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News of the Weird


* Frenchman Richard Moureau upset Brit Terry Burrows in the European Window Cleaning Championship in Paris in March by wetting and streaklessly wiping three standard panes in 14.31 seconds. Moureau's time was very fast, but according to a Wall Street Journal report, a jurisdictional dispute between the International Window Cleaning Association and France's National Federation of Cleaning Contractors has left no uniform world records. (Both Moureau and Burrows use the "American stroke," which has revolutionized contestants' times compared to the standard "French stroke.")

* In April, 300 inmates at the Villahermosa Social Rehabilitation Center in southwest Mexico rioted, gathering against the prison's fences and chanting demands for marijuana and alcohol. On the other hand, an April Reuters report on the beginnings of the privately run Wolds Remand Prison in Hull, England, described complaints of veteran inmates that life there was too soft, particularly the part about prisoners eating with guards and calling them by their first names.

* In March in Ottawa, Ontario, convicted pedophile Owen Dulmage rose to address the judge in an effort to persuade him that he was no longer a threat to children because of his age and should not be imprisoned, or at least not for long, for molesting a boy in 1960. Said Dulmage, who is 77: "I couldn't catch a 6-year-old in a race." Why, the only way he could kidnap a boy, he said (according to a report of his remarks in the Globe and Mail), was if he knocked him out first and dragged away the unconscious body.

* In Adamsburg, Pa., in March, Mary Marcoz bought a $129 12-gauge shotgun as a welcome-home gift for her son, Christopher Lewis, who had just been released from a mental-health treatment center. After presenting him with the gun, Marcoz went on errands and returned to find yellow police tape at their home: According to police, Lewis had begun shooting in the air, and when two neighbors came to complain, he shot both of them. Marcoz guessed that Lewis was acting out scenes from the movie Kelly's Heroes, which was in the VCR at the time.

* In April, a Navy official told the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal that the Navy would soon begin running the primary aviators' training at its Corpus Christi, Texas, station using off-the-shelf copies of Microsoft's Flight Simulator software ($50), thus permitting the Navy to create a homemade simulator for about $6,000 (vs. "millions" for a commercial simulator). Also, according to news reports from Littleton, Colo., the two Columbine High School killers were obsessed with the video game Doom, a customized version of which was adopted by the Marines several years ago for infantry training.

* In February a juvenile court judge in Dayton, Ohio, ruled that Regina Moreland's three children (plus a granddaughter in her custody) should be returned to her after being taken away by authorities when four other children in her care were murdered over a seven-month period. (Police have not filed charges in the murders but said the culprit may have been another child in the family, rather than Moreland.) In April, the judge changed his mind and awarded custody to another relative who lives across the street from Moreland, thus still keeping the child-suspect together with the surviving kids.

* Job-Rating Rage: Trung Ngo, 32, was sentenced to 30 days in jail in Alexandria, Va., in January for telephoning his supervisor more than 50 times to complain about being rated "highly successful" instead of "outstanding." Slow-Flushing Rage: An impatient Raymond Cruz, 49, was arrested in Schererville, Ind., in March after shooting up a slow-swirling toilet in a tavern with his .40-caliber Beretta. Porno-Denial Rage: A l9-year-old man and several buddies cursed a librarian and chased her out of the Downsview Public Library in Toronto, Ontario, in February after she cut their Internet access because they were viewing sex sites.

* In February, the Canadian government approved the meat-processing industry's request to use iron oxide (also known as rust) instead of caramel to decorate Black Forest ham. According to the industry, rust is cheaper and binds better to the ham, and health officials insisted that rust is safe for human consumption.

* Within the last six months, Florida county commissioners in Seminole County (near Orlando) and Manatee County (Bradenton) have passed anti-public-nudity ordinances requiring women to cover at least 25 percent of their breasts (including a mandatory-coverage area explained in detail) and at least 33 percent of the buttocks (also highly detailed as to which points the coverage must be measured from). Thus, strictly speaking, the ordinances require sheriffs to make an initial calculation of the total area of the particular region (length times width) before an arrest can be made.

* Last year, Phyllis Klingebiel filed a lawsuit in Elizabeth, N.J., against her son Michael, 40, charging that he reneged on their l0-year-old deal to split any lottery winnings. Michael had won $2.15 million in 1997 but said that that particular winning ticket was not part of the deal. In April 1999, Michael reluctantly agreed to part with almost one-fourth of the money, posing for a notable Newark Star-Ledger photo receiving a kiss from Mom while looking as if he had just been shot in the stomach.

* The Baltimore Sun reported in April that Nettie Levitt Gilbert, 89, filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach, Fla., against her son, Jeffrey Levitt, accusing him of taking out credit cards in her name. If her claim is true, it would constitute a violation of Levitt's 1993 parole on savings-and-loan embezzlement charges and thus would send him to prison for the remaining 23 years of his term.

* The government of France, concerned that the 2 million homeless, unemployed and other down-and-outs would be particularly befuddled in having to translate their francs into euros, announced in December that it would pass out free calculators on the street. And the tax collectors in the state of Saarland, Germany, trying to improve their image with the people they have chosen for audits, began in February to hand out blue-and-white pens reading "We Gladly Make House Calls -- Your Friendly Saarland Tax Man."

* "News of the Weird" reported in 1996 and 1997 on people who still fail to understand the social offensiveness of dressing white people in blackface. In January 1999, teachers at Yale secondary school, Abbotsford, British Columbia, adamant about staging a production of the musical Show Boat despite the unwillingness of the school's only four black students to join the cast, decided to select four white students for the black chorus and to paint them in blackface. The play opened in February, in the middle of Black History Month.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, FL 33738, or

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