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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

David Scholnick, a biologist at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, is measuring how shrimp respond to physical exertion by having them run and swim for hours on a tiny treadmill, the Web site LiveScience reported in October. To vary the strenuousness of the workouts, the shrimp are sometimes made to wear tiny backpacks fashioned from duct tape.

Government in Action

In October the borough council in the London suburb of Romford, England, issued a massive report--300 pages, according to the Romford Recorder--on its 12-month, $19,000 investigation to determine which councillor had interrupted a September 2005 meeting by repeatedly making "baa" noises. The probe narrowed down the field to four suspects, to be questioned this month. And in September the Guardian reported on criticism of an antipigeon program instituted in 2003 by London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, in which two hawks were hired to patrol the area around Trafalgar Square; animal activists called it cruel, while other politicians objected to the cost--about $430,000, they said, or roughly $170 for each of the 2,500 pigeons scared away or eaten so far.

On the Campaign Trail

While in Pittsburgh in October to make a fund-raising appearance for Senator Rick Santorum, Florida governor Jeb Bush encountered a crowd of anti-Santorum protesters. After he blew them a kiss, they converged on him, chanting "Jeb, go home" and "We don't want you here." He hurried into a subway station, where security officers had him wait inside a supply closet until the crowd could be dispersed. In September 61-year-old Kansas state representative Vaughn Flora was charged with battery following an incident at a gubernatorial debate where he allegedly scuffled with an antiabortion activist wearing a cockroach suit. And on live TV in Tampa in August public-access host Tony Katz threw a chair at his guest, county commission candidate Joe Redner, hitting him in the head; moments earlier Katz had called Redner a liar, to which Redner had replied that Katz was fat.

Fecal Roundup

According to an October Associated Press article, officials in Los Angeles County said that while they plan to run DNA tests on waste-laden seawater near Malibu to establish whether the contamination is human in origin and thus likely the result of leaky septic tanks, they wouldn't require local tank owners to provide DNA samples for matching purposes if the answer is yes. And in September, as part of a campaign to pressure the city of Vienna to keep its streets cleaner, a civic group asked all residents to spend five minutes counting dog droppings and record their results for a survey.

Just Embarrassing

While training at the Dukovany nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic in September, a U.S. official wandered off from his International Atomic Energy Agency group, in violation of procedure, and fell into a water tank. (The water wasn't radioactive.) Also in September, in Spokane, Washington, a 70-year-old man was doing yard work when he fell headfirst into the small shaft in the ground that housed his water meter and got his head stuck; he spent four hours upside down before firefighters rescued him. And after Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan fainted in Ankara in October, bodyguards drove him to the hospital but after getting out of the armored car accidentally activated its security system, locking the unconscious Erdogan inside; they had to smash a window with a sledgehammer to open the door and lift him out.

Least Competent Criminals

In October 33-year-old Robert Moore was sentenced to ten years in jail for his burglary of the Arby's in Prince Frederick, Maryland, where he worked as assistant manager. According to the local Calvert Independent, four other employees identified the intruder seen in surveillance footage as Moore, saying they recognized his body shape, his gait, his clothing, and the upper portion of his buttocks, which became visible when he bent over; the franchise owner testified that he'd had to lecture Moore repeatedly about inadvertently exposing this part of his body.

The Continuing Crisis

Police in LaPorte County, Indiana, detained a 33-year-old woman in September after she and a man were seen allegedly having sex in the middle of the day in a car parked near a security camera in the trailer park where she lived, continuing even after a large crowd of her neighbors had gathered. When onlookers yelled at them to stop for the sake of the children present, she reportedly shouted back that she was "doing adult business."

Thinning the Herd

A 30-year-old woman was struck from behind and killed by a train in Little Rock, Arkansas, in October; police said she was apparently listening to music on headphones at the time. And an 18-year-old man was killed by a train in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in September while he and a friend walked home along the tracks one night; according to the train's conductor, the man (believed by authorities to have been drunk) got out of the way in plenty of time but then stepped back onto the tracks to flip the train off.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weirdnewstips@yahoo.com. © 2006 Chuck Shepherd

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

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