News of the Weird

Week of July 11, 1999

-- In the course of a June report decrying the Canadian economy's discrimination against people who do unpaid work, mostly housework, the feminist group Mothers Are Women called on the government to pay wages to women for breastfeeding to bring that activity in line with the production of other consumable milk. One female economist also pointed out that breastfeeding income would logically subject women to breastfeeding taxes.

-- The animal-food company Ralston Purina introduced earlier this year, from its subsidiary Purina Philippines, power chicken feed designed to build muscles in roosters for the popular "sport" of cockfighting. According to a June Wall Street Journal report, the market for Rooster Booster chow is huge: The Philippines has 5 million "gaming" roosters.

Recent Protests

Labor activist Dan Craig, 25, accepted a plea bargain in January in Toronto that will keep him out of jail, despite his having protested layoffs at an aerospace plant by suspending himself from a factory ceiling and playing "Amazing Grace" on his bagpipes for four solid hours. And in West Union, Ohio, last winter, Berry Baker, 54, protested the school district's placing Ten Commandments statues on school lawns by demanding equal space for statues promoting his "Center for Phallic Worship," which he said copies a religion practiced in some countries. (In February, Baker filed a lawsuit against the district; in June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing the Ten Commandments, but not stone phalluses, to be displayed on public property.)

Witches on the Move

On May 10, the diversity-seeking Oregon Senate permitted Wiccan high priestess Cleda Johnson to provide the traditional session-opening blessing. And in June, a coalition of Christian organizations, along with U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, demanded that Fort Hood (near Austin, Texas), the Army's largest installation, stop its 2-year-old sanctioning of a Wiccan Open Circle group, whose several dozen members dance through the night at full moons. (Wiccan groups have also been sanctioned for U.S. military bases in Louisiana, Alaska, Florida, Okinawa and Germany.)

Least Competent Criminals

-- Sean Barry, 23, was arrested in Chandler, Ariz., in May after summoning police for help when he couldn't unlock the handcuffs he had playfully put on his wrists. When officers arrived, they ran a routine check on Barry and discovered he had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court on a traffic charge. They decided to leave the cuffs on him until they got him to the station.

-- John Michael Haydt, 34, was arrested in Mountain View, Calif., in April and charged with burglary after he called 911 to rescue him from the Danish Concepts furniture store at 2 a.m. According to police, Haydt had broken in through a window but had cut himself so badly that he didn't think he could climb back out.

-- Easy Collars: Philip Racicot was arrested in Norwich, Conn., in April for carrying an unlicensed gun; he had called attention to himself when, trying to hide the gun in his car, he shot himself in the buttocks. And in May, a 17-year-old boy identified as Lukasz S., was captured by police in Bydgoszcz, Poland, after an assault; Lukasz slowed down considerably after he shot himself in the foot during the chase. And an unidentified 17-year-old boy, fleeing police in San Francisco in February after vandalizing a construction site, accidentally shot himself to death with a sawed-off shotgun he was trying to hide in his car.

-- Gary Patton and two 17-year-olds were arrested in Grand Junction, Colo., in January and charged with robbing a Norwest Bank branch. They were exposed when one of the teen-agers sent a pair of pants to the laundry without checking the pockets, one of which, according to police, contained the trio's holdup note ("Put the money in the bag and don't say a word or I will kill you").

-- Travis Black, 29, went on the lam on June 1 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., just as his trial for aggravated assault was getting started. The trial went on without him, and the next day, despite the empty chair at the defense table, the jury found him not guilty. (He turned himself in on June 4 and at press time was in jail facing a contempt of court charge.)

Eh-uuuuh, Gross!

-- In January, preparing for a joyous festival at the end of Ramadan, the Taliban government in Afghanistan decided to clean up the six trees in Kabul on which had been hanging the amputated left feet of recently convicted robbers, exhibited as crime deterrents.

-- According to a March report in the Santa Cruz (Calif.) Sentinel, cockroach expert David George Gordon (in town for a local exhibition) called the pests "intelligent, hardworking and fastidious groomers" that are responsible, especially in the tropics, for recycling dead animal matter. Gordon has authored a bug-recipe cookbook, which touts crickets for their calcium, termites for iron and grasshoppers for protein.

-- Fecal Ordnance: The director of the sewer system in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, told reporters in June that the city's pipes may burst by winter from the gases released by the backup caused by last year's Hurricane Mitch, thus potentially showering the city with waste. And neither local officials nor the FAA is certain yet who has been causing the dozen or so instances of fecal bombardment of homes in and around Salt Lake City, Utah, since April; owners of the houses hit by the gobs of thick, raw sewage initially blamed airliners but now suspect an airborne vandal in a smaller plane or someone on the ground using a catapult.

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (33) The annual student cheating riots in Bangladesh, first reported in News of the Weird in 1988, in which students are so blatant about their right to receive outside help when taking national placement exams that hundreds are injured and thousands are arrested yearly (with 11,000 expelled in this year's riots in May). And (34) the ego-driven bad guy who goes on a national TV talk show while on the lam from criminal charges, thus making it easy for police or parole officers to find him, as Willie Johnson, 22, did in May, appearing as a drag queen on "The Jerry Springer Show" while wanted in Houston for stabbing his sister's husband.

Also, in the Last Month ...

An inmate was executed in the Philippines when the president's last-minute-reprieve phone call couldn't get through because of busy signals. An Israeli man filed for divorce from his wife of 51 years because she had abandoned the hard-liners and voted for moderate Ehud Barak. A Lockheed aeronautics executive said the company lost as much as $70 million because of a misplaced decimal point in a sales contract. A newly arrived British NATO peacekeeper mistakenly turned right instead of left in Salonika, Greece, and wound up in Athens (250 miles away) instead of at his Macedonian border post (50 miles away). A Home and Garden TV channel study revealed that more men would rather tend their lawns than have sex.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

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