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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

This month the Cleveland Plain Dealer revealed that in the last three years a dozen government agencies in Ohio have spent more than $50,000 on humor consultants to help them do their work more effectively. The Department of Job and Family Services, criticized recently for spending money on faulty computer programs, paid Humor Consultants Inc. nearly $25,000 for the purpose of "contribut[ing] to positive attitudinal perceptions of workplace transitions."

On a British TV program in April, Professor Robert White of the Case Western Reserve University medical school in Cleveland said his monkey-to-monkey head transplant was a partial success (in that the patient lived for a while) and that, with improvements, the procedure could one day be used on humans. Dr. Stephen Rose countered that the recipient monkey was nonfunctional, that the brain's only connection to the body was a shared blood supply: "All you're doing is keeping a severed head alive."

In March a federal judge in Alabama ruled in favor of the Eastwood Texaco station on Montclair Road in Birmingham, which had sued the 11-nation oil cartel OPEC. Judge Charles Weiner said the organization had violated U.S. antitrust law by reducing its oil production (a favorite method of raising prices) and forbade it from doing so again for a period of one year.

People Different From Us

In March, police in Janesville, Wisconsin, ticketed 53-year-old John Webb for disorderly conduct. According to the police report, Webb was in a grocery store's express line behind a woman who had 11 items, one over the limit. He confronted her three times, finally bellowing that he had served his country in two wars and "did not have to serve any more time behind people who could not [expletive deleted in a Janesville Gazette story] count." After the two drove off, the report alleges, Webb deliberately swerved in front of her on the street.

Fountains of Wayne

Charged with murder in the last four months: Rocky Wayne McGowan, 20 (Russell Springs, Kentucky); Mark Wayne Jennings, 30 (Charles County, Virginia); Derrick Wayne Kualapai Sr., 51 (Oakland, California); Michael Wayne Eggers, 33 (Walker County, Alabama); David Wayne Smith, 39 (Virginia Beach, Virginia); Timothy Wayne Border, 38 (Fort Worth, Texas). Mistrial declared in murder trial: David Wayne Kunze, 50 (Vancouver, Washington). Held for questioning in the murder of his wife: John Wayne Boggs Jr., 35 (Cedar City, Utah).

Police Blotter

According to WLKY TV in Louisville, police trying to clear out backlogged cases on March 26 arrested 14-year-old student Leanndra Taylor in the middle of classes, acting on a 1995 warrant that accused her of shoplifting a 59-cent candy bar.

In Alachua County, Florida, a sheriff's deputy and a law-enforcement intern were reprimanded in March for acting unprofessionally during a drug bust in Gainesville. In the middle of the raid, superiors caught the two seated at a table in the suspect's apartment, playing Scrabble.

In March the district attorney in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, finally deposited $2,150 seized in November 2000 with the arrest of Regina Griffin, who created a hygiene problem for the DA by storing the roll of bills in her vagina....And in February, Indiana state police arrested John L. Hester, 51, in connection with a scheme to smuggle tobacco to prison inmates in Pendleton. Hester was in charge of bringing cattle to the prison farm for slaughter and allegedly stored contraband cigarettes in plastic bags inside cows' rectums.

The Laws of Irony Are Strictly Enforced

Robert Valle, 58, a parishioner at Saint Thomas the Apostle Church, sued the Joliet Diocese in February for a 1999 incident in which the namesake statue in front of the church fell on him while he was doing volunteer repair work on it. Saint Thomas is the patron saint of builders and construction workers.

Earlier this year fire stations in Columbia, Tennessee, and Tampa, Florida, were found in violation of local fire codes for lacking smoke detectors and other equipment....In March a careless cigarette smoker in a fire engine set the vehicle's seats ablaze in Kushima, Japan....And that same month defective wiring started a conflagration in the Bethells Beach fire station in Auckland, New Zealand; the building burned to the ground as firefighters watched helplessly (all their equipment was inside).

Least Competent People in Albuquerque

After allegedly robbing a Chevron station on March 4, 35-year-old Jeffrey Thomas Anaya was arrested in the station's parking lot, where he was soliciting help because he had lost the keys to his car....Three days later police arrested 23-year-old Timothy E. Beach, a former manager of a Taco Bell, for allegedly robbing his old store of about $2,000. According to police, Beach could not resist identifying himself during the heist, briefly lifted up his ski mask, and told a former coworker, "It's me, Tim."

Least Justifiable Homicides

In March a 17-year-old boy in Syracuse, New York, was charged with beating his father to death with a baseball bat because he was tired of being told to turn down his music....A month earlier, a sheriff's deputy and a police officer in Centreville, Maryland, were responding to a complaint about a loud stereo when the home owner in question allegedly shot them to death....And in Corpus Christi, Texas, a 48-year-old man drew a 99-year prison term in March for killing a street musician, allegedly because the musician did not know the man's favorite song, "El guajolote" ("The Turkey").

In the Last Month

A 27-year-old woman in Windsor, Ontario, received two speeding tickets in 20 minutes (one for going about 100 miles per hour) while trying to reach the Land Rover dealership before her lease expired....In Passaic County, New Jersey, a 50-year-old man was charged with rape after tricking his victim into penetrating herself during a phone conversation....In Decatur, Texas, 22 skydivers had to stay with their troubled single-engine plane until it made an emergency landing in an airfield, which resulted in injuries but no fatalities....And police in Berkeley, California, arrested a man for a parking-ticket scam that involved placing highly detailed and authentic-looking citations on illegally parked cars, with envelopes for mailing fines to his post office box.

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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