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Lead Stories

Scripps Howard News Service reported that Cincinnati animal-rights activists have protested to the local Catholic Archdiocese over a fund-raising game that involves placing a rat on a roulette-type wheel, spinning the wheel, and selling bets on which slot the rat will stagger to. At least one parish has vowed to continue the game anyway. Said one activist, "The church said it was OK to spin animals. What's to keep someone from going home and putting their cat in a dryer?"

The Fox network's far-reaching influence: On April 27 a reporter for a Russian TV station arrived in the town of Ivanovo to shoot a piece on a housewife taking care of her family while her husband was away serving as a peacekeeper in Kosovo. The reporter, who had received word minutes before the interview that the husband had just been killed, shot some scenes of the wife earnestly speaking of her husband's imminent return, and then broke the news to her and taped her crying uncontrollably.

Latest Hate-Crime News

In January the general manager of a Ford-Toyota dealership in Lake City, Florida, told reporters that the vandalism incident on his lot involving acid should be punished as a hate crime because only Fords were hit. And in Berlin, owners of pit bulls and other aggressive breeds planned a May protest against proposed legislation to ban the dogs; organizers planned to have their dogs wear yellow Stars of David.

Police Blotter

Recent weapons: In a January bar fight in Rock Island, Illinois, one woman hit another on the head with a toilet lid. In Oklahoma City, a 21-year-old man wielding a small python robbed a convenience store in December. In Toledo, Ohio, a man holding a dildo and wearing a jockstrap over his head robbed a Hungry Howie's of $40 in February. Also in February, in Pinellas Park, Florida, a man robbed a sex shop, menacingly waving a vibrator shaped like a tongue at the clerk.

Those compassionate Canadians: A man who cleaned out the cash register at a doughnut shop in Hamilton, Ontario, in February came back a few minutes later and returned the money that had been kept separate for employees' tips. And in April, Jody Robinson, 33, recently released from prison for a 1996 sexual assault, offered one of his kidneys to his victim, who is awaiting a transplant.

Great detective work: Spokane police arrested Harold Anthony Mazzei, 32, during a January traffic stop when they discovered the only way Mazzei could turn off his car's engine was with pliers and a screwdriver (the car was stolen). In February, police in Chicago arrested Steven Coleman, 24, after he robbed a sewing-machine shop and provoked a scuffle with the owner, who was heating chicken noodle soup for lunch: Coleman had been spotted nearby with noodles in his hair. And in November, police in Sydney, Nova Scotia, arrested a 38-year-old man on drug charges after encountering him in a dazed state with syringes hanging from both arms.

Police in Dublin, Ohio, arrested alleged veteran thief Rudolf Nyari, 64, in April for taking a diamond bracelet from a jewelry store. Nyari had asked to see the bracelet, then left the store, after which an employee noticed it missing. Police stopped Nyari just outside town, searched his car, and threatened to take him for X rays. Later, according to a detective, Nyari "drank several glasses of water and smoked cigarettes to build up enough phlegm to cough [the bracelet] up." The bracelet contained 39 diamonds.

The Continuing Crisis

A court in Lusaka, Zambia, issued a final divorce decree in March to John Sakapenda and Goretti Muyutu, despite Muyutu's last-second attempt to persuade the judges that, according to the customs of her native village, the couple was obligated to have one last round of sexual intercourse.

In December in Beijing, the longtime North Korean ambassador to China issued another of his periodic rants denouncing the 150-mile-long concrete "wall of division" he says South Korea built 20 years ago that "artificially bisects" Korea. According to the New York Times and numerous diplomats from many countries who have visited the area, there is no wall there of any kind and never has been.

In Englewood, Florida, in February, minutes after Judy Neuhaus had scolded her son Ryan for not taking better care of his 1995 Mercury Cougar, a single-engine Cessna fell nose-first onto the car, doing considerable damage to both vehicles but not seriously injuring the pilot.

Well Put

Mob informant Tommy Del Giorno, living a new life under the federal witness protection program, was quoted in a New York Times story in January as saying: "Legitimate people are worse than mob people. All the time I was in the mob, I never really wanted to kill anybody. Out here in the legitimate world, there's ten people I've met that I would kill."

Recurring Themes

In 1997 News of the Weird reported that a female murder suspect had sued Kiowa County, Oklahoma, after an inmate had sex with her through the bars of their respective cells in the county lockup, resulting in her becoming pregnant. In February of this year, Britain's prison service launched an inquiry after Donna Stokes, 19, became pregnant; she and her boyfriend had had sex through the bars of their temporary cells in a court building while both were awaiting a hearing on burglary and theft charges. Said Stokes of the couple's brief encounter: "We hadn't seen each other for months."

Thinning the Herd

In April a 43-year-old snowmobiler was killed in an avalanche in Alaska's Hoodoo Mountains while "highmarking," or driving to ever-higher peaks on the slopes; earlier that day, he had been pulled, in shock, from another avalanche after highmarking and advised by rescuers to quit. And a 30-year-old motorcyclist was killed near Phoenix in December in an apparent road-rage incident in which he sped up to overtake a pickup truck, swerved in front of it, and then slammed on the brakes.

In the Last Month

In New Orleans, a 39-year-old man convicted of selling cocaine received an extra penalty because the deal took place near Rosemary Minor Park, which is named for a deceased community activist who happened to be the man's mother. In Frederick, Maryland, a handcuffed suspect in an auto theft allegedly took $23 from a state trooper's wallet while in the front seat of a cruiser. A 39-year-old driver in Stockton, California, scheduled to report to prison in two weeks for his fourth DUI conviction, drove drunk and collided with another car, killing a five-year-old boy. Thieves in Bristol, England, dug up and stole almost an entire backyard garden (trees, ornaments, shrubbery, and cement pond). In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a medical journal reported that large-breasted women are more likely to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome than small-breasted women.

Update

On April 14 News of the Weird reported on a story in Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel that said the U.S. Air Force Academy was considering the application of a local student who had pleaded no-contest two years earlier to attempting to blow up his high school. After the column appeared, an academy spokesperson acknowledged that the school had recruited the student but denied that he was ever under formal consideration because he had never submitted the required forms. The Sun-Sentinel stands by its story.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weird@compuserve.com.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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