Lead Stories

In March British mechanical engineer John Tyrer told an audience at the annual meeting of the Institute of Physics in Brighton, England, that he and his colleagues are using lasers to design a more comfortable bra. “A breast imposes various load distributions…and vibrational problems as the woman walks,” he said, criticizing the “strap design” that “transmits the load to the wrong places.” The technology the engineers are using, electron speckle pattern interferometry, analyzes the way a three-dimensional surface changes when a force is applied to it.

In April the Chicago Tribune reported on Mexico City’s continuing woes as the world’s most air-polluted city–hydrocarbon readings there are about what they are inside New York’s Lincoln Tunnel. That same month the Associated Press reported on Moscow’s status as the world’s most radiation-polluted city. Although about 1,000 sites have been cleaned up in the last 20 years, crews there still managed to find 29 tons of radium- and cesium-tainted soil in former dumps last year, and new contaminated sites turn up every week.

In April a federal judge in Hartford, Connecticut, threw out the defamation lawsuit against Princeton University filed by disgruntled would-be medical student Rommel Nobay, who claimed that when Princeton bad-mouthed him for lying on his application it discouraged other schools from accepting him. Nobay admitted to fudging his class standing and SAT score, among other things; however, he had attracted more suspicion with his essays claiming that a family of lepers in Kenya had so much faith in him that they had donated “half their beggings” to help him with his education.

More Than a Best Friend

Mark Hatterer became a local hero in York, Pennsylvania, in April after he rescued Scottie, a Scottish terrier that had fallen into a septic tank. Hatterer wiped the muck from the unconscious dog’s snout and gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until it came to.

Life Imitates the Movies

Take the Money and Run: A would-be robber walked away from a bank in Pearl River, New York, in March, exasperated that employees could not decipher his poorly handwritten holdup note. Several hours later detectives still hadn’t figured out most of the words. Dog Day Afternoon: Also in March, in Donegal, Ireland, two men wearing blond wigs and dresses were arrested for burglary, and one of the men told police the heist was to pay for the other guy’s sex-change operation.

He Can Break Your Nose or He Can Powder It

Kickboxer Parinya Kiatbusaba, 16, of Thailand, who won his 20th fight in March, has garnered a lot of press coverage because out of the ring he is a flamboyant transvestite. “It is hard to fight beautiful men,” he said. “I can easily knock them out. On the other hand, I want to hug and kiss them.”

Note to Italy: Accidents Happen

Six weeks after a U.S. Marine jet clipped a cable holding up a ski gondola near Cavalese, Italy, killing 20, the London Daily Telegraph revealed that Italy’s top naval officer and two others may face charges of manslaughter in the accidental ramming of an Albanian naval vessel in which 97 people drowned.

Jeans Technology

At an American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting in San Francisco in February, FBI agent Richard Vorder Bruegge said he and his colleagues can identify suspects by their jeans, because every pair has a unique wear pattern. In one criminal trial an FBI expert witness picked the defendant’s jeans from among 35 pairs.

Least Competent Criminals

Ronnie Darnell Bell, 30, was arrested in Dallas in February and charged with attempting to rob the Federal Reserve Bank. According to police, because there were no tellers a confused Bell handed a security guard his note, which read, “This is a bank robbery of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, of Dallas, Texas, give me all the money. Thank you, Ronnie Darnell Bell.” The guard pushed a silent alarm while an oblivious Bell chatted amiably, revealing that only minutes earlier he had tried to rob a nearby post office but “they threw me out.”

Richard W. Miller Jr., 35, wanted in Utica, New York, for arson, was captured by U.S. marshals in Arizona in February. One of the arresting marshals claims to have asked the suspect if he was Richard Miller. The suspect said no, but when they fingerprinted him, he helpfully signed his name at the bottom of the card: “Richard Miller.”

In January Hipolito Vega, 30, was arrested in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and charged on a previous warrant for driving without a license. He made his one phone call to a friend, speaking in Spanish because he believed no one would be able to understand him telling his friend where to pick up a stash of cocaine he had hidden. Vega didn’t notice officer Manuel Rivera listening nearby. Police were waiting by the stash when his friend arrived.

Airport police in Sao Paulo, Brazil, arrested Gerardo Gallo in January after they found about 50 pounds of cheap cheese during a search of his suitcase. They had become suspicious when they saw Gallo was on his way to Switzerland. Asked an inspector, “Why would anyone take so much third-rate Bolivian cheese to a country which is famous for its top-quality cheese?” Inside the cheese was about 22 pounds of cocaine.

In March Kelvin Floyd received a modest two-month sentence and a fine in Aiken, South Carolina, for stealing a car. Floyd had known to scratch out the car’s vehicle ID number and replace it with a substitute number–but he used his own social security number.

Recurring Themes

Two months ago News of the Weird reported that a man in his 20s tried to beat drug-trafficking charges in Phoenix by claiming that the eight-year-old boy who allegedly ran drugs for him was actually the boss. In April Brian J. Diaz, 21, was arrested in Detroit and charged with robbing a bank with the help of a 12-year-old boy he had recruited. The robbery had gone awry, but both had escaped unidentified. Shortly afterward, according to police, Diaz tried to rat out the boy for a $2,000 reward.

Thinning the Herd

Five treasure hunters were killed in March in the Rizal province of the Philippines after they found a live World War II bomb and tried to pound it open with a crowbar. Also in the Philippines, a naval officer died in January at his home in Zamboanga when he used a live mortar shell as a hammer.

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 by Shawn Belschwender.