News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In January Iowa became the second state to require employers to provide reasonable restroom breaks, and in April or May, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to issue the first-ever federal directive on the topic. OSHA acted after hearing from employees who routinely were not permitted to leave their stations for hours at a time. Some reported having had to soil themselves; others brought empty bottles to their stations; and others abstained from liquids all day.

*Open season: Three weeks before a U.S. Marine Corps pilot clipped a ski gondola in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy, killing twenty people, a British Air Force Harrier jet accidentally dropped two half-ton, unarmed bombs on a farm in southern Italy near the town of Pizziferro, narrowly missing the house of Tommaso Giannico.

*In February the Hawaiian House Agriculture Committee approved a bill to legalize the "sport" of cockfighting, provided that the roosters wear tiny padded gloves on their feet instead of the traditional metal spurs.

The Continuing Crisis
*In August the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning against an electrical cattle-prod-type device called the Stimulator, sold by at least six companies and intended to be self-applied as relief for headaches, back pain, arthritis, stress, menstrual cramps, earaches, sinus, nosebleeds, and the flu. Wrote the FDA, "The Stimulator is essentially an electric barbecue-grill igniter with finger grips."

*Doctors at the Center for Impotence and Fertility in Rome, Italy, reported in the December 6 issue of the Lancet medical journal that the experimental virility drug alprostadil increased penis size in almost all men who injected it into their urethras but that the rigidity usually subsided within a couple of minutes. Measurements were obtained by having patients hang a 750-gram weight on their penises to see if they could hold it. (A few could support a one-kilogram weight, which Dr. Ermanno Greco says is "peak virility.")

*In December in Fort Pierce, Florida, William Alfred Hitt, age 71, was sentenced to four years in prison for defrauding the federal government of about $450,000 by claiming disability benefits from a World War II hand injury; he worked full-time as a house painter. Once a month for 22 years, Hitt put on an arm brace, got into a wheelchair, and reported to the local federal building to pick up his "paycheck." (The jury deliberated twelve minutes before finding him guilty.)

*To circumvent local ordinances that shut down their stripper bars, entrepreneurs in Eureka, California, and Ladson, South Carolina, converted their businesses. Tom Razooly's Tip Top Club became a recreational-vehicle promotion facility in November; now customers sitting under the flashing lights are handed brochures for RVs while they watch women do pole dances. In January Ladson's Jerry Colombo converted his Club 2010 into the "Church of the Fuzzy Bunny's [sic]," featuring Bible-reading followed by a procession of pastie-wearing dancers.

*Christina Mack, age 35, was arrested for attempted murder in Peoria, Illinois, in December, based on a neighbor's statement that Mack had told her she planned to cover a floor with oil or grease so that her boyfriend, who lost his right leg in 1992, would fall down the stairs to his death. He fell, hit his head, and declined medical assistance. Mack, however, also fell, knocking herself out, but firefighters revived her and police took her away.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd