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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

London's Guardian reported in April that former president George Bush, former vice president Dan Quayle, and retired general Norman Schwarzkopf, all members of the Tucson organization Safari Club International, have urged the government of Botswana to lift its ban on hunting the rapidly dwindling lion population. According to Derek Joubert, a leading conservationist in Botswana, rich hunters often insist on bagging mature males because of their bushy manes, which creates even greater attrition by leaving lairs unprotected from other lions. "There's no reason to shoot a lion other than ego," says Joubert. "As a hunter you want to feel great so you can hang it on the wall and your mates say: 'Wow, what a man!'"

According to a June story in the New York Times, the grave of Pol Pot (whose Khmer Rouge murdered two million people during the 1970s) is drawing a steadily increasing number of Cambodians in the northern Dangrek Mountains who say that communing with his spirit brings them good luck and, in some cases, winning lottery numbers.

According to an April story in the New York Observer, sleep-disorder specialist Michael Thorpy says that more and more people are suffering from "delayed sleep phase syndrome," a strong urge to stay out late followed by an inability to wake up on time. And doctors testifying before a judicial disciplinary commission in May said that Los Angeles superior court judge Patrick Couwenberg suffered from "pseudologia fantastica," which caused him to pad his resume with false achievements.

Gas Crisis

In June a citizen's complaint drew Scotland Yard to Chingford, Essex, to investigate a police officer who purposely broke wind while investigating a crime scene....That same month, in Werribee, Australia, a person who purposely broke wind inside a police station was convicted of a misdemeanor and fined about $100 (U.S.)....In April, 35-year-old Drew Shintani was charged with stabbing a 30-year-old coworker in Hilo, Hawaii, because she had been laughing at his flatulence problem....And in May, two men were arrested at a ShopRite store in Washington Township, New Jersey, for harassing customers with aerosol cans that sounded and smelled like someone passing gas.

Courtroom Follies

A fact-finding panel of the state judicial board in Los Angeles concluded in April that superior court judge Patrick Murphy was not entitled to the 400 days of sick leave he had taken since 1996. Murphy, whose annual salary is $130,000, said he was plagued by various maladies, including a phobia toward his job, which is why he enrolled as a full-time medical student in Dominica while still on the courthouse payroll.

Questionable Judgments

Police in Wethersfield, Connecticut, allege that 42-year-old Richard Levitt surreptitiously videotaped himself having sex with a girlfriend and later posted the video on the Internet. The girlfriend found out, and so did Levitt's other girlfriend. At 2 AM on March 25 the two women went to Levitt's home and confronted him (and his wife); he was charged with disseminating voyeuristic materials.

In May, Australian prison officials told reporters that they would review their procedures after learning that inmate Julian Knight, who killed seven people and wounded seventeen others in Melbourne 14 years ago, had just earned a college degree in military strategy and weapons systems. One official acknowledged that Knight's curriculum might conflict with the prison's rehabilitation goals.

The Associated Press reported in April that a mirrored dome found in 45 playgrounds around the country caused the shirt of a three-year-old boy to burst into flames at a day-care center in Bristol, Connecticut. The boy suffered second-degree burns, and the New York company that manufactured the domes recalled them so that the mirrors, which concentrated the sun's rays to a temperature of over 250 degrees Fahrenheit, could be replaced with safer material.

Chips Ahoy

In 1999, News of the Weird reported on Kevin Warwick, a professor at Reading University in England who had suggested using surgically implanted microchips to track the whereabouts of employees, pets, and people licensed to carry firearms. Now Warwick has announced that in September he and his wife will have transmitter/receiver microchips implanted in their arms and attached to nerve fibers. By moving his fingers Warwick hopes to send a radio message to his wife's arm that will cause her fingers to move also. Researchers believe the technology could enable spinal-injury patients to move paralyzed limbs by transmitting radio waves from the brain to the limb.

People Different From Us

In June, after solid-waste flooding had caused two sewer breakdowns, public works officials in Kannapolis, North Carolina, asked residents to stop flushing cloth underwear down their toilets.

In the Last Month

Two men in Brooklyn, New York, were arrested for selling marijuana from a neighborhood ice cream truck after police noticed that the only customers who ever patronized it were adults....A judge in Corpus Christi, Texas, ordered a 19-year-old man with a penchant for impregnating teenage girls to abstain from sex until marriage or face decades in prison....A 73-year-old woman in Tallahassee, Florida, rescued her Scottish terrier from the jaws of a pit bull by biting the bigger dog on the neck....And in Fort Worth, Texas, a 17-year-old boy on a bicycle robbed a Taco Bell from the drive-through window but was nabbed by police after waiting around for an employee to fix him a hot chalupa.

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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