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News of the Weird

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Latest diaper research: Jill Furlough, 31, of Lakenheath, England, told the London Daily Telegraph in April that she had been frightened by green sparks flying out of her year-old son Joshua's Kimberly-Clark disposable diaper. Scientists said it was triboluminescence, a buildup of energy similar to static electricity. And in April John Bartlett, a firefighter in Jupiter, Florida, began selling an absorbent polymer gel whose fire-resistant properties came to his attention when he found disposable diapers intact in the midst of charred rubble. He sells all he can make, at $35 a gallon.

An April Associated Press dispatch from Sierra Madre, California, profiled nine-year-old garbage aficionado Kevin Inciyaki, who according to his parents has been into trash since he was two. On family vacations Kevin loves to inspect local trash cans, and at home he follows garbage trucks on their routes. He has recently begun raising garbage-eating worms under the supervision of UCLA researcher Eugene Tseng, who proclaims that garbage is "one of the most fun things you can possibly imagine."

According to a May San Francisco Chronicle report, 2,000 followers of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Fairfield, Iowa, have recently been clashing with the 8,000 townies over whether homes and businesses should be rebuilt to face east so that the residents will lead more fulfilling, harmonious lives. According to the followers' beliefs, sunrises produce energy and sunsets produce lethargy. Two of the seven members of the city council are followers of the maharishi.

Another Argument Against Gun Control

In May Henry Shepherd, 27, of Cambridgeshire, England, blasted his knee off with a shotgun to stop the pain from a previous injury. Said his brother, Lee: "He told me...he'd rather have a stump. The knee injury was ruining his life."

Shoe Mania

In May Marla Maples's former publicist Chuck Jones was finally convicted in New York City of burglarizing her apartment to get dozens of pairs of her shoes, which he admitted he stole for sexual reasons. And in March in Singapore, Zainal Mohamed Esa, 43, was jailed for stealing women's shoes, which he would sniff "until the smell [ran] out," said his lawyer.

The Robbery Workout

In Athens, Alabama, in May Freamon Holt Jr., 29, was charged with theft after a lengthy chase that began when Holt fled on foot from a store after stealing two steaks. Holt then jumped on a bicycle and started riding, but soon crashed into a utility pole, briefly knocking himself unconscious. When he came to he fled again and, in a move characterized by a local newspaper writer as the final leg of his "triathlon" escape, jumped into Town Creek. A firefighter caught up to him after a short swim.

Government in Action

In April Jay Monfort of Fishkill, New York, bowed to an imminent court ruling and took down the four-foot-high fence he had erected on his property to protect his office from a nest of timber rattlesnakes 260 feet away. The timber rattler is endangered, and the state department of environmental conservation said Monfort's fence "would block the snakes from their usual places to hunt, bask in the sun and reproduce, and would probably cause them 'physiological stress.'"

In February the Virginia house of delegates voted 95 to 5 to approve a bill urging federal recognition of the Rappahannock Indian tribe and seven others, but not before several unidentified members of the house began beating tom-tom rhythms on their desks. Rappahannock representatives in the gallery were not amused.

Government seeks strippers: In April the Florida labor department took out a help-wanted ad in the Palm Beach Post for exotic dancers to work full-time at a club in Stuart. The department was following a federal law that requires states to ascertain whether any American citizens can fill job openings before granting immigrants work visas. Meanwhile, according to an April report in Ontario's Windsor Star, the Canadian government has drastically reduced the number of eastern European strippers allowed to work in the country, despite a chronic shortage of local strippers.

Another endangered species: According to a March London Daily Telegraph dispatch, the Brazilian government recently awarded a lone hermit tribesman a 96-square-kilometer personal preserve in the northwest part of the country despite protests from loggers, ranchers, and farmers in the area. A government team had tracked the man down last August to tell him about the planned preserve, but he shot an arrow at them.

Tacky officials: In February prosecutors in Austin, Texas, filed a misdemeanor trespass charge against Judge Steve Mansfield of the state court of criminal appeals, claiming that Mansfield illegally tried to sell two tickets to the University of Texas versus Texas A&M football game in November. He had been given a warning by Texas campus police, but tried again a few minutes later. And in March a judge in Frederica, Delaware, fined Mayor Ira R. Glanden III $100 after he admitted in court to taking newspapers from the front of a store before it opened.

In March the federal government's auditor, the General Accounting Office, blasted the financial management of the Internal Revenue Service. The lead investigator told a congressional committee, "The IRS cannot do some of the basic accounting and record-keeping tasks that it expects Americans to do," including keeping proper paperwork. On the other hand, a May report from the IRS revealed that 7 percent of the Clinton White House staff are tax delinquents (with an almost equal number of staffers so far behind in tax payments that they have to pay in installments). A White House spokesperson said the office had just sent out a memo reminding the staff to pay their taxes.

In 1997 a car belonging to Michel Emond, 36, was confiscated by the Quebec government's automobile insurance board for alleged overdue fines, but the seizure was a mistake and the board agreed to reimburse Emond's expenses. After 13 months Emond got tired of waiting for the check, and in March of this year he took advantage of a provision in Quebec law and filed a document that permitted him to seize the board's headquarters in Quebec City (worth about $33 million) until the debt was paid. The board paid up the next day.

Undignified Deaths

Latest spectacular industrial fatalities: A 35-year-old man died when 21 panes of glass fell on him at a construction site in West Palm Beach, Florida, in February. Two railroad workers were killed when a loaded boxcar fell on them in Hamtramck, Michigan, in March. And two bin cleaners were killed when they were buried under an avalanche of corn in a grain elevator in Juniata, Nebraska, in April.

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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