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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

According to police reports on March 3, shoe stores in Detroit; Milwaukee; Columbus, Ohio; and Peoria, Illinois, needed officers to quell customer violence sparked by insufficient supplies of the new $125 Nike Air Jordan Retro XI sneakers, which had gone on sale that day. In Sacramento and Toledo entire malls had to be shut down after consumers threatened to take out their frustrations on Foot Locker and other stores.

According to a March report in the Wall Street Journal, at least 1,400 college students at eight universities are majoring in golf, with more schools about to start programs. One school just completed a $1.1 million student "learning laboratory" (that is, a model golf clubhouse), which is necessary to meet the demand for golf pros as expanded or new U.S. courses open at the rate of about one a day. Curricula include business classes, turf science, and many, many rounds of golf.

In January, 40-year-old long-haul trucker Dana Turner explained to police in Galesburg, Illinois, that the child pornography in his truck helped prevent him from falling asleep at the wheel. According to the police report, Turner said his anger that pornographers would exploit children kept him alert.

Names in the News

The ex-student suing Oklahoma University Law School for expelling him: Mr. Perry Mason....The 58-year-old man arrested for exposing himself in the front window of a business in Nashua, New Hampshire, in December: Mr. Joseph Dangle....The 25-year-old woman arrested in West Haven, Connecticut, in September for spitting on a police officer and then urinating in his patrol car: Ms. Lonna Leak....A high school track-and-field star in Staten Island, New York, noted in a January issue of Sports Illustrated: Mr. I-Perfection Harris.

Government in Action

In February, Ohio prison officials sent the state finance board a preliminary medical bill for correcting a convicted murderer's severe nosebleed: $160,303. The man, who is serving 15 years to life, is a hemophiliac who asked for surgery to correct chronic sinusitis.

Federal marshals seized the Indianapolis Baptist Temple in February, 91 days after church leaders and parishioners began occupying it in a vigil and 16 years after it began refusing to deduct withholding and Social Security taxes from employees' paychecks. The church's argument, that it is governed only by God's law, has been consistently rejected by courts over the years and was finally thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court in January. But in Norwich, Connecticut, Salvatore Verdirome said he plans no such protest as the state property tax people zero in on his Sanctuary of Love, a hillside field of 47 sky blue bathtubs that form shelters for statues of the Virgin Mary. Over the past 30 years Verdirome has accrued more than $100,000 in back taxes and utility bills.

In January, Quebec's health insurance board approved about $3,000 (U.S.) for a 15-year-old girl's breast implants after a psychiatrist called the surgery "necessary" for her mental health. The next week, following the predictable outcry, a board official announced that the psychiatrist's recommendation was irrelevant because the girl suffered from "aplasia of the breast," or a lack of mammary glands, which required surgery.

The Cash Value of Hurt Feelings

Raymond Jones, a Jehovah's Witness, filed a complaint after having angrily stalked off his job during the 1998 holiday season, never to return, at a Shoppers Drug Mart in Vancouver, British Columbia. Jones claims his boss told him to set up artificial poinsettias in a seasonal display, which he took as a directive to support the abhorrent idea of "Christmas."...And the very petite Brenda Marshall said a constable in Saint John's, Newfoundland, violated her civil rights as a short person by stopping her car, believing a child was driving. (Results: Mr. Jones won a $30,000 judgment from the province's human rights panel in January; that same month, Ms. Marshall lost in the province's court of appeals.)

Update

In February 2000, News of the Weird noted the ascendance of eunuchs to elected office in India, thought to be a backlash against traditional corruption and a show of support for the "hijras," most of them castrated at birth, who make their living either as prostitutes or professional pests. Following elections in November and December, the totals stood at two mayors, several council members, and a state legislator, Shabnam Mausi, who announced that "she" (as hijras prefer) would soon apply for the estimated 500,000 hijras to be recognized as a national political party.

People Different From Us

Pediatric pathologist Dick van Velzen lost his hospital job in the Netherlands in February after the organs of more than 800 deceased children were found in his storage locker in Liverpool, England (in addition to a child's head, which he kept in a jar). Van Velzen had removed the organs for research purposes but never obtained the parents' permission. Two days later prosecutors in Halifax, Nova Scotia, asked to extradite him so that he could explain the children's organs in heat-sealed bags found in a locker in that city, where he also worked. Colleagues interviewed by Canada's National Post suggest that van Velzen was so absorbed with his research that he simply forgot about the organs.

Sports & Leisure

A windblown skydiver landed on a woman serving beer during a Daytona Beach Bike Week event, sending her to the hospital for three days....A home owner in Snohomish County, Washington, forked over $40,000 to have his house lifted and moved three feet back to comply with a zoning rule....A BP gas station owner in Hoover, Alabama, chased after a customer who had skipped out on a $20 fill-up and stayed with him at high speeds, traveling 130 miles down Interstate 65 and U.S. 231 before finally giving up....Boxer Darrin Morris advanced from eleventh to fifth place in the latest World Boxing Organization super-middleweight rankings, despite the fact that he had died three months earlier.

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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