* An April Associated Press report from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, described recent intensive competition for dead bodies. The government has been offering $100 to any family that will relocate deceased relatives' bodies from a certain graveyard to another, to make way for a new road. However, families that declined soon learned they must stand guard over their relatives' graves every night lest robbers move the bodies themselves, for the bounty. The AP story reported on one woman who guarded a grave every night for weeks but became ill in mid-April and missed one night, allowing robbers to remove her sister's body.
* In May a jury in Birmingham, Ala., ruled in favor of Barbara Carlisle and her parents in their lawsuit against two companies responsible for charging them 18 months' more payments than what the salesman originally promised for two satellite dishes, a total overcharge of $1,224. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $581 million.
* The Asian Wall Street Journal reported in April that a Muslim organization in Jakarta, Indonesia, has decided to establish a formal recruiting and registration office for suicide bombers, complete with brochures and promises of training in teaching and first aid. "We got 600 applicants in two days," said the office director. And in March, according to authorities investigating the suspected kidnapper and sexual abuser David Parker Ray in Elephant Butte, N.M., Ray had prepared an "orientation" videotape that he played for his victims to let them know what they could expect while in captivity.
* Inventor Dr. Alla Venkata Krishna Reddy, called by one sex-boutique owner "the Leonardo da Vinci of the condom," is embroiled in a patent dispute in a Newark, N.J., court because he has turned out two different models that threaten to revolutionize condom use through built-in bulges that increase sensitivity. According to an April New York Times story, financial backers of Dr. Reddy's earlier Pleasure Plus condom say that Reddy copied the basic design with his new Inspiral condom and have tied up the Inspiral with a request for injunction, but Dr. Reddy points out that the Pleasure Plus uses a pouch for friction while the Inspiral uses a "shock-absorber" effect.
* In March, Bruce Bryan of Pittsburgh received a patent (though not yet Food and Drug Administration approval) for making food that glows, using a substance taken from jellyfish and fireflies. And in February, three fashion houses in South Korea began marketing men's suits containing fragrant microcapsules that burst when caressed. And fifth-grader Christie Brown of Prince George, British Columbia, said in March that a company was interested in her science-fair-winning project: a frozen cracker that would not get soggy when put in hot soup.
* The spokesman for an elite unit at the Canadian defense department's headquarters told reporters in March that his office could soon develop the world's first "combat bra" that would combine the strength and durability needed for military operations while also being comfortable enough to wear for several days at a time if conditions warranted. And a company called Wisdom Marketing in Bangkok, Thailand, announced in March it would soon start selling chastity-belt underwear for women, for rape-prevention purposes, complete with a small combination lock similar to those found on luggage, for about $40.
* The New York Times reported in January on the booming market in spiritual cosmetics, which sellers say will lead consumers to greater confidence and knowledge of the higher self, through bubble bath, lipstick, night cream, color therapy, etc. One manufacturer cited had originally invented chakra nail polish and other items as an ironic commentary on the beauty business but then rolled out a complete cosmetics line when he found how wildly popular his products were.
* Ronnie Brock's Alibi Agency (membership fee: about $35) opened in March in Blackpool, England, to help clients produce fake receipts, invitations, telephone calls, etc., to cover up illicit romantic liaisons. Brock is certain that his agency supplies a social benefit, in that in "99 percent" of affairs, the participants return to their original partners provided that the affair has remained secret.
* Engineers at Imperial College in London, England, recently produced a blood-extracting robot that they believe is more accurate than humans at finding a vein and properly inserting a needle, according to an April New Scientist story. Human blood-drawers often act as if all arms and veins are the same, but Imperial's robots examine the skin, tissue and vein size with highly sensitive instruments. On the other hand, at Trinity University in Hartford, Conn., an April exhibition of stand-alone robots was for the most part impressive, according to a Knight-Ridder News Service story, but included a number of robot firefighters that walked directly into the flames.
* In February, a group of scientists and lawyers in New Zealand proposed legislation to give near-"human" rights to gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans because they are so genetically close to humans. Only the mildest, most benign experiments could be conducted on them. Opponents feared that such rights might eventually extend to other animals and even to ordinary lab rats, which would significantly frustrate medical research.
* In February, legislatures in Maine and Arizona voted down proposals to prohibit discrimination against motorcyclists, but a similar effort continues in Pennsylvania. (Last year, the Minnesota Legislature passed an obscure provision in a finance bill barring anti-biker discrimination by restaurants and bars.) And a legislative proposal in California pending from last year, the Open Waves Act, would guarantee that local surfers had no greater right to a wave than visiting surfers. (At times in California, surfers brawl over waves, using their boards as clubs.)
* In March, an Ontario provincial court upheld the right of convicted public masturbator Marvin Mezquita-Duenas not to have to stand in front of City Hall holding a sign that revealed his crime. The trial judge had sentenced him to 18 months' probation and five days of openly admitting his perversion.
* Within a three-day period in April, two people accidentally hanged themselves. A 73-year-old woman in Pittsburgh strangled herself when she fell down while unlocking her door with a necklace key, and in New York City, suspected burglar Terrence Adams, 55, hanged himself when his sweater caught on a piece of metal as he was lowering himself through a ceiling into a clothing store. (The store's name: the Dum Dum Boutique.)
Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, FL 33738, or [email protected].
1999 Universal Press Syndicate