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News of the Weird



Lead Stories

In July a successful Hooters restaurant in Augusta, Georgia, had to file for bankruptcy protection after a jury penalized it $11.9 million for conducting an unsolicited-fax advertising campaign. An obscure 1991 federal law bans such faxes and sets a penalty of up to $500 per transmission (the Hooters sent out about 1,300). Such fax advertising was fairly widespread until the verdict earlier this year, and some firms, apparently unaware of the decision, continue to practice it. A Hooters executive expressed disbelief that Congress would exact a $12 million penalty for "a few pieces of paper out of a fax machine."

According to a complaint filed with police last month, a meeting of the school committee in Lincoln, Rhode Island, to hire two assistant principals descended into mayhem when committee member Lucille J. Mandeville, 45, grabbed the nose of colleague Patricia A. Iannelli, 51, and "proceeded to twist" it, saying, "What's the matter? Did you get your little nose twisted out of joint?" Observers said the rancor between the two had been building for a while.

The British magazine New Scientist reported last month that researchers at Japan's Central Research Institute of Electrical Power Industry were studying whether compact nuclear reactors (the size of a broom closet, to be housed in a building's basement) could provide electricity for densely populated office and apartment buildings in downtown Tokyo. The Rapid-L reactor was originally designed to produce electricity for moon stations.

Last Words

In May the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a murder trial for Rejean Parent, who is already serving time for manslaughter in the shooting death of his estranged wife. In Parent's original trial his lawyers argued that he suffered a fit of rage: he and his wife were bickering over their divorce settlement, and his wife set him off when she said, "I told you that I would wipe you out completely."

Government in Action

In Britain the Northampton Borough Council recently ordered Ruby Barber to remove the barbed-wire fence around her home since it might injure someone who "foolishly" tried to climb it to come onto her property. Before Barber erected the fence she was burglarized three times; in the two years since then she's never been robbed.

Because Texas has created "tax districts" in highly commercial areas, developers can move a single "voter" into the district, have him approve some public works projects, and move him back out. The Dallas Morning News reported in June that Dell Computer, doing business in the tiny nonresidential tax district in Denton, Texas, promised a laptop computer to anyone who would relocate and become the voter. Jerry Drake, an assistant city attorney in Denton, accepted the offer, moved into a trailer to establish residency, voted on the prodevelopment agenda (which carried, 1-0), and then moved back to his home in town. Drake insisted that he took the computer only for enduring the relocation and not as a bribe on how to vote.

Government Policy on Copulation

Because of the ravages of AIDS in Kenya, president Daniel Arap Moi has urged his countrymen to remain celibate for the next two years.

In contrast, the government of Singapore has instituted subsidies, paid vacations, and educational opportunities to encourage procreation. The establishment newspaper Straits Times has published a "Make-Out Guide" with tips on having semipublic sex and a list of necessary supplies (lubricants, music, towelettes).

Last month Antonio Vargas of Windsor, California, told the San Francisco Examiner that he's optimistic about the San Bernardino County district attorney's revamped tracking system. For more than 20 years Vargas has received various summonses and orders aimed at one of eight Antonio Vargases who are wanted for missing child-support payments and other offenses.

People Different From Us

Last month Michael Dean Messer of Waynesville, North Carolina, was bitten by his four-foot timber rattlesnake, which he had taken outside "for some exercise" after coaxing it to swallow a hen's egg. Said Messer, "My dog got him upset."...Two days later, in Fayette County, Virginia, Alfred "Pooch" Preast was hospitalized after being bitten on the hand by a timber rattler during a worship service at the Pentecostal House of Prayer. Preast, whose uncle was a snake-handling legend in the area, had been showing off for his new girlfriend, who was also raised in a snake-handling family.

Least Competent Criminals

In June the acrobatic crook called Spiderman was convicted of several New York City muggings. During the opening arguments for his trial, 23-year-old Omar Waftalim Triplett shouted to the jury that he was Mike Tyson and would "eat your children." Triplett admitted on the stand that he'd had an altercation with police, who had tried to shoot him, and that he'd escaped. "Is it illegal to run?" asked Triplett. "Is it wrong to disguise myself?"

The Classic Middle Name (all new)

9Arrested and charged with murder: Kevin Wayne Coffey (Port Arthur, Texas, July); Terry Wayne Freeman (Peoria, Illinois, August); Michael Wayne Farmer (arrested in Wamego, Kansas, and charged with a Baltimore murder, August); Dallas Wayne Shults (Sevier County, Tennessee, August); Donald Wayne Darling II (Florence, Alabama, July). Being sought as a murder suspect: Lewis Wayne Seay (Moreland, Georgia, August). Committed suicide while on the lam as a murder suspect: David Wayne Outlaw Sr. (Dallas, August). Executed for murder: Jerald Wayne Harjo (McAlester, Oklahoma, July).

In the Last Month

A 28-year-old woman in Yorii, Japan, was charged with stealing software and videotapes from a neighbor after a two-week period during which she patiently carved a 16-inch hole in their apartments' common wall and then squeezed through....In Ontario, California, residents of a brand-new subdivision have been digging up cow carcasses left over from the property's past incarnation as a dairy farm....In Suffolk County, New York, attorney Christina Gulotta was fined $13,000 because she refused to stop frowning dramatically at nearly every adverse ruling by the judge....And police in Calgary, Alberta, asked the public not to bring suspected bombs down to the station after one helpful citizen arrived with a bomb that sent officers scurrying and then exploded, putting holes in the wall of the station.

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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