News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF JULY 28, 2002


-- Despite a warning label reading "Do not use indoors because of flammability" on its carpet adhesive, the Para-Chem company was ordered by a jury in Akron, Ohio, in July to pay $8 million to two professional installers who were severely burned in an explosion when they tried to use the product indoors. One juror told the Akron Beacon Journal that he and his colleagues felt the warning did not go far enough in convincing the installers not to use the product indoors.

-- A whole class of New Bedford, Mass., middle-school students was recommended for blood tests in July after officials learned that, in May 2001, a now-retired seventh-grade science teacher had pricked the fingers of about two dozen of the students to make sample blood slides, using the same needle (though he wiped it with alcohol between uses). Officials thought the risk of infection was low but had no explanation how a veteran science teacher could stray so far from contemporary blood-safety procedures.

Latest Astonishing Research

A paper by psychologist Michel Lariviere for Correctional Services of Canada concluded that most guards don't respect inmates (which inhibits rehabilitation efforts) (May). A $4 million study by University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions revealed that employees are much more likely to call in sick if they have drunk alcohol the night before (May). A Harvard School of Public Health survey found that people report more noise and other disruptions in binge-drinking college neighborhoods than in other neighborhoods (July). An Iowa State University study found that TV viewers had a harder time noticing the commercials on shows containing explicit sex than on other types of shows (June).

Trouble Up Ahead

-- The owners of Los Angeles' Westwood Village Memorial Park (resting place of Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin and Frank Zappa) have asked the county to allow them to build a 463-casket mausoleum on formerly open space in the park that is very close to residential property, thus potentially disturbing both neighbors worried about spirits in their back yards and solemn park visitors, who may be exposed to screaming children and barbecue smoke. (And in June, bowing to strong opposition, the operators of Dublin, Ireland's most famous cemetery (Glasnevin) withdrew a proposal to add income by building 11 luxury townhouses on its grounds.)

-- Former Broward County (Fla.) librarian William Coday's online personal ad touts his multilingualism, world travels, compassion, and love of Keats and baroque music. The ad does not mention that he was convicted of murdering his 1978 and 1997 girlfriends, both with hammers, and that he is in jail awaiting a jury's decision whether he gets death for the latter crime.

Family Values

-- Leslie Collard, 42, arrested in May in Providence, R.I., for offering an undercover officer a tandem prostitution deal that included her 19-year-old daughter, was asked before the arrest if that meant the mother and daughter would serve him at the same time. "No," she said (according to the officer), "I have morals, because she is my daughter. My daughter will do you first."

-- Pull Their Parenting Licenses: David and Guadalupe Mata were arrested for allegedly chaining their 21-year-old daughter face up on her bed, to keep her away from the married man she had been seeing (Fullerton, Calif., July). A mother and stepfather were charged with duct-taping her 12-year-old son to a lawn chair so he would get sunburned as punishment for sassing her (Hamilton, Ohio, May). Gary and Kathleen Rabatin and their teen-age kids were charged with possession of marijuana, with the parents admitting pride that the kids smoke at home rather than on the street (and dope was found in every room in their house) (Levittown, Pa., June). Sedrick Lamont Curtis, 28, and Shakima Lewis, 25, were charged with forcing their adolescent kids into sex shows in their home, at which they charged clients $10 to watch (Gary, Ind., May)

Cliches Come to Life

According to an Agence France-Presse report of a United Nations officials' meeting with Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe in April (concerning how undemocratic the country's last election was), Mugabe allegedly exploded when scolded by a U.S. representative: "Well," said Mugabe, "I don't think George Bush won the U.S. election, but I accept (it)." And in Lumberton, N.J., in July, Michael J. Devine, 36, captured in a stolen truck after a police chase, denied he was trying to escape; he said that he couldn't stop because the truck contained a bomb that would explode if his speed dropped below 55 mph.

People Different From Us

Shemuel Nahum Ben Yisrael (formerly, James Christopher) filed a $10 million lawsuit in June against the city of Beaufort, S.C., and its mayor, police and sheriff's department, for an unlawful arrest in 2000 and for generally harassing him. According to the police chief in Yisrael's hometown of nearby Yemassee, Yisrael keeps buckets of paint and urine handy at his home so that, when law enforcement officers come for one of their frequent arrests of him (mostly for trespassing), he can douse himself so as to make the officers' jobs harder.

Least Competent Criminals

Latest Bright Ideas: According to an indictment obtained by the U.S. Department of Justice in May, Christopher Lee Jones of Pembroke, N.C., recently publicly attempted to sell 100 stolen Social Security numbers by eBay online auction and tried to enhance their value by specifically suggesting that bidders use them to obtain credit cards. And Tony Alston, 26, and April Lynett Smith, 20, were arrested after a brief police chase following their alleged robbery of a Compass Bank in San Antonio, Texas; police caught them easily because their getaway vehicle was a rental U-Haul truck with a speed governor that the company routinely equips the truck with to slow it down.

Thinning the Herd

A 13-year-old boy was struck and killed in the street while playing "chicken" with a neighbor driving a go-cart (Lithonia, Ga., March). And a 17-year-old boy was struck and killed while playing lie-down-on-the-highway "chicken" at 11:30 p.m. (Crescent City, Calif., June). And a 44-year-old woman was struck and killed by an Amtrak train as she drove through a railroad crossing busily conversing on her cell phone (Little Rock, Ark., June).

Our Civilization in Decline

County officials charged the Dance Place studio (Safety Harbor, Fla.) with pressuring 30 elderly customers to sign 328 separate contracts for dance lessons, totaling $3.5 million (including selling one woman $257,000 worth over a three-week period) (July). While laid-off workers of Global Crossing Ltd. (one-time value: $54 billion) try to recoup some of the $32 million in severance pay they lost by the company's bankruptcy filing, the Los Angeles Times reported that company founder Gary Winnick continues his historically detailed, $30 million renovation on the $94 million mansion he purchased before the collapse (July).

Also, in the Last Month ...

A Muslim housewife in Florida filed a lawsuit after the state revoked her driver's license because she insisted that her identification photo reveal only her eyes (because of her niqab veil) (Winter Park, Fla.). A 19-year-old man fatally overconsumed in a contest to see who could eat the most salt (Tamluk, India). A 20-year-old man was arrested after making 1,100 calls to 911 over a two-day period, attributing his behavior simply to boredom (Gainesville, Fla.). A court in Iran denied Mohammad Khordadian travel privileges for 10 years because he formerly taught Iran-disapproved dance lessons while living in Los Angeles (Tehran).

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