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News of the Weird


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Last month in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 27-year-old Brandon Clifford pleaded guilty to trying to lure an underage girl for a sexual encounter via the Internet. According to the prosecutor, Clifford's perversion of choice was "Asian ball busting," having someone kick him in the testicles. Clifford had been fired from his job as an inspector with the Immigration and Naturalization Service following his arrest in January.

In March the principal of Stony Brook School in Branchburg, New Jersey, ordered a 12-year-old hearing-impaired girl to stop using sign language on the school bus because it was somehow causing a disturbance. And in April a National Park Service ranger at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., ordered a visiting group of high schoolers who had won a contest for the best patriotic essays to stop singing the national anthem because they did not have a permit for a demonstration. (In both cases the orders were rescinded several days later, following protests.)

On April 29, 17-year-old Carla Renee White was named Miss Hell Hole, winning a beauty contest now in its 30th year. According to the Boston Globe, the competition is named after the Hell Hole Swamp, the "defining body of water" in Berkeley County, South Carolina.

The Narcissistic Society

In March, this year's Miss Brazil admitted to four plastic surgeries and 19 other cosmetic procedures in her quest for perfection (including ear reductions). Brazil has the world's highest per capita rate of plastic surgery....In April, police in New York City raided an unlicensed, makeshift liposuction/implant shop that had been offering cut-rate prices. Neighbors had witnessed dozens of bleeding customers staggering out the door....And in March, a woman in Miramar, Florida, died from illegal silicone injections to her buttocks administered by a man who cleans houses by day. Authorities report that such injections are being offered at neighborhood gatherings similar to Tupperware parties.

Cultural Diversity

According to the Washington Post, young Dayak tribesmen in Borneo slaughtered more than 400 immigrants from the island of Madura in February, renewing a centuries-old rivalry that had died down in recent decades through the influence of Christian missionaries. Though Borneo enjoys such modern material goods as motorcycles, satellite dishes, and designer clothing, the Dayaks followed in the tradition of their ancestors by beheading their victims and displaying their skulls to magically increase security and rainfall.

Campaigning to host the 2008 Olympics, Beijing has criticized one of its rivals, Paris, for its notorious dog-poop problem. According to an April story in the Boston Globe, 16 tons of dog droppings are deposited on the streets of Paris every day, and an average of two people a day are hospitalized from slipping on them. A Paris official shrugged off the criticism: "There are no dogs in China, because they eat them."

The London Daily Telegraph reported in March that southern Tibet has become a popular destination for newly rich Chinese because of the Mosuos, a matrilineal people whose women choose which males will be their sexual partners. In the past these women would tickle the palm of their chosen mate, though they now indicate their choice by shining a flashlight in the man's face. Because of the tourist trade, prostitutes have begun to flood the area, posing as Mosuo women.

Crime Pays

Government reports disclosed by the Associated Press in April indicate that during the last five years nearly 28,000 fugitives have illegally received Supplemental Security Income disability payments, which have undoubtedly helped them to evade police....And in April the German government announced a program that would offer incentives worth as much as $50,000 to neo-Nazis who would renounce their philosophies and memberships.

In the Rough

In January, the city council of Columbia, South Carolina, was informed that a municipal golf course being built primarily for youths lies above the interred bodies of as many as 1,400 indigent black mental-health patients from the early 1900s. Some officials want the project stopped immediately and are seeking help from the Tiger Woods Foundation, a major funder of the course.

People Different From Us

An apartment complex in Vancouver, British Columbia, was evacuated and condemned in April after toxic vapors killed a dentist who was fooling around with his large collection of mercury....And two months earlier, in Cardington, Ohio, authorities found 17 pounds of mercury and two containers of uranium in the apartment of chemist Thomas Beiter, who died of apparently natural causes. According to a brother, Beiter liked to conduct various experiments in his home laboratory.

Least Competent People

In February, 37-year-old Michael Johnson and 67-year-old Sung Taek Park were arrested in Toronto and charged with several counts of fraud. The pair allegedly tried to obtain a line of credit from a branch of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce using as collateral $25 billion in U.S. government-bearer bonds that were supposedly issued in the 1930s to fund Chinese nationalist Chiang Kai-shek. However, the entire U.S. national debt in the 1930s was only about $30 billion, and the Federal Reserve addresses on the bonds included ZIP codes, which weren't introduced until 1963.

In the Last Month

In Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a 36-year-old man who fell asleep in a garbage bin was loaded onto a truck and compacted before being rescued and treated for multiple fractures....And in Eugene, Oregon, a state welfare agency learned that for several years one of its contractors had been distributing brochures in which welfare recipients were urged to rummage through Dumpsters to make ends meet.

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

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

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