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An August Minneapolis Star Tribune story reported that the University of Minnesota was seeking more specialists to work on a three-year, $390,000 program to establish an "odor emissions rating system" for regulating the state's 35,000 animal feedlots. The panel of sniffers will develop objective standards on the types of odors and their strength. Thirty-five employees have begun sniffing the nearly 200 chemical components of cow and pig manure in order to categorize them for the formal state stench test.

At a National Organization for Women gathering in Utah in May, Elizabeth Joseph, an attorney, and Ellen George, secretary of the Utah NOW office, praised polygamy as an alternative for feminists, an idea that NOW denounced as slavery a few years ago. Joseph lives informally in such an arrangement with her husband, six cowives, and 20 children. Said George, "We fight for lesbian families and single-parent families. I don't know why we wouldn't support this."

In a study released in September, University of Pennsylvania professor Richard J. Estes used United Nations statistics to conclude that the United States enjoys only the 27th most favorable social conditions among 160 nations, ranking behind such countries as Bulgaria. According to Estes, the social situation in Bulgaria is "miserable," but the country responds to basic human needs (literacy, health care, housing, retirement income) better than the United States. In the UN's own analysis of the data, the U.S. ranks fourth.

I've Got My Rights

Bathroom rights in Alabama: In January the U.S. Supreme Court ended Luverne High School student Jerry Boyett's 1993 lawsuit over whether a public-school student has the right to a restroom break during class. Answer: No. And in April Clara Kizer of Columbiana, Alabama, lost her lawsuit against neighbors who complained about her dogs' poop. Kizer had said dogs should have the right to poop within 11 feet of a street because the area is public land, even if it appears to be private property.

In August Scott and Sonya Rutherford filed a $40,000 lawsuit against a Houston school district because the baseball coaches at Cypress Falls High School failed to use their son as a pitcher often enough for him to have a chance at a college athletic scholarship. The Rutherfords also say they have been humiliated by the coaches' reluctance to play their son. According to the Rutherfords' lawyer, the coaches' actions violated the Constitution.

"Civilized gentlemen do not wear short-sleeve dress shirts," said Derrill Osborn, director of men's clothing for Neiman Marcus, in a July Wall Street Journal article. Those who spoke up for the shirts, pointing out that they are more comfortable in the summer, accused Osborn and others of a new type of political incorrectness: "sleevism."

In February members of the West Palm Beach, Florida, Pit Bull Terrier Club received notices that some insurance companies would not renew their homeowner's policies because pit bulls have been responsible for an increasing number of liability claims. Club officer Linda Kender called such insurance company stereotyping "dog racism."

The Dutch Federation for Military Personnel (which 20 years ago won the right for soldiers to wear their hair long) announced in April it would back a female recruit's desire to wear a tongue ring. The federation said the code of conduct bans jewelry "on the head," not "in the head."

Cliches Come To Life

In Kent, Washington, elementary school teacher Mary Kay LeTourneau, 35, gave birth in May to a baby girl, the father of whom is one of her sixth-graders. LeTourneau is the daughter of former U.S. representative John Schmitz, an intensely right-wing Republican who was so notoriously opposed to sex education in schools that he would move little Mary Kay out of any school contemplating such a program. In August she pleaded guilty to child rape. Said LeTourneau of the boy, "There was a respect, an insight, a spirit, an understanding between us that grew over time." They met when he was in second grade.

Reasons college men fight in 1997: In May a 21-year-old college student in Ithaca, New York, was arrested for beating up a guy in a bar fight over who had the better-looking goatee.

Life imitates TV: In July a Bangkok hotel worker was convicted of stealing from guests' safe-deposit boxes by rubbing his nose oil onto the buttons so he could check later to see which ones had been pushed. He said he learned the trick from watching MacGyver. And in August a 27-year-old man driving a stolen truck was caught by sheriff's deputies in Salt Lake City, but not before he eluded one deputy by vaulting the vehicle over a backyard swimming pool while the squad car pursuing him went straight in, a la The Dukes of Hazzard.

Psychologist Sandy Wolfson told the Times of London in June that her research on fans of Star Trek reveals that as many as 10 percent meet the clinical definition of addiction, especially those who suffer physical withdrawal during the show's absence. Like drug addicts, they also seem to require more and more viewings of the show to overcome their tolerance levels.

Collectors

In 1994 News of the Weird reported that the historical society in Garden City, Kansas, owned the world's largest cow hair ball, with a circumference of 37 inches. It now appears that record has been superseded by Mike Canchola of Sterling, Colorado, who came across one measuring 43.3 inches around. In the course of his work at a local beef plant, Canchola plucks out smaller hair balls, dries them, has colleague Frank Alcala paint faces or scenery on them, and sells them for $50 each.

United Hospital in Saint Paul, Minnesota, announced in May that it was looking for a new curator for its collection of more than 14,000 human hearts, each stored in a plastic bag. The collection includes specimens of nearly every kind of heart disease. Dr. Jesse Edwards, who started the collection and is now 85 years old, is retiring. Maintenance of the hearts by a staff of five costs $650,000 a year.

In a June Associated Press feature, Charles Emerick, 67, a retired ear, nose, and throat specialist in Portland, Oregon, described his 450-item collection of things he personally removed from patients. Among them are a bag of decomposed bees (a kid ran into a swarm of them); an eraser a kid put up his nose that wasn't retrieved until 15 years later when the boy developed trouble breathing; and a plastic whistle removed from a boy whose parents said he "whistled every time he took a breath." Dr. James A. Downing's collection of 300 similarly acquired items remains on exhibit through October 27 in Des Moines, Iowa.

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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