News of the Weird

Lead Stories

In April, Citizens Bank, the holder of the mortgage on Edward J. Brown's $90,000 Dartmouth, Massachusetts, home, sold it at auction for $60,000 because Brown had dallied over paying the final $324 last year. He had made 299 of the 300 payments but held off on the last one because he mistakenly thought having a mortgage reduced his legal liability. Brown also apparently ignored several letters and phone calls inquiring about the payment.

Britain's Most Eccentric Supermarket Chain: In January Tesco considered allowing its Hastings store to run a nude-shopping night after the normal closing hour (but eventually declined because of the potential for mishandling of fresh fruits and vegetables). In May Tesco told farmers to grow smaller melons after focus groups reported that large melons made small-busted female customers feel inferior. That month Tesco tested its pies ballistically after receiving a surge of requests for recommendations on which of its pies is best for throwing (answer: egg custard). In June Tesco began a program to sew instructions on self-testing for testicular cancer into men's underwear.


In April the administration at Princeton University reaffirmed its faculty appointment of Australian philosophy professor Peter Singer to a prestigious chair in bioethics, saying that "the strength of his teaching and his research" outweighs "any particular point of view" he holds. One of Singer's views is that parents have the right to kill their severely deformed children in the first month of life.

In May the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias (disorders affecting the teeth, hair, nails and sweat glands of children) complained that it was hard enough to raise money for research for such obscure disorders without having Pfizer Inc. and its spokesman Bob Dole steal its nickname "E.D." as a euphemism for impotence. The foundation started using the term in 1981.

According to a March Chicago Tribune story, anywhere from 40,000 to 200,000 patients woke up during their surgeries in 1998, in possession of one or more of their senses (sometimes feeling searing pain) but unable because of muscle relaxants to move or tell their doctors they need more anesthesia. According to a professor of anesthesiology, the cause often is doctors' restrained use of anesthesia in order to minimize legal liability.

Government in Action

The New York Times disclosed in June that about 2,000 obsolete, unfunctioning fire hydrants remain in place in New York City, dry for almost 20 years, whose only purpose is to allow the city to collect revenue from motorists who park too close to them. Supposedly, a contractor will begin removing them soon, for a fee of about $3,000 each.

Clean Air Act regulations announced by President Clinton in April establish the goal for returning national parks and wilderness areas to pre-industrial purity but only by the year 2064. States don't even have to decide on their plans until the year 2008. This program represents a frenzied acceleration by the Clinton administration, in that previous Environmental Protection Agency plans called for pure air in national parks by around 2190.

By Chuck Shepherd


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