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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

Debating at the Royal Society of Edinburgh in February, a professor of University College in London argued that human evolution is over because modern lifestyles and medicine are preserving virtually all genes, not just the "fittest" ones. Professor Steve Jones said that despite modern improvements, brain size and musculature are stagnating, and because of increased mobility, earthlings will eventually be mostly brown-skinned people with similar traits.

According to government data published by the Environmental Working Group, the federal farm-subsidy program, established in 1933 to help struggling family farms, now allocates 73 percent of its funds to 10 percent of America's farmers, almost all of them well-off. Since 1996, $38 million has gone to a man in Elaine, Arkansas, who owns a tractor dealership, among other businesses, and lives in a 13,000-square-foot mansion. The subsidy program, which is being reviewed this month by Congress, guarantees high prices for crops that are already plentiful worldwide; does not subsidize farms producing fruits, vegetables, or cattle; and allows farmers to exceed the subsidy ceiling by establishing a second corporation.

Compelling Explanations

Shane Hedges, a staffer for Montana governor Judy Martz, was involved in an auto accident in August 2001, and immediately after the crash, while police were still seeking evidence, went to see the governor wearing clothes that were bloodied when his passenger in the car was killed. Governor Martz promptly washed the clothes, and Hedges ultimately resigned and pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide. In January 2002, when the laundering became public knowledge, Martz said, "The mother in me did it. A mother does that kind of stuff."

Police in Saint Peter, Minnesota, arrested 32-year-old Olga Esquivel Ramirez in August after an officer observed Ramirez's car veer over the center line several times. Despite sirens and emergency lights, Ramirez did not stop for about four miles and was finally pinned down by several cruisers; she told police that if they wanted her to stop, all they had to do was call her on her cell phone.

Public-housing authorities in Allentown, Pennsylvania, issued a third citation to Frances Escalera for playing her TV too loud. Facing eviction, Escalera charged that the city's rule on TV noise was illegal because it targeted Latinos, who like to turn up the volume.

People Different From Us

Upset at his deteriorating relationship with a girlfriend, a 42-year-old chiropractor in Vancouver, Washington, apparently disemboweled himself in his home in January. Police responding to charges of harassment by the girlfriend found the man lying on his bed, bloody, with his shirt off and a quantity of his intestines resting on his stomach. He was hospitalized, but his condition was not life threatening.

Least Competent People

Last November 24-year-old Bryan Allison was hospitalized briefly in Buffalo, New York, after falling 20 feet to the ground from a second-floor balcony. According to police, Allison had been watching videotape of a 1989 NHL playoff game; angry that his team had lost, he picked up the TV set, tipped it off his balcony, but failed to let go in time.

Our Civilization in Decline

In December the South Korean human-rights organization Sarangbang charged that the country's highly detailed public-school dress codes violate the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child....In January a Ukrainian company, New Men Travel, announced a $460 hands-on tour of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, claiming that radiation from the 1986 accident has dissipated enough to permit a two-hour visit in protective clothing....And California death-row inmate Stanley "Tookie" Williams, a four-time murderer, was nominated in January for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the Last Month

Per Olympic rules, one member of Canada's gold-medal-winning team in duplicate bridge (held the week prior to the Salt Lake City games as a "demonstration event") was selected for a random drug test....A few days after closing a plant and laying off 4,500 autoworkers, Ford Canada proceeded with a previously scheduled campaign asking all workers to wear buttons declaring "Ford Pride."...And police in Vercheres, Quebec, attempting to inform a home owner that his mailbox had been knocked over, stumbled onto a $2 million marijuana farm in the man's basement.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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