News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In April the Unique Recoveries collection agency in Bombay, India, hired six eunuchs to go to the homes or offices of obstinate debtors to embarrass them into paying up by dancing around and threatening to lift their saris to expose their "genitallessness." Unique's director said he expects his business to expand and that he will hire 100 more eunuchs. Many Bombay eunuchs earn money by crashing weddings and hanging around until they are paid to leave.

*The Great Floridian Marker Program's April deadline was extended to September, because it is far short of its millennial goal to officially recognize the 2000 greatest Floridians. Though the program has been in operation for more than a year, municipalities have nominated so few people (170) that program personnel may finally be realizing that there simply never have been 2000 great Floridians.

Leading Economic Indicators
*In January officials in Chelyabinsk, Russia, imposed a five-ruble (about 20 cents) monthly tax on domestic dogs based on their use of electricity and water. In May the owner of the Letostrui antiques shop in Sofia, Bulgaria, told reporters he hoped for a quick end to the bombing in neighboring Yugoslavia so that his missile debris (from NATO misfires that hit Bulgaria) would retain its high value and not be diluted by additional debris from other NATO misfires.

Cultural Diversity
*More than 2300 people were reported kidnapped in Colombia in 1998 in what are called "fishing expeditions," in which random groups are abducted until the captors sort out who is valuable and who isn't, according to a June Chicago Tribune story. Kidnapping is such a fact of life in Colombia that a Bogota radio station mostly broadcasts messages for kidnap victims from their relatives.

*In India 600,000 untouchables continue their miserable existence despite pledges by the government for 50 years to improve their lives, according to an April report in the London Observer. Members of the nation's lowest caste empty latrines for a living, and anyone of a higher caste who even accidentally touches a so-called scavenger must undergo a ritual purification. A Delhi organization has liberated 40,000 scavengers over the past decade, mostly upgrading them to janitors.

Compelling Explanations
*In April William Whitfield, age 34, won about $185,000 (U.S.) from a Calgary, Alberta, judge for injuries he suffered when motorist David Calhoun smashed into his brand-new truck in 1990. Among the crash's consequences, according to medical testimony, was the birth of Whitfield's desire, still intense despite electroshock therapy, to kill Calhoun in retaliation. According to the judge, Calhoun failed to testify at the trial out of fear of Whitfield, who has told his lawyer that he intends to kill Calhoun and then himself.

*Charles Ng, who was convicted in February in Orange County, California, of eleven torture-murders in a spree during 1984-85, claimed at his sentencing hearing in April that it was really his late buddy Leonard Lake who masterminded the killings and that he, Ng, had what a psychiatrist called a dependent personality disorder that made him too docile and compliant. Ng was so "docile" that he fled to Canada and skillfully fought extradition for six years after the killings and since 1991 has used numerous delay tactics, including firing several of his lawyers and suing three of them, to avoid going to trial.

-- By Chuck Shepherd