News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*The New York Times reported in June that NASA recently successfully field-tested an oil-spill catcher that could have cleaned up the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. A Huntsville, Alabama, hairdresser named Phillip McCrory came up with the idea to put hair clippings into mesh pillows; 1.4 million pounds of hair would have soaked up the Valdez's 11 million gallons in about a week. In contrast, Exxon spent two billion dollars over several years and recovered only about twelve percent of the oil.

*Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson told his 700 Club TV audience in June that the city of Orlando, Florida, was taking a big risk in sponsoring the recent "Gay Days" festival. "I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes," he said, "and I don't think I'd be waving those [Gay Days logo] flags in God's face if I were you." Homosexuality, he said, "will bring about terrorist bombs. It'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor."

*The new "baggy" condom produced by Mayer Laboratories in Oakland, California, went on sale in the Netherlands in May, but company president David Mayer said it will be at least a year before it gets FDA approval for sale in the United States. The condom is tighter at the base but otherwise much looser than standard condoms, providing "more sensation," said Mayer.

Pushing the Advertising Envelope
*Twenty years ago at least 9000 people, including many children, were tortured and murdered by the Argentine military, yet the makers of Diesel jeans were ready to run an ad in an Argentine magazine that showed jeans-clad kids underwater, chained to cement blocks. The implication was that at least they would look cool while drowning. And the Korean carmaker Kia had to scrap an ad featuring a Princess Diana look-alike surviving a paparazzi chase because she was riding in a Kia. And the Leo Burnett agency discarded a planned ad campaign in Thailand showing "Adolf Hitler" transforming into a good person after eating a new brand of potato chip.

Things You Can Do Legally
*Peep in the daytime: After an April incident in a University of Missouri dormitory, Columbia police acknowledged that the city's ordinance against peeping in windows applies only at night.

*Eat your roadkill: In March the West Virginia legislature decided it is not unsanitary to eat fresh roadkill and repealed a law prohibiting such culinary practices.

Tough Guys
*In March police in Fullerton, California, proposed that the city council embarrass the troublemaking Baker Street Gang by renaming its current stomping grounds Pansy Circle. (The council rejected Pansy Circle as possibly offensive to some gay men and settled on Iris Court.)

Least Competent Criminals
*Edward DeWald, age 45, was arrested in Loomis, California, in May and charged with robbing two Hallmark stores earlier that week in Auburn, California. According to the stores' clerks, a man entered both stores, asked the clerks if they carried crystal turtles, then robbed them. Sheriff's deputies decided to stake out the next-closest Hallmark store, in Loomis, about eight miles away. Two days later DeWald walked in, asked for the ever-popular crystal turtles, and was nabbed by deputies. (Next time he'll stick to birthday cards.) He confessed to the two earlier robberies.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd