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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

Last month Daniel Hannant, pitcher for the Pittsfield High School baseball team, filed a lawsuit against the makers of Louisville Sluggers after being hit in the head by a line drive, arguing that the company's aluminum bats are "unreasonably dangerous" to pitchers because they're designed to hit baseballs very, very hard.

Earlier this month leaders of the right-wing paramilitary group the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia publicized an E-mail address for reporting complaints about its mistreatment of civilians; Carlos Castano, a founder of the group, admitted that he himself had killed many people but said he was concerned about "excesses." . . . And last month in Nepal, American citizen Raymond Coughron told reporters that his mountain-climbing party had been robbed by Maoist revolutionaries who negotiated with the victims over what property they would take, settled on hard cash, and wrote out a crude receipt for the stolen money.

Questionable Judgments

Last month in Valparaiso, Indiana, jail inmate Charles H. Hankerd was arrested on contraband charges after authorities discovered that he was selling cigarettes to his cell mates for $2 a smoke. To secure his inventory, Hankerd had allegedly swallowed several plastic bags of tobacco before turning himself in and waited for nature to take its course.

In Montreal, 17-year-old Keri Wilson saved the life of an elderly man who had fallen on the subway tracks, jumping down and pulling him up, and was then chastised by transit police for failing to notify authorities to cut power to the tracks.

Energy Crisis

Citizens of Sausalito, California, voted in March to scuttle construction of a $7.8 million police station, partly on the advice of feng shui consultant Ms. Sidney Nancy Bennett, who said the proposed building would "cut off the mouth of chi" and compromise "the arrows of sha," blocking the positive flow of energy to other places in town. . . . And according to an Associated Press dispatch, three farmers in Vinh Phuc province, Vietnam, were held captive for several days last month by 400 villagers who accused them of causing several traffic accidents by putting a curse on the village that disturbed its "geomantic flow."

People Different From Us

Earlier this month 31-year-old Trenton Veches resigned from his job at an after-school recreation program in Newport Beach, California, after police arrested him for sucking the toes of boys ages six through ten. Any touching of a child for sexual gratification is a crime in California. . . . And in January a man standing trial for several bank robberies in Southport, England, told the court that his girlfriend had never seen TV news reports about him because whenever one came on he would dance around in front of the TV set to distract her.

Our Civilization in Decline

According to a March story in the Los Angeles Times, a handful of school districts in six states have banned dodgeball, hoping to save students from violence and hurt feelings. . . . Earlier this month a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania announced a study finding that people who relate to characters on TV tend to believe they have more friends and a livelier social life than they actually do. . . . And this month in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a 20-year-old man fleeing police while carrying his 18-month-old son tossed the child at a police dog in order to buy himself a few more seconds.

In the Last Month

In Kalamata, Greece, eight tourists were sentenced to three years in jail after being caught practicing their hobby of plane spotting; authorities insisted that anyone writing down airplane numbers must be a spy. . . . In Uniondale, New York, a gold Mercedes-Benz was mistakenly delivered to Ruth Shepard, who concluded that it was a Mother's Day gift. A short time later she was arrested after resisting police officers' attempts to claim the car for its rightful owner. . . . In Camden, Arkansas, police sought a man who was offering to clean out women's septic tanks in exchange for sex or guns. . . . And in Altamonte Springs, Florida, a 46-year-old man was arrested for disorderly conduct after he ignored an order to clean the junk off his property but instead created a giant sculpture of a bare human torso, bent over, with its back end aimed at the street.

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

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