News of the Weird

Week of July 29, 2001


-- News of the Weird has reported before on "smart toilets" that can make daily health-status readings, but in July, the Cheshire, England, company Twyford told a BBC reporter that it had racheted up the technology a bit with a model that automatically performs urine and fecal analysis for users and could then transmit the results to the family doctor via the Internet in the event the readings are out of line. A Twyford spokesman said the toilet could also call the local grocer to, say, send over some beans if the results indicated a lack of roughage in the diet. (Availability of the toilet is still several years away.)

-- In a July story, The New York Times profiled ex-Colombo crime family captain Michael Franzese, 50, who "retired" from the mob in 1990 but contrary to the so-called Mafia code, is still alive, and not only alive but is a longtime coach in the Encino (Calif.) Little League, widely revered by parents who know his background but praise him for the unusually calm, encouraging demeanor he displays (compared to that of some parent-coaches). The Times writer speculated that Franzese may have bought his survival with stashed riches, in that his mob specialty was as a financial mastermind.

-- Bernhard Goetz, who became part hero and villain in 1984 when he shot his way out of a perceived subway attack by black teen-agers in New York City, announced recently that he is running for mayor of the city on a limited-program platform: hire Mayor Giuliani (who legally cannot run again) to actually run the city; install vegetarianism in municipal facilities; feed the poor generously but only with deliberately mediocre food (so they won't get used to it); permit city workers to take productive naps on the job; and promote the gentle squirrel as our most precious pet.

Leading Economic Indicators

In the last several years, top corporate executives have received compensation (via sweetheart deals to buy their company's stock) in ridiculously high amounts unrelated to their efforts, according to experts cited by Fortune magazine in a June report. Several high-profile executives (e.g., Sandy Weill of Citigroup, Jack Welch of General Electric) "earned" over $100 million a year at the same time their companies' profits and stock prices were plunging, and their one-year compensation equals roughly the salary and benefits of as many as 3,000 of their laid-off employees. According to the Fortune experts, corporate compensation committees typically "reason" that if a stock's price falls, it is somehow "necessary" to award the CEO even more stock options because without them, he supposedly has little incentive to improve the company.

The Continuing Crisis

-- In a May report on a massive law-enforcement strike in March against the ultra-violent Quebec chapter of Hell's Angels, Toronto's Globe and Mail said the beginning of the end for the group was that, several years ago, the chapter hired two nasty-looking bikers to be contract killers, and then shortly after that, the two men fell in love with each other. Subsequently, the men (Danny Boy Kane and Ace Simard) turned on each other and cooperated with the authorities; Kane committed suicide last year.

-- Detectives in Des Moines, Iowa, caught a break investigating a murder case that went to trial in May: A local Holiday Inn had not yet washed a bedspread from a crime scene in one of its rooms, thus yielding important stain evidence. Iowa law requires only that sheets and towels be cleaned after each guest; soiled bedspreads are judged subjectively, and the one in this case was found to contain (in addition to the stains sought) 106 others, including 38 semen stains.

Police Blotters From All Over

-- From the Roswell (N.M.) Daily Record, 5-29-01: "A woman, who told Roswell Police she had been on another planet for three years, reported a robbery Friday. She said a known person had taken the upper plate of her dentures valued at $800, silverware in a wooden box valued at $1,000, and various jewelry worth $1,000. She said she hadn't actually seen the named suspect take the items, but he 'moves so swift you can't see him.'"

-- From the Dana Point (Calif.) News section of the Orange County Register, 3-22-01: "Calle Juanita, 26000 block: Deputies responded to a 911 hang-up call to learn the resident's daughter had recently learned how to call 911 in school and thought she would give it a try, 3:25 p.m., March 17."

-- From the Clarksville (Tenn.) Leaf-Chronicle, 5-20-01: "An Inver Lane couple awoke Friday morning while an intruder was inside their residence. Just after 3 a.m., a man entered the residence through a kitchen window. According to Officer Keith Johnson's report, the woman woke up, saw the man standing over her, and he put his finger up the victim's nose."

Recurring Themes

Earlier this year, News of the Weird reported on a British company that had installed three vending machines in London train stations to sell single-sheet collections of poetry, to appeal to commuters weary of reading newspapers. In April, honoring National Poetry Month, the Alaska Council of the Arts, working with the Borealis Brewing Co., decided upon yet another offbeat delivery vehicle to improve society's exposure to poetry: beer bottle labels. One selection saluted Arctic poet Robert Service: "So cheers to Service, Yukon Bard / Who told us tales of the fearless / I'll take a book and frosty beer / Instead of dying, cold and beerless."

People Different From Us

In May, Randy Lunsford announced he would appeal a Raleigh, N.C., judge's decision shutting him out of the estate of his 18-year-old daughter, who died tragically in 1999 but whose estate won a $100,000 wrongful death lawsuit. Court records show that Lunsford moved away from the mother around the time the daughter was born, never came back, and never paid a penny in child support. Lunsford said, however, that he felt obligated to claim "his" share of his daughter's estate because he was fighting for all the imperfect parents out there. His argument: Since the daughter had turned 18 shortly before she was killed, the "abandoned child" rule freezing him out should not apply.

Thinning the Herd

A 13-year-old girl was killed "surfing" atop a speeding SUV driven by a 16-year-old boy (Pensacola, Fla., May). A 45-year-old man drinking with fishing buddies choked to death after trying to swallow a live, 5-inch-long perch (Viburnum, Mo., May); according to one of the buddies, the man's last words were, "Hey, watch this!" A 20-year-old Boston University student fell to his death from a campus building that he was scaling with a rope in a prank attempt to display a swastika on the roof (April).

Also, in the Last Month ...

East Japan Railways began offering a female-only train car for late-evening commuters fed up with inebriated salarymen furtively groping them (Tokyo). Two Seattle police officers, each believing the other was a civilian driving a stolen cruiser, fired a total of 20 shots at each other in a standoff; fortunately, every shot missed. A customer was apparently the victim of a prank in a Kmart men's room and had to be taken to a hospital for removal of a toilet seat to which someone had applied adhesive (Waterloo, Iowa). After liquor seeped underneath a resident's door in a senior citizens' home, police found a leaking moonshine still inside (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia).

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