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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

Inspired by the movie Fight Club, seven Brigham Young University students recently organized their own fight club, which draws as many as 300 spectators to watch college-age men pound each other into submission. Unlike in the movie, fighters use boxing gloves, and women constitute almost half the audience, according to an April Salt Lake Tribune report. Watching the R-rated movie is against the BYU honor code, but fighting is not, although the fights are held late at night so as not to violate the Mormon "family home evening" concept.

More than 500 accidental electrocutions were reported in Russia last year from people stealing power line cables for resale as scrap metal. According to an April New York Times dispatch, more than 15,000 miles of power lines have been stolen in recent years, rendering millions of households dark for weeks at a time. One recent shock victim, interviewed in intensive care, said that because he saw a single line left on a pole he assumed thieves had taken the other lines safely; he lost his left arm, right leg, and colon.

The Americanization of China

According to a January Associated Press report, China has a government-sanctioned UFO research organization with 50,000 members, processing 500 alleged sightings a year; the director said he was not surprised at the number, since extraterrestrials are interested in the country's rapidly developing markets. Last year in Shanghai, Professor Liu Dalin opened a sex museum with 1,000 exhibits, including a stamp used to mark the derrieres of virgin girls. And according to an April Wall Street Journal story, there has been an "explosion" of successful litigation in China by elderly parents suing their children for failing to care for them.

Oops!

The British supermarket chain Tesco announced in January that its film-processing department had collected a total of 24,000 photographs over the years in which customers had accidentally snapped shots with a finger on the lens, the right middle finger being the most common.

Hussen Farah Mohammed, 46, was released from jail in Bloomington, Minnesota, in January after serving 16 months for entering the U.S. illegally from Canada; he said he had accidentally wandered across the unmarked border while bird-watching in the woods, but Canada refused to take him back. And Houston car mechanic Edgar Garfield Gibbons, 41, returned to the U.S. in March after nine months in jail in Georgetown, Guyana, where he had been mistakenly deported when he was confused with a New Jersey man of the same name.

In December, Timothy Ramey filed a legal challenge to his dismissal from his prison-guard job in Gastonia, North Carolina. Ramey was fired after an argument with his boss in which he became so frustrated that, pretending to ignore what his boss was saying, Ramey reached into his briefcase, "pulled the first thing out" that he found, and pretended to concentrate on it. It was a copy of Playboy, which infuriated the boss.

In December a joint committee of the Colorado legislature approved an emergency grant of $75,000 to Morgan Community College in Fort Morgan after it dawned on administrators that because of "an oversight in the plan for the project" the new student center building had no rest rooms.

I Don't Think So

Latest unsuccessful DUI excuses: John B. Byrnes of Windsor County, Vermont, claimed in January that he was in the passenger seat and that "Becky," his dog, was driving. In November, Ronald McDonald Jr., 40, of Norristown, Pennsylvania, claimed he only drove a short distance so his girlfriend could clean her hands after changing a diaper so she wouldn't dirty the steering wheel. In February a 76-year-old Milwaukee man claimed he was under a doctor's orders, driving or not, to have two drinks a day.

In 1996 a federal court in Miami ordered Cuba to pay $187 million to the families of three Cuban-American pilots on protest flights shot down by Cuban military jets in open waters. Last November, Havana's Provincial Popular Tribunal ruled that the U.S. had harmed Cuba through 40 years of "aggression" and was ordered to pay the Castro government $181 billion.

In February in Largo, Florida, James Brian Kuenn, 40, was convicted of killing a teenage girl, despite his claim that she had accidentally fallen and hit her head; Kuenn said he was so embarrassed at the accident that he made it look like murder to throw police off. And Thomas Storey, 27, was sentenced to 26 years in prison in Santa Ana, California, in December for murdering his wife, despite his claim that she had killed herself; he said he stabbed her dead body 25 times to simulate murder to spare their son the shame of his mother's suicide.

Well Put

Saskatchewan legislator Brad Wall, lamenting in December a bat invasion at a hospital: "I'm not sure what is more disturbing, the fact that nurses spend part of their day catching bats or that nurses were advised not to catch these particular bats because they could be rabid."

Recurring Themes

Twice in the last five weeks, News of the Weird has reported on dental-office abuses in the U.S. In November a dentist in Melbourne, Australia, was accused by the local dental board of professional misconduct for allegedly engaging in the unauthorized (but not unheard of) facial-pain remedy of administering ozone through the patient's rectum, including 15 treatments to one patient in a three-week period. Advocates of the treatment say it can also be administered in the ear.

Least Justifiable Homicides

In a village near Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, police say a Muslim woman beat her ten-day-old son to death in January because he preferred to be breast-fed by his father's other wife. And in Tokyo in March, Mitsuko Yamada, 36, pleaded guilty to killing a two-year-old girl, apparently so that Yamada would no longer have to face the girl's mother, who had allegedly ignored Yamada at the neighborhood playground.

In the Last Month

A German shepherd police dog was caught shoplifting a slab of prime rib from a grocery store in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Police in Victoriaville, Quebec, said two drug dealers they arrested had been routinely issuing customers receipts and also charging them sales tax. A man in Redondo Beach, California, pleaded guilty to the theft of Big Mama, a 50-pound halibut that was the main attraction at a showcase hatchery (and which the man also ate). In Montreal, police phone taps of computer hacker "Mafiaboy" inadvertently uncovered an unrelated plot by the hacker's father to beat up a business associate. Honolulu researchers linked consumption of tofu during middle age to subsequent decline in brain function.

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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