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News of the Weird 

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The wife of handyman-inventor Teddie Eli Smith of Brunswick, Georgia, involved in a custody dispute with him over their four-year-old daughter, said in March that the child was conceived with a homemade artificial inseminator Smith rigged up with a bulb syringe and hair spray container. She further said that the device had been stocked with the sperm of Smith's 17-year-old son by a previous marriage. Smith's daughter would thus be his granddaughter, and his current wife could be called his first wife's daughter-in-law.

Compelling Explanations

Judge Don West found Melissa Thurston in contempt in April when she came to municipal court in Harrison, Arkansas, to answer a charge of failing to return video movies but arrived wearing no bra under her sweater. West later admitted that he could not see skin through the sweater but said that her breasts were "obviously showing."

According to a Seattle police officer, a 68-year-old woman arrested for shoplifting four packs of cigarettes in February blamed the episode on Judge Wapner. She said she was driven to experiment after overhearing the judge tell talk-show host Pat Sajak that "everybody steals, at least once in their life."

Gerard Pawloski was arraigned in March in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after reportedly firing 25 shotgun rounds at a postal carrier who was five hours behind schedule delivering his social-security check. When a neighbor came upon Pawloski as he was firing and asked what was going on, Pawloski calmly replied, "I'm shooting at the postman." The carrier was not hit.

Weird Enthusiasms

When police officers in Hermiston, Oregon, left the interrogation room briefly after questioning 36-year-old Richard Meacham about arson charges in December, Meacham reportedly set fire to his chair.

California officials opened an investigation in January of Dr. Charles Turner, 64, who had allegedly timed the birth of a baby, due around midnight on New Year's Eve, so that it would be Anaheim's first baby of 1990 and could appear on a prearranged segment of a live religious broadcast. The baby was delivered at 15 seconds after midnight, at which time Turner cleaned the baby, stuffed him into a Christmas stocking, and ran next door to the Melodyland Christian Center, to loud applause from the show's studio audience.

One of two horses killed by a truck on a highway near Houston in March was buried on the median strip by a uniformed burial crew. A representative of Houston's solid waste management department whose crew arrived after the burial said he had no idea who the free-lance crew was or where it came from.

Since around 1970, a woman (unidentified in a March newspaper story) has been filing papers in probate court in Jefferson County, Alabama, complaining about the government's "illegal" compiling of information on everyone. She identifies herself in each document by name, address, social-security number, and (in large upper-case letters) "VIRGIN!"

Prisoners protesting overcrowding in a jail near Sao Paulo, Brazil, held a lottery to determine which of them would be murdered by the others to bring their plight to public attention. The winner was the late Marcelo de Pietro, 27, serving 31 years for rape and murder. (His cell now houses only 46 in space intended for six.)

The Globe and Mail reported in April on the widespread abuse of Lysol in Canada's western provinces. Users puncture holes in the aerosol spray cans, then mix the concentrate with a half gallon of water (and a little sugar to improve the taste). One user said it was "the same as whiskey" only cheaper. A Lysol spokesman said such widespread abuse "appears to be a Canadian phenomenon."

Animal-rights activists broke into a factory farm in England in March and liberated 153,000 snails.

Last Days of the Planet

Zero Population Growth reported in March that more than 80 million women in 27 African and Middle Eastern countries are circumcised, as a cultural rite, to remove all sexual feeling.

A Soviet biologist speaking in Chicago in April claimed that, in the 580 square miles of the Ukraine abandoned by humans after the Chernobyl nuclear-plant disaster, packs of larger-than-normal wild dogs roam free and lakes are filled with abnormally large numbers of ducks.

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

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