News of the Weird

Week of August 2, 1998

LEAD STORIES

-- According to Pat Rusin and her team of researchers at the University of Arizona, the toilet seat is actually one of the least bacteria-laden surfaces in the home. In results published in a June issue of New Scientist magazine, three times as many bacteria were found on chopping boards and a million times more on dishcloths, and Rusin surmised that the toilet seat's nonporous surface keeps it so dry that bacteria have difficulty surviving.

-- A May San Jose Mercury News story reported on the new fascination among Japanese youth with rap and hip-hop music and with a black American lifestyle that includes curling their hair into Afro-style hairdos, darkening their skin, and drinking new Dunk brand beer, which consumers believe is popular because it is dark and associated with basketball. And in June, members of a New York City workshop of Japanese students studying in the U.S. performed gospel music at Harlem's Memorial Baptist Church, to enthusiastic applause. Said the former Tokyo jazz club owner who started the workshops with the church's cooperation, "The black culture is very important in Japan."

-- The eternal flame under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, a sacred memorial to the nation's war dead, was briefly extinguished on June 30 when two inebriated tourists from Mexico urinated on it. French officials and Mexico's ambassador to France lit it again the next day in a joint ceremony. The perpetrators were detained briefly and then released.

Least Competent Pyros

In separate incidents in a three-week period in April and May, three people attempted to set fire to their spouses yet botched the jobs and actually lit themselves up: Ms. Solonia Gene, 25, Des Moines, Iowa (intended to punish husband for staying out all night); a Durham, N.C., man (just planned to scare his wife after a fight); and Tarance Love, 37, St. Louis (ordinary domestic fight).

Their Names Fit Their Games

A Hollister, Calif., inventor named Wilson Q. Invencion (whose automatic bingo machine received a U.S. patent in May). And the alleged robber of eight New York City Dunkin' Donuts shops named Douglas Duncan (who was apprehended in June, along with his alleged partner, Howard Johnson, who had not attempted a HoJo robbery). And the guy who pleaded guilty to assault named Ned Basher (against singer Bob Seger, in Shreiber, Ontario, in May).

Rumbles in the Reading Room

A 34-year-old woman was hospitalized in Nashville, Tenn., in May; a toilet at Nashville Arena had caught on fire after she flushed it, possibly due to fireworks in the building being used by the World Wrestling Federation. And a 29-year-old man was hospitalized in St. Paul, Minn., in June when his bathroom exploded, probably because his burning incense ignited the gasoline he was using to clean his hands. And a 32-year-old camper was killed when a campsite toilet exploded near Montabaur, Germany, in April, probably caused by leaking gas from a septic tank.

Government Food Policies

In May, the British government's Broadcasting Standards Committee criticized the evening program "TV Dinners" over a February episode that featured a woman preparing a dish based on her own just-born daughter's placenta. (Recipe: Fry the placenta with shallots and garlic, flambee, puree and serve on focaccia bread. The mother, father and 20 guests sampled the dish on camera.) And in June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ruled that salsa can count as a required vegetable in government-reimbursed school meals.

Police Blotter

-- Life Imitates a Bad Sitcom Premise: In June, three retired police chiefs from the Syracuse, N.Y., area started a business to supplement their pensions: a doughnut shop, in Lakeland, N.Y. Said one, "We took our ... police experience and put it toward what we know best."

-- From the Police Beat column of the North County Journal in suburban St. Louis, May 24: Police in the town of Bellfontaine Neighbors arrested a man on May 15 driving a stolen automobile. He was released pending a court hearing. Three days later, the alleged thief reported being robbed, himself, of a gold necklace. Policework turned up what the cops believe are both perpetrators. The car thief was the robbery victim, and the robber was the man whose car had been stolen.

-- In March, the Oakland (Calif.) Police Review Board ruled that Officer Anthony Toribio had done nothing improper despite an arrestee's complaint that he had been subjected to "the most degrading and humiliating experience" of his life. The officer admitted the gist of the complaint, that upon learning that the arrestee was a singer, named Julian Aldarondo, Toribio began singing (apparently, very badly) the 1970s song "Escape, The Pina Colada Song," but said he was only trying to defuse the tension of the arrest and to ask Aldarondo if he knew where he could find sheet music to the song.

-- In May, police in Toronto, Ontario, arrested a man they had sought since November for a series of bank robberies. According to Detective Mike Earl, they had an idea who they were after because, according to witnesses, the fugitive looked, in face and body language, like the TV cartoon character Homer Simpson. Arrested was Gary Hammond, 28, of North York.

-- Scott Eric Smith, 32, was arrested in Oakdale, Calif., in June on suspicion that he was the one who had stolen 800 copies of the local Oakdale Leader newspaper. The newspaper contained a report of Smith's recent arrest on drug charges and, according to police, Smith said he didn't want his family to know about it.

Least Competent Criminals

Joseph L. Cantey, 22, was arrested in Lindenwold, N.J., in May on several charges. According to police, he had made a clean escape after burglarizing a home on May 5 and stealing a cell phone but had returned to the home on May 10 to confront the victim to get him to reactivate the cell phone service. The victim called his company but was unsuccessful, and Cantey fled, but now armed with a description, police spotted Cantey, and in the ensuing chase, Cantey dropped 15 bags of crack cocaine and eventually led police to his brother and two others, who were charged with possession of even more drugs.

Recurring Theme

Bobby Wayne Woods, 32, convicted of capital murder, Llano, Texas, May. Coy Wayne Wesbrook, sentenced to death for murdering his ex-wife and four others, Houston, June. Dennis Wayne Eaton, executed for the murder of a Virginia state trooper and three other people, June. Michael Wayne Gallatin, suspected through DNA tests of five rapes and a murder, Vancouver, Wash., May. John Wayne Stockdall, 34, allegedly confessed to police that he killed his girlfriend's ex-husband, Mexico, Mo., March. Jason Wayne McVean, 26, still on the lam after allegedly killing a police officer in the southwestern Colorado manhunt that began in May.

Latest Wisdom

New York divorce and palimony lawyer Raoul Felder, praising the nation's economy to a Washington Post reporter in May: "I can tell you how the economy is doing by how many mistresses come into my office looking for justice. I don't need no Greenspan."

(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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