-- The Alberta Ferretti fashion house recently introduced, in New York and London, self-described "gorgeous pieces" made from hamster fur, including a reversible multicolored-fur/camel-leather coat (about $6,000) and a skirt suit ($6,300), a patchwork design in which the hamster pelts appear simply laid side-by-side and end-to-end. The London Ferretti store told The Express newspaper in late October that it had sold 11 of its 12 suit jackets (a size 10 remained).
-- Four weeks after admonishing the government for its treatment of scientist Wen Ho Lee, U.S. District Judge James A. Parker scolded federal prosecutors for demanding too harsh a sentence against a convicted New Mexico perjurer, pointing out that the prosecutors' boss, President Clinton, had asked for leniency for his own false testimony in the Paula Jones case. The New Mexico perjurer, Ruben Renteria Sr., 49, was convicted of lying about consenting to be searched, for which Judge Parker imposed a 15-month sentence rather than the five years the government wanted; President Clinton sought leniency and received no jail sentence but was fined $90,000 and is fighting to keep his Arkansas license to practice law.
Ralph Carlone, 48, was charged with corpse abuse in July for failing to report his parents' deaths (his mother's, two weeks before; his father's, 11 years earlier) and continuing to live with their bodies inside the Akron, Ohio, home he shared with them. And in September, a judge in Phoenix acquitted Frank A. Martinez, 71, of killing his wife in 1987; Martinez had continued to live with her body in their trailer home until 1998, when a suicide attempt brought police, who found the corpse. (Martinez's neighbors had long complained of the smell, but he managed to convince them merely that a dead cat had been buried underneath the home.)
-- Rev. Marvin Munyon of the Family Research Forum (Madison, Wis.) told parents at a September seminar at the Eau Claire Gospel Center how to administer the loving and supportive corporal punishment demanded in the Bible: "You spank them right here on the gluteus maximus, which God made for that purpose." Spanking should begin by age 2, he said, and used properly, it will build self-esteem because it lets children know they are loved.
-- A strippers' club in Hove, East Essex, England, applied for a license variance in September, asking for exemption from the current no-touching-the-dancers rule because it discriminates against customers who are blind, in that they would not have equal opportunity to experience the show unless they could touch. Dancers were said to approve the idea, if limited to bona fide blind people.
-- The Florida Court of Appeals in September turned down lawyer Philip G. Butler's challenge to his bribery conviction. Butler had represented himself at trial and lost, and then claimed on appeal that the reason he lost was that he had failed to inform himself adequately that acting as his own lawyer was foolish.
-- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced in July that an employee fired for his obsessive belief in the validity of "cold fusion" can sue the employer for "religious" discrimination. As long as an employee has a seriously held conviction that in his own value system he regards as "religious," he is protected under federal law, even though the vast majority of physicists believe "cold fusion" is bogus. The petitioner, Paul A. LaViolette, worked at the U.S. Patent Office, but there was no evidence that he was assisting in the patenting of bogus technologies.
-- "Bus driver" Darius McCollum, 35, was profiled in The New York Times in August after his 19th arrest for impersonating a city transit worker. Said McCollum: "I am not insane. I (just) like the (bus) activity. I like the noise. I like the people who work there." Said one official, "(W)hat this guy does is kind of wacky, but he is very much on the ball." McCollum apparently spends much time on the grounds talking to bus and train employees at all levels and is well-versed in transit procedures and techniques. Said McCollum: "To tell you the truth, I wish they would just (hire me). It would be a lot easier."
-- In August, the New Hampshire Supreme Court OK'd worker compensation payments to a state employee, for "work-related" depression, even though the cause of the depression was merely that she had gotten bad performance reviews. The state appeals board acknowledged that the employee, Gail Sirviris-Allen, had been justifiably cited for inaccurate work and a bad attitude.
Lucrecia Ortuno, 30, was charged in August with injuring her 8-month-old son in a car crash in Houston; according to police reports, she was driving while breastfeeding him. And Kenneth Herron, 40, was charged with manslaughter in August in Little Rock, Ark., after his car crossed the center line and collided with another car; according to police, Herron was driving (with his knees) while preparing his crack cocaine. And a 27-year-old woman was killed when she lost control of her car on I-75 near Atlanta in August; according to witnesses, she was driving while applying makeup.
Three months ago, News of the Weird referred to laws in Alabama, Texas and Georgia (until May, Louisiana was on the list) that banned the sale of products whose primary purpose is to stimulate the genitals. In October, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of Alabama's law, and in August, the Austin Chronicle reported on how Texas sex shops are coping with that state's law (by legally selling "anatomically correct condom education model" dildos). And at press time, the Augusta (Ga.) Commission had a license-revocation action pending against Lucy's Love Shop for violating that state's version of the law.
Federal grand juror Mark Vincent Hinckley, 37, part of the panel that had just voted secret indictments against an alleged Denver drug dealer, was arrested in August after he went to the dealer's office and attempted to sell him information about the government's case, for $50,000. Hinckley had apparently forgotten some of the evidence that he had just heard: that the government had bugged the alleged dealer's office. Thus, Hinckley's proposition was recorded in full. The dealer's indictment had to be dismissed because of Hinckley's misconduct, but Hinckley himself was indicted a few days later.
In a midday public demonstration, three martial-arts masters, without using their hands, pulled a truck containing 80 people 12 inches with ropes attached only to their penises (Taipei). A divorce-court judge awarded the family home to the two kids (ages 11 and 13), allowing the mother three weeks' visitation a month and the father one week (Victoria, British Columbia). USAirways admitted that it had allowed a 300-pound pig to ride in the first-class aisle on a flight from Philadelphia to Seattle, in the belief that it was a customer's emotional equivalent of a seeing-eye dog. Two female prisoners and their boyfriends were arrested for drug-partying at the South Dakota governor's mansion (during the first family's absence), where the women had work-release jobs on the kitchen staff.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Weird@compuserve.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)