News of the Weird

Week of July 22, 2001

LEAD STORIES

-- Military researchers will soon try to combine the two awfullest smells ever engineered, in an attempt to develop the ultimate nonlethal weapon, a magnificent stink bomb. According to a July report in New Scientist, the winning stenches (excrement and rotting foods/carcasses, with each technologically "improved" to even fouler levels) would be mixed, with the result a fetidness so overpowering that not only would it disperse people in a panic, but would also act on brain tissue in the same fear-provoking way that other unrecognizable stimuli do.

-- In July, the city council of La Verkin, Utah, passed an anti-United Nations ordinance (soon to be copied by the city council of Virgin, Utah) that not only prohibits the municipal government from recognizing any UN activities but also requires any private citizen engaged in such activities to file an annual report with the city and to post a sign on his property informing the neighbors.

-- So powerful is the fear by Los Angeles high school administrators that were they to select a single valedictorian for a school, it would hurt other students' feelings, that Granada Hills High had 44 valedictorians this year, Chatsworth High 31, Cleveland High 20, Monroe High 17 and North Hollywood High 10, according to a New Times Los Angeles report in July. Said one dissenting teacher, sarcastically: "If one person got very, very good grades and was singled out as valedictorian, we might be saying they are better than other kids. And we can't have that."

Tough Times for Gays

In May, two anti-discrimination bills were voted out of the Illinois House; the bill prohibiting public establishments from discriminating against motorcyclists passed, 111-0, and the bill prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians passed, 60-55. Also in May, the Washington state legislature's student anti-bullying bill was stalled by lobbying from Christian conservatives, who believe the law would make it harder for them to scold gay and lesbian schoolkids for their "immoral" lifestyles. And in documents turned up earlier this year in a lawsuit, the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company was revealed to have begun a marketing campaign in the early 1990s in San Francisco directed at homeless smokers and gay smokers, and to have called its program "Project SCUM" (which it said referred to "subculture urban marketing").

The Litigious Society

-- In filing her April lawsuit in Tacoma, Wash., against the Tahoma Veterinary Hospital, Michelle Ford made it clear that she expected a jury award equivalent to that for the loss of a human family member, though the "wrongful death" in this instance was that of her beloved 220-pound Saint Bernard, Elizabeth, who died during her third-time Caesarian-section procedure (from which 15 puppies resulted). And in May, a judge in Northampton, Mass., dismissed Lamar Peoples' lawsuit against Massachusetts Electric Co. after his cat, Venus Viola, was electrocuted on an uninsulated company wire; Peoples was demanding $250,000, which is the value of the good luck he said the cat was expected to bring him, but the judge shipped the case to small claims court.

-- Australian judge Brian Herron awarded Arthur and Filommena Raso and their two children about $85,000 in damages in March when they suffered food poisoning, apparently after eating pork purchased from a local wholesaler. In addition, due to special demand by Arthur Raso, the judge awarded about $1,200 additional for the unusually large number of rolls of toilet paper the family says it went through because of diarrhea from the tainted pork.

-- In March, twice-convicted murderer Kenneth Williams, 21, filed a lawsuit against the prison system in Arkansas (his current residence), demanding his right to be placed on death row. The prison, noting Williams' violence and history of escape attempts, had transferred him from death row to its maximum-security lockup for its most problematic cases. Williams says the deprivation of "rights" has caused him mental, emotional and physical distress, and besides, he hasn't tried to escape in over a year (even though he killed a man during that escape).

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

-- 21st Century Russian Technology: Russian inventor Dmitry Zhurin (or his colleague Sergei Lykov, depending on the news source consulted) told reporters in February that he has introduced a working model of a talking vodka bottle that proposes toasts (roughly translated: "Another round, then?" and "To our beautiful women"). Periodically after the initial unscrewing of the cap, a louder cacaphony of voices is heard. The battery doesn't last long after its first use, but then, as Zhurin points out, neither usually does the vodka.

-- A Decatur, Ga., company that makes ecosystem-preserving, concrete artificial reefs for fragile areas in the world's oceans has also finished about 60 jobs in a side business: mixing cremated ashes into the concrete "reef balls" so that, as the company's owner describes it, the deceased can spend eternity among marine life rather than on a plot of land with dead people. Costs range from $850 (being part of a community reef) to $3,200 for your own reef ball; the balls are then donated to government reef projects, with about 30 so far off the coasts of Florida.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported previously on realistic-looking urine delivery devices that some men use to defeat drug tests by yielding either another person's urine or synthetic urine. In March, Donald Paul Edwards Jr., 27, was charged in Columbia, Mo., with "possession of a forging instrumentality," which is a crime normally reserved for counterfeit currency plates; Edwards possessed a "Whizzinator," a plastic penis that authorities say he was using to fake (i.e., forge) his drug test. And in a May police report, a Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter noted that an attempt to use such a fake device in that city by Donald C. Milligan Jr., 36, failed because, as the reporter wrote, "(T)he plastic prosthetic didn't fool a Cuyahoga County probation officer, who was trained to observe the sights and sounds of urination."

People Different From Us

According to a police report in the Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal, a Dutchess County sheriff's deputy arrested a 40-year-old woman on March 21 and charged her with allowing her 14-year-old son to take nude pictures of her and to post them on the Internet.

Update

A year ago, News of the Weird reported that Japan's Kazutoyo "The Rabbit" Arai (weight: 101 pounds) was the toast of New York's Coney Island, having beaten the 400-pound American champion for the annual Nathan's international hot-dog-eating title, 25 (in 12 minutes) to 16. On July 4, 2001, "Hungry" Charles Hardy, a large man from Brooklyn, improved the American record to 23 but could only finish third, behind Arai (31) and the new champion, another slim Japanese man, Takeru Kobayashi, whose astonishing 12-minute total (buns and all) was 50.

Also, in the Last Month ...

The North Carolina Senate passed a funeral home regulation bill that included a prohibition against cussing in the vicinity of a corpse. And Tennessee officials agreed on the need for Spanish-language civics education after a Hispanic illegal alien, asked to show ID in applying for a driver's license, naively offered up a copy of his deportation order (Nashville). And a man's kitchen exploded when he turned on the oven to heat lasagna, having forgotten that a July-4th-partying friend had hidden his illegal firecrackers there several hours earlier (Kansas City, Mo.). And a motorist seriously choking on a hamburger, inadvertently gave himself a life-saving Heimlich maneuver when, having lost control of the car, he smashed into a utility pole and was thrust forward against the steering wheel (Leesburg, Fla.).

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

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