News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

Week of June 29, 1997

-- In May, the Russian press reported that 76 top aviation officials flying to the U.S. had declined to take the national airline Aeroflot because of safety concerns, instead flying Finnair. And in March, a Stavropol Airlines passenger jet literally fell apart in the air because of rust, and crashed, killing 50 and becoming the latest Russian airline tragedy. And in May, courageous U.S. astronaut Michael Foale took his turn on the aging Russian space station Mir, which has been in orbit for 11 years despite a predicted life of three, and which just in 1997 alone has experienced a fire, a breakdown in the main oxygen system, a partial power loss, and the overheating of one of its air purification systems.

-- In 1993 India Scott dated both Darryl Fletcher and Brandon Ventimeglia when she lived in Detroit and moved in with Fletcher in 1994 when she was about to give birth. Neither man knew about the other, and she told each he was the father. For two years, Scott managed to juggle the men's visitation rights, but in March 1997 when she announced she was marrying another man and leaving the area, both Fletcher and Ventimeglia separately filed for custody of "his" son. Only then did Ventimeglia and Fletcher find out about each other. They took blood tests to determine which was the real father of the boy they had been caring for for more than two years, and in May the blood test revealed that neither was.

-- Connecticut Police Academy: Robert Jordan filed a lawsuit in May against the New London, Conn., police department for illegal discrimination, claiming he was rejected as an officer solely because he scored too high on an intelligence test, which the department claims is evidence that Jordan would get bored on the job and be a bad officer. And an Associated Press report from New Haven, 50 miles away, revealed that new-recruit police classes include training in the arts (watercolor drawing, ballet, etc.), which was the brainchild of former police chief Nicholas Pastore, who himself resigned in February after admitting that he had fathered a child with a prostitute.

I'VE GOT MY RIGHTS!

-- More than 200 students at Molalla (Ore.) High School petitioned officials in May to overturn the school's mandatory-brassiere policy after two girls were sent home for not wearing them. Protesters complain that the dress code is not fairly enforced, in that more heavily endowed violators are more frequently punished than less-endowed violators.

-- The National Labor Relations Board ruled in December that Caterpillar Inc. workers who were on strike from June 1994 to December 1995 were entitled to be compensated for the popcorn, sodas, ice cream and other snacks that the company provided workers who remained on the job during that time.

-- In February, the student government at Oxford University in England appointed a person to patrol the grounds and stop couples' public displays of affection. In one place, petting was banned from the dining hall, and another facility was divided into heavy- and light-petting-allowed zones. The government also banned sexual intercourse in libraries between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. (although no student leader claimed to have actual knowledge that it had ever occurred). The actions were taken because some students who did not have dates found the behaviors offensive.

-- Two inmates serving life sentences at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola filed a lawsuit in February claiming officials have denied them the chapel space and equipment necessary to observe their religion of Satanism. Even though they allegedly cannot practice faithfully, their credentials for the Satanic afterlife seem substantial: One plaintiff is in for first-degree murder and the other for rape, robbery and kidnapping.

NOT MY FAULT

-- According to police in Mesa, Ariz., Jean K. Dooley opened fire with a handgun in Valley Lutheran Hospital in 1995, intending to kill her husband, who was a patient there. (She missed but managed accidentally to hit a nurse and a paramedic.) In January 1997, she filed a lawsuit against the hospital for negligently failing to stop her from bringing the gun inside.

-- In March, the New York Appellate Division of the Supreme Court unanimously took away the $15 million award that a jury had made to Jose Barretto, who is paralyzed from the waist down. Barretto sued Richmond Hill High School in New York City for not stopping him from horsing around before volleyball practice in 1988, when, with the coach momentarily out of the gym and allegedly to show off for his friends, he ran toward the net from 30 feet away, dived over it, and landed on his head. Said Barretto, "I accept part of the blame, but what about the responsibility of the teacher and the school?"

-- Federico Perales, 52, was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, in April and charged with stabbing his wife to death in front of their two teen-age kids because he was angry that the three of them started dinner before he arrived at the table. According to the Peraleses' son, Perales' last words to his wife were, "You pushed me to the limits. You did this to yourself."

CREME DE LA WEIRD

-- In April, Mary Durante, the inheritor of a house in Newark, N.J., found 133 neatly stacked boxes upon her first visit to the attic, each with the remains of a cat wrapped in newspapers that dated back to 1945. She was startled by the discovery but said she knew the house once belonged to the late Newark Star-Ledger pet columnist, William H. Hendrix.

-- Sandra L. Archer, 35, was sentenced to two years in jail in April in Omaha, Neb., for disorderly conduct and cruelty to animals after videotapes surfaced of her having sex with her boyfriend (Mark W. Williams, 36, who is awaiting trial) atop groups of dogs, including sick ones, that had been obtained from local shelters.

-- The Mainichi Daily News (Tokyo) reported in April that a 24-year-old local man from Adachi-ku was arrested and charged with assaulting a 17-year-old schoolgirl on her way home. According to police, the man rubbed saliva in the girl's hair as an expression of anger because her socks were too loose around her ankles. Police quoted him as saying, "When I saw those socks, I just went crazy."

-- According to a recent Canadian documentary film, Troy Hurtubise, a scrap-metal dealer from North Bay, Ontario, was so disappointed at his 1984 first encounter with a grizzly bear that he embarked on a 10-year, $100,000 project to build a safety suit that would enable him to wrestle and defeat a grizzly. He has not yet found a bear to wrestle, but he has spent money so obsessively on the suit that he recently had to file for bankruptcy.

WELL-PUT

Michael Forgue, a Jackman, Maine, restaurateur, expressing doubt in May that his neighbor James Darrow was guilty of the murder for which he had been arrested and which he had allegedly claimed credit for: "They don't call (him) 'Big Jim the Liar' for nothing. You name it, he lied about it."

(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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