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Lead Stories

News of the Weird has previously reported on "smart toilets" that can make daily health-status readings; in July the BBC described a model in development that will automatically perform urine and fecal analysis and transmit any unusual readings to a doctor via the Internet. According to a spokesman for Twyfords, a sanitary-fixture company in Cheshire, England, the toilet would also be capable of contacting the local grocer to place an order for beans if the fecal analysis indicated a lack of roughage in the diet.

Parents in Encino, California, have expressed their high regard for longtime Little League coach Michael Franzese, a former captain in the Colombo crime family. According to a July story in the New York Times, the parents know about the 50-year-old coach's past but praise him for his calm, encouraging demeanor, a marked contrast to the behavior of some parent-coaches. Franzese, a financial mastermind for the Colombo family, retired from the mob in 1990, contrary to the Mafia code; Alan Schwarz, author of the story, speculates that he bought his way out with stashed riches.

Bernhard Goetz, the controversial New Yorker who shot his way out of a perceived subway mugging in 1984, has announced his candidacy for mayor. Goetz wants to hire Rudolph Giuliani (who's prohibited from running for another term) as deputy mayor, offer vegetarian alternatives at all municipal food facilities, feed the poor (but only with rice and beans), experiment with letting city workers take "power naps," and promote the gentle squirrel as a household pet.

The Continuing Crisis

In March, Canadian law-enforcement officers mounted a huge offensive against the ultraviolent Quebec chapter of the Hell's Angels. According to the Globe and Mail, the chapter began to unravel several years ago after it hired Ace Simard and Danny Boy Kane as contract killers. The two nasty-looking bikers fell in love with each other, had a falling-out, and cooperated with the authorities; Kane committed suicide last year.

According to the Des Moines Register, a murder trial in May turned up some unpleasant news about hotel hygiene: a bedspread taken from the scene of the murder, a room at a Holiday Inn, was found to contain 106 different stains, 38 of them from semen. Iowa law requires that hotels clean sheets, pillowcases, and towels after each guest, but bedspreads are judged subjectively.

Police Blotters From All Over

In New Mexico, a May edition of the Roswell Daily Record reported the theft of silverware, jewelry, and the upper plate of a set of dentures from a woman who claimed to have been on another planet for three years. The woman identified the culprit to Roswell police but admitted that she hadn't actually witnessed the theft because he "moves so swift you can't see him."

In Tennessee, a May edition of the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle reported that a married couple had been awakened by an intruder who entered their home through a kitchen window. According to the officer's report, "the woman woke up, saw the man standing over her, and he put his finger up the victim's nose."

Recurring Themes

Earlier this year News of the Weird reported that a British company had installed three vending machines in London train stations to sell single-sheet collections of poetry. In April the Alaska State Council of the Arts and the Borealis Brewing Company observed National Poetry Month by printing poems on the labels of beer bottles. One selection honored the English poet Robert Service: "So cheers to Service, Yukon Bard / Who told us tales of the fearless / I'll take a book and frosty beer / Instead of dying, cold and beerless."

People Different From Us

In June a North Carolina court of appeals upheld a ruling that shut out Randy Lunsford from the estate of his 18-year-old daughter, who had been killed in a car accident in 1999. Lunsford separated from his wife shortly after the girl was born, relinquished custody of the child, and never paid child support. After the girl's estate won a $100,000 wrongful-death suit, Lunsford said he felt obligated to claim his share of the award because he was fighting for all the imperfect parents out there.

Thinning the Herd

In May a 13-year-old girl in Pensacola, Florida, was killed while "surfing" atop a speeding SUV driven by a 16-year-old boy....That same month a 45-year-old man in Viburnum, Missouri, choked to death after he tried to impress his fishing buddies by swallowing a live perch; according to one witness, his last words were, "Hey, watch this!"...In April a 20-year-old student at Boston University fell to his death while scaling a campus building, part of a prank in which he hoped to display a swastika on the roof.

In the Last Month

In Tokyo, East Japan Railways began offering a female-only car for late-evening commuters tired of being groped by inebriated men....Two Seattle police officers, each believing the other was a civilian driving a stolen cruiser, fired a total of 20 shots at each other, every one of which missed....In Waterloo, Iowa, a Kmart customer had to be taken to a hospital for removal of a toilet seat to which a prankster had applied adhesive....In Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, liquor seeping beneath a door in a senior citizens' home led police to a resident's hidden moonshine still.

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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