News of the Weird 

Lead Story

The German news agency Deutsche Presse Agentur reported in November on Japanese inventor Kenji Kawakami's "New Idea Academy," which features Kawakami's own innovations and counts among its most successful products a portable washing machine that straps onto the user's leg, a traveling necktie with room for writing utensils and a calculator, padded booties for cats so they can dust the floor while walking around, and a "solar flashlight" that provides a strong beam of light as long as the sun is shining.

Compelling Explanations

In June a jury in Florence, Alabama, acquitted a 44-year-old man of sodomy with a 12-year-old girl. The man, arguing the the girl was making up fantasies about him, said, "A lot of kids fantasize about me. I have monster trucks and boats and stuff."

Terry John Wilson, 53, was charged with murder in Houston in September when the man he had hired to rough up his wife's suitor accidentally killed him. Wilson told police he had only wanted the suitor, who was a bowling partner of the Wilsons', to suffer broken arms and legs so that he could no longer bowl, thus becoming less attractive to Mrs. Wilson.

In October the Massachusetts Supreme Court turned down Rodney M. Taylor's appeal of his drug-selling conviction. Taylor had argued that a state law that increased the penalty if drugs were sold near a school was unconstitutional because it was unfair to "big city" drug dealers in that there are more schools in big cities.

In September Gene Kasmar filed a petition urging a school district near Minneapolis to ban the Bible from public schools on the grounds that it is obscene. Kasmar cited 20 pages of biblical references to explicit sex, child abuse, incest, scatology, nakedness, concubines, and the mistreatment of women. (The board turned him down in November.)

In August an appeals court rejected the defense advanced by Robert Joseph Burch, 40, to overturn his DUI conviction in Knoxville, Tennessee. He had argued that he had been unable to walk a straight line without wobbling only because he was unaccustomed to walking in the women's high heels he was wearing at the time. He said he was dressed in his wife's clothes in an attempt to annoy her after an argument they had just had.

San Francisco police arrested Russell C. Sultan in July and charged him with attempting to extort $23,000 from his mother and girlfriend by claiming to have been kidnapped for ransom. After tracing telephone calls, police burst into a motel room with their guns drawn to find Sultan casually eating fried chicken and watching a 49ers football game. Without missing a beat, Sultan said the kidnappers had merely left him alone for a while and exclaimed to the officers, "What took you so long?"

Dearborn, Michigan, police officer Brian Yinger was suspended in October and ordered to undergo psychotherapy. Police chief Robert Deziel said Yinger's offense was that he writes the number 7 European style, with a horizontal line through it, thus "confusing" department clerks.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

In October in Los Angeles an 18-year-old gang member who police said was probably leaning out a car window to position himself for a drive-by shooting was killed when his driver drove too close to a parked car, sending his head through the rear window of the other car.

In several recent cases involving juvenile theft, judge Don Overby of Raleigh, North Carolina, has forced the convicted kid to go home, retrieve his own most prized possession, bring it back to the courtroom, and watch while Overby smashed it up--to demonstrate the sense of loss felt by a victim of theft.

Richard Fife Curr, 29, was charged with assault in San Antonio in August and suffered a loosened tooth in the incident. He had gotten carried away with a nightclub dancer during a performance and had bitten her on the buttocks.

The Weirdo-American Community

Washington Jewish Week, a newspaper in Washington, D.C., reported in November that among the fliers collected by the local Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith office was one that read: "Each year, 50,000 children are murdered within 48 hours of abduction. Jews own 75 percent of the pet food industry? Where are our missing children? Think!"

Least Competent People

In November burglars broke into the safe in the Wonder-Hostess Thrift Shop bakery in Davenport, Iowa. Police said the burglars had an easy time: because the bakery employees could not remember the safe's combination they had written it out and posted it on the nearby bulletin board.

Inexplicable

The government of Ukraine sponsored a competition, which closed December 31, to determine the best way to seal the destroyed nuclear reactor that caused the disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. The government seeks a solution that will guarantee safety from radiation for 100 years, and it is willing to pay whoever designs such a system the equivalent of $20,000, not including construction costs. The cost of designing and building a system that would ensure such safety, according to U.S. officials, is closer to $250 million.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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