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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

Earlier this month in Toronto, Canadian artist Jess Dobkin presented a new performance piece, Lactation Station Breast Milk Bar. In a setting modeled on a wine tasting, attendees could sample and compare the breast milk (pasteurized beforehand for safety) of six different donors.

Government in Action

Are We Safe Yet? The Washington Times reported in June that a retired New York City police officer had gained entry to Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, D.C., using only a forged copy of an out-of-date Mexican ID, bought from a street vendor, that gave his address as "123 Fraud Blvd., Staton [sic] Island, N.Y." Also in June, Delaware governor Ruth Ann Minner told reporters that Homeland Security was only now planning to place its emergency hotline to her office, as well as direct lines to the other 49 governors, on the National Do Not Call Registry; apparently the lines have often been tied up by calls from telemarketers.

In a June ruling, federal judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. ordered Missouri to stop executing condemned prisoners until it develops a standard lethal-injection protocol to reduce the current risk of unnecessary pain and suffering--one that specifies, for instance, which lethal drugs are to be used and in what quantities. Gaitan also noted with concern that, according to deposition testimony, the one doctor responsible for mixing the drugs used in Missouri executions suffers from dyslexia, which "causes him confusion with regard to numbers."

Sometime in April a dead cow drifted down the West Fork River in northern West Virginia and got stuck in branches at the West Milford Dam. As the smell of the decaying carcass got worse, residents nearby repeatedly asked various authorities to remove it, but all denied they had jurisdiction: the dam isn't actually within West Milford town limits, the Clarksburg Water Board concluded it wasn't their problem, the state Division of Natural Resources said it deals only with wild animals, the agriculture department called it a local issue, and inspectors from the environmental protection department showed up to confirm the dead cow's existence but said there was nothing they could do. After more than three weeks the remains were finally hauled away by state highway workers and local volunteer firefighters.

News That Sounds Like a Joke

In the month of May: (1) Supermodel Tatyana Simanava, 21, exiting the bathroom of a custom bus driving through Brooklyn on the way to a photo shoot, stepped through a door she believed led back into the bus's main compartment and fell out into 40-mile-an-hour traffic; she was hospitalized with a broken arm and dislocated shoulder. (2) Jan-Erik Olsson--the charismatic criminal who helped give rise to the term "Stockholm syndrome" after the hostages he took in a 1973 Swedish bank robbery displayed surprising loyalty to him--went to a police station in Helsingborg, Sweden, after nearly 15 years on the run for other alleged crimes and tried to turn himself in, but a sympathetic officer encouraged him to flee. After Olsson said he still wanted to confess, prosecutors dropped all charges. (3) A Chicago police superintendent acknowledged that the vehicles currently used to transport the city's prisoners suffer from a design flaw: twice in two months, handcuffed suspects under arrest for violent crimes had been able to crawl out the emergency escape hatch in the roof and get away without the officers in front even realizing they were gone. And (4) the Levenshulme Baptist Church in Manchester, England, announced plans to hold a conservation-friendly car wash using leftover holy water from the church's baptismal pool.

Police Blotter

From Washington Post's Crime Report, May 25: "DeSales St., 1700 block, 10:55 p.m. May 8. A man directed a driver into a parking space, then grabbed her when she got out of her car. He said, 'I'm not going to hurt you. You're a unique person and I'm a unique person.' He put a ring on her right index finger and started to chant, then took property from her pocket and fled on foot."

Least Competent Criminals

Two men robbed a Brinks guard at gunpoint outside a suburban Miami bank in June and got away with a single bag containing only deposit slips. In the same month, 18-year-old Adam Hunter was arrested after allegedly driving his car into the side of a house in Cookeville, Tennessee, then passing out nearby. A search of the car allegedly turned up marijuana, baggies, and a set of scales; according to the police report, Hunter later admitted the marijuana was his but reassured officers that "he did not smoke it, he just sold it."

Updates

News of the Weird reported in 1996 on UK insurance company director Simon Burgess and a policy sold by his firm that covered abduction by aliens and provided double indemnity in case of impregnation. This June Burgess announced that in the face of controversy his current company, British Insurance, Ltd., was withdrawing coverage it had provided since 2000 to three unnamed sisters in Scotland: if one of them had conceived immaculately and given birth to the child of God, the policy would have paid approximately $1.85 million to cover its upbringing. (The burden of proof had been on the insured.)

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

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