News of the Weird

Week of June 18, 2000


-- The ritzy Barra da Tijuca suburb of Rio de Janeiro is preparing for the October high-society wedding of Pepezinha and Winner, which will be extravagant even though the bride and groom are dogs (shih tzu and cairn terrier). The estate of Pepezinha's owner, Vera Loyola, is just down the road from the notorious Rocinha slum, symbol of Rio's nauseating poverty. Said Loyola (who always serves her pooch on silver platters), "I believe my little Pepezinha is worth every cent."

-- According to the Massachusetts speaker of the House, the legislature's all-night session on April 13, to vote on the state budget, was more a giant "keg party" than serious deliberation, with members drifting into the chamber from various receptions and some falling asleep at their desks. At one point, according to a Boston Herald story, when the presiding officer asked the members, "Are you leaders or followers?" the members chanted "We lead!" which segued into "Toga! Toga!" One result was the giggling joy with which members voted to fund their favorite obscure projects.

Duct Tape in the News

In April, in the woods near Tampa, Fla., tourist Gemini Wink went off to photograph alligators, got lost, climbed a tree for safety as night approached, and decided to protect himself against falling out of the tree by duct-taping himself to a branch; rescuers found him several hours later. In March, Massachusetts officials shut down a day-care center in the town of Hudson following reports that a caretaker duct-taped an infant to a wall for amusement. And a February Associated Press report touted Harrisburg, Ill., artist Keith Drone's line of duct-tape clothing, including baseball caps, wallets, pants, belts and a bikini; said Drone, the products are "really cool looking," and, he adds, "If it breaks, just put a piece of duct tape on it."

Leading Economic Indicators

-- Why We Have the Justice Department Antitrust Division: In January, at an open-air market in Kunming, China, an appliance dealer had a hand chopped off by a competitor who was upset that his rival was underpricing him.

-- Recent CEO Retirement Packages: Douglas Ivester, Coca-Cola, $17.8 million plus $3 million/year, who retired just after laying off 6,000 employees (February), and John B. McCoy, Bank One, $10.3 million plus $3 million/year, who retired after laying off 5,100 employees (March). On the other hand, Sidney H. Kosann, CEO of Shelby Yarn, Shelby, N.C., who reportedly earned a $300,000 salary and lives in a $500,000 home, filed in February for state unemployment compensation just after closing the company and laying off 650 people.

-- According to figures of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, cited by the London Daily Telegraph in March, hundreds of Pakistani women are deliberately burned to death each year by their husbands, either for imagined infidelity or increasingly for economic reasons, in that some Muslim men are finding it harder to maintain a two-wife household during lean times.

-- Eighty-eight orbiting satellites ($5 billion worth) were scheduled to soon be allowed to vaporize by the owners of the Iridium telephone company, which lost hope in April and May to be rescued from bankruptcy. Iridium failed to last even 16 months, due to the rapid and supposedly unanticipated improvements in digital cellular technology that made its bulky and expensive handsets useful only in remote areas. (Among users of Iridium telephones were the Chechen rebels at war with the Russian army.)

Questionable Judgments

-- Brazilian legislator Wilson Lima told reporters in April that he still thought his proposal to require clubs and bars to have three restrooms (male, female and gays/transvestites, for their own protection from homophobic men) was a good idea, even though Brazil's largest gay-rights organization said it was horrified of such a prospect.

-- A police ethics committee in Montreal reprimanded Officer Robert Royal in March after he forced a traffic-stop motorist to follow him on a high-speed chase of another car. Royal had stopped Pierre Boileau for an illegal U-turn when another officer summoned Royal to help him chase another car. Rather than let Boileau go, Royal ordered him to follow the chase, which hit about 70 mph in a 30 mph zone. After Royal caught up to the second car (turns out it was the wrong car), he finished writing Boileau's ticket and sent him on his way.

-- Four years ago, Edward Weslock left his wife and fled New York City for France with the couple's entire $4 million in cash, leaving his wife to support herself with modest jobs and eventually to be evicted from the family apartment. Since then, she has won several court orders against Weslock in the U.S. and his native Canada, but he has avoided the judgments by staying away from both countries. However, when Weslock stealthily returned, briefly, to the United States in April, Ms. Weslock found out and had him arrested. He had come back to have a new hairpiece fitted.

The Power of Snickers

In April, a jury in Tyler, Texas, sentenced, as a habitual criminal (10 convictions, all relatively minor), Kenneth Payne, 29, to 16 years in prison for shoplifting a Snickers bar from a grocery store. (The incarceration cost in Texas is reportedly $13,000 per year per inmate.) And at a high school sex-education rally in Chicago in April, abstinence advocate Pat Socia told the assembled teen-agers that if they feel a sexual urge coming on, "Just eat a Snickers bar. You'll be fine!"

Recurring Themes

More Sex Crimes You'd Rather Not Know About: James Donald Ray, 39, convicted of molesting sheep (San Diego, May); Daniel Bruce House, 54, arrested for molesting a horse (Malibu, Calif., February); Jason Carl McRoberts, 19, arrested for molesting a lamb (Stewartstown, Pa., April); Roger Powell, 59, arrested for molesting a pig (Enfield, N.C., May), which he explained by pointing out that sex with his human girlfriend is undesirable because she is a "crack whore."

Undignified Deaths

St. Pancras Coroner's Court in London, England, ruled in April that the 38-year-old man who plunged 10 stories to his death in Islington last August had lost his balance while on his balcony searching for a signal on his cell phone. And a 30-year-old marathon runner, who hoped to qualify for the Olympics, was killed in Las Vegas in February when he was hit by a van as he ran to catch a bus.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 68-year-old man got too much toe while attempting to shoot a corn off his foot (Proberta, Calif.). Immigration and Naturalization Service said drug-sniffing dog purchases would be limited to two European breeds, which officials said were relentless compared to easily exhausted American breeds, such as Labradors. Police arrested a 28-year-old man who had set out to rescue a 7-year-old girl in a lake, but who, when currents increased, snatched her life preserver, saving himself but allowing her to drown (Southaven, Miss.). At a national breast-feeding technique pageant, 270 women competed for a prize of about $2,400 (Bangkok, Thailand). An art gallery visitor sat in and broke a chair, which he did not realize was part of an exhibit dating to the Ming Dynasty and which is valued at around $100,000 (but it was repairable) (Minneapolis).

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or, or go to

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

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