couldn't catch a six-year-old in a race." The only way he could kidnap a boy, the Globe and Mail reported him as saying, was if he knocked him out first.

In Adamsburg, Pennsylvania, in March Mary Marcoz bought a 12-gauge shotgun as a welcome-home gift for her son, Christopher Lewis, who had just been released from a mental hospital. After giving him the gun, Marcoz left to run some errands. According to police, Lewis began shooting in the air, and when two neighbors came to complain, he shot both of them. Marcoz guessed that Lewis was acting out scenes from the movie Kelly's Heroes, which was in the VCR at the time.

In February the Canadian government approved the meat-processing industry's request to use iron oxide, also known as rust, instead of caramel to decorate Black Forest ham. According to the industry, rust is cheaper and binds better to the ham. Health officials insisted that rust is safe for human consumption.

A juvenile court judge in Dayton, Ohio, ruled in February that Regina Moreland's three children and a granddaughter in her custody should be returned to her after being taken away when four other children in her care were murdered over a seven-month period. Police have not filed charges but said the culprit may be one of the surviving children. In April the judge changed his mind and awarded custody to a relative who lives across the street from Moreland, allowing the young suspect to remain with the other kids.

Recent Rages

Job-rating rage: Trung Ngo, 32, was sentenced to 30 days in jail in Alexandria, Virginia, in January for telephoning his supervisor more than 50 times to complain about being rated "highly successful" instead of "outstanding." Slow-flushing rage: Raymond Cruz, 49, was arrested in Schererville, Indiana, in March after shooting a slow-swirling toilet in a tavern with his .40-caliber Beretta. Porno-denial rage: A 19-year-old man and several buddies cursed at a librarian and chased her out of the Downsview Public Library in Toronto in February after she cut their Internet access because they were looking at porn sites.

Geometry Required for Florida Sheriffs

Within the last six months, Florida county commissioners in Seminole and Manatee counties passed ordinances requiring women to cover at least 25 percent of their breasts (including a mandatory-coverage area explained in detail) and at least 33 percent of their buttocks. Strictly speaking, sheriffs must make an initial calculation of the total area of the covered region before an arrest can be made.

Happy Mother's Day

The Baltimore Sun reported in April that Nettie Levitt Gilbert, 89, filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach, Florida, against her son, Jeffrey Levitt, accusing him of taking out credit cards in her name. If her claim is true, it would constitute a violation of Levitt's 1993 parole on savings-and-loan embezzlement charges and would send him to prison to serve the remaining 23 years of his sentence.

Breakdown After a Good Start

The French government, concerned that two million homeless, unemployed, and other down-and-out citizens would have difficulty translating their francs into euros, announced in December that it would pass out free calculators on the street. And in February tax collectors in Saarland, Germany, began handing out blue-and-white pens reading "We Gladly Make House Calls--Your Friendly Saarland Tax Man."

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in 1996 and 1997 on people who still fail to understand the offensiveness of putting white people in blackface. In January teachers at Yale secondary school in Abbotsford, British Columbia, adamant about staging a production of the musical Show Boat despite the unwillingness of the school's four black students to join the cast, selected four white students for the black chorus and painted them in blackface.

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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