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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

The wishes of the fetus: On September 6 the Ohio Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit of a seven-year-old girl with spina bifida, who had sued her parents' doctors because she wishes she'd been aborted when the doctors discovered she would be born with birth defects. On the same day, in Attleboro, Massachusetts, Judge Kenneth Nasif ordered a pregnant woman held in custody until she gives birth because he feared that her religious beliefs might lead her to decline medical attention if she experienced complications; Nasif said he could "sense" the unborn child saying to him, "I want to live. I don't want to die like my brother [a previous victim of the woman's religion-based medical neglect] did."

In August, Elsie Holdren, 68, a security officer at a courthouse in Viera, Florida, was transferred by her company to a courthouse in nearby Melbourne because her superiors thought she was too courteous. "Due to your caring and giving nature," wrote Holdren's supervisor, "you are compromising your position as a security officer. [Being caring and giving] is not a job requirement, nor is it what you are paid to do."

Lone Star Justice

Mentally retarded Felipe Rodriguez spent 13 months in jail in Swisher County, Texas, after being accused of a minor theft, largely because his court-appointed defense attorney forgot about him until a Dallas Morning News reporter pestered her about the status of the case. (Rodriguez was released in August.) And a June New York Times report on veteran Texas court-appointed defense lawyer Ronald G. Mock chronicled his representation of a series of men who ended up on death row. Among Mock's clients: Gary Graham, executed in June based on the testimony of one eyewitness whose identification of him rested on one fleeting nighttime glimpse. Mock neither challenged nor seriously investigated the claim.

The Litigious Society

Robert Jones of Adel, Georgia, filed a lawsuit in June against the maker of Liquid Fire drain cleaner after the stuff oozed out of Jones's homemade container all over his legs, causing "extensive, excruciating burns and destruction of flesh." Liquid Fire comes in a spill-proof container, but Jones was skeptical of its sturdiness and poured the contents into his own container. Jones's legal theory is that Liquid Fire's original package somehow created the impression of flimsiness.

Two years ago Javier Polo, 25, filed a lawsuit in Aviles, Spain, demanding that his mother, Maria Delores Ray, 54, be ordered to support him financially while he is out of work. Recently, according to a May London Observer story, a judge ruled for Polo, ordering Ray to pay him 15 percent of her salary (about $192 a month) despite the fact that he does not even live with her.

In July, Tang Weijiang, 29, filed a lawsuit in Shanghai against Canon Inc. because one of the Japanese company's advertising CD-ROMs caused him mental distress. A passage on the CD-ROM text implied that China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong were separate countries, which Tang said was just one more act in a centuries-long campaign of disrespect by the Japanese toward the Chinese.

Latest Rights

According to a June San Francisco Chronicle report, parents in Benicia, California, were complaining of the public library's policy of denying them access to the names of books their children have checked out. California law generally provides for confidentiality of government records, but some libraries enforce that more strictly than others. The Benicia library makes an exception only if a book is overdue, so that parents can look for it at home.

Australian masseuse Carol Vanderpoel, 52, sued her former employer, a health center in Katoomba, for requiring her to listen to her clients' psychological problems during massages and to counsel them, which she said she wasn't trained to do and left her severely depressed. In June a judge awarded her about $17,000 in damages. Among the problems that concerned her were a client's confession of performing euthanasia on her husband and another woman's having been assaulted with a chain saw.

Latest Rages

People getting set off by frivolous things: In June in Santa Rosa, California, Mark Adam Yazzie, 26, got into an argument with his brother-in-law about the merits of rap versus rock and ran over him with a truck. In July, Jane Graham, 77, of Winnipeg pointed a butcher knife at a neighbor's groin and threatened to "cut it off" because he was playing his stereo too loud. In Westlake, Ohio, in June, Gerard Corbo, 56, started a fistfight at his son's wedding when a guest referred to the groom by the wrong first name.

Updates

When News of the Weird first mentioned Summum in 1988, the Salt Lake City organization had just introduced its mummification alternative to burials and cremations, charging $7,000 to preserve a body and an additional $18,000 to create a bronze statue, according to founder Corky Ra. As of this June, according to an Associated Press story, Summum is still looking to make its first human mummy (it has done several pets), although 137 people have made deposits toward the current prices of $12,000 to preserve and $36,000 for statues (plus transportation costs and mausoleum space). Ra's preservation process includes soaking the body in secret fluids and applying lanolin, polyurethane rubber, and fiberglass bandages.

Least Competent Criminals

A 17-year-old boy was arrested in Loomis, California, in July after he was unsuccessful in what might have been an attempt to emulate the notorious "rooftop robber," who had burglarized more than 40 businesses in California and other states by entering through roofs (and who was captured in May). The 17-year-old crashed through a false ceiling, broke a sink trying to climb out, made it to another false ceiling and crawled to an adjacent store, but fell through that ceiling too, injuring his ankle, then on his way out tripped the burglar alarm.

In the Last Month

The IRS declared that the parents of a kidnapped child must stop claiming it as an exemption after the first year the child is missing. Scientists in India discovered a new chili whose burn worsens with water and that is 50 percent hotter than the previous world's-hottest-chili record holder. A family sued a cemetery in LA over a bad embalming, though the family admitted that its employees had worked diligently to swat flies off the open casket during the memorial service. A robber in Nashville pistol-whipped a pizza deliverer, causing the gun to discharge and fire a fatal shot at the robber's 17-year-old partner.

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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