Lead Stories

In September federal, state, and local authorities raided a field near Salinas, California, and seized about 1,000 khat plants, which produce a controlled substance that is still fairly new to the U.S. Khat is said to produce feelings of bliss, clarity of thought, euphoria, and excessive energy. And the Chicago Tribune reported in August that Abbott Laboratories had just completed successful human trials of ABT-594, a drug said to be 200 times as powerful as morphine but still nonaddictive. The drug comes from a tiny Ecuadoran frog whose highly poisonous secretions have long been used to coat blowgun darts.

When authorities raided a cockfighting operation near Gadsden, Alabama, in July, they found not only a restaurant and a 250-seat theater for patrons, but two air-conditioned trailers for the roosters, one of which featured piped-in country music.

According to a Reuters report in August, a German lobbyist group in Bonn called the Working Group for the Unemployed held a series of rallies to demand six weeks’ annual paid vacation for people out of work, pointing out that those looking for work often are under greater stress than those with jobs.

First Things First

U.S. News & World Report disclosed in July that the government of Iraq, limited to buying only essential “humanitarian” items under the UN trade embargo, ordered 25 rowing machines and four liposuction devices from a German company. And in August Robert Allan Miller of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was revealed to have set aside $5,000 in his will for ten monthly awards “to the most conscientious police officer[s], who [give] the most traffic tickets to motorists who double-park.” A friend said Miller “lived on a really narrow street.”

Intimate Connubial Moments

In August a 26-year-old woman reported being raped by five men in her van on a street in Spokane, Washington. Several days later she apologized and said the sex was consensual, part of a fantasy she lived out by picking the men up, and that her husband was involved. Also in August a couple from Silver Spring, Maryland, was arrested for indecent exposure at an adult cinema in Baltimore after the husband arranged for four men to have sex with his wife on the premises. According to police, several other men in the theater complained, apparently because the live sex obstructed their view of the screen.

More Police Chiefs and Their Guns

John Grotluschen, police chief of Clarksville, Iowa, accidentally shot himself in the hand in August while cleaning his gun. Bruce Seal, sheriff of Claiborne County, Tennessee, accidentally shot himself in the foot in July while reaching into his pocket for his car keys. And Chuck Lewis, police chief of Coggon, Iowa, revealed in July that Sheriff Don Zeller won’t give him a license to carry a gun because of Lewis’s 1995 assault conviction.

I Don’t Think So

Reverend Muhamed Siddeeq, spiritual adviser to Mike Tyson, told the New Jersey State Athletic Commission in July that the fighter should not only get his boxing license back, but he is a prime candidate to succeed Kofi Annan as UN secretary general: “I see Mike solving many of the world’s problems.”

In May Mary Lauro, head of a civic group seeking to incorporate the new town of Imperial in Jefferson County, Missouri, became upset because the issue was not being taken seriously enough by the county commission: “[Commissioner Jon Selsor] is right next to Hitler, Stalin, and all the other dictators.”

The Los Angeles Times reported in July that in addition to construction of a small park in Washington, D.C., named for the late Sonny Bono, there is talk at the University of California, Riverside, of creating a Sonny Bono School of Government.

In July a 28-year-old man was ticketed for speeding in Great Falls, Montana, allegedly doing 104 in a 45-mph zone. According to police, the man said he had just washed his car and needed to drive fast to dry it off.

In September in Arusha, Tanzania, a UN tribunal convicted former Rwandan prime minister Jean Kambanda of genocide for his role in the slaughter of 500,000 Rwandan Tutsis in 1994. Kambanda professed surprise that he was sentenced to life in prison; his lawyer said that because Kambanda had cooperated with authorities, he was hopeful of doing no more than two years.

Least Competent Criminal

James L. Liddell was arrested at his home in Granite City, Illinois, about an hour after he allegedly robbed a bank. Police said Liddell apparently decided to rob the bank while waiting to cash a $12.19 paycheck, which was recovered at the scene, along with the ID he intended to use to cash it.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in 1995 on the preferred expression of worship at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario: falling to the floor in laughter over the greatness of the Holy Spirit. Among the more successful programs in the U.S., according to the Providence Journal-Bulletin in September, is the “Laughing Revival” of the New Life Worship Center in Smithfield, Rhode Island, whose parishioners may remain on the floor for up to an hour, giggling.

Undignified Death

In September in Lanham, Maryland, a 26-year-old man lost control of his motorcycle and crashed, killing himself. Police said it was alcohol related: four hours earlier, the man had been driven home from a part-time job, which was to get drunk at a police-training class so officers could practice doing sobriety tests on him. When he left work, he had a 0.12 blood-alcohol level.

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 Belshwender.