Lead Stories

According to a November report in Canada’s National Post, doctors in England are under criticism for performing leg-stretching surgery on Emma Richards, 16, who aspired to be a flight attendant (minimum height five-foot-three) but had stopped growing at four-foot-nine. Surgeons fractured her femurs and inserted pins over which the bones would gradually grow back together. In the ten months since the operation, Richards has grown five inches but has also endured a bad infection and two unintentional fractures.

The Netherlands legalized prostitution in October (before that it was merely tolerated), but also began regulating it like any other business. Among the workplace-safety regulations that now apply to brothels: premises must be well lit, carpets are banned (because they’re too hard to clean), and separate showers and changing rooms must be provided for males and females. Also, for consumer-protection purposes, prostitutes are required to register with local chambers of commerce, which routinely make lists of professional service providers available to the public.

Number One in the News

In September engineers reported that Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium is corroding because so many fans, unwilling to miss a few minutes’ action by waiting in line for the rest rooms, relieve themselves on the terraces. Also in September, Macedonian soldiers captured a very modest Albanian border officer who had wandered across the line; he said the Macedonian trees provided better cover for answering nature’s call than the sparse vegetation on his own side. And a 35-year-old man was convicted in Nara, Japan, in the same month for reaching into the next stall at a public rest room and maneuvering a wire-and-cup contraption to capture the occupant’s fresh urine, which he told the judge he needed for a skin condition.

Cultural Diversity

Critics of China’s one-child policy say it has produced the country’s most overindulged generation ever, which in turn has necessitated places like the Jin Duoba camp in Shanghai, famous for its tough-love regimen for overweight kids. According to an October story in the Chicago Sun-Times, Jin Duoba models itself after a military camp: in one exercise, it requires kids to crawl on their bellies while fake bullets fly overhead.

In September the New York Times reported that rhinoplasty has become a fad among upscale Iranian women. Since Islam requires almost every part of a woman’s body to be covered in public, a nose job is the only way in which Iran’s conspicuous consumer can effectively use plastic surgery as a status symbol. According to the Times, even the postsurgical bandages are seen as indicators of wealth.

Rome hairdresser Vittorio Giunta created a stir this year by defiantly keeping his salon open past the decades-old mandated closing time of 7 PM in order to offer his customers haircuts during a full moon.

Crises in the Dog Community

That would be 49 in dog years: Wilton Rabon told reporters in Seattle in September that he had no intention of dropping his seven-year-long appeal to get his Lhasa apso back. The dog, named Word, was declared vicious and impounded on “death row” at a local animal shelter after it bit two women in May 1993, but the matter has been tied up in court since then. Rabon, who visits Word’s pen periodically, is unwilling to accept the compromise of sending the dog to an animal refuge in Utah. So far his case has cost U.S. taxpayers $200,000.

Hard times for gay dogs: In October, Namibian home affairs minister Jerry Ekandjo told police academy graduates in the capital city of Windhoek that constables must “eliminate [gays and lesbians] from the face of Namibia” and must also kill any “gay dog” belonging to a gay or lesbian. George Stephens Finley, 58, was convicted in June in Ocala, Florida, of killing his male poodle-Yorkie mix because he thought it was gay; he drew this conclusion after it became very playful with the family’s other male dog.

I’ll Fight for You!

Joe Brown, a challenger for district attorney in Sherman, Texas, got into a fistfight with the incumbent’s brother at a restaurant the day before the election. (He lost the fight, but won the election.) On the night of the September primary, two members of the Florida legislature got into a fistfight at a Miami radio station when one’s father called the other’s father a drug dealer. And Robert Votava, running for the Rhode Island general assembly, was arrested the week before the election for throwing nine punches at a tree trimmer in his South Kingstown neighborhood.


Samuel Feldman, arrested in January after his three years of squeezing and smashing packages of bread and cookies in various supermarkets around Bucks County, Pennsylvania, damaged thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise, was found guilty in September and told to get help. The judge ruled that Feldman had no mental problems, but sentenced him to 180 days’ probation and made him promise that his wife would monitor his supermarket visits.

Least Competent Criminals

According to police in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Eugene Allen, 29, and his brother, Kenneth Bartelson, 35, were caught robbing an apartment’s inhabitants in October. Allen, assigned to be the lookout despite being legally blind, failed to notice approaching police officers and then mistakenly thought he was talking confidentially to his brother when he was actually talking to a neighbor.

In the Last Month

Two cousins in Evergreen, Alabama, clubbed each other in the face with farm tools (including a scythe) in a dispute over corn bread, jelly, and chitterlings. AIDS doctors at a conference in Swaziland warned that U.S.-donated condoms would easily break in use because they were too small for the country’s men. A 15-year-old girl in Skokie pleaded guilty to assault for beating up her 18-year-old ex-boyfriend, blackening both his eyes when he wouldn’t kiss her after their prom last May.

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): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.