News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In January North Dakota legislators decided against a proposal to crack down on impatient motorists who relieve themselves while driving and then toss their urine- (and even feces-) filled plastic containers to the side of the road. The containers create hazards when clean-up crews accidentally smash them with vehicles and mowers. Said Rep. John Mahoney: "[W]e want to promote tourism, and [such a new law] might be offensive."

*Installation of the first escalators ever in Nicaragua, in a shopping mall in Managua, has terrorized many shoppers who have encountered them, according to a February Miami Herald report. Among the incidents: a frightened middle-age woman who, fearing her departure at a second-floor landing, leaped from the escalator onto the floor, lost her balance, and staggered through the food court, knocking over tables and landing against a wall.

Family Values
*Ryan Goodhart, age sixteen, was arrested and charged with roughing up his mother in January in Sarasota, Florida, because she and her boyfriend refused to share their marijuana stash with him. And Nathan Ricketts, age 26, was arrested and charged with choking his mother almost into unconsciousness in December in Glendora, California, because she failed to remember to buy food for his two seven-inch-long piranha fish (which are illegal to own).

Awesome, Dude!
*In October in the Dent de Crolles region in France, sheepherder Christian Raymond, age 23, was rescued from a cliff from which he had been hanging by his fingers for about twenty minutes. He had called the emergency rescue operator on his cell phone earlier in the day and managed to make another call from the cliff by pressing "redial" with his nose against the phone, which had fallen down the mountain with him but had landed right beside him.

*Shirley Lawson, age 59, of Marysville, Tennessee, survived her Jeep's overturning in Whitley County, Kentucky, in September, even though the vehicle came to rest on top of her with the three-inch-diameter drive shaft sticking through her abdomen and both legs.

*Mathematics professor David Liu of the University of Alberta was named Canadian Professor of the Year in January. The award was based partly on the math clubs he has established for disadvantaged youth, but also on his having taught himself to work out equations upside down so students could follow his explanations from across his desk.

Least Competent Criminals
Steve and Michelle Chambers pleaded guilty in August in Charlotte, North Carolina, to stealing $17 million from the Loomis, Fargo & Co., armored car firm in 1997, a caper that hit the headlines again in February 1999 when the Chambers' post-theft purchases were auctioned off to help Loomis recover its money. While on the lam from the heist, the couple called attention to themselves when Michelle walked in to a Belmont, North Carolina, bank with a suitcase containing $200,000 in Loomis, Fargo currency wrappers and asked the manager: "How much can I deposit without the bank reporting the transaction?" The couple had also moved directly from a rural mobile home into a $600,000 mansion and made many other equally exhibitionistic purchases. Said one federal marshal, "It was very much The Beverly Hillbillies."

-- By Chuck Shepherd