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In May the San Francisco Chronicle reported on addiction to lip balm, especially the Chap Stick brand. According to one addict who studied the problem, the ingredients in Chap Stick fuse with the skin, requiring constant reapplication. Another source cited a better, nonaddictive lip balm: a person's own nose oil, which has reportedly been used by watchmakers for years to lubricate tiny gears.

A German television station reported in January that as many as 50,000 former Nazi SS troopers (including more than 3,000 who live in the U.S.) might be receiving up to $600 a month in German government pensions for World War II injuries, while there is no comparable government benefit for concentration camp survivors. As an example, the Washington Post reported that Heinz Barth, 80, a former SS officer serving a life sentence for his part in a 1944 massacre in France, receives $450 a month because he lost a leg.

Sexual rejuvenations: The Hong Kong Standard reported in February on a Dr. Liu, who runs a thriving hymen-restoration practice in Ghangzhou province, China, charging about $500 for the procedure. "So many Hong Kong girls come to us," she said. "They come just before their wedding. They don't want their husbands to know they had many boyfriends in the past." And in January New Scientist magazine reported that the German government, fearful of immune-system reactions and the spread of mad cow disease, has banned the popular practice of injecting material from sheep fetuses into people's buttocks to firm them up.

Police Blotter

Following in the footsteps of completely unsuccessful predecessors Mr. Mellon E. Bank and Mr. Roadway V. Express (reported in News of the Weird in 1989 and 1996, respectively), Keisha Yvette Gregory was arrested in Durham, North Carolina, in March for trying to pass off a check made out to the Tension Envelope company as a personal check made out to Ms. Tension Nicole Envelope.

Tacky, tacky, tacky: In April the trial of security officer Bruce Blum ended in a hung jury. Blum was accused of stealing an issue of People magazine from the National Institutes of Health library in Bethesda, Maryland. And in Rhode Island, traffic court clerk Sharon James, 30, was fired in March for stealing a bag of potato chips and some coins from the counter of a blind vendor in the traffic court building.

In March prosecutors in a San Diego, California, gang murder case and a Norfolk, Virginia, drug case came under fire for allegedly allowing their witnesses numerous conjugal visits in government offices after business hours while in custody as part of deals to coax their testimony.

In Waukesha, Wisconsin, a 24-year-old woman was arrested in April on suspicion of child abuse. Her son had complained of a nose infection, which she said was caused by acid from a wristwatch battery that he had put in his nose several months earlier but which she did not bother to have removed until the battery started leaking.

In May Peter Lerat, 33, was arrested in Toronto, Ontario, and charged with two robberies, one in a doughnut shop while he was carrying a goose and one on the street while carrying a raccoon. In each case he threatened to kill the animal unless someone gave him money. He cleared $60 from a woman in the doughnut shop, but a prospective victim in the second robbery ran to call police and Lerat was captured nearby.

In West Palm Beach, Florida, police officer Ed Wagner filed a lawsuit in January against the city for removing him from the SWAT team following a complaint he made about a neck injury. The injury occurred at the scene of a car crash in 1993 when one of Wagner's colleagues playfully grabbed his head and gave him a noogie. And in Franklin, Tennessee, city water and sewer director Eddie Woodard was suspended for three days in February after he goosed police chief Jackie Moore at a fire scene.

In February Richard Lee Hamrick, 28, was picked up in Longview, Washington, suspected of robbing a Safeway a few minutes earlier. The robber wore bikini briefs with eyeholes cut in the seat over his head, and according to the officers who booked the evidence, they were soiled.

Cliches Come to Life

Life imitates the Three Stooges: In December Julio Guaman, 31, landed in a tree, breaking his pelvis, after a five-story fall from his Queens, New York, apartment. According to his wife, during a fight Julio had lunged at her to push her out the window, but she ducked, sending him out instead.

Life imitates prison movies: In January and April, respectively, Joshua John Jaeger, 25, an inmate at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre in Toronto, and David Anderson, an inmate at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, escaped by tying bedsheets together and lowering themselves to the ground. Anderson even left a dummy made out of a pillow and blankets in his bed as a decoy.

Marsha Watt, a 1990 graduate of the Northwestern University School of Law and formerly an associate at the prestigious law firm of Winston and Strawn in Chicago, had charges filed against her in February by the Illinois Bar Association's discipline committee over her most recent conviction for prostitution. According to a personals ad, her rate was roughly three times what the law firm billed for her.

Dangerous Activities

Guns in the reading room: In April in Chandler, Arizona, Johnel Trinidad, 18, sitting on the toilet inspecting a gun he planned to buy from a friend, accidentally shot himself in the knee. Said police sergeant Matt Christensen, "Bathroom gun safety and gun safety in general pretty much dovetail." It was Chandler's second such accident in a year. The previous July Harold Hughes, 52, was on the toilet, his gun on the counter and his pit bull lounging nearby, when the dog became startled and knocked the gun to the floor, where it fired a shot into Hughes's leg.

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: The person easing into the parking lot of the driver's license office, either arriving for the exam or just completing it, who accidentally crashes into the office's storefront, as a woman did in Hillsboro, Oregon, in May and a man did in Barrie, Ontario, in March; and the burglar who attempts to enter an establishment from the roof via a vent pipe but gets stuck and must be rescued by police, or suffocates, as did a 20-year-old man in Dayton, Ohio, in December.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration by Shawn Belshwender.

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