Lead Stories

Ezola Foster, who is Pat Buchanan’s Reform Party running mate and a longtime conservative skeptical of most government social programs, admitted in August that she had submitted a false document in 1996 to get California worker-compensation benefits. According to a Los Angeles Times report, she claims now that she never had the “mental illness” that entitled her to draw money for about a year before her retirement as a schoolteacher in 1997. Rather, she now says: “I [had] two choices to survive. Since [my condition] wasn’t physical, they make it mental, don’t they? If I don’t have a broken leg, or they don’t see blood, or I’m not dead, they said I have to be crazy.” The nature of her “mental illness” was worked out “between my doctor and my attorney. It’s whatever the doctor said that, after working with my attorney, was best to help me.”

Pakistan allows a large brewery to operate within its borders, even though its product is off-limits to Muslims, who make up 97 percent of the population, and is regularly denounced by the nation’s leaders, according to a July dispatch in the San Francisco Chronicle. Non-Muslims can purchase Murree Beer by applying for a consumption permit (stating religion, profession, income, drinking history, and for females, the husband’s name), and apparently many Muslims pay permit holders to purchase beer for them. Muslims are allowed to work at the factory.

Names in the News

Arrested in Bologna, Italy, in July and charged with burglarizing a pasta shop: Stefano Spaghetti. Barred from the Saratoga racetrack at opening-day races in July because of its inappropriate name: a two-year-old colt named Mufahker (which means “glory” in Arabic). The arresting officer, in an undercover sting operation that charged two 46-year-old men with soliciting sex with other men at a park in Wilmington, North Carolina, in July: Bud LaCock. Charged with allowing teenagers to have a keg party in her home near Pittsburgh in March: Susan Beer, 50.

Won’t Take No for an Answer

Rancher Marvin Edison Hale, 72, was arrested in August in Hays County, Texas, after allegedly shooting to death a Department of Public Safety trooper who had tried to pull Hale over for violating the state’s seat-belt law. Hale has been feuding with the government since 1982, when his ranch increased in value and property taxes were raised, and a 1999 seat-belt ticket apparently set him off. Because of his volatility on the issue, DPS had advised troopers to be cautious, especially on seat-belt violations.

Fred Craig continues with his intensive, 14-month campaign against a Fashion Bug store in Fulton, New York, according to an August Syracuse Herald Journal report, which started when the store would not take back a pair of $3 panties his wife bought that shredded during their first washing. Craig picketed the mall where the store was located, the mall owner’s headquarters, and the home of a mall executive, and drove around with a large sign on a trailer denouncing Fashion Bug. Finally Craig won a $36 judgment in small claims court but is still picketing because the mall has now barred him from the premises altogether.

Donna Harris-Lewis (widow of basketball player Reggie Lewis) announced in August that she would appeal the May decision against her in her lawsuit against Boston cardiologist Gilbert Mudge, who she says caused her husband’s death. Lewis, with his wife’s blessing, had continued to play basketball after a heart attack despite 12 cardiologists’ opinions that his heart was too weak. When he had a second attack, Harris-Lewis had him transferred to Mudge’s hospital because Mudge had given the most favorable prognosis. After Lewis died, Harris-Lewis (who collected about $12 million on her husband’s contract with the Boston Celtics) sued Mudge because, as she told a Boston Magazine reporter, “I need to be taken care of too. Everybody has to say I’m greedy, but I do want my money back this time around. Why should I lose?”

Cultural Diversity

Guinea pigs generally aren’t considered pets in their native Peru, according to a June Associated Press report. Almost all rural households raise the animals as a major source of protein, but folk healers (curanderos) also use guinea pigs to diagnose illnesses and remove bad luck. The healer rubs the animal over a patient’s body and then cuts the guinea pig open to check for discoloration because it is believed to pick up illnesses in the same part of the body where the patient is afflicted.

In Russia consumption of vodka is increasing as the economy and government falter, but drinking habits long ago created a public health crisis for the country, according to a June Boston Globe story. The average life expectancy is down to 59, average vodka consumption is three bottles a week, and two-thirds of all adult men are in fact drunk when they die.

Controlling the Supply and the Demand for Toxic Cleanup

In July the two owners of Hi-Po Inc., which had won a state environmental contract to clean up diesel fuel from two bodies of water in Ann Arbor, Michigan, were indicted in Detroit for secretly having dumped the diesel fuel in the water in the first place to create the need for the cleanup contract.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has occasionally reported technological and architectural advances in bathrooms, from full-service toilets to Singapore’s and South Korea’s national pride in having the world’s cleanest or fanciest public rest rooms. A July Wall Street Journal survey on the state of rest-room design mentioned the one at Miami’s China Grill, inside which users can order drinks, and the one at Las Vegas’s Mandalay Bay casino, where toilets are located in 11 glass cabanas equipped with televisions playing music videos. In New York City, the Royalton Hotel features a rest room with a lavish waterfall that is triggered when a patron enters, and at Bar 89 the stalls have clear doors containing liquid crystal, which become opaque only when the door is tightly closed.

Least Competent Criminals

Life imitates the World Wrestling Federation: Bank robberies in Worthington, Ohio, in July and Oshawa, Ontario, in December were foiled when the robbers managed to get clobbered by chair shots to the head delivered by, respectively, the president of the Ohio bank and a 64-year-old man who was selling raffle tickets next door to the Ontario bank, heard gunshots, and went to investigate.

In the Last Month

Anti-child-abuse vigilantes in New Port, Wales, vandalized a pediatrician’s home, apparently confusing her occupation with the word “pedophile.” Workers at a seafood plant in Cairns, Australia, found a human head inside a five-foot-long cod and tentatively identified it as that of a former member of the crew that had caught the fish. In Port Washington, Wisconsin, a 26-year-old man charged with driving a stolen Mercedes asked the judge if he could use the car as collateral for bail. A candidate for sheriff of Macclenny, Florida, left town after having been caught spreading sugar on the ground (to draw ants) the day before his opponent’s fund-raising picnic.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weird@compuserve.com.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Shawn Belschwender.