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News of the Weird

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Labor and management have been feuding for months at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia; after the zoo stopped paying the "poo allowance" workers receive for picking up animal droppings, the rank and file publicized the details of a plan, allegedly proposed by management, to help impregnate the zoo's female gorillas (the male, named Kibabu, has ignored them for six years). Keepers were to sedate Kibabu, masturbate him by hand, and collect his semen in a container; unsurprisingly they refused to cooperate (said one, "It was too bloody dangerous. What if he woke up?"). Zoo officials now appear resigned to a more expensive solution, called electro-ejaculation, which uses a machine to do the dirty work.

On November 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, just north of Lompoc, California, skydiver Ron Sirull (1,000 career jumps) performed at a military air show with his four-year-old dachshund, Brutus the Skydiving Dog (100 career jumps). Animal-rights activists protested, but Sirull claims skydiving "turns [Brutus] on" and says that both his vet and the Arizona Humane Society deem the jumps safe; the dog wears goggles and rides in a pouch strapped to Sirull's chest.

People Lower Than a Snake's Belly

In August in Pennsylvania, Vernon Coleman, 32, and Dane Coleman, 28 (no relation), were arraigned on charges of stealing thousands of dollars in cash out of letters to a fund benefiting Afghan children displaced by the war. Also in August, New York City landlord Denise M. Lyman refused to allow the family of Danielle Kousoulis, who was killed in the September 11 attacks, access to Kousoulis's apartment (they hoped to find a hairbrush, so that DNA in the hair could be used to identify her remains). Lyman claimed Kousoulis had breached her lease, signed on September 1, by failing to give three months' notice before abandoning the apartment.

Chutzpah!

Mexican photographer Daniela Rossell recently published a coffee-table book called Ricas y famosas ("Rich and Famous"), which collects 89 portraits of the wives, daughters, and lovers of ultrarich Mexican men. Roughly 54 percent of Mexicans live in poverty, and Rossell's photographs--taken in the gaudily opulent mansions of her subjects--have been called "grotesque" and "obscene." Rossell comes from the upper class herself, and admits that her own nanny lived in a closet-size room; she's received threats from some of the women in the book, who apparently failed to anticipate how their pictures would be perceived.

In October in White River Junction, Vermont, Stewart Fuller, 41, was charged with looting about $30,000 in goods (including a boat and trailer) from the house of neighbors Roger and Shirley Labelle, who believed Fuller was looking after their dog while they were away; he allegedly held a three-day yard sale, so that when the Labelles returned they noticed that their neighbors had some of the missing stuff.

Life Imitates a Rodney Dangerfield Joke

In October in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, Herbert Toney, 36, and Latisha Washington, 29, were arrested on several charges, including deserting their eight-year-old son. Police claim the couple instructed him to steal groceries and beer from a Winn-Dixie supermarket while they waited outside; when a security guard stopped the boy, he pointed out his parents, but Toney and Washington denied knowing him and walked away. Deputies brought the couple in later, and though at first Washington would only say that maybe she'd seen the boy around the neighborhood, she finally admitted he was her son. (He's now in his grandmother's custody.)

People Different From Us

In September in Carroll County, Maryland, suspected cult leader Scott Caruthers, 57, who's been in jail since October 2001 for allegedly plotting to kill a former business associate, was charged with conspiring to murder the ex-husbands of two of his disciples; Caruthers has claimed to be an alien who reports to the mother ship by channeling messages through cats. And in October in Cambodia, Dem Mam, 54, head of a fringe Buddhist cult, was ruled not responsible for three followers who immolated themselves in bathtubs of gasoline; he teaches that ritual suicide is the only path to heaven, but told police that he did not need to commit suicide himself because he is already holy enough.

Least Competent Criminals

In October in Gainesville, Florida, a 22-year-old man was detained by a sheriff's deputy after a routine stop for an expired tag; the suspect admitted his license was suspended, and when he got out of the car to talk the deputy noticed a marijuana joint behind his ear. (The motorist's comment: "Man, I forgot that was back there.")

In the Last Month

In Honolulu, Hawaii, prominent entomologist Elmo Hardy passed away at age 88, his legacy secure in that his peers have named over 50 species of flies after him....Several contract teachers in New York City's public schools were mailed checks for one cent to correct an error in their summer-class pay....And in Regina, Saskatchewan, Cheyenne Harley Kahnapace, 26, pleaded guilty to violating his parole after a police officer caught him pushing a baby stroller containing a small keg of beer.

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

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