News of the Weird

Week of December 8, 2002

LEAD STORIES

-- Inga Kosak won the first World Extreme Ironing Championship in Munich in September, beating 80 contestants (from 10 countries), who are judged on the degree of difficulty they can create for themselves in order to iron. One ironed while bouncing on a trampoline, another while surfboarding on a river, and another hanging upside down from a tree. Enthusiasts have photos of themselves ironing in remote mountain locations, where power for the steam iron must come from a generator (or a very long extension cord). The activity's founder, Phil Shaw, says he does it because ironing itself is particularly boring.

-- Two teams of Canadian engineers are completing their low-budget rockets and have begun seeking volunteer astronauts for a 2003 launch date to go 62 miles into space to win the St. Louis-based X Prize competition (which pays (U.S.) $10 million). The rockets (and those of about 20 other international contestants) are the "Cessnas" of the space industry, costing around (U.S.) $3 million to $5 million each to build. The astronauts will receive some training, but the engineers admit the adventure is hardly for the risk-averse.

Democracy in Action

Mike Rucker, running for county commissioner in Tallahassee, Fla., apologized for urinating in a voter's yard in October, attributing it to a prostate problem and not anger that the voter had moments earlier refused to post Rucker's campaign sign. And Republican Lamar Alexander, running for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee, reportedly turned a hand-shaking opportunity into a hand-squeezing contest with an opposition voter who had mischievously slipped Alexander a Democratic brochure in Dickson, Tenn., in October. And Makinka Moye, running for city supervisor in San Francisco, was revealed by the Bay Area Reporter in September to have been arrested earlier this year for bludgeoning and butchering a goat on a vacant lot near a city recreation center. (Alexander won; Rucker and Moye lost.)

Leading Economic Indicators

-- Clothing Trends (from an October Wall Street Journal dispatch from Seoul): an aloe vera bra and underwear set to continually lubricate the skin for up to 40 washings (from Triumph International in the UK); menstrual-pain-reducing pants (from the B.L. Korea Co.); Ki business suits, with charcoal and jade powder sewn into the armpits and crotch, to block computer-screen radiation and boost energy (from Cheil Industries Inc.); and "yellow earth" boxer shorts, with a sewn-in special soil that supposedly emits infrared rays that cut odor and improve circulation (from Kolon Corp.).

-- Michael Carroll, 19, of Norfolk County, England, won that country's national lottery (equivalent: (U.S.) $41 million) in November and said he hopes the money will be an incentive to overcome the life of petty crime he has led for the last several years (examples: drunk and disorderly, vandalizing a school bus, car theft, other theft, driving without a license). He cannot now celebrate his win at a pub, nor drive his new car, because judicial restrictions are still in force from his last sentence.

Latest Rights

-- In October, Australian serial killer Ivan Milat complained to a state commission, asking the equivalent of (U.S.) $22,000, for a violation of his human rights. Milat, serving seven life sentences for seven murders, had swallowed some razor blades in a 2001 incident and now complains that prison officials' releasing his X-rays to the media was an invasion of his privacy. (Milat had complained previously about the air quality in his cell.)

-- In November, coroner Nigel Meadows of Plymouth, England, ruled that the 18-years-dead corpse of Edwin MacKenzie (known to locals as Diogenes) was actually the personal property of the recently deceased artist Robert Lenkiewicz and thus should go to Lenkiewicz's estate. MacKenzie was Lenkiewicz's helper for many years, and when he died without heirs, Lenkiewicz took possession of the body, had it embalmed, and used it in various art projects, and Lenkiewicz's executor is said to be considering using it in a memorial display of the artist's work.

-- In October, Virgin Atlantic Airways agreed to pay passenger Barbara Hewson the equivalent of (U.S.) $20,000 for injuries she suffered on an 11-hour flight when an obese woman sat in the seat next to her and apparently crushed part of her body. Hewson said the squashing caused a blood clot in her chest, torn leg muscles and acute sciatica, requiring her to be bedridden for a month.

Least Competent Criminals

Masters of Technology: Burglars hit the K Bros. Service Station in Everson, Pa., in November and lugged away the lottery-ticket machine, perhaps hoping to print themselves some winning tickets; a lottery spokesman said the machine only works when it's hooked up to lottery headquarters. And Baptist minister James Andrew Smith, 42, was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, in November for a September graphics presentation (to a logistic company) that he was making with his computer; he had clicked the wrong line and inadvertently called up a photograph of a nude boy, which led to a search that police said yielded much child pornography.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in March that jail officials in Arapahoe County, Colo. (near Denver), had inadvertently placed a 16-year-old girl in a holding cell with a man suspected of several sexual assaults (and, indeed, she said, he fondled her). In August, officials at the same Arapahoe jail inadvertently placed accused killer Edward Brown, 21, in the same cell with a witness against him, Martin Brewer, 21, whereupon Brown allegedly beat Brewer up, breaking his nose. (Also, in September, officials in Albuquerque inadvertently locked four men in a cell with what they thought was a sleeping man (but it was a woman); by the time they realized their error 30 minutes later, the woman had allegedly been raped.)

Things You Thought Didn't Happen Anymore

In September, Peru congressman Eittel Ramos, feeling insulted, challenged Vice President David Waisman to a duel using pistols (which would be the country's first political duel since a 1957 presidential candidates' fight with swords). And British motorcyclist Leon Humphreys, angered at a vehicle registration problem, challenged an unidentified bureaucrat to a duel with unspecified weapons (Suffolk County, November). And Omaha, Neb., contractor Art Dore Sr., challenged business rival Virgil Anderson to a boxing match to finally settle their ongoing disputes over municipal demolition contracts (although Anderson, in his 60s, is unlikely to accept, in that Dore is a founder of the Original Toughman Contest).

Thinning the Herd

At dawn on Sept. 29 in Hood River County, Ore., a 58-year-old hunter was accidentally shot to death by another hunter (who mistook him for a black bear), perhaps made easier by the victim's all-black clothing. And a 28-year-old man stopped his truck on a road in the Mojave Desert near Needles, Calif., in September, grabbed some beer, and went hiking in the midday sun (and died of dehydration). And a 32-year-old man was killed in October in Santa Cruz, Calif., when he fell from a hotel balcony, from which he had been hanging while shouting to his friends, "Look at this."

Also, in the Last Month ...

Robert and Theresa Dolin pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of their teenage kids based on having given them Christmas gifts last year of marijuana bongs (Crystal Lake, Ill.). Ojibwe Indian Albert LaFontaine declared that his newly purchased strippers' club would be a sovereign nation and said there "ain't no way" the government can stop him (Elko, Minn.). Yenline Neil, 59, was convicted of smuggling about $110,000 worth of cocaine into Britain in his prosthetic leg, despite insisting that he didn't know the cocaine was there (Croydon, England). Evangelical Environmental Network (Wynnewood, Pa.) announced a national campaign to discourage gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles, calling its project "What Would Jesus Drive?"

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

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