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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

In May the Gentle Wind Project of Kittery, Maine, filed a suit in federal court contending that a married couple, Judy Garvey and James F. Bergin, had slandered the group with charges of mind control and misrepresentation of the nature and effectiveness of its products, among other claims. According to Gentle Wind, each human lives inside an energy field, the "etheric structure," that gets damaged and can best be repaired by the group's "healing instruments"--for example, the Puck-Puck, a set of tuning-fork-like prongs. Tax records show that the group took in $1.2 million in 2001. Said a Gentle Wind spokesperson, "We're not New Age wackos."

Must-See TV

Among the reality TV proposals being batted around in London, according to an August report in the Daily Telegraph, is "Make Me a Mum," a show on which a woman reduces a field of men to the one she believes would make the best sperm donor while experts choose a second donor for her on the basis of genetic compatibility. Producers then inseminate the woman with sperm from both men and, using intravaginal microtechnology, attempt to record which donor's sperm gets to the egg first. Said Remy Blumenfeld, the show's creative director, "It's much more about the rule of science than the rules of attraction."

More News That Sounds Like a Joke

In June British surfboard engineer Jools Matthews, working with Intel Corp., designed a surfboard with a built-in waterproof 80-gigabyte laptop with Wi-Fi for exhibit in Devon, England. And in August a commander with the Finnish Defense Forces told reporters that some Finnish conscripts had recently been discharged from their six months of compulsory service because they couldn't bear to be without access to the Internet. Said the military official, Jyrki Kivela, "For people who play [Internet] games all night and don't have any friends, don't have any hobbies, to come into the army is a very big shock."

Leading Economic Indicators

This summer McDonald's franchises in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Brainerd, Minnesota, and Norwood, Massachusetts, began outsourcing their drive-through orders to a call center in Colorado Springs. Thus, a Big Mac order shouted into a microphone in Missouri gets typed into a computer in Colorado, then clicked back to the originating restaurant's kitchen. So far the system is delivering orders 30 seconds faster, with fewer errors, than the average McDonald's.

Punk Science

A U.S. Army laboratory in Natick, Massachusetts, has developed a lightweight dried food ration that can be safely hydrated by adding virtually any kind of liquid, from dirty swamp water to urine, according to a July report in New Scientist. The ration is enclosed in a membrane with ultratiny gaps that allow water molecules to pass but filter out 99.9 percent of any bacteria and most toxic chemicals. However, while urine will work in a pinch, its use is discouraged by developers: urea isn't blocked by the filter and over the long haul would cause kidney damage.

Least Competent Animals

In August police in Yuba City, California, freed a chicken that had become entangled in the windshield wipers of a car. And in July a black bear drowned in the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania after resisting several attempts by Samaritans to remove the plastic jar that was stuck on its head.

Unclear on the Concept

New Hampshire judge Franklin C. Jones was suspended in May and state's attorney general Peter W. Heed resigned in June over separate allegations of sexual misconduct stemming from their behavior at an after-hours party during a state conference on domestic and sexual abuse. Five women complained of being groped by Jones, 55, and one woman complained that Heed, 53, had touched her inappropriately on the dance floor. "I'm a touchy-feely kind of guy," Heed later said.

Least Competent Criminals

More Unprofitable Counterfeiting: Japanese police have made no arrests in connection with more than 400 counterfeit 1,000-yen notes that have turned up in vending machines in Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo; a real 1,000-yen note was cannibalized to supply part of each fake. And in Calgary, Alberta, in July, Jason James Cremer was fined $850 Canadian for passing a set of counterfeit $20 bills he made by removing the security holograms from real $20 bills and gluing them onto his bogus ones.

Recurring Themes

More Clumsy Gunmen: In August in Bristow, Oklahoma, Drew Patterson, 27, readying a .22-caliber pistol after hearing reports of an escaped convict in the area, stuck the cocked gun into the waistband of his shorts, shooting himself in the buttocks. And in July in Dinnington, York, David Walker, 28, shot himself in the scrotum after shoving a sawed-off shotgun down his trousers; he was on his way back to a pub to settle an argument over whose turn it was to buy. Walker, who'd consumed 15 pints of lager the day of the accident, underwent emergency surgery and has been sentenced to five years in prison for possession of a banned weapon.

Readers' Choice

In August state Fish and Wildlife agents in Bear Lake, Washington, found a black bear passed out on the lawn of a resort amid three dozen empty cans of locally brewed Rainier Beer, which had been clawed and bitten open. The bear "definitely had a preference," said one agent, noting that though several cans of Busch were nearby, only one had been drunk.

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

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