News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*The Denny's restaurant chain, which paid $45 million in 1994 to settle a lawsuit by black customers who claimed they were denied service, launched a two-million-dollar corporate anti-racism campaign January 12. On the same day, seventeen Hispanics sued a San Jose, California, Denny's, claiming they were refused service in April 1998. A few days later, Abdussalam Sipes and Clarence Watson's (both Muslim) complaint to a Montana human-rights agency was made public, revealing their charge that employees of a Helena Denny's deliberately added bacon (not allowed in the Muslim diet) to their food as revenge for their requesting a special order.

*In December workers for an AIDS awareness campaign constructed and inflated a condom the length of ten football fields. The interior of the "balloon" was large enough to hold dance celebrations. The condom was part of a parade in Cali, Colombia.

Recent Rages
*Worm Rage: Rawle Trotman, age 21, Simcoe, Ontario, August, charged with stabbing a fellow angler in an argument over a worm. Sissy Rage: Brian Hertzog, age eighteen, Reading, Pennsylvania, December, charged with shooting his sister (leaving her paralyzed below the waist) because she beat him in a wrestling match. Teacher's Rage: Deena Murdoch, age 52, Carrollton, Texas, December, was charged with choking a fourth-grade boy because he peeked at her grade book.

*Price-Check Rage: An unidentified "big blond" female customer was sought by Oakland, Michigan, police in December for allegedly punching a 55-year-old female clerk at a Hudson's department store when the clerk rolled her eyes at the customer's request for a price check. "Don't you ever roll your eyes at me," were the last words the clerk recalled before being decked.

*Only-in-California Rage: In December Ms. Cathomas Starbird, a member of the school board of Sausalito, California, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for allegedly punching, jumping on, and biting another woman in April 1998. According to police Ms. Starbird, her husband, and the other woman had gone out for dinner to celebrate the husband's birthday. Upon returning to the couple's houseboat, Ms. Starbird became furious when their dinner companion refused to perform oral sex on the husband.

Latest Religious Messages
*Roman Catholic Monsignor Ignatius McDermott, age 88, blessed a Dell laptop computer in December at his headquarters in Chicago. Although priests have blessed animals, houses, Harley Davidsons and other objects, McDermott believes the laptop blessing is a first. "Maybe this will get (the younger generation's) attention," he said.

Weird, but Not True
*Continuing an occasional reader-advisory series of recent stories that were reported elsewhere as real news but that were probably just made up: A November New York Times report on the difficult job of retitling American movies for the Asian market came with a list of wacky examples. (One of the tamer ones: "Leaving Las Vegas" became, in Chinese in Hong Kong, "I'm Drunk and You're a Prostitute.") In December the Washington Post revealed list of examples was pulled from a Web site, mistakenly compiled with serious material on the topic, and never investigated by America's "newspaper of record."

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd