News of the Weird

Lead Story
*In April the CIA debuted its Website for children, featuring games and gimmicks such as allowing kids to put disguises on models' bodies and to maneuver virtual guards to look for explosives. Back in the real world a month later, the agency failed to discover that India was about to test a nuclear weapon.

Salespeople: The Next Postal Workers
*William Walker was charged in March in Albuquerque with trying to hack through a man's apartment door with an ax after the resident said he wasn't interested in buying speakers. And in April two women were charged with murder in Frankfurt, Germany, for torturing and stabbing an underachieving male colleague in their door-to-door sales group.

Read This, or Just Think About Reading It
*Dave Smith of Manchester, England's Metropolitan University revealed in March that thinking about exercise is almost as productive as actually doing it. The exercisers improved 33 percent in a month, and the nonexercisers who practiced only mentally improved 16 percent. Smith reasoned, "If you can improve neural input to the muscle, you can recruit more muscle fiber and exert more force."

The Litigious Society
*A new trend in public education in California, as reported in the Los Angeles Times in January, is for the parents of some students who are expelled or suspended for violence to file lawsuits claiming the school was negligent for not placing such troublemakers in a "special education" program. The 1975 federal "special education" law, originally aimed to help the physically disabled, now covers students who are, in the words of one physician, "easily frustrated, quite distracted, and [show] serious explosiveness."

*In February, according to a report from the Agence France Press wire, Cairo lawyer Mustafa Raslan filed a billion-dollar lawsuit in Damanhur, Egypt, against President Clinton, complaining that his alleged sex antics make it more difficult to raise his children with good moral standards. "I don't know what to tell [them]," he said.

*In April the City of Los Angeles, by a nine-to-one vote of the city council, agreed to pay nine million dollars to five surviving victims of a drunk driver whose car wandered across a center line and hit the van in which they were riding (seatbelts unbuckled). A court awarded the victims $29 million in 1997 and said the city had to pay 57 percent of that because if the yellow line in the center of the road had been brighter, the drunk driver might not have crossed over.

*In May the parents of Warren A. Wise filed a $100 million lawsuit against police in Long Branch, New Jersey, for the wrongful death last November of their son. According to police, Wise ran a red light, then sped away from an officer, then fled the car and jumped into the 45-degree waters of the Atlantic. He soon lapsed into a coma from which he never recovered. The family believes the police should have risked hypothermia and swum out 200 yards to rescue Wise.

Least Competent Criminal
*In a March 1998 story concerning internal theft in the local school system, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported about Edwards Elementary School employee Ernestine Falls, who in 1994 stole a refrigerator from the school and then, when she realized it was broken, called the school system's maintenance department to come fix it.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd