News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*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 April a Navy official told the Pensacola (Florida) 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 (versus "millions" for a commercial simulator). Also, according to news reports from Littleton, Colorado, 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.

Questionable Judgments
*Build It and They Will Come: The $330-million taxpayer-funded MidAmerica Airport, built in 1998 in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, continues to operate daily despite having not attracted a single prospective commercial airline flight, according to a March Associated Press story. Projections by the politicians who advocated the airport had it handling a million passengers by next year, but so far all of the major carriers in St. Louis said they have no plans to leave. Already the county government has spent $2.5 million on upgrades.

*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.

*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 say 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.

-- By Chuck Shepherd


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