-- A two-day, hands-on euthanasia technology conference was held in Seattle in November, in which various techniques and products were presented, with the most promising invention the "debreather" submitted by a Vancouver, British Columbia, man. The device's mask and hose run to a jar containing a substance the man would not identify but which he said made death from lack of oxygen "quick and painless" because it filters out carbon dioxide, thus supposedly preventing the body's natural panic reflex.
In October, Cape Town, South Africa's tourist manager Sheryl Ozinsky said her office was planning to issue a recommended list of top-echelon brothels (even though prostitution is illegal) to help reduce crime and HIV. And in August, Robin Pike of Cape Town said national tourism officials had approved his marketing plans to draw European swingers to South Africa to sample its spouse-swappers. And in July, rancher Johan Maree said he planned to stock his wild-game farm near Ellisras, South Africa, with prostitutes and charge visitors about $45 a head to try to shoot them with paintball guns.
-- Reuters news agency, citing a Hanoi newspaper (Science and Life), reported in October that Ms. Nguyen Thi Tu of southern Ca Mau has not slept, even under doctors' care, since 1967. She tires normally and rests, but cannot sleep. (In a 1986 Reuters dispatch from San Antonio de los Banos, Cuba, with quotes from several of that country's leading neurologists and hospital officials, a man was reported not to have engaged in what is medically regarded as a sleep state in 40 years, though he did rest and close his eyes, especially when administered narcotics.)
-- In October, police in the state of Bihar, India, accused a man of the ritual sacrifice of his two daughters, aged 18 and 13, during the Hindu festival of Dassera. In June, a London Telegraph report from Faridabad, India, cited 1998 police reports of the sacrifices of nine children under age 10 to the bloodthirsty Hindu goddess Kali, mostly by so-called Tantric priests (some of whom are simply con artists) in slums and poor villages in eastern India, who prescribe the child offerings to cure a variety of their parents' misfortunes. And three Satanists were charged in September in Istanbul, Turkey, with killing a 21-year-old woman in a sacrifice to the devil to stop the country's recent earthquakes.
-- According to a September eyewitness report in the Sunday Oklahoman newspaper, cowboy Pat Ratliff, age 78, won $1,700 from three marks in Ardmore, Okla., by tearing a quarter in half. To erase skepticism, Ratliff also took two quarters from the reporter and tore those in half, each in less than 30 seconds. Among his previous work, Ratliff tutored actor Robert Duvall in toughness as Duvall prepared for his role in "Lonesome Dove."
-- After an unsuccessful appeal to the Nebraska legislature, South Dakota's Oglala Sioux Tribal Court said in August it would have to find other ways to stop beer sales in the nearby border town of Whiteclay, Neb. (population 22). Stores in Whiteclay, far away from any populated area except the Oglala reservation, sell 4 million cans of beer a year (an average of 1,800 six-packs a day).
-- Town officials in Oakville, Ontario, banned Tamara Sanowar-Makhan's "Ultra-Maxi Priest" sculpture from its September Visual Raaga exhibit. The piece is a life-size Catholic vestment composed of more than 200 feminine maxi-pads, to symbolize, said Sanowar-Makhan, "the oppressive control by organized religion over the freedom of girls (and) women."
-- City officials in Recife, Brazil, voted in August to reject Francisco Brennand's proposed 100-foot-high, glowing sculpture intended as a beacon to outer space. Officials and many townspeople said the sculpture too closely resembled a phallus. When they attempted to get Brennand to modify the statue to more resemble a lighthouse, Brennand quit in disgust and smashed another structure on his way out the door.
-- In July, while Windsor, Ontario, school breakfast-program staff members looked on in anger, artist Les Levine and volunteers emptied more than 250 boxes of corn flakes in a waterfront park to commemorate a piece he had done in 1969 (to considerably more success) to support the then-fledgling ecology movement. Seagulls devoured the flakes in less than a minute, provoking a chagrined school official to note that he could have fed everyone at his school for a year with that cereal.
A Taiwan distributing company began an advertising campaign recently for German-made space heaters, using a smiling Adolf Hitler character to "Declare War on the Cold Front"; a company representative said it was important to show the product as being German-made and that he didn't think Taiwanese were very sensitive about Hitler (but the ads were pulled in November). And the Vatican announced in December that it was appalled at the Beretta company's ad campaign for a new series of $7,000 "Jubilee"-model guns, which is also the name of the Roman Catholic millennium celebration; the ads' tagline is "The pope would like them."
Man Vs. Train: In October in Burlingame, Calif., an 18-year-old woman became the latest fatality among people who walk along railroad tracks while listening to music on headphones and don't hear a train coming. And three days later in Kanagawa, Japan, a 61-year-old man was hospitalized in serious condition, the latest injury to someone standing on a passenger platform and leaning over the track (in this case, apparently to spit) just as a train was rumbling by.
People Who Haven't Quite Figured Everything Out: Alexander Nemeth was arrested in Frankfurt, Germany, in September and charged with attempting to extort $14 million from the Nestle food company by poisoning its products on supermarket shelves; the ransom money was to be placed in pouches around the necks of his homing pigeons, but police merely put radio transmitters into the pouches before sending the pigeons on their way. And Donald Mallison, 20, and Robert Mims, 18, were arrested in Irving, Texas, in November and charged with robbing a Blockbuster Video; they were caught outside their getaway car, having accidentally locked the keys inside.
Robbers in Manila stole the entire $50,000 life savings of a recent government retiree who had withdrawn the money from a bank out of fear of Y2K computer problems. The Russian parliament passed a bill making it specifically illegal for people to eat their pets. An Austin, Texas, record label issued "The Charmer," an album of calypso songs recorded by Louis Farrakhan before he became the leader of the Nation of Islam. A half-ton, $60,000, all-chocolate, full-size replica of a Grand Prix racing car, being transported by truck to a London exhibit, arrived smashed to pieces. Ernest Bernard "Rabbit" Eady was convicted of murder in Knoxville, Tenn., based on the testimony of James L. "Chicken" Cannon.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679, or Weird@compuserve.com.)