News of the Weird July 18 2007

Lead Story: After several reports of grizzly bears intimidating people near Alaska's Russian River, the state Department of Fish and Game recently gave several usual-suspect bears makeovers, using ordinary hair dye in bright colors (yellow, green, orange, blue) to make it easier for people to identify the specific bears that are menacing them. Environmentalists were critical, objecting to turning pristine wilderness into a gaudy, "punk"-colored park. Animal-rights activists, too, suggested that colored bears might find socializing difficult (but a bear researcher quoted by the Anchorage Daily News discounted that fear, based on a previous, similar project).

The Continuing Crisis: On one fateful day in 2003 in Sikeston, Mo., according to Holly Adams, she had sex at different times with Raymon and Richard Miller, who are identical twins and who did not know about each other's encounter. Adams became pregnant, but both Millers deny paternity despite, of course, an identical DNA match for each brother (with both claiming that it must have been the other). Adams has named Raymon the father, and a court must decide paternity and child support just like courts did before DNA testing was developed.

Police in Rapid City, S.D., stopped a car at about 1 a.m. June 5 and found the female-looking driver to be intoxicated and, at 18, too young to drink. They also found that the passenger was local alderman Tom Johnson, who called the driver his "helper" at his middle-of-the-night task of personally putting up yard signs for his campaign for mayor. According to the Rapid City Journal, Johnson continually referred to the driver as a woman, but police later learned that the driver was a man dressed as a woman, which Johnson claimed he was shocked to find out.

The 38th Time Was Not a Charm: 1) In June, farmer Shiv Charan Yadav, 73, failed his high school gateway exams (normally given at age 15) for the 38th time, and what's worse, he had vowed the first time not to marry until he passes; he said he would immediately start studying for number 39. 2) In May, the San Antonio (Texas) Independent School District announced that Elizabeth Rojas had been fired as principal of Smith Elementary School after failing for the 38th time the required state educators' test. (She was reassigned to a lesser position at Smith, however, at almost her old salary.)

Nature Calling: About 100 people were able to escape the perhaps fatal effects of a sinkhole that collapsed under their one-story apartment house in eastern Sarawak, Borneo, in April, only because Renjis Empati, 57, had arisen in the middle of the night to go to the communal toilet. He noticed the ground moving and awakened all the residents. Said one woman, "If it were not for him, most of us would be dead by now."

Pardon Me: 1) Helen Gallo, 61, charged with shoplifting in Cape Coral, Fla., in April, told police she was forced to bypass the slow checkout line because her irritable bowel syndrome was acting up. 2) Cedar Rapids, Iowa, TV station photographer Gerry Edwards was fired in March for unprofessional conduct because a November funeral he was covering lasted so long that he had to urinate outdoors in an area that was visible to funeral guests. 3) Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, after the first Republican presidential debate in May, explained one awkward answer he gave (about firing a worker who was gay) by claiming, in part, that he was distracted by his need for a restroom break.

People With Issues: In April, FBI officials warned of a disturbing series of threats dating from 2004 to college athletic officials and news organizations from someone apparently upset that television coverage of cheerleaders emphasizes those showing the least amount of skin (such as Ohio State's, who often wear long-sleeved, jacketed outfits). According to an FBI agent interviewed by the Columbus Dispatch, the writer appears to be growing angrier and may have recently included an insecticide-like substance in letters, with the last batch predicting that, unless changes are made, there will be "88" assaults, based on the writer's arcane formula.

Least Competent Criminals: Can't Stop Ourselves: Sheriff's deputies in Hilmar, Calif., arrested Tasha Silva, 30, in April and charged her with stealing a deputy's pickup truck, but her boyfriend and co-suspect, Marcus Schulze, fled. According to the sheriff's office, the couple drove away, thought they were in the clear, and stopped to have sex in the truck but left the engine idling, and the truck ran out of gas before they were finished. When deputies finally spotted the truck, the couple had to flee on foot, and only Schulze escaped.

Cultural Diversity: In Congo, which has lost an estimated 4 million people in the civil wars of the last decade and where many must get by on about 30 cents a day, "gangs" of designer-clothes-wearing men periodically square off against each other in preening contests in the streets of Kinshasa to prove that Versace and Gucci look better on them than on others. Papy Mosengo, 30 (interviewed for a November 2006 Los Angeles Times report), still lives with his parents, sleeps in a dingy, closet-sized room, and leaves child-care expenses to his ex-girlfriend, but he owns 30 top-of-the-line outfits and spends $400 monthly on clothes. Said he, "This is just what I am." (The "cloth cults" of Congo are said to have been around since the 1970s.)

Recurring Themes: In early May, scores of Taiwan lawmakers brawled on the floor of parliament, wrestling, throwing punches and spraying water at each other over an election reform bill, according to a Reuters dispatch. However, a week later, one legislator, and also a U.S. political scientist who follows the Taiwan legislature, told a Reuters reporter that most of the legendary brawls on the floor are staged to impress constituents that their members "fight" for them.