Lead Stories

In June the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a 1998 decision upholding the privacy rights of James Anderson of Duluth, Georgia, who allegedly took videos sent to him as part of a child-pornography sting operation to his workplace. Child-porn photos found in Anderson’s home were used as evidence in his trial, but the courts ruled that the workplace stash was illegally seized because Anderson had a legitimate expectation of privacy there. And three weeks later British Columbia’s highest court ruled that Canada’s child-porn possession law was unconstitutional because it criminalized erotic material written from one’s own imagination.

On the same day in June that the Colombian government announced it would begin counting proceeds from cocaine production (estimated at $1 billion a year) in its official economic figures, Richard Grasso, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, traveled to the remote village of La Machaca to meet with a top commander of the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which the U.S. State Department has labeled a terrorist group. Grasso reportedly invited the commander, Raul Reyes, to New York to learn more about international markets.


In April police in Broomfield, Colorado, issued a trespassing summons to Kristopher C. Ward, 36, who with a female companion moved furniture and two dogs into a vacant house belonging to Michael Deetz. When Deetz brought a police officer around to evict the squatters, Ward said he had been trying to get ahold of Deetz and decided to move in and wait until he dropped by.

In April a judge in Ottawa, Ontario, ruled against inmate Herbert Miller in his lawsuit against a correctional institution in Alberta. Miller had lost his prison job, which was supposed to prepare him for work on the outside, and was demanding more than $3,000 (U.S.) in back and vacation pay and overtime.

Former Florida state representative Deborah Tamargo, visiting the house chamber in April, sat in representative Harry C. Goode’s seat while he went out for a smoke. A bill was brought to the floor, and Tamargo pushed Goode’s “yes” button, to his astonishment when he found out later. The bill, to ban trespassing on the grounds of a private school, passed.

In May, Steve Highfill, director of the worldwide charity Feed the Children, and several administrative employees were caught on tape by Nashville TV station WTVF taking home donated boxes of goods. Highfill said, “If that’s wrong, fine. I don’t think so, and I don’t think people are going to think so.” Highfill resigned the next day and 14 employees were fired a week later.

Weird Animals

Casey, a golden retriever in Raytown, Missouri, made the news in April by recovering from three gunshot wounds to the head. Suzzy, a German shepherd in Granite City, Illinois, had surgery in March to remove $7.37 in coins she had swallowed. And in Laconia, New Hampshire, local residents have helped Whitey the stray husky to elude animal-control officers for more than a year now.

According to police in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, blood all over the furniture of a burglarized house in May was the thief’s, courtesy of the home owner’s parrot, which attacked the perp. Said a police spokesman, “The bird was fairly annoyed.” And at a burglary trial in April in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, prosecutors subpoenaed a parrot that was abducted in the crime, in the hopes that it would identify the thief in court. The bird was noncommittal.

Loose Change

The waste-management company serving York County, Pennsylvania, reported in June that it had found about $43,000 in coins in trash. Also in June the government of Miami-Dade County announced the demotion of an administrator in charge of processing parking meter collections; the 21-year veteran had not deposited about $150,000 in coins collected over a four-year period.

Brains in the News

In February Russian brain surgeon Svyatoslav Medvedev told reporters in Saint Petersburg that he had achieved an 80 percent success rate curing alcoholism by removing the part of the brain that he says influences the disease. And in April a University of Toronto researcher concluded that people with brain damage to the right frontal lobe don’t get the punch lines of jokes, though they laugh at other kinds of humor, such as slapstick.

Least Competent Criminals

In May, according to officials at South Dakota’s Brookings County Jail, on the day before model inmate Jeffrey Kumm was to be released, he swiped three deputy’s shirts and two prison uniforms and hid them outside on the grounds so he could retrieve them after he got out. He was caught and sentenced to six more months.

Notable Passing

In February Don Giuseppe Avarna, the duke of Gualtieri, age 83, died in Messina, Sicily. The duke achieved celebrity in the 1980s when he abandoned his family and took up with a young American flight attendant and then proceeded to irritate his wife for years by ringing a chapel bell in their village every time he and the woman made love.

In the Last Month

In Saint Louis an arson suspect had to be hospitalized after he fell off the roof of a building while admiring the fire he allegedly started. Bangkok police, trying to discourage the practice of bribing officers on traffic stops, started offering free rice to ticketed motorists who came to the station to pay their fines. The city of Graz, Austria, said it would start paying beggars about $260 per month to stay out of sight. In Rochester, Minnesota, a fire extinguisher exploded from the heat of a fire in the home of a 70-year-old woman, spewing foam that doused the fire. And about 1,000 angry Pakistani cricket fans surrounded the home of a player on the national team and threw rocks at his windows after the team lost the world title to Australia.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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