News of the Weird

Week of June 20, 1999

-- Latest Diaper Research: Jill Furlough, 31, of Lakenheath, England, told the London Daily Telegraph in April that she had been frightened by the green sparks flying out of her year-old son Joshua's Kimberly-Clark disposable diaper. Scientists contacted by the newspaper said it was triboluminescence, a buildup of energy similar to static electricity. And in April, Jupiter, Fla., firefighter John Bartlett began selling a gel whose fire-resistant properties (basically, absorbent polymers) he first noticed in disposable diapers that he found intact in the midst of charred rubble. He sells all he can make, at $35 a gallon.

-- An April Associated Press dispatch extolled the dedication of Sierra Madre, Calif., garbage aficionado Kevin Inciyaki, age 9, who, according to his parents, has been into trash since he was 2 and whose family vacation snapshots (to Sea World, etc.) always feature him inspecting local trash cans. He follows garbage trucks on their routes and has recently begun raising garbage-eating worms, under the supervision of UCLA researcher Eugene Tseng, who apparently is a lot like Kevin, proclaiming that garbage is "one of the most fun things you can possibly imagine."

-- According to a May San Francisco Chronicle report, the 2,000 Transcendental Meditation adherents of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who moved to Fairfield, Iowa, several years ago have recently been clashing with the 8,000 townies over whether homes and businesses need to be rebuilt to face east so that, according to TM principles, the residents will lead more fulfilling, harmonious lives. (Sunrise produces energy; sunset produces lethargy.) TM people hold two of the city council's seven positions.

Another Argument Against Gun Control

The latest person to shoot himself for perfectly understandable personal reasons: Henry Shepherd, 27, Cambridgeshire, England, who blasted his knee off with a shotgun in May to end the pain of a workplace injury. Said his brother, Lee: "He told me ... he'd rather have a stump (than the pain). The knee injury was ruining his life."

Shoe Mania

In May, former Marla Maples publicist Chuck Jones was convicted in New York City of burglarizing her apartment to get dozens of pairs of her shoes (with many of which he admitted to having a personal sexual relationship). And in March in Singapore, Zainal Mohamed Esa, 43, was jailed for stealing women's shoes, which he would sniff (according to his lawyer) "until the smell runs out."

The Robbery Workout

In Athens, Ala., in May, Freamon Holt Jr., 29, was charged with theft after a lengthy chase that began when Holt fled on foot across a Kroger store parking lot carrying two steaks he did not pay for. Holt then jumped on a bicycle and rode away, but soon crashed into a utility pole, briefly knocking himself unconscious. However, he came to and fled again, and in a move characterized by a local newspaper writer as the final "leg" of his "triathlon" escape, Holt jumped into Town Creek, but a firefighter caught up to him after a short swim.

Government in Action

-- In April, Jay Monfort bowed to an imminent court ruling and took down the 4-foot-high wire fence he had erected on his property to protect his office in the town of Fishkill, N.Y., from a nest of deadly timber rattlesnakes 260 feet away. According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the timber rattler is endangered, and Monfort's fence "would block the snakes from their usual places to hunt, bask in the sun and reproduce, and would probably cause them 'physiological stress.'"

-- In February, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 95-5 to approve a bill urging federal recognition of the Rappahannock Indian tribe and seven others, but not before several unidentified members of the House began accompanying the debate with imitation tom-tom beats on their desks. Rappahannock representatives were in the gallery and were not amused.

-- Government Seeks Strippers: With an April help-wanted ad in the Palm Beach Post, the Florida labor department sought exotic dancers (7 p.m.-3 a.m., 40 hours a week, $11 per hour) to work at a club in Stuart, Fla. (When faced with work requests by immigrants, states are required by federal law to ascertain whether any domestic workers are available; if there are none, the immigrant qualifies for a federal work visa.) Meanwhile, according to an April report in the Windsor (Ontario) Star, the Canadian government has drastically reduced the number of Eastern European strippers allowed to work in the country, despite a chronic shortage of local strippers.

-- Another Endangered Species: According to a March London Daily Telegraph dispatch, the Brazilian government recently awarded a lone hermit tribesman a 96-square-kilometer personal preserve, off-limits to civilization, in the northwest part of the country near the Bolivian border. Loggers, ranchers and farmers in the area protested because of the impact on their livelihoods. A government team had tracked the hermit down in August 1998 to let him know of the planned preserve, but he resisted and in fact fired an arrow at them.

-- Tacky Officials: In February, prosecutors in Austin, Texas, filed a misdemeanor trespass charge against Judge Steve Mansfield of the state Court of Criminal Appeals, claiming that Judge Mansfield illegally tried to sell two tickets to the Texas-Texas A&M football game in November, was given a warning by Texas campus police, and then tried it again a few minutes later. And in March, a judge in Frederica, Del., fined Mayor Ira R. Glanden III $100 after he admitted in court to taking newspapers several mornings from the front of Greenley's Market before it opened.

-- In March, the federal government's auditor, the General Accounting Office, blasted the financial management of the Internal Revenue Service, with the lead investigator telling a congressional committee, "The IRS cannot do some of the basic accounting and record-keeping tasks that it expects Americans to do," including keeping proper paperwork. On the other hand, among the tax delinquents in the federal government, according to a May IRS report, are 7 percent of the Clinton White House staff (with an almost equal number of White Housers so far behind in tax payments that they have to pay in installments). A White House official said it had just sent out a memo reminding the staff to pay their taxes.

-- In 1997, a car belonging to Michel Emond, 36, was confiscated by the Quebec government's automobile insurance board based on alleged overdue fines, but a mistake had been made, and the board agreed to reimburse Mr. Emond's expenses. However, Emond got tired of waiting for the check, and in March 1999 took advantage of a provision in Quebec law and filed a document that permitted him to legally seize the board's headquarters in Quebec City (value, about $33 million (U.S.)) until the debt was paid. The next day (13 months after agreeing to do so), the board paid up.

Undignified Deaths

Latest Spectacular Industrial Fatalities: A 35-year-old man died when 21 panes of glass crashed on him at a construction site (West Palm Beach, Fla., Feb.). And two railroad workers were killed when a loaded boxcar fell on them (Hamtramck, Mich., March). And two bin cleaners were killed when they were buried under an avalanche of corn in a grain elevator (Juniata, Neb., Apr.).

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679, or Weird@compuserve.com.)

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