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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

Boxer Nate Campbell, favored to beat Robbie Peden in their junior-lightweight bout in Temecula, California, last month, was in control of the fight in the fifth round when he decided to taunt Peden by dropping his hands to his sides and sticking out his chin. Peden immediately knocked Campbell out with one punch. And in a December Boston Globe story about wild bears roaming suburban Denville, New Jersey, animal control officer Meredith Petrillo offered her solution to the problem of one bear's making its den beneath the deck of a house: she advised the home owner to urinate under the house, after which the bear didn't return.

What Century Are We In?

In January Cardinal Gustaaf Joos of Belgium declared that only 5 to 10 percent of gays and lesbians are genuinely so and that the rest are "sexual perverts." In March the commissioners of Rhea County, Tennessee (site of the 1925 Scopes "monkey" trial), voted 8-0 to request a new state law allowing the county to charge homosexuals with crimes against nature, even though the Supreme Court declared similar laws in Texas unconstitutional last year. (The commission rescinded the vote two days later after heavy criticism.) Also in March the Georgia House of Representatives voted 160-0 for a bill prohibiting female genital mutilation after amending it to include a ban on any piercing of female genitalia, even for adult women. One sponsor of the amendment, Republican Bill Heath, was shocked when told afterward that some women seek such adornment: "What?" he said. "I've never seen such a thing."

Government in Action

Four months after the gubernatorial recall election in California, Ken Blodgett, president of the Ochoco West Sanitary District Board of Crook County, Oregon, was recalled by subdivision residents in a 39-to-29 vote. The movement to recall Blodgett from the unpaid position he'd held for five years began after he stopped payment on a $14.03 invoice for office supplies, which he said was not properly authorized.

And They Say Government Is Inefficient: When her 14-year-old son died in a farming accident near Beaumont, Texas, last July 31, Melissa Devillier knew that the social security survivor's benefits he'd received after his dad's death in 1992 would be terminated, but the Social Security Administration was startlingly swift to act. On August 11 Devillier got a letter saying that since the boy hadn't lived out the entire month of July--he was pronounced dead at 2:20 PM--federal law required her to pay back the $1,025 she had received for that month.

Great Art!

Each celebrity portrait in the "Gum Blondes" series by Toronto artist Jason Kronenwald, 29, consists of about 200 pieces of used chewing gum stuck to a plywood backing. In a Reuters profile last month, he said he avoids chewing the gum himself and gets friends to do it instead. His subjects include Britney Spears and Pamela Anderson; his preferred brand is Trident.

Istvan Kantor, also of Toronto, won one of Canada's most prestigious arts awards in March. Called the country's "leading shock artist" by the New York Times, Kantor is best known for his bloody performance pieces: in one, he caused a stream of his blood to flow from a vial in his anus into his mouth; a video work depicts performers killing cats and wearing the dripping carcasses on their heads. And according to a February BBC News profile, artist Shihan Hussaini of Madras, India, used his own blood to paint 56 portraits of actress-turned-politician Jayaram Jayalalitha in honor of her 56th birthday. Hussaini hired a nurse to help him draw the blood.

People Different From Us

A March 28 article in the Valley News (Lebanon, New Hampshire) reported that Chris Weathersbee of Corinth, Vermont, was keeping about 70 goats in his house, which he'd filled with a foot and a half of hay. Weathersbee, 63, said he'd moved the most vulnerable of his 300-goat herd (largely invalids, nursing mothers, and babies) into the house during a cold spell in December; before that he and they had been sleeping in the barn. Though Weathersbee admits he has more animals than he can care for--state police and Humane Society officials removed 44 unhealthy goats from the farm in February--he's long refused to neuter them. "I think these animals have a right to maintain their society," he says.

In the Last Month

The New York Times reported the opening of an Optimist Club (affiliated with Saint Louis-based Optimist International) in Baghdad. Brazilian legislator Antonio Jose de Moraes Souza was removed from office when a court found that he'd had a doctor (in Souza T-shirt and cap) hand out free Viagra at a campaign rally in exchange for promises of support. And no shootings were reported in the Bronx during the week of March 29, making it the first such week since the New York Police Department started using its current tracking system in 1994. During the equivalent week ten years ago, there were 30 shootings and 12 murders in the borough.

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

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