News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority in Glasgow, Scotland, announced a cutback in services in March because there was only one sperm donor left in the city, and even he will face mandatory retirement after impregnating ten women. Although the donor was not identified or described, officials warned couples to lower their expectations about their genetic choices.

*In March the Seattle Police Department ordered the 26 employees in its fingerprint unit to attend a mandatory, half-hour safety class in how to sit down. Recently three of the unit's employees had filed workers compensation claims for injuries that occurred as they were attempting to sit in chairs with rollers. The proper technique, according to an internal memo: "Take hold of the arms and get control of the chair before sitting down."

Law-Abiding Citizens
*Constable Carol Hashimoto told the Edmonton Journal in January that she had recently ministered to, over the phone, a man who was severely racked with guilt about driving home to Valleyview, Alberta, four hours away, without his driver's license, which he had accidentally left in an Edmonton hotel room. And in Charlotte, North Carolina, at his February sentencing for laundering money others had taken in a robbery, John Calvin Hodge, Sr., age 69, revealed that indeed he had declared his $40,000 laundering fee on his IRS return and had paid the tax on it.

New Frontiers in Bearing Arms
*William L. Straiter, age 26, was arrested in Durham, North Carolina, in December and charged with robbing the Centura Bank. The robber had presented a teller with a note demanding money and containing a finely detailed drawing of a gun, but Straiter did not actually have a gun and was not charged with armed robbery. Terry Williams, age 23, was arrested in Oakland, California, in March after a road-rage collision in which he allegedly clasped his empty hands as if he had a gun, pointed at another driver, and yelled, "Bang!" The prosecutor charged Williams with making a terrorist-like threat, claiming that his gesture would likely "provoke a retaliatory response from someone with a weapon."

Government in Action
*In November the mayor of South Gate, California, proposed an ordinance banning the colors "wild orange, rose, lavender, and turquoise" on houses. One resident said he'd paint over his colorful house only if the mayor had a good reason, "like if cars were crashing into each other because the drivers were looking at (my house). Or if it hurt people's eyes." On the other side of the coin the Joliet (Illinois) City Council passed an ordinance in January requiring builders to make houses less boring by mixing up their aesthetic features and colors. Said city councilman Joseph Shetina, who supported the ordinance because too many row houses look alike: "[Y]ou go home drunk, and you'd never know which house was yours."

*Washington State Ferries announced in October it would cut back the number of walk-on customers it would accept between Vashon Island and Seattle from 250 to 230 because of insufficient bench seating. The 250-person capacity was determined by the 50-year-old standard of eighteen inches per person, but according to spokeswoman Susan Harris-Heuther: "It's just not realistic. We have all expanded, and eighteen-inch butts are a thing of the past."

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd