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In December NBC News reported that Iraqi sources have purchased thousands of Sony PlayStation 2s recently, possibly to use the games' powerful computer processors and video cards in connection with weapons systems; one expert told the World Net Daily news service that an integrated bundle of 12 to 15 PlayStation 2s could provide enough power to control an aircraft delivering chemical weapons. Other alarming uses for everyday products, as described in an October New York Times Magazine report: the 2001 Cadillac DeVille's sophisticated night-vision system is potentially adaptable to tanks, and the compact explosive charge in automobile air bags might be useful to terrorists.

In December CNN founder Ted Turner offered to donate $35 million to cover the shortfall in U.S. dues to the United Nations that Congress is so far unwilling to pay. Two months earlier, however, to show his appreciation to three local fire departments that fought summer blazes on his ranch near Gordon, Nebraska, Turner could only manage donations totaling $3,500.

Election News

Al Gore was elected by write-in votes as director of the Marion County (Oregon) Soil and Water Conservation District board, but was disqualified because he owns no land in the district. And in Hartford, Connecticut, Terrell Bush beat out Johnny Gore to become homecoming king of Weaver High School.

Family Values

Child-protection officials removed a six-year-old boy from his home in Champaign, Illinois, in December after they concluded that his mother had forcibly breast-fed him until just recently. The mother defended her "parenting philosophy," telling the Chicago Tribune that society was too uptight about breast-feeding and denying she had coerced him.

The London Observer reported in November that an increasing number of women are being artificially inseminated with sperm from their infertile husbands' fathers in order to continue the genetic line. Two Japanese physicians told the Washington Post in December that they see the practice increasing in their country as well: "Japanese people put strong importance on the bloodstream. We are a homogeneous people."

In July in Tucson, Arizona, 15-year-old Corey Viramontes pleaded guilty to murder after stabbing a service-station supervisor to death during a robbery. He faces up to 22 years in prison. Viramontes has three brothers in prison for similar crimes: Robert, 21, is serving a life sentence for beating a neighbor to death with a baseball bat; Anthony, 22, will be sentenced in January for beating a man to death for eating his pizza; and Samuel, 18, is already serving life for his role in bludgeoning the pizza eater. The brothers' records include other vicious beatings. As an Arizona Daily Star writer put it, "Victims of the Viramontes brothers do not die easily."

Recurring Themes

In March 12-year-old Nathan King made News of the Weird by surviving a lunge for a football that resulted in his falling on the point of a pencil, which pierced his heart; in October Destiny Lopez, age six, survived a similar experience. She fell on a pencil when she tripped in her first-grade classroom, but her teacher talked calmly to her until paramedics arrived. Surgeons later removed the pencil, which had penetrated three inches into her heart.

News of the Weird has reported over the years on some people's prodigious capacity for housing valuables in their rectums. A man arrested on drug charges in Amarillo, Texas, in November was found holding 80 hundred-dollar bills (along with two fifties and money orders totaling $4,200), easily topping the previous record dollar amount of $2,000, kept by a Florida state prison inmate in 1991. (That man, however, was also packing a pouch containing six handcuff keys, seven hacksaw blades, and 34 razor blades.)

Spritzers in the News

In December in Columbus, Ohio, Michael H. Cautela was sentenced to 300 hours' community service cleaning rest rooms and zoo cages as punishment for two counts of spraying women with a mixture of salad oil and urine. (When the judge asked why he did it, Cautela said, "I just like to see ladies with oil on them.") The same month, Joseph Edward Nichols was sentenced to five years in jail in Orlando, Florida, after pleading no contest to squirting as many as 11 people with a water pistol containing his semen.

Wayne's World

Charged with murder, Edgefield County, South Carolina, October: Steven Wayne Bowman. Charged with murder, Tucson, Arizona, November: Bryan Wayne Padd. Charged with murder, Sequoyah County, Oklahoma, October: Jeffrey Wayne Leaf. Pennsylvania death-row inmate currently embroiled in a marital-estate fight: Scott Wayne Blystone. Convicted murderer who testified against his former partner, Tavares, Florida, October: Terry Wayne Johnson. And in a double-suicide pact in October at the jail in San Marcos, Texas, accused murderer Kenny Wayne Lockwood succeeded, but accused child molester Bradley Wayne Dixon survived.

Undignified Deaths

A 22-year-old man died of massive head injuries in October in Virginia Beach, Virginia, after jumping out of an open convertible, apparently to avoid a cigarette butt flicked by the driver. A 37-year-old motorist in Fort Worth, Texas, was killed in October when another driver hit a piece of debris, launching it through the victim's windshield and into his chest. A 29-year-old woman was fatally run over by a street-sweeping machine in Washington, D.C., in September.

In the Last Month

A judge in Thornaby-on-Tees, England, granted John Turner a divorce after a 38-year union, persuaded by testimony that Mrs. Turner compulsively rearranged the furniture every single day they were married. A man in Pune, India, who claims his 47-inch fingernails are the world's longest, announced he wanted to sell them to a museum for $200,000. A 20-year-old hotel parking attendant in Dana Point, California, drove a guest's $175,000 Ferrari into a palm tree, totaling it. A federal judge in Austin, Texas, rejected a fraud lawsuit against Penthouse, brought by a convict who felt the magazine exaggerated how revealing its recent nude pictorial of Paula Jones would be. The judge rendered his decision in verse.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weird@compuserve.com.

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

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