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In December an Albuquerque judge approved the settlement of a class-action lawsuit against Primerica Life Insurance in which the plaintiffs' lawyers get about $7.5 million in costs and fees while only two of the six million customers they represented get any money at all ($30,000 each). The lawyers had argued that Primerica failed to disclose the precise charges to customers who paid premiums monthly instead of annually.

In January a 55-year-old member of the Turkish parliament died shortly after being punched in the head about five times by legislators from the far-right Nationalist Action Party who disagreed with him on the issue of changing the rules of debate. And according to WDSU TV in New Orleans, judges Steven Plotkin and Charles Jones got into a fistfight at a local courthouse; the results were not announced.

In January, News of the Weird reported that a legally blind man had qualified under North Dakota law for a concealed-weapon permit by satisfying the state's reasonable shooting test, hitting a human-sized target ten times out of ten from a distance of 21 feet (after taking practice shots to get his bearings). According to a February report in the Louisville Courier-Journal at least two legally blind people have obtained licenses in Kentucky after hitting the target only 11 times out of 20.

Latest Protests

According to Reuters news service, Venezuelan military dissidents are alleged to have mailed more than 100 pairs of women's panties to current military brass, charging that the generals have been pushed around by President Hugo Chavez.

Trying to contain protesters at the World Economic Forum in January, police in Davos, Switzerland, loaded high-pressure water cannons with manure bought from local farmers.

In a new British documentary, union-organizing strippers picketing to keep potential customers away from a San Francisco club can be heard chanting, "Two! Four! Six! Eight! Don't come here to masturbate!"

Family Values

In December the Myrtle Beach fire department received a $2,400 donation from a civic group that for four years straight has held an annual fund-raising event at a strip club, the motif of which is that dancers have their bare chests rubbed with a ham. (The fire captain declined the gift as inappropriate.)

For 20 years Bob Manion has appeared as Flasher the Clown at festivals near his home in Clayton, California, but in January he was rejected for this year's Walnut Festival; an organizer says his act has started to worry people. Manion carries a small Yorkshire terrier inside his pants and for a surprise opens the costume and allows kids to pet the dog.

In February officials of the San Jacinto Girl Scout Council, near Houston, announced that this year's father-daughter event would be a "pajama party" dance for which fathers and the girls, ages 11 to 17, should come dressed in sleepwear; after some complaints ("It would attract every pervert in the city," said one mother) the council changed the dress code to sweat suits.

The Tennessean reported in November that the Morris Levine family's long-standing Halloween tradition of handing out "daddy bags" to fathers accompanying trick-or-treaters came under fire from some parents because certain bags contained copies of Penthouse and Hustler.

Ewwwww! Gross!

According to a February dispatch from the Associated Press, London's Museum of Natural History contracted with Dale Air Deodorising Ltd. to produce a "dinosaur scent," but the product turned out to be too disgusting. "The T-rex would have to be the most putrid, foulest thing that ever lived," said Frank Knight, owner of Dale Air. "A hyena times ten would not even get you close." The odor would have been due to chunks of rotted meat caught in the dinosaur's teeth, he said, and probably a few pus-filled wounds as well.

In January the Ontario Court of Appeals threw out drug charges against a teenager at a Marilyn Manson concert because of police entrapment. Undercover police officers dressed in goth garb tried to trick kids into selling them marijuana by saying things like, "Hey, man, it's going to be a wicked concert."

Least Competent People

In January, Barry Darrell Freeman, 29, was convicted of an attempted rape last year near Philadelphia. According to testimony, the victim persuaded Freeman to take off his clothes, chided him until he did, saw that he was not carrying a gun, and fled, eventually outrunning him to safety. During the chase, she said, Freeman kept muttering something about not being able to trust a woman.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported on studies claiming that certain types of water pollution are causing simpler forms of marine life to change gender. Now Kelly Munkittrick, a researcher at the University of New Brunswick, reports in the December 2000 Science News that most of the large female chinook salmon around Washington State appear to have been born males, though he doubts that either nuclear materials escaping from the Hanford plant near Richland or estrogen-rich pesticides common to the area account for the phenomenon.

There's a Place for Us...

Tennessee's Knoxville News-Sentinel recently excerpted love letters that convicted murderer Christa Pike, 24, wrote to fellow inmate and Satan-worshiping murderer John Fryman: "[Blood] is quite beautiful before it turns brown....I like to see blood and brains fatty tissues and wide-open ripped flesh....See, I have an innocent baby face, the face of an angel. It disguises me to a lot of people. I need my horns so I'll have something to hang my halo on....I used to have three [demons], now only one. The other two were weak. I do wish you'd remove this one. He may be big and tough, but he's stupid, and he's holding me back....I'm unlike all the others, Johnny. You know that!"

In the Last Month

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutionally vague a state law protecting public school teachers from insults (though the justices did agree that the 13-year-old defendant was wrong to call her teacher a bitch)....A 19-year-old zookeeper in China was mauled to death after answering nature's call too close to the cage of a tiger, which was attracted by the scent....And a Taco Bell customer in Nashua, New Hampshire, filed a lawsuit against the fast-food chain for injuries she suffered during an employee food fight.

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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