News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*The Court of Appeal in London ruled in November that a convicted rapist who continued to call and write his victim and her husband from prison could sue the victim for libel because of what she wrote to the police when reporting the harassment. The rapist, David Daniels, age 43, is upset that the victim's characterization of him caused his parole board to turn him down for early release.

*Tough times for Nike: The winner of November's New York City Marathon, John Kagawe, said he might have broken the race record except that his Nikes kept coming untied. And two weeks earlier, the company cooperated with authorities in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in the arrest of five employees at a Nike-contracted factory; the five had manufactured 51 rubber dildos on the premises and then allegedly tried to extort about $30,000 from Nike in exchange for not revealing that embarrassing information.

Seeds of Our Destruction
*In August the New York Times reported about a movement in Montana to declare the decaying city of Butte (described as "one of the worst industrial crimes against nature" in history) a national historical park. In the center of Butte is the Berkeley Pit, a "Grand Canyon of open-pit mining," wrote the Times, "an 874-foot-deep chasm filled with 26 billion gallons" of "toxic stew" that grows by 3 million gallons a day. In 1995, 300 snow geese landed in the pit at night and were killed by the contaminants. On the plus side, the surrounding area is picturesque, and the city has some of the oldest brothel edifices in the West.

*The government of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu announced in August that it would offer higher welfare benefits to poor women who give birth to female babies if the mothers promise not to kill the baby; female infanticide is a grievous problem because males are considered more economically valuable. Also, the government will require 30-day hospital stays for mothers with baby girls in order to increase maternal bonding, which may decrease the murders.

Creme de la Weird
*In August beleaguered Thai Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, acting on advice from his new fortuneteller, shuffled his cabinet to make it more "five-friendly." According to Bangkok's the Nation newspaper, Chavalit began to schedule events at fifteen minutes past the hour, changed his soccer-jersey number to 45, and moved into a new house whose address is 555. Also during the summer, the leading drafter of Thailand's new constitution announced himself to be a "six" man who had artificially split one of the 335 proposed articles so there would be 336. He said he used to be a "nine" man and had set up the drafting committee with 99 members. The prime minister resigned in November.

*Last week "News of the Weird" reported that in October an Australian judge had decided to impose national law instead of tribal punishment for an aborigine who had killed his nephew. In November the judge changed his mind, let the man off with time already served, and released him to his community; he was immediately speared nine times in the left thigh and six in the right by various family members and hit three times in the head with a club by his sisters. From his hospital bed, where he was recovering from his spear wounds, Stephen Barnes said he was "really happy" to have been let back into the community.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd