* According to a May Boston Globe report, the town of Sydney, Nova Scotia, is the country's most polluted place (arsenic, naphthalene, lead, PCBs, oil, raw sewage) but is hopeful of exploiting the situation to become a research facility for environmental technicians and possibly a tourists' center to showcase its spectacular levels of contamination, as a warning to others. The mining industry, however, is opposed, and its continued operation adds to what the Globe termed the "mountainous slag heaps" and "rivers of toxic ooze." Last year, the rest of Cape Breton Island, on which Sydney is located, was named by Conde Nast Traveler magazine as the world's most beautiful island.
* A beatification ceremony was held in Rome in May for the proposed saint Padre Pio of southern Italy, who died in 1968. Padre Pio was wildly loved by his parishioners but viewed skeptically by critics, including two popes and other Vatican officials. According to his supporters, his hands bled from the crucifixion holes similar to those of Jesus, to the point where light passed through them; he once had a wrestling match with the devil, who gouged Padre Pio's eyes; and various parishioners (including a friend of the man who later became Pope John Paul II) were inexplicably cured of illnesses after praying through Padre Pio. He will need two posthumous miracles to become a saint.
* Practicing Up for Yugoslavia: In April, an Air Force pilot training at the Warren Grove Bombing Range in New Jersey missed his target by a mile-and-a-half, landing in a state forest preserve and starting a fire that burned more than 18 square miles.
* The government of Hungary recently agreed to investigate massive scams in which 30,000 farmers paid their life savings (totaling about $42 million) for earthworms to breed under fanciful assurances that Western entrepreneurs would buy all the worms they could produce, according to an April London Daily Telegraph report. And in Malaysia, where men rely on snake-blood tonics as their own Viagra, the bounty on cobras is now about $35 each, compared to 75 cents in the 1970s, according to a February Times of London story. And in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., in March, a 60-year-old man was assaulted by a woman after he made a derogatory comment to her while receiving fellatio, for which he had paid $2.
* In October, Brandon Lund, 16, was convicted of hiring a hitman to kill his father because, according to the prosecutor, "He just didn't like the way (he) was running the household." And in March, landlord Alvin Weiss, 46, was sentenced to seven years in prison for hiring a hitman (unsuccessfully) to kill two of his tenants so he could release their apartments at higher rents. And in Lahore, Pakistan, in April, according to police, a 32-year-old woman was shot to death by a hitman hired by her father because she had shamed him by seeking a divorce from her husband.
* In March, two professors reported that results of their identical polls on ethical questions, asked of graduate business students and then of inmates at three Midwestern prisons, yielded remarkably similar results. In fact, inmates were judged more loyal to employers than were the M.B.A.s. And the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in April that 25 business-ethics students at San Diego State University flunked the course, for cheating on an exam.
* In March, the Burlington Homes housing development near Bakersfield, Calif., rejected the application of attorney Timothy Liebaert and his wife for a five-bedroom home, citing the company's aversion to lawyers, which the company believes are quick to litigate -- and thus impose higher legal and administrative costs -- which frustrates Burlington Homes' efforts to keep its prices down. Of course, when informed of Burlington Homes' rejection of his application, Liebaert sued.
* In March, John Killick, 57, who was being held in a maximum-security prison in Sydney, Australia, on armed-robbery charges, was sprung from the exercise yard by a helicopter, which his girlfriend had hijacked at gunpoint. The couple is still at large.
* Three cows escaped from a barn in Ancaster, Ontario, in April. When cornered by animal-control officers, two escaped by leaping over a police cruiser and remained on the lam for two more hours before being tranquilized. And a week later, following a one-truck accident on the Capital Beltway near Alexandria, Va., the driver's dog Tito was found in excellent condition. He could not have crossed the Beltway on foot at that point; the only way he could have been where he was, was to have been ejected over a 4-foot concrete barrier and four lanes of traffic and to have landed in the soft grass.
* During an April sunset in Brooksville, Fla., Lucy Dover, 79, was knocked to the ground by a 15-pound red fox, breaking her hip and rendering her unable to get up. Periodically, the fox attacked Dover, clawing and biting her repeatedly, until she grabbed it behind the head and by the tail and held it at bay for the next 12 hours, until her landlord happened by on a routine visit and rescued her.
* Patricia Dolinska, 27, was arrested for shoplifting from a grocery store in Ottawa, Ontario, in April. According to police, underneath Dolinska's long skirt were three whole chickens, a pork roast, a beef roast and a duck.
* According to a March report in the London Daily Telegraph, Saddam Hussein has delayed deploying his planned 60-member suicide-pilot task force, saying he does not trust the recruits. (Saddam's strategy is for pilots to lure U.S. and British pilots into range of Iraq's air defenses so he can shoot the planes down and show the world that he has inflicted his first casualties of the Desert Fox confrontation.)
* In January, Theotis Hall, 51, was arrested in Brunswick, Ga., and charged with assisted suicide after he allegedly complied with a woman's wishes and locked her inside her car's trunk, with the engine running, for about eight hours. According to police, the woman paid $140 to Hall, whom she had recruited from a local labor pool. Said a police sergeant, "She went to a temporary service because it was a temporary job." (She was rescued by her son and is alive.)
* A 27-year-old man in Springfield, Ill., called the local State Journal-Register newspaper in April to say that he is the one police have been calling "Sock Man" and that he promised to stop his antics if editors would not print his name. According to police, he approached two women and promised them $100 each if they would go home, get some of their socks and leave them for him at designated points. One took him up on the offer, but he reneged on the payment. Police Lt. Carl Sprinkel said the man would not be charged: "It's no crime to be weird."
Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, FL 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com.
1999 Universal Press Syndicate