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News of the Weird

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In May the Washington Times reported on entrepreneurs Mark and Lorraine Moore and their successful line of bird diapers, which allow pet birds to roam the house while their droppings collect in a removable pouch. Made of Lycra, elastic, and Velcro, the reusable diapers cost between $20 and $26; sales have reached about $1,000 a day. And Frank Morosky of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has introduced charcoal-lined panties, priced at $20 to $50, designed to reduce the odor of dogs' flatulence.

Leading Economic Indicators

MCI, just out of bankruptcy protection and planning to lay off 12,000 workers this year, revealed in a May SEC filing that it had dismissed executive Richard R. Roscitt after only seven months of employment, but that according to Roscitt's contract, it had to pay him severance of $8.1 million plus a $450,000 bonus and assorted benefits.

According to a June article in the New York Times, Catholic churches in the U.S., Canada, and Europe are outsourcing certain ritual prayer requests, or mass intentions, from their parishioners to Catholic clergy in India. Indian priests said that this practice has been going on for several decades, and that the requests from the U.S. are typically accompanied by donations of $5 to $10, much more than they are offered by members of their own congregations.

Good Dogs

After interviewing members of 122 dog-owning families with young epileptic children, Canadian researchers reported in the June issue of Neurology that 15 percent of dogs in such households are apparently able to anticipate children's seizures minutes or even hours ahead of time. Some dogs respond by licking the children's faces or whimpering, while others attempt to keep the children from harm--pushing them away from staircases, for instance, or sitting on them to make sure they're not standing up when the attack begins. Also in June, researchers at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology reported that Rico, a border collie they've studied for several years, can distinguish more than 200 objects by hearing their names spoken aloud and can figure out from context when an unfamiliar name applies to an unfamiliar object.

Fetishes on Parade

Ken James, 64, died in February when he fell off a stolen bicycle in Melbourne, Australia, and hit his head; police later found 435 bicycles, most of them believed stolen, and hundreds of bike parts in his home, stacked to the ceiling in every room. And in May a court in York, England, banned Norman Hutchins, 53, from every hospital and doctor's office in England and Wales, based on 40 complaints since January of his harassing medical workers in repeated attempts to acquire surgical gowns and masks. More than 30 local health facilities had already gotten injunctions against him. His lawyer described him as "not a well man."

Least Competent Criminals

Last month Andre Lamar Henderson, 30, allegedly committed a $50 bank robbery in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. Police say he gave a teller a note demanding "all your hundreds and fifties," and the teller complied, handing over the only such bill in the drawer. A witness got the license number of the getaway car, and Henderson, a suspect in several other bank robberies in the region, had the bill on him when he was arrested that evening in Philadelphia. And Knute Falk, 54, allegedly robbed a Bank of America in Beaverton, Oregon, in June but was arrested after his getaway was delayed: having parked too far away to escape in his own car, he demanded a bank customer's car keys, walked out, then returned after a minute or two, with his mask off, to ask the customer which key opened the door.

Unclear on the Concept

George Stanichuk, 47, told a Boston Globe reporter in March that he's innocent of his ex-girlfriend's murder and that her having previously gotten a restraining order against him didn't mean much: "Every girl I've gone out with has put a restraining order against me." And at a February domestic violence hearing in New Port Richey, Florida, Robert Scott Schwartz, 37, admitted that he had beaten his girlfriend for "a few minutes," slammed her head into the stove, pulled her hair, and pressed his thumbs into her eye sockets, but nonetheless opposed her request for an injunction against him, saying it would deny them "the opportunity to work on this together, alone." (The judge granted the injunction.)

Those Who Can't Do Teach

In Albany, Georgia, high school English teacher Carla Murray, 32, resigned in April after officials found notes she'd allegedly written to a 17-year-old student indicating they'd had an affair, including the following poem: "The smell of your cologne mixed w/sweat / The sounds you make while [word or words omitted from the Associated Press story] / The touch of your hands / The taste of your mouth / There's more, but I won't embarrass myself by mentioning them."

More Things to Worry About

In May in West Greenwich, Rhode Island, a motorist and his two passengers were arrested after a car chase on Interstate 95. The chase began after police tried to pull over the car, a Saturn, for having a stolen license plate; during the pursuit (which reached speeds of over 80 mph) one passenger, a 17-year-old male, reportedly pulled down the backseat, crawled into the trunk, and, after the driver popped the trunk door, unfastened the plate, which he later threw out the window.

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

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