News of the Weird

Week of October 5, 1997

-- In September, a judge in Santa Monica, Calif., ruled that test-tube baby Jaycee Louise Buzzanca, 2, has no legal parents. She is the result of donor sperm fertilizing a donor egg in the womb of a surrogate mother. The judge said John and Luanne Buzzanca are "parents" only by surrogacy contract, and since they divorced before Jaycee's birth, those rights were lost (though John was happy with the decision because it saves him $386 a month in child support).

-- Protestant minister Hans Visser announced in August that he had lined up doctors, social workers and drug dealers to begin a social program of supplying heroin at discount to hopeless addicts in Rotterdam, Netherlands, to help keep them away from crime and life-threatening cheap drugs. Said Visser, "I expect I will (soon) be having a chat with justice officials."

-- Letter carrier Martha Cherry, 49, was fired by the Postal Service in White Plains, N.Y., in August after 18 years of apparently walking her rounds too slowly (66 paces per minute, with a stride of less than one foot). Wrote a supervisor of the 5-foot-4 Cherry: "At each step, the heel of your leading foot did not pass the toe of the trailing foot by more than one inch. As a result, you required 13 minutes longer than your demonstrated ability to deliver mail to this section of your route." Cherry has appealed to those on her route to help save her job.

THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT

-- The New York Times reported in August that more than a third of all bottled water sold in the United States is merely filtered tap water and that several cities soon will put their municipal water on store shelves. "What comes out of the tap is truly excellent water," said the public works director of Houston. Wrote the Times: "Thus, the marketing plans dare consumers to pay as much as $1 or more for a quart of water in a bottle that could be drawn from their own taps and placed in a refrigerator for less than 1/10 of a cent." (The Times reporter, tasting Houston's water, wrote, apparently without irony: "Bold, full-bodied, provocative.")

-- In August, Bausch & Lomb Inc. agreed to pay $1.7 million to settle a multistate investigation in which attorneys general accused it of fraud. According to the states, the company sold the very same disposable contact lenses under three different model names, purporting to have different characteristics, for prices varying from $2.50 to $23 a pair. Said a New York investigator, "The lenses are the exact same physically -- the only difference was their instructions for use."

-- Quorum International Ltd. announced plans in July for a $1.6 billion Holy Land theme park in Mesquite, Nev., along Interstate 15 about 75 miles from Las Vegas, including a 33-story statue of Jesus and large models of Noah's Ark and the parting of the Red Sea.

-- The Lundarelli family in Udine, Italy, said in July that it would not bow to pressure and would thus leave its Fuehrer wine on the market (joining its Guevara, Lenin and Marx brands). Fuehrer's label has a photo of Adolf Hitler and comes in two varieties, Zieg Heil and Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuehrer ("One People, One Empire, One Ruler"). And in June the Liquor Control Board of Ontario cleared local shelves of a smuggled Chinese wine that purportedly enhances libido. Three-Penis Wine (deer, dolphin and dog) has such foul ingredients that authorities wouldn't even dump it in sewers.

-- The Economist magazine, reporting in April on how Cuba's economy has driven professionals into the retail market, wrote of Norberto, a Moscow-trained engineer who sells pork sandwiches from a stand in front of his home. Norberto's higher-earning job, however, is to illegally show bootleg porno tapes smuggled in from Miami to farmers in the countryside on his VCR, powered by a car battery. According to The Economist, "From miles around they come, on horseback, with their wives and girlfriends, to see Norberto's blue movies. He charges five pesos a head. When, at the end, they all clamor to see it again, he charges another five."

-- In August, real estate firm Cornish & Carey, with offices in California's Silicon Valley, added a bridal registry to the services it offers, even though the area has the highest median house prices in the country. Said the company president, "It's something for the generous gift giver." And the QVC network's new "Extreme Shopping" show debuted in September offering mansions for sale to call-in TV viewers. First up was the home of Engelbert Humperdink, offered for $3.95 million.

THE WEIRDO-AMERICAN COMMUNITY

-- Well-to-do Frederick, Md., plastic surgeon Lorin F. Busselberg, 54, slumped rapidly after a 1995 divorce ended his 20-year marriage. He has been jailed since May for failing to pay $25,000 in child support, and according to a July Washington Post story, he now denies ever being married to the wife, and in fact constantly corrects officials that he is a different man, "Lorin Fred Busselberg." His employees quietly shut down his office after he failed to contact them from jail, and he told a judge in July that he had sold the practice for a million yen to a Japanese man, but no record exists of the sale.

-- In August, a judge in Morris County, N.J., ordered Joseph Petracca, 61, to shut down his unlicensed Riverdale "kennel," in which he housed the 100 German shepherds to which he admitted he had become "addicted." The court order will probably end Petracca's work of trying to breed the "perfect dog." Said the judge, "When you are addicted to dogs, alcohol or drugs, you seek treatment."

-- In Topeka, Kan., in August, a radical patriot "common-law jury," permitted by state officials to convene in a room in the Capitol, impeached U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten of Wichita. Among his "crimes": By jailing a couple for nonpayment of taxes, he was guilty of kidnapping; he enforced land-regulation laws when everyone knows that land-owning is a God-given right; he defended the IRS, which the jury believed is an "off-shore entity" and a racketeering conspiracy; he issued court documents that did not contain a "seal"; he issued some orders as "Thomas Marten," without the "J."; he did not have a flag in his courtroom; and he allowed a clerk to make people sign documents in the middle of the signature line rather than flush left.

FEUDS

-- Ever since last year's court decision in Ontario permitting women to go shirtless (as long as not for sexual or commercial purposes), critics have been waiting for social turmoil. In one of the few reported incidents, former best friends Heather Genereaux, 24, and Jennifer Fitzgibbon, 23, brawled in Kingston in June when Fitzgibbon decided to sunbathe topless in her back yard, in view of Genereaux's 10-year-old son. Genereaux suffered a black eye; Fitzgibbon lost her bikini bottom.

-- In the summer, in the midst of the training-instructor sex scandals, a pair of two-star generals at the Pentagon headed a quiet attempt to quash a major jurisdictional battle. Military commissaries (which sell mostly food) started to sell flowers for gardens, and post or base exchanges (department stores), which thought they had the exclusive right to sell bedding flowers, upped their sales of food items. "This is war," said one official who was sympathetic to the exchanges.

-- In August, on Interstate 40 in Winston-Salem, N.C., Shakeitha Hardee, 17 and five months pregnant by a guy named Keevin, spotted Keevin in the passenger seat of a car driven by Melody Carroll, 21 and also five months pregnant by Keevin. The two women shouted at each other side by side at 55 mph until the road narrowed to one lane because of construction, at which point neither would yield, and both banged their cars against the other for about 500 yards. Carroll's car finally hit the end of a guard rail and was totaled. Said Hardee's mother, "If (Keevin) would just let them know which one he wanted, you know?"

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com. Chuck Shepherd's latest paperback, "The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics," is now available at bookstores everywhere. To order it direct, call 1-800-642-6480 and mention this newspaper. The price is $6.95 plus $2 shipping.)

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