News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*This past summer the city councils of Fostoria, Ohio, and Victoria, British Columbia, adopted codes of conduct for their citizens, in Fostoria to provide a "moral compass" and in Victoria to restore "courteous behavior." Fostoria implores people to "try to do what is right and try to help others" and also gives specific advisories against littering and being loud, among other things. Victoria urges its folks not to get in other people's way and not to drink or urinate in public.

*In August Deborah Gaines, age 31, filed a lawsuit against the Brookline, Massachusetts, abortion clinic shot up by John Salvi in 1994, asking it to pay the cost of raising her child, now three years old. She was lining up for an abortion that day when the clinic's allegedly lax security permitted Salvi to start firing; she said she was so traumatized she could not bring herself to go to another clinic. Gaines said she loves her daughter but that her daughter shouldn't be here.

*Researchers from the United States and France, writing in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, announced in August that aspirin given to plants blocks their "pain receptors" in much the same way it blocks them in animals. Blocking such receptors in plants, however, is harmful to neighboring vegetation; the drug suppresses a distress signal that causes them to produce a defensive, sour-tasting chemical that wards off insects.

*British historian and conservative moralist Paul Johnson, whose recent essay on marriage to honor his 40th wedding anniversary so annoyed his mistress of eleven years that she ratted him out to British newspapers, admitted in a later interview in London's Observer: "I've been having an affair, but I still believe in family values." And in August in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, the attorney for Jonathon Tupper, who recently started a Students Against Drunk Driving chapter and was later jailed for DUI, told reporters: "[W]hen [Tupper is] sober, he's very much against drinking and driving."

Worst Possible Ideas
*In July in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, a juror eagerly asked the judge for the defendant's date of birth so he could draw up a star chart to help him decide the case. (He was removed.) Also in July a 31-year-old woman in Oakley, California, felt an unusual bump as she was pulling out of her driveway; to help determine what it was, she drove over it again, and then a third time. It was her three-year-old son, who suffered a broken leg. And in August, Wall Street Journal reporter James S. Hirsch, writing a story about the Boston Globe's recent troubles with columnists making things up, said that the New York Times (owner of the Globe) had no comment on the matter. He later later admitted he made that up. He was fired.

Well Put
*Mike Sheridan told a Kansas City Star reporter in May that he doesn't believe his "Fangs and Rattlers" exhibit at county fairs is all that dangerous, even though he lies perfectly still in a sleeping bag into which a dozen live rattlesnakes have been invited. Sheridan said, "I'd a lot rather be in that bag full of snakes than be a clerk in some big-city convenience store after midnight."

Thinning the Herd
*Daniel Mark Henderson, age twenty, was accidentally killed by a road roller at a construction site near La Grange, Oregon, in August. Police said he had apparently hot-wired the five-ton vehicle to go joy riding but then fell off, and it plowed over him.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd