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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

Curt Storey, 62, filed a wrongful-discharge lawsuit in August against Burns International Security Services in Pittsburgh, saying he was a victim of "national-origin discrimination" after he was fired for refusing supervisors' orders to remove Confederate flag decals from his lunch box and pickup truck. Though a lifelong Pennsylvanian, Storey claims he is a "Confederate Southern American," which is not recognized as a protected category under antidiscrimination law.

Paul Morgan of Biloxi, Mississippi, is trying to find Internet voyeurs willing to pay $20 to watch him slice off both his feet on October 31 with a homemade guillotine. Morgan's feet are nonfunctional because of an automobile accident, and he's trying to raise money to pay for hydraulically operated prostheses. Although traffic on CutOffMyFeet.com is heavy, as of mid-August Morgan had signed up only ten viewers.

In August in Naples, Florida, city councilman Fred Tarrant demanded that local artist Ted Lay's painting Famous Tongue Mona Al Monica (side-by-side images of the Mona Lisa, Albert Einstein, and Monica Lewinsky sticking out their tongues) be removed from a Naples municipal art center because he thinks Lewinsky's tongue looks like a penis. Tarrant is blind, but says his trusted advisers find the painting offensive.

Unclear on the Concept

In July an unidentified man stole an ax from a Home Depot in Oklahoma City and used it to rob a clerk there and at two other stores, including a Wal-Mart. On interviewing witnesses, police learned that a Wal-Mart greeter had seen the man enter carrying the ax, but his only impulse had been to place a sticker on the ax so the man wouldn't be charged for it on his way out of the store.

In May a court in Edmonton, Alberta, sentenced William Piggott, 55, to 18 months' house arrest for three 1999 offenses in which prostitutes had turned him in for talking too dirty. According to court records, Piggott had merely asked the women if they would have sex with dogs.

The Litigious Society

In May, Richard R. Espinosa filed a $1.5 million claim against the city of Escondido, California, after his 50-pound Labrador-mix assistance dog was attacked by the municipal library's resident cat. Espinosa suffers from panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder, and though his total vet bill was only $47 he claims the dog's injuries have caused him "significant lasting, extreme and severe mental anguish and emotional distress including, but not limited to, terror, humiliation, shame, embarrassment, mortification, chagrin, depression, panic, anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, loss of sleep [and] loss of full enjoyment of life as well as other physical and mental afflictions of pain [and] suffering."

Mary Lee Sowder filed suit against a Petsmart store in Roanoke, Virginia, in June, asking $100,000 for knee injuries she suffered when she slipped and fell on "dog slobber," allegedly the product of the manager's own dog (of a large but unspecified breed).

In July the family of Kevin Mackle--who died in 1998 when a Coke machine in his dorm at Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, fell on him while he was rocking it--filed a wrongful-death suit against the machine's manufacturer and distributor, the university, and Coca-Cola. The lawsuit claims each defendant was negligent in not posting signs on the machine saying students should resist the temptation to rock it. According to the coroner's report, the late Mr. Mackle was well-known among his friends for securing free sodas by rocking the machine.

People Different From Us

According to June reports in the Daily Independent in Ashland, Kentucky, Clark Schneeberger, who'd recently had a fight with his wife and heard that his father-in-law, Richard J. Kouns, was on his way over to defend his daughter's honor, prepared for the visit by strapping on body armor and equipping himself with a bayonet and brass knuckles. Kouns arrived swinging, and the two battled until Schneeberger subdued Kouns by biting off part of his nose, for which he was indicted several days later.

Undignified Deaths

A 26-year-old SWAT police officer in Dallas was accidentally shot to death by a colleague in June as the two were demonstrating for trainees how to react to a gunman in a public place....Two 14-year-olds died in November on Take Our Kids to Work Day, when the all-terrain vehicle they were riding in at their fathers' John Deere plant smashed into a tractor-trailer....Because those attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings usually do so anonymously, the AA chapter in Milwaukee is still unable to identify a man who collapsed and died during a meeting on May 23.

Tyranny of the Minority of One

In July the University of South Florida agreed to pay a former art student $25,000 to settle a 1999 sexual-harassment lawsuit she filed after being shown a photograph in class of a white woman having sex with a black man. The settlement was offered despite the fact that that day's topic was controversial art and that all 250 students in the class had been warned of the nature of the class and advised they would not be penalized for missing it. The university also transferred the graduate assistant who supplied the photograph, prompting a public protest by the rest of the students in the class.

In the Last Month

Benjamin Sharpe, 47, charged with stabbing a friend in Aiken County, Georgia, insisted he had to do it to keep his buddy from driving home drunk....A conference paper issued by scientists in Manchester, England, concluded that female cockroaches lower their standards for a mate as their biological clocks run down....Accused sexual assaulter Kevin Erwin was cleared by a jury in Canton, Ohio, that found the torture he had inflicted on his girlfriend to be consensual because she had failed to use the couple's agreed-on "safe" words ("tomato" and "pepper") to get him to stop....The Japanese firm Takara said it will soon market a translator that will interpret barking and other sounds made by dogs, expressing them with a 200-word vocabulary that includes words like "happy," "annoyed," and "frustrated."

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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