-- The Wall Street Journal reported in July that the Environmental Protection Agency has ordered 71 mining companies in Idaho to submit copies of all of the paperwork they have produced in the last 117 years. EPA says it needs the information to help determine who is responsible for lead pollution in Idaho's Silver Valley. According to the president of one firm, the order was so crazy that the EPA investigators "must not live on this planet." Another pointed out that there are not enough copy machines in the region to handle the work.
-- A confidential report, prepared for the Australian Foreign Ministry and with uninhibited appraisals of many South Pacific leaders, was accidentally left on a table at a regional economic ministers meeting in Cairns, Australia, in July, and reported in the press. While the Australian delegation was outwardly friendly toward its smaller, island-nation neighbors, the report described by name many of the nations' leaders as inept or corrupt. And two weeks earlier, Austria's foreign minister came under fire for his name-calling at a breakfast meeting in the Netherlands. Minister Wolfgang Schuessel reportedly called one German official "a real pig," the Belarus president a "smelly Turk," and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright "an aging Bette Davis."
-- Four young men were arrested for trespassing and attempting to remove tires from a vehicle at a car-auction lot in Des Moines, Iowa, in May. Owner Dan Carney had seen the men enter the lot late at night on his security camera and hopped on his forklift. He picked up the men's getaway car and hid it inside a building. While the men were next door inquiring whether anyone had seen their car, police arrived to arrest them.
-- In March, nighttime thieves stole the two 300-pound, $30,000 solid brass doors from a side entrance of the Baltimore court house at Calvert and Lexington streets.
-- In June, supersleuth detectives in Loudon County, Tenn., and Lexington, Ill., cracked messy burglary cases. Loudon County sheriff's deputies arrested Frederick Downing, 31, after he pawned a VCR with bird droppings on it; deputies were waiting for that because it appeared that a bird in the burglarized home regularly perched above the VCR. In Lexington, James D. Kennedy, 32, pleaded guilty after being linked to a piece of stolen railroad machinery by freshly vomited spaghetti on the casing; the Lexington police chief inquired at a local restaurant that had run a spaghetti special on the night of the burglary and received a description of Kennedy from workers.
-- Dallas police officer Raymond Dethloff Jr., 34, was suspended for 15 days in March for eating a McDonald's chicken sandwich he took from a crashed car at an accident scene he was working. The 16-year-old girl to whom it belonged had been taken away in an ambulance with minor injuries.
-- A Chicago Tribune correspondent, writing from Caracas, Venezuela, in April, reported on the recent carjacking of Rosa Clemente, who was en route with her grandmother to visit her ailing grandfather. The grandmother pleaded with the two robbers to forget about the car (they could not, they explained; they needed it for the weekend) or at least to swing by the hospital and drop the two women off (which they reluctantly did). The grandmother also got them to promise to return the car by Monday because the women needed it for continuing transportation to the hospital. The men actually returned the car, but the women couldn't use it for three months because the police were holding it as evidence.
-- Fleeing on foot just ahead of cops in hot pursuit near Collinsville, Ill., in June, murder suspect Ronald Hardwick, 24, ran into a field and attempted to hide. However, alert Texas County sheriff's deputies noticed that a few cows, rather than idly grazing, had seemed to congregate in a certain area and were staring at a particular place where the field turns into woods. Deputies headed that way and soon ran across Hardwick.
-- Irene Luby, 75, was arrested in Barrington, Ill., in April and charged with felony shoplifting. It was her 145th arrest since 1989 (under as many as 60 aliases). This time, according to police, she had lifted a whole salami, two rolls of film, and several packages of medicine from a Jewel/Osco supermarket. In the police holding room, an officer said he heard a thump on the floor at Luby's feet and looked down to see a package. "What was that?" he asked her. Luby responded, "Would you like some cheese?" The officer then added a package of cheese to the charge.
-- Robert Hayden, 30, was arrested in East Moline, Ill., in February and charged with attempted robbery of the Esquire Lodge East. According to police, Hayden walked into the lobby with a hood over his head, and simulating a weapon in his hand, and demanded money. Hayden, who is black, then sheepishly aborted the robbery when he realized that the Esquire Lodge East was black-owned and -operated. He fled, but police caught him nearby.
-- At a celebrity auction in May, Debbie Dacoba of Paw Paw, Mich., bid $8,625 for a pair of Mr. Ed's horseshoes and was so overcome with joy when she won that she had to retreat to the ladies' room for 20 minutes until she stopped crying. Later she told a reporter that she would keep the horseshoes in plastic because specks of brown residue in the nail holes "could be manure, which I hope it is because then I have a piece of him."
-- A June Associated Press profile of Bernard Williams, 77, of Hannibal, Mo., described his work over the last 13 years: He has rewritten both the Old and New Testament of the Bible into rhyme in two books published by a local man, Jim Hefley, doing business as Hannibal Books. Williams' goal was to make the scriptures more accessible to readers.
News of the Weird reported in 1996 on hard-luck Oklahoma rapist Darron Bennalford Anderson, who had received a 2,200-year sentence in 1994 but appealed and won a new trial. Unfortunately for him, he was convicted again and this time given more than 90 additional centuries behind bars, a total of 11,250 years, including 40 centuries each for rape and sodomy, 17 1/2 centuries for kidnapping, 10 centuries for burglary and robbery, and five centuries for grand larceny. In July 1997, the state Court of Criminal Appeals held that the grand larceny charge was double jeopardy on the robbery conviction and dismissed it, speeding Anderson's release date up five centuries to the year A.D. 12,744.
Jimmy Robert Jewell, 33, was arrested in May in Redondo Beach, Calif., and charged with indecent exposure. He had opened the door of his van to flash a female passerby, who just happened to be carrying a camera in order to take pictures of a house she had had her eye on. She snapped several photos, of Jewell and of his license plate, and police tracked him down a short time later.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com. Chuck Shepherd's latest paperback, "The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics," is now available at bookstores everywhere. To order it direct, call 1-800-642-6480 and mention this newspaper. The price is $6.95 plus $2 shipping.)