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In March the Oregon Lottery Commission awarded a $124,000 contract to a company to advise the commission on how to restore its gambling operations in case of a natural disaster, with a goal of having video poker back up within two hours. When critics suggested there might be more pressing problems after an earthquake, the commission pointed out that gambling generates $1 million a day for the state.

Former Maryland accountant Scott Lewis Rendelman, 42, who was sentenced in 1986 to four months in prison for embezzling clients' money, has ended up serving more than 11 years because he will not stop sending threatening and sexually offensive letters to U.S. presidents, judges, prosecutors, and prison officials. In April he was convicted in Sacramento, California, where he is currently housed, of sending death threats to Governor Pete Wilson and his wife. A longtime friend says Rendelman's big mistake is that he always acts as his own attorney.

The New York Times reported in March on the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to set pollution-discharge limits on livestock farms within seven years. Farm animals in this country produce 130 times the manure that the nation's humans do, and one farm now under construction in Utah will produce more than all of Los Angeles. Also, unlike cities, farms do not have treatment plants. "Sometimes in the night, in the summer, when they start pumping effluent, it wakes you up," said one Missouri farm neighbor. "You are gagging."

Jail Is a High-Crime Area

In March, according to authorities at a jail in Hampton, Virginia, a civilian attendant from the jail's canteen was pushing a cart full of snacks past the locked cell of Anthony Tyrone Darden, 21, when Darden reached through the bars, hit the man on the head with a broom handle, and took two packs of peanut butter crackers. Darden was quickly found to be the culprit, and the crackers were confiscated.

Organ of the Week: the Ear

In February, according to Kenya's largest newspaper, the Nation, a Nairobi physician who had just removed a bean from a young girl's ear jammed it back in when her parents didn't have enough cash to pay for the $6 procedure. In March researchers at the University of Texas at Austin announced they had found physical differences in the inner ears of lesbians and straight women, perhaps the first evidence of a prenatal determination of female homosexuality. And in February burglar Calvin Sewell became the first person in Britain to be convicted with an ear print. He had claimed an extraordinary ability to detect whether a house was empty just by pressing his ear to a door for a few minutes.

Why Women Are Better Nurturers

In March near Canyon, Texas, justice of the peace E. Jay Hall said he found what "did appear to be a [human] fetus," five to six months postconception, with a severed umbilical cord, floating in a pool of standing water. He ordered it put into a plastic bag and taken to Lubbock for an autopsy. Pathologists called Hall about an hour later and reported it was a doll.

March Cult Mania

At the Exploratorium in San Francisco, mathematicians assembled on March 14 for their yearly celebration of pi (3.14159 etc), one of many such assemblies worldwide at which people sing songs and recite poetry about pi, have pi trivia quizzes, and eat pie. Pi, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, is a mathematically irrational number (that is, it can't be expressed as an integer fraction) and is thus considered by many to be a symbol for the mystery of the universe.

According to a March report in the New Republic, some Wall Street investment houses celebrate the incredible bull market by honoring Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan. One firm holds a party on Greenspan's birthday, March 6, and another has outfitted a special office with Greenspan memorabilia and a red leather chair in which bond traders can sit and meditate.

Performance-Enhancing Substances

In October an Indonesian runner named Ruwiyati, who had won the women's marathon in the Southeast Asia Games, told reporters in Djakarta the secret to her success: she drinks blood from her coach's finger before each race. Said coach Alwi Mugiyanto, "I don't know why, but she just insists on doing it."

Oops!

In March Don Graham asked a technician friend to have a look at a stereo cassette recorder he'd paid $60 for at a store in Bountiful, Utah--the buttons wouldn't stay down when Graham pressed them. The problem turned out to be four pounds of cocaine, worth $200,000, wrapped in a two-year-old Miami-area newspaper and taped to the inside. Police are investigating.

Lucy Ricardo lives: In November it took rescuers an hour to cut through the fangs of a jaguar statue at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, to free Andy Wilkinson, nine, whose head had gotten stuck in the statue's mouth.

Latest wrong addresses with severe consequences: Police on a drug raid used a battering ram on the wrong apartment in the Bronx, New York, in March, horribly frightening a woman and her grandchild. The real target was the "furthest [apartment] on the left," not the "first on the left." Also in March, a roof-replacement job scheduled for 948 Pons Court, Newbury Park, California, was commenced on 949 Pons Court instead. The family at 949 Pons Court is still mulling its options.

When Virginia Broache returned home in January from the Bon Secours Saint Mary's Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, after surgery to remove her cancerous bladder, a nurse unpacking Broache's things discovered that among the "personal effects" the hospital had sent home with her was the actual bladder in a bag. A hospital staffer said, "We apologize."

Another Recurring Theme

In 1993 News of the Weird reported that the humane society in Pasadena, California, had built a $4.3 million animal shelter, with towel-lined cages, skylights, an aviary, sculpted shrubbery, "adoption counseling pavilions," and, according to the architect, "a very subdued classical painting scheme," all amid criticism that homeless pets received better treatment in Pasadena than homeless people. In March of this year, a similar, $7 million SPCA shelter opened in San Francisco, but the organization proposed allowing some homeless people to sleep over as companions for dogs.

Name Your Poison

Among the substances used successfully in recent spousal poisonings: cyanamide, a drug to treat alcoholism, in Madrid in February; antifreeze, in Perry, Oklahoma, in October; thallium, used to detect coronary artery disease, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in July; liquid flea killer, in Bangkok in July; and pond water in the wife's IV tube, in Darlington, Wisconsin, in September.

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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