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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

Two men in a Dodge Neon, ages 37 and 40, were seriously injured in a rollover accident on Interstate 75 near Toledo, Ohio, in September after a red bra flew from the antenna of another car, which the driver said caused him to swerve and lose control. Emily Davis, one of four teenage girls in the second car, explained to police that her bra had broken (her dog had chewed it earlier) and so she'd taken it off and hung it on the antenna. Witnesses said there was interaction between the occupants of the two cars prior to this; though the men claimed they'd done no more than wave, the girls said the men had encouraged them to lift their shirts but that they'd refused. In November Davis was convicted of littering as the Neon's driver proceeded with a civil suit against all four girls.

Can't Possibly Be True

According to police in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 38-year-old Karen Madden confessed earlier this year to stealing $550,000 worth of jewelry and handbags from the home of her boss, Judy Hample, who is chancellor of the state's university system. Hample testified at a July hearing that Madden, whose trial is to begin this week, had called to apologize after her arrest and subsequent firing and went on to ask, "I hope you and I can still be friends and I would like to use you--can I use you as a reference, just for the work part?"

Britain's Home Office agreed in November to settle a lawsuit by paying about $7,500 to each of 197 current and former inmates who had been addicted to heroin or other opiates at the time they entered prison. The inmates argued that their human rights were violated when their access to drugs was quickly cut off, forcing them to go cold turkey.

No, Really--Can't Possibly Be True

In November ABC News aired hidden-camera footage shot in army recruiting offices in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut in which recruiters are seen telling students posing as prospective applicants that they'd be in little or no danger of being sent to fight in Iraq. When a student asks, "Nobody is going over to Iraq anymore?" one recruiter replies, "No, we're bringing people back." In another segment a recruiter says, "We're not at war. War ended a long time ago." After viewing the video, the officer in charge of recruiting in the northeast confirmed that yes, the war is still going on, and yes, new enlistees were likely to go to Iraq.

Signs of the Times

As part of the settlement of a discrimination complaint filed after a 70-year-old transgendered Verizon repairperson was repeatedly arrested for using women's bathrooms at Grand Central Station in New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed in October to let people use the train station bathroom that's "consistent with their gender expression." And the New York Times reported in November that the city's Board of Health was likely to adopt a rule allowing people to switch the gender on their birth certificate, regardless of whether they've had surgery, if they've changed their name, lived in the new gender for two years, and gotten affidavits from a doctor and a mental-health counselor saying the change would be permanent.

Unclear on the Concept

After Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington, D.C., and now a district council member, was ticketed in September for allegedly running a red light and for refusing to take a urine test for alcohol, he accused authorities of trying to "embarrass and discredit" him.

Election Roundup

Jeffrey Steitz, working at the polls in Louisville on election day, told voter William Miller that his ballot couldn't be processed because he hadn't marked his choices in the judges' races; when Miller replied that he didn't have to vote for judges, the 42-year-old Steitz allegedly choked him, then pushed him out of the polling place; Steitz was later charged with fourth-degree assault. Meanwhile in Allentown, Pennsylvania, 43-year-old Robert Young signed in at a polling site, smashed the screen of a voting machine using a cat-shaped paperweight, and sat down and waited for police to arrest him. According to the local Morning Call, he may have believed Republicans planned to manipulate electronic voting results.

"At this point all of my skeletons have been exposed," said safety official and part-time performance artist Rick Magnuson in November, in the final week of his campaign for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado. These skeletons included a suspension for improper use of a state criminal database (he ran a check on a woman he was dating, then told her there was a warrant for her arrest); a warning to Aspen police from a counterterrorism prosecutor describing Magnuson as a "possible unstable person" after an art piece in which he sent clippings about terrorism to Osama bin Laden and George Bush at addresses around the U.S.; and another piece, a video showing him masturbating in the Mojave Desert that was aired on local TV. He lost to the incumbent 5,445 to 941.

Least Competent Criminals

In 2003 a prison inmate named Calvin Miller, reportedly angry because his former associate Johnny Chapple had stopped sending him money, called Kansas City police with a tip linking Chapple to a cold double-murder case from 1995. (Even before the call Miller had already acquired the nickname "Cheesy Rat.") The reopened investigation led to charges against four men, including both Chapple and Miller. According to the Associated Press, Chapple pleaded guilty in September and faced a maximum of 10 years, while Miller, still serving his earlier life sentence, got an additional 17 years, reducing the likelihood he'll eventually be paroled.

Hidden Costs of War

The newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported in October that as a result of heightened border security following Israel's war against Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, marijuana prices in Israel had gone up 800 percent.

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): illustraiton/Shawn Belshwender.

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