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                    WEIRD NEWS                                                   

Lead Stories

* The New York Times reported in June that NASA has recently

successfully field-tested an oil-spill-catcher that could have cleaned

up the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in about a week. A

Huntsville, Al., hairdresser named Phillip McCrory came up with

the idea to put discarded hair into mesh pillows, and a NASA

researcher determined that 1.4 million pounds of hair would have

soaked up the Valdez's 11 million gallons in about a week. By

contrast, Exxon Corp. spent $2 billion over several years and

caught only about 12 percent of the oil.

* Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson told his "700 Club" TV

audience in June that the city of Orlando, Fla., was taking a big risk

to sponsor the recent "Gay Days" festival. "I would warn Orlando

that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes," he said,

"and I don't think I'd be waving those [Gay Days logo] flags in

God's face if I were you." Homosexuality, he said, "will bring

about terrorist bombs, it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and

possibly a meteor."

Pushing the Advertising Envelope

* Twenty years ago, at least 9,000 people, including many children,

were tortured and killed by the Argentine military government, yet

the makers of Diesel jeans were set to run an ad in an Argentine

magazine in April that showed jeans-clad kids underwater chained

to cement blocks with the suggestion that they'd at least look cool

while drowning. And in May the Korean car maker Kia had to

scrap an ad featuring a Princess Diana lookalike surviving a

paparazzi chase because she was riding in a Kia. And in June, the

Leo Burnett agency discarded a planned ad campaign in Thailand

featuring "Adolf Hitler" being transformed into a good person

(stripping off his Nazi uniform, dancing merrily) on the basis of

eating a new brand of potato chip.

Things You Can Do Legally

* (1) Peep in the Daytime: After an April incident in a University

of Missouri dormitory, Columbia police acknowledged that the

city's ordinance against peeping in windows applies only at night.

(2) Take Hidden-Camera Photos at the Beach: Police detained, but

had to release, a man in Huntington Beach, Calif., in May who had

a video camera inside a hollowed-out boombox so that he could

surreptitiously tape sunbathing women. (3) Eat Your Roadkill: In

March, the West Virginia legislature decided it was not that

unsanitary to eat fresh roadkill and thus repealed its law.

More El Nino Fallout

* After a surprise, two-foot snowfall in Moscow, Russia, in April,

mayor Yuri M. Luzhkov fired the meteorologists, saying he would

get weather forecasts by other means. And in May, Mayor Kitisak

(known by one name) of the northern Thailand town of Sena tried

to end a six-month drought by installing two dozen 10-foot-long

inflated phalluses, which by local folklore would bring rain;

however, citizens rebelled when the installation was followed

instead by fires.

Tough Guys

* In a March letter to Britain's Navy News, a group of sailors on

the HMS Brave complained that their ship is one of a few in Her

Majesty's Navy with a name they could be proud of and that the

navy's mission is compromised by some of the other ships' names,

such as HMS Beaver. And in March, police in Fullerton, Calif.,

proposed that the city council emasculate the troublemaking Baker

Street Gang by renaming its current stomping grounds Pansy

Circle. (The council rejected Pansy Circle as possibly offensive to

some gay men and settled on Iris Court.)

Latest Religious Messages

* According to a Purdue University study released in May,

Christians who are the most avid in their religious beliefs are more

likely than other people to be overweight, with Southern Baptists at

the top of the list. "I fit the mold," said Rev. Jerry Falwell,

speaking to a Newhouse News Service reporter. However, he said,

"I don't think God gives a flip either way."

* In April, Warsaw, Poland, computer programmer Andrzej

Urbanski announced the availability of his confessional software for

Roman Catholics. The program, which is password-protected for

privacy, asks 104 questions to narrow and focus the particular sins

to which the parishioner is confessing, then ranks the sins by gravity

in suggesting penance.

* Recent Rabbinical Rulings, according to the Israeli daily

newspaper Yediot Ahronot: No nose-picking on the Sabbath

because that might dislodge hairs inside the nose. And wives must

be home by midnight, even if the husband might still be out


* Evangelist John Holme was fined about $1,700 in March in

Salisbury, England, for a stunt in which he went up in a motored

paraglider so he could preach from above the rooftops to sinners on

the ground. Said Holme, "I thought that maybe if they heard this

voice booming out from the sky, they would think it was God."

Holme had steering problems in the wind and came down close to

some houses, and although no one was injured, he was fined for

creating a dangerous condition.

* In March, Rev. Flip Benham of the Operation Rescue anti-

abortion group protested that the bookstore at Rev. Jerry Falwell's

Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., is managed by indicted child

pornographers, referring to the chain Barnes & Noble, which runs

the store and was recently indicted in Tennessee and Alabama for

selling books by prominent photographers that featured photos of

nude children. "It's a bald-faced lie," said Falwell. "I don't know

who [the Operation Rescue people] are, but I wish they'd stop

calling themselves Christian leaders."

Least Competent Criminals

* Edward DeWald, 45, was arrested in Loomis, Calif., in May and

charged with being the man who robbed two Hallmark stores

earlier that week in Auburn, Calif. According to the Hallmark

clerks, a man had entered the store, asked a clerk if he carried

crystal turtles (as a pretext to put the clerk at ease), and then

robbed him. Sheriff's deputies decided to stake out the next-closest

Hallmark store, in Loomis, about 8 miles away. Indeed, two days

later, DeWald walked in, asked for "crystal turtles" again, and was

pounced on by deputies, who said he quickly confessed to the two

earlier robberies.

Recurring Themes

* Latest Child-Sales News: In May, a Frederick, Md., man

allegedly sold his year-old son for $100 and an unspecified used

car. And in April, authorities in Tucson, Ariz., found a homeless

14-year-old girl who reported being sold twice last year, to a

California family for $10,000 and then, when she couldn't get along

with them and was returned to her mother for credit, for $5,000 to

a Phoenix, Ariz., family. And a Jacksonville Beach, Fla., woman

was charged in May with selling her 2-year-old daughter for $10;

she came to police attention when she called the Belleview, Fla.,

Police Department to ask for a background check on the buyer.

The Only Way Out

* In April, engineer Suhrid Ganguly, 22, hanged himself in Calcutta,

India, after becoming despondent at attempts to have his telephone

fixed without paying a bribe. Wrote Ganguly in his suicide note,

"[T]here is no other way to change the system and get an honest

right to live."

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