News of the Weird 

Lead Stories

Last month a jury in Akron, Ohio, ordered the Para-Chem company to pay $8 million to two professional carpet installers who were severely burned in an explosion while using the company's carpet adhesive indoors. One juror told the Akron Beacon Journal that he and his colleagues felt the warning label on the adhesive--"Do not use indoors because of flammability"--was insufficient.

A whole class of middle school students in New Bedford, Massachusetts, was recommended for blood tests last month after officials learned that in May 2001 a seventh-grade science teacher, since retired, had used the same needle to prick the fingers of about two dozen students to make blood sample slides. The teacher wiped the needle with alcohol between uses, and officials thought the risk of infection was low, but they had no explanation for how a veteran science teacher could have strayed so far from contemporary blood-safety procedures.

Latest Astonishing Research

In May a paper prepared by psychologist Michel Lariviere for Correctional Services of Canada concluded that most guards don't respect inmates (which inhibits rehabilitation efforts)....That same month a $4 million study by the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions revealed that employees are much more likely to call in sick if they drank alcohol the previous night....Last month a Harvard School of Public Health survey found that people report more noise and other disruptions in binge-drinking college neighborhoods than in other neighborhoods....And in June an Iowa State University study found that TV viewers were less likely to notice commercials during shows that contain explicit sex.

Men Seeking Victims

An on-line personals ad placed by former librarian William Coday of Broward County, Florida, touts his multilingualism, his world travels, his compassion, and his love of Keats and baroque music, but fails to mention that he was convicted of murdering girlfriends in 1978 and 1997, both with hammers, and that he's in jail waiting to be sentenced for the latter crime.

Family Values

In May, 42-year-old Leslie Collard was arrested for prostitution in Providence, Rhode Island. According to the undercover officer who busted her, the trick was supposed to include Collard and her 19-year-old daughter, but when he asked if they would service him at the same time, the mother replied, "No, I have morals....My daughter will do you first."

In May a mother and stepfather in Hamilton, Ohio, were charged with duct-taping their 12-year-old son to a lawn chair so he would get sunburned, a punishment for sassing his mother....Two months ago in Levittown, Pennsylvania, police charged Gary and Kathleen Rabatin and their teenage kids with possession of marijuana, which was found in every room of their house. The parents expressed pride at the fact that their kids smoke at home rather than on the street....And in May, Sedrick Lamont Curtis and Shakima Lewis of Gary were charged with forcing their adolescent kids into sex shows in their home and charging spectators $10.

Least Competent Criminals

In May the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Christopher Lee Jones of Pembroke, North Carolina; according to the charges, Jones recently tried to auction 1,000 stolen social security numbers on eBay, specifically suggesting that they be used to obtain credit cards....And in San Antonio, Texas, 26-year-old Tony Alston and 20-year-old April Lynett Smith were arrested after a brief police chase following their alleged bank robbery. Police caught them easily because their getaway vehicle was a U-Haul truck equipped with a speed governor that automatically slows it down.

Our Civilization in Decline

Last month the Los Angeles Times reported that workers laid off from Global Crossing Limited (onetime value: $54 billion) were trying to recoup some of the $32 million in severance pay they lost when the company filed for bankruptcy; meanwhile, company founder Gary Winnick continues his $30 million historical renovation of the $94 million mansion he purchased before the collapse.

In the Last Month

In Winter Park, Florida, a Muslim housewife sued the state after it revoked her driver's license; she had refused to pose for an identification photo without her veil....In Gainesville, Florida, a 20-year-old man was arrested after making 1,100 calls to 911 over a two-day period, attributing his behavior to boredom....And in Tehran an Iranian court denied Mohammad Khordadian travel privileges for ten years because he'd once taught dance lessons in Los Angeles.

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

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