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News of the Weird



Lead Stories

According to an October dispatch in London's Daily Telegraph, Greenland operates one of the world's most inmate-friendly prisons: all inmates have jobs on the outside paying market wages and enjoy such recreational activities as shopping, fishing, and game hunting with guns (under the supervision of guards). The recidivism rate is no different than at any other prison, but court sessions tend to be brief because defendants freely confess their crimes.

The legal morass of casualty claims from the September 11 attacks promises to be dreadful, considering the fact that on that date, according to an October report in the National Law Journal, pretrial discovery was still taking place before a New York state judge on "hundreds" of personal-injury lawsuits, property-damage claims, and business-interruption claims from the 1993 truck-bomb attack on the World Trade Center.

For years federal judge Royce Lamberth has been trying to get the Department of the Interior to account for more than $10 billion in grazing, mining, logging, and oil-drilling fees paid to Native American trust funds since 1887. Hundreds of thousands of records have accumulated, and a substantial number have been destroyed or are considered inaccurate; two years ago the department said some records could not be accessed because they were filed in decrepit rooms whose accumulated rat feces made them hazardous. Last month the department finally finished a report for Lamberth, but various department officials refused to sign it because they doubted its truthfulness.

Marriage in the 21st Century

In Calgary, Alberta, this past July, 70-year-old Mattie Charlene Dyer, a U.S.-born teacher who speaks only English, married 71-year-old Yang Yukun, a retired pipe fitter from Beijing who speaks only Chinese. The marriage is "hard to explain," said Dyer, but there is "an electricity [and] a magnetism between us."...And according to an August story in the New York Times, 22-year-old Tennessee medical student Casey Moss and 16-year-old Kara Price recently held hands for the first time after becoming betrothed to each other in a church ceremony two years ago. The couple is said to represent a growing number of conservative Christians who disapprove of premarital dating.

Compelling Explanations

According to the Cape Argus in Cape Town, South Africa, this past August a Muslim court in Gusau, Nigeria, refused to grant a divorce to 22-year-old Amina Haruna on the sole ground that her husband's penis was too large for her. After examining doctors' reports the court said it could not determine whether the spouses were sexually incompatible.

In July a jury in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, found Dr. Marcos Ramos guilty of 13 counts of indecent assault on female patients and sentenced him to at least six years in prison. Defense attorney Willie J. Davis had argued that Ramos's gratuitous breast exams were the right thing to do "because you never know when [cancer] is going to appear."

In July a 15-year-old student in Kansas City, Missouri, who'd previously told police about a sexual relationship with his 29-year-old teacher took the witness stand at a preliminary hearing and said he could no longer remember whether the relationship had taken place....And in Los Angeles this past June ex-smoker Richard Boeken won a landmark $3 billion lawsuit against Philip Morris Incorporated after testifying that he couldn't recall any persuasive health warnings against smoking before the 1990s.

People Different From Us

In August, Florida's St. Petersburg Times profiled 66-year-old Tom Cagley, who has chronicled every day in the life of his 21-year-old son, Nick, since he found out his wife was pregnant. Cagley, regretful that he hadn't spent enough time with his five children from an earlier marriage, had recorded 8,011 entries in 62 spiral notebooks, totaling 7,411 pages. Nick was generally appreciative of his father's endeavor but admitted that he hadn't been very interested in reading the journals.


News of the Weird reported in April 2000 that the sultan of Brunei, the oil-rich country on the northern coast of Borneo, had criticized his brother and finance minister, Prince Jefri, for squandering the family's $15 billion fortune and had reduced his monthly allowance to $300,000.

Until two years ago the sultan was the world's richest man, but his fortune is believed to have shrunk to about $10 billion, and this past August, Jefri auctioned off 10,000 personal possessions, including hundreds of cars, 17 airplanes, and several yachts (one of them named Tits, with twin dinghies named Nipple I and Nipple II). The entire auction fetched only $7.8 million.

In the Last Month

In Nashville a man strangled his wife, pushed her body off a hotel balcony, and, according to police, accidentally fell to his death....The British government aborted a study to determine whether sheep can catch mad-cow disease after researchers realized they'd spent five years mistakenly studying the brains of cows rather than sheep....Two people in Fort Pierce, Florida, filed a $1.1 trillion lawsuit against Osama bin Laden for frightening them....And prosecutors in Wellesley, Massachusetts, revealed that because of a quirk in state law, Dr. Dirk Greineder remains the administrator of his wife's estate for their three children despite the fact that he's been convicted of murdering her.

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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