News of the Weird 

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Last month 16-year-old Jamie Cooper of Birmingham, England, told reporters that he plans to store some of his sperm before changing his gender so that he may use a surrogate womb to conceive a child and be both its mother and its father (a first in human history). Under the rules of the National Health Service, Cooper will be eligible for surgery in five years; various church spokespeople expressed horror at his plan.

An association of private security guards who work at the federal government's supersecret "Area 51" at Groom Lake (90 miles from Las Vegas) went on strike for higher wages and benefits last month. The association president told reporters he couldn't divulge the exact location of his workplace and urged them to "use your imagination." His members, called "camo dudes" because of their camouflage uniforms, report to the Las Vegas airport and are flown in nondescript planes to the site, which they refer to as "nowhere" or "out of town."

In November 2001 police charged 43-year-old Daniel W. Searfoss with using a tiny lens in his shoe, attached to a video camera he carried in a bag, to photograph underneath women's skirts at a flea market in Brandon, Florida. He'd just finished probation for a similar incident at a Wal-Mart, and after scanning 45 videotapes from his home, police charged him with another incident at a church in Plant City. At a court hearing last month the prosecutor told the judge that Searfoss had tried to aim his shoe under the dresses of several women in the county probation office.

Compelling Explanations

On October 19, 2001, rangers at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee canceled a massive search for 47-year-old Chien Nguyen, a school custodian from Smithfield, North Carolina (just across the state line), after he turned up in a Knoxville homeless shelter for men. Nguyen, a Buddhist monk, said he'd gone to the park and then the shelter to get away from women, believing his spirituality was in jeopardy from too much intergender contact.

Graham Fletcher, a 25-year-old postal worker in Edinburgh, Scotland, was sentenced to community service in October 2001 for hoarding 2 items he should have delivered (reduced from 696 in a plea bargain). Fletcher said that he'd decided to surprise his wife while she was out with her lady friends and found her pinned against a Ford van outside a bar, engaged in a sex act, and that his mail hoarding was a "cry for help."

Not My Fault

Last September, Howard Strumph filed suit against the police department in Voorhees, Pennsylvania, for failing to save his wife's life two years earlier, despite the fact that he was the one who'd shot her. Confined to a wheelchair, Strumph had caught a handyman attacking his wife, fired at him, and accidentally hit his wife; police were reluctant to enter, thinking they might be in a standoff with a homicidal man.

In Australia, 22-year-old Kane Rundle sued the State Rail Authority of New South Wales for $1 million because of brain damage he sustained during a train ride in 1994. The plaintiff hit his head while leaning out of a moving train, spraying graffiti, but his lawyers argue that the company was aware of passengers spraying graffiti and should have done more to prevent it.

People With Issues

Last September a TV news crew from WTXF in Philadelphia caught councilman Angel Ortiz driving a city car while carrying only a New York license that had expired in 1976. Ortiz, who's been working for the city for the past 17 years, said, "I kept trying to make time to get a new license, and it seemed that something pressing always took precedence." A few days later Ortiz denied knowing anything about having 53 outstanding parking tickets (with fines totaling about $3,000).

Recurring Themes

Last November a court in Birmingham, England, ordered 25-year-old plumber John Walker to pay nearly $100,000 to a much older woman who seduced him when he was 15. Though he never saw her again, she recently came forward saying she needed help raising their child, and now that his DNA has been matched to the child's, Walker must support the child until it turns 19.

In the Last Month

Firefighters in Argo, Alabama, found the well-preserved corpse of a six-foot-long brown shark on the side of the road just off U.S. 11 and disposed of it after no one called to claim it....In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a 53-year-old man was hospitalized after the explosion of two homemade bombs he was carrying around in case he got mugged....In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a fired postal worker pleaded guilty to returning to the workplace and splattering former colleagues with a mixture of worms and porcupine feces....And in Peoria, Illinois, a large woman was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after she sat on and crushed a 49-year-old man who had allegedly engaged her for a sex act but refused to pay her.

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

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