News of the Weird 

Lead Story

The Environmental Assessment Center in Okayama, Japan, announced in October that it had manufactured an experimental sausage by adding soybean protein and steak flavoring to "sewage solids" from Tokyo. "Sewage isn't really such a dangerous and dirty thing," said a spokesman. However, he did not foresee that the sausage would be commercially marketed: "Sewage does have a slight image problem. I don't think people will be content eating something they know has been excreted by humans."

Inexplicable

In October Mohammad Jafari was shot point-blank between the eyes with a .22-caliber pistol during a convenience-store holdup in Memphis, Tennessee, but the bullet failed to penetrate his skull. Jafari was back at work the next day, with only a nine-stitch wound. Said Jafari, "I have a hard head."

The Washington Post reported in August that there are 3,000 pet therapists in the U.S., including 50 fully certified as animal behaviorists, and that they charge fees ranging from $150 to $400 for three-hour sessions. Said one pet therapist, "There's a reason for everything [animals] do." Said a skeptical veterinarian, "The pets aren't crazy. The humans are crazy."

After he crashed his stolen car in September, Mark David Warner, 29, hopped on a 13-ton front-end loader at a construction site and led eight police cars in a 40-minute, 15 miles-per-hour "chase" down a highway near Orlando International Airport. Warner, just five days out of prison at the time, was charged with attempted murder for ramming an occupied police car. Said a security guard on the scene, "No one in his right mind would do those kinds of things."

At the August national convention of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith in Charleston, West Virginia, many delegates wore stylish hats, as socialites do at events such as the Kentucky Derby. Said one delegate, "We glorify God when we wear hats." Many delegates brought hat wardrobes with them, and 14 hat vendors set up booths at the convention.

Although no law forces them to open on Sunday, the 285 members of the Arkansas Automobile Dealers Association voted 285 to zero in March to recommend that the legislature require them to be closed on Sunday.

In March the Department of Health and Human Services announced a crackdown on universities that had billed HHS in the past for expenses that weren't related to research grants they'd received from the agency. HHS revealed that the biggest offender was the University of Wisconsin at Madison, whose chief executive officer for the previous several years was Donna Shalala, now secretary of HHS.

In June Stuart Bowyer, a University of California astronomer in charge of a year-old project that has monitored 30 trillion radio signals from outer space, said that so far, 164 of those signals are "unexplained." However, he said it was "very unlikely" that any of them came from extraterrestrials.

Earlier this year at least 2,000 cases of teenage girls fainting were reported around Cairo, Egypt. Authorities checked the environment repeatedly for such hazards as chemical-warfare agents, radon gas, and allergens in school building materials, but most health authorities now say they believe the girls fainted after having delusions.

In September Army Corps of Engineers employee Thomas Iracki, 36, leapt to his death in downtown San Francisco after telling several colleagues he'd become despondent about the Clinton administration's "reinventing government" budget cuts to his agency.

In July Matthew Noble Palmer, 48, pleaded no contest to 24 burglary counts in Alamogordo, New Mexico, ending a rash of break-ins at isolated mountain homes. Several of Palmer's victims reported that guns had been taken from their homes, thoroughly cleaned, and returned during later break-ins.

The Weirdo-American Community

High school soccer coach Jesus Valencia Gomez, 45, was arrested in Whittier, California, in September and charged with practicing medicine without a license. According to sheriff's deputies, Gomez told a 24-year-old woman she had cancerous tumors on her neck and head and would need surgery. He allegedly met her in a motel room, anesthetized her, shaved her head, and bandaged her. The woman didn't notify authorities until several days later, when she discovered that she had no scar under the bandages. In Gomez's apartment were medical and dental supplies and two types of business cards, one identifying him as a doctor and the other as a dentist.

Least Competent People

A lawsuit was filed in June in Morristown, Tennessee, against Dr. Crampton Helms and the Morristown-Hamblen Hospital for negligence. Last year, three months after an operation on an elderly woman, a nurse identified a "foreign object" protruding from the woman's surgical scar, which had been irritating her ever since the operation. According to the lawsuit, the object was the tip of Helms's surgical glove, which was still inside the patient and which hospital staff hadn't noticed in three follow-up hospitalizations.

I Don't Think So

Terry Allen, 34, was convicted of attempted burglary in San Antonio, Texas, in October, after having been caught by police as he was removing burglar bars from the window of a beauty salon. He told the judge he was guilty of simple theft, but not of attempted burglary, because he wasn't trying to break into the beauty salon. He said he was merely trying to steal the burglar bars to put on his own windows.

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

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