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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

In December biological-weapons watchdog group the Sunshine Project made public a 1994 U.S. Air Force document proposing the development of an aphrodisiac weapon that would create irresistible sexual attraction between enemy soldiers, thus impairing their discipline and morale. Other ideas: giving the enemy "severe and lasting halitosis" (making combatants easy to distinguish from civilians) and causing their troop positions to become overrun with angry wasps or rats.

Scenes of the Surreal

In a December demonstration against the upcoming opening of a McDonald's in the Mediterranean town of Sete, France, several hundred protesters used a high-pressure hose to bombard the restaurant with fresh-caught octopuses, a key ingredient in local cuisine.

Scientific Precision

NASA announced in October it was retiring its last KC-135 aircraft; the plane's specialty was making extremely steep dives to create a zero-gravity environment for research and astronaut training. An official told reporters that over the years the plane's crews had cleaned up at least 285 gallons of passengers' vomit.

Grown-Ups

Charles Bonney, 63, and Victor Harris, 36, both of Godfrey, Illinois, allegedly engaged in a car-ramming fight in the parking lot of a local auto glass shop in December. Police said that the incident, reportedly part of a feud over a woman, began when Bonney rammed Harris's Acura Integra with his Camaro and that each man subsequently rammed the other's car at least twice.

A mother (and her 18-year-old daughter) allegedly threw a metal bar and hot coffee at an ejected player during a Toronto-area youth hockey game in December. A father allegedly choked his son's coach, causing him to black out, at a Toronto youth hockey game in January. And Sylvana Gatti of Woodbridge, Ontario, was barred from attending Greater Toronto Hockey League games for one year following an alleged incident in November: at a game in which her 11-year-old son was playing, Gatti reportedly taunted opposing fans by lifting her top (she left her bra on) and shaking her breasts "from side to side," according to one witness. (The witness added that while leaving the game with her young sons she again encountered Gatti, who said, "What the hell are you looking at? Have you never seen tits?")

Cameron Miller, 19, of Alexandria, Louisiana, was arrested Christmas Day on four counts of attempted murder; he allegedly fired a shotgun at a pickup truck carrying his mother, stepfather, and stepbrothers because he'd wanted cash for Christmas but got only CDs. And the day after Christmas in Feasterville, Pennsylvania, 21-year-old Steven Murray allegedly burned down his parents' house because they didn't get him any presents.

The Classic Middle Name (all new)

Charged with murder: Jesse Wayne Walker (Greensboro, North Carolina, December); Michael Wayne Carter (Indianapolis, October); Matthew Wayne Ferman (Waverly, Ohio, October); Keith Wayne Graham (Merced, California, August); Justin Wayne Smith (Bay City, Texas, December). Killed himself at the scene of a homicide after investigators discovered he was sought in connection with a previous double homicide: Brian Wayne Pennington (Klamath Falls, Oregon, December).

Least Competent Criminals

Samuel Woodrow was sentenced to five years in prison for burglary in December. He and several other men broke into a home in Santa Fe, Texas, in March but fled empty-handed, apparently scared off by police dialogue from the video game Grand Theft Auto (e.g., "You're surrounded!"), which the resident's three grandsons were playing. Also in December, two 22-year-old men were arrested for burglary and robbery in Poulsbo, Washington. They stopped at a Chevron station for directions, seemingly unaware that it was the same station police say they'd unsuccessfully tried to rob an hour and a half earlier. Clerks hadn't been able to describe the getaway car at the time of the alleged holdup attempt but did a much better job after the second viewing.

Least Competent People

A 21-year-old man from Perth, Australia, spent a week on life support in December following a drinking stunt involving a homemade "jug helmet," which fed beer through a hose into a pump powered by an electric drill, then out another hose into the user's mouth. When the device was switched on, a stream of beer blasted down the man's throat, tore a four-inch hole in his stomach, and flowed directly into his abdominal cavity.

Ironies

Basic irony: In December a UPS truck crashed on a snowy road near Keene, New Hampshire. According to the Keene Sentinel the driver suffered a head injury and was taken to Cheshire Medical Center for tests, but the hospital's testing apparatus was out of service. Investigation revealed that the necessary replacement parts were in the wrecked UPS truck.

Remedial irony: Campaigners against bullying in British schools were disappointed to find that after students were issued blue wristbands in November to publicize a government-sponsored antibullying week, kids wearing the wristbands immediately became targets for attack by bullies.

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

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