-- Among the problems uncovered in a November Detroit News investigation of the city's firehouses was the absence of a central system of flashing alarms or bells to notify stations when 911 calls come in. Rather, each firehouse is equipped with a dot-matrix printer with a lead weight resting on the paper feed on a table and tied to a switch that activates a bell on the wall; when the 911 operator sends a message to the firehouse computer, the "print" function automatically engages, moving the paper feed up, dislodging the lead weight from the table, and tripping the switch, which triggers the bell. Detroit Fire Commissioner Charles Wilson told the News that there are no plans to replace the 15-year-old system, in that it seems to work pretty well.
-- Even though "nonlethal" military firepower might satisfy nations' needs for war, without loss of life, some experts counsel against developing such armament, fearing that such sophisticated weapons might spook Iraq and other countries to step up development of the lethal kind. According to a December report in New Scientist, feasible nonlethal weapons include a dust that would put everyone in an area to sleep (or in a mellow state); bombs dispersing microbes that eat up enemy rubber tires or eat up storehouses of oil and gasoline; and bombs that would suck up oxygen in an area to disable automobile or aircraft engines.
-- Barry and Rhonda Conrad filed a formal, pre-litigation complaint against Hendricks Community Hospital (Danville, Ind.) in February for mishandling the body of their stillborn son last April. The grieving couple had wanted to view the body (and have it examined to help learn the reason for the stillbirth) before it went off to a funeral home, but according to the complaint, hospital employees mistakenly left it in with the sheets to be laundered, and by the time the Conrads could see the body, it had been washed, bleached and dried.
Brian Boone, 29, on probation since June in Lincoln, Ill., for attempting to abduct a child (and written up in News of the Weird last year for his penchant for collecting used socks from teen-age girls), was sentenced to 30 days in jail in November following his disorderly conduct conviction for asking two teen-age girls to give him the gum they were chewing by spitting it into a cup for him. He said he needed it to fix a flat tire. (His probation requires that he stay away from minors.)
Testifying in January in her lawsuit against Dr. James Tyhurst, Jill Gorman joined four other former patients who said that psychiatrist Tyhurst pressured them into sexual master-servant relationships, which included spankings when she was disobedient (Vancouver, British Columbia). And in December, Vermont officials ordered practice restrictions on surgeon Frederick Lord for 11 serious incidents in an 11-year period (e.g., operating on the wrong body parts), including one resulting in death and another in a patient's becoming a quadriplegic (Windsor, Vt.). And according to January testimony, a 65-year-old man died at a Hong Kong hospital last year after being left poorly attended because Dr. Chau Chak-lam failed to write "acute" angina on the patient's chart because, as he later testified, he did not know how to spell it in English.
-- In November, the San Francisco Chronicle art critic remarked that the center of American art seemed to have relocated from New York to the West Coast and that no event demonstrated that more than the recent Christie's auction of contemporary art in New York City, in which a 1990 fiberglass male mannequin sculpture by Los Angeles' Charles Ray, featuring genitalia copied from the artist's own, sold for $2.2 million.
-- According to a September dispatch from Havana, the troupe of seriously overweight ballerinas, Danza Voluminosa, is gearing up for its 12th performance in four years, the Greek tragedy "Phaedra," which it will execute emphasizing arm movements and stretching, while avoiding traditional big jumps. Said one performer, "The world needs things that break conventions of beauty."
-- Performance artist David Leslie's show in October in New York City consisted of him putting on headgear and boxing gloves and inviting audience members to try to knock him out, with any successful patron awarded $1,000. "I'll be covering up," he said, "but people will have, like, 15 uninterrupted shots at me. (I)t'll be cool." In a 1988 stunt, Leslie jumped off a five-story building onto a small cushion, to get "close to that kind of (life-threatening) peril. I just love surviving it."
-- New York City writer William Adrian Milton, 59, and his doctor told reporters in January that his recent CAT scan revealed to his complete surprise that he had a bullet in his head. Searching his memory, Milton recalled a 1976 incident in which he wandered too close to a fight on a loading dock, heard a noise, and was knocked down. He said he staggered home bloody and went to bed, but failed to seek medical treatment because the bleeding soon stopped and the remaining lump was consistent with being hit by a brick. Milton said he'll leave the bullet there.
Police in Bangkok charged Japanese businessman Yukio Tatsuka, 50, with the attempted murder of his son in November in what they say was a plan to eliminate him from the family because of his aggressive behavior. According to police, Tatsuka brought the 19-year-old on a holiday to Bangkok to show him "the best time of his life" so he wouldn't feel so guilty about killing him. A police colonel said Tatsuka might have mellowed just a little during the excursion, but when the son began scolding the father anew, Tatsuka grabbed his gun and allegedly shot the boy in the neck.
In January, Daniel F. Everett, 38, was charged with disturbing the peace after he allegedly pulled down his pants in the busy first-floor lobby of the St. Louis County Courthouse and photocopied his buttocks. From his position atop a machine, he had made two copies and was working on a third when Clayton, Mo., police officers arrested him. According to witnesses, Everett beseeched the officers: "What did I do? What did I do?"
-- A 46-year-old woman was killed in September in Molalla, Ore., when a 2-ton concrete wall collapsed onto the portable toilet she was using. And a 64-year-old man was killed in Reno, Nev., in January, found underneath several hundred pounds of old newspapers that had been stacked to the ceiling throughout his house. And at the airport near Luanda, Angola, in January, an out-of-control airplane managed to land safely, sparing the lives of all seven on board, but its erratic path caused a fatal collision with a pedestrian who was relieving himself too close to the runway.
British pro soccer player Rio Ferdinand went on the disabled list with a strained tendon caused by having his leg propped up for too long on his coffee table while watching the Super Bowl on TV (Leeds, England). A fistfight broke out in the middle of a highway funeral procession when a 20-year-old motorist became angry that he had to wait for the line of cars to pass and began yelling vulgarities and tossed a bottle at a car full of mourners (Florence, Ala.). The fire department had to rescue a 67-year-old man when the ground over his septic tank caved in and trapped him inside the rusty container for nearly an hour (Warwick, N.Y.) An 8-year-old boy was suspended for three days under a school's "zero tolerance" policy, for pointing a piece of breaded chicken at a teacher and simulating gunfire (Jonesboro, Ark.)
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Weird@compuserve.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)