NewsQuirks 357

ROOM FOR ONE MORE U.S. Customs Service agents at Eagle Pass, Texas, searched a pickup truck entering from Mexico and found six live snakes in a tool compartment. When they searched the two men in the truck, they found eight more live snakes, each wrapped in socks and pantyhose, hidden in the men's underwear. "In the past, we have found marijuana cigarettes and other drugs," officer Humberto Rodriguez said, "but never snakes in jockey shorts." Police who stopped a pickup truck near Pine Valley, Calif., searched a portable toilet strapped to the back and found 17 illegal immigrants hiding inside. Border Patrol spokesperson Ron Henley noted, "They were pretty much stacked up inside there." French police who tried to raid the home of an elderly woman in Toulouse had difficulty entering the home because it was crawling with at least 1,000 rats. Officers said the woman fed the rats 33 pounds of grain a day and slept on the floor, surrounded by cats, which the rats tormented and bit. In Drayton Valley, Alberta, George Hyer and Catherine Cornell were fined $40 for causing animals distress after the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raided the couple's mobile home and seized 108 cats, 168 pigeons and 17 doves. Another 100 parakeets were left in the trailer because they were reportedly not in distress. Provincial Judge L.E. Nemirsky also issued a lifetime order limiting Hyer and Cornell to one cat and four birds each.WHITER SHADE OF PALE Paul Autry, 31, of Tecumseh, Mich., filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, seeking $83.6 billion in damages. Charging that he is being denied a job because he is an albino, Autry said he filed the suit because he ultimately wants the government to designate albinos as a minority based on color.MISSED BY A MILE After Phuoc Bui, 34, was fired from a Packard Bell computer plant in Sacramento, Calif., for "distributing literature to other employees about taking up arms against supervisors," he returned to the plant with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol and fired 40 rounds before a security guard wounded him. Police spokesperson Michael Heenan reported the only person injured was Bui.WHEN GUNS ARE OUTLAWED Since 1987, crossbows have been used to commit 92 U.S. crimes, according to statistics compiled by Washington security consultant Louis Mizell. The weapon's reputation is so fearsome that 45 states restrict its use, although advocates say it has been unfairly stigmatized as lethal. Chris Schramm of Barnett International of Florida, a major crossbow distributor, observed, "If someone got shot with a gun today, people wouldn't say anything, but if they get shot with a crossbow, it makes news."ONLINE ANTICS Police charged three eighth-graders in the Syracuse suburb of Minoa, N.Y., with plotting to set off a bomb at their school, using plans for the device they got from the Internet. Town of Manlius Police Capt. William Bleyle told the New York Times that officers found materials to make the bomb at one boy's home and that the three youths had already set off a test bomb in a field that started a small fire. Inspired by Pope John Paul II's 1989 statement, "The Church Must Learn to Cope with the Computer Culture," nuns and monks worldwide have begun using the Internet to offer spiritual insight, religious history and vocational guidance. Web sites range from a few sentences and an e-mail address to elaborate home pages featuring illuminating graphics and inspirational music. They also pitch products. The Holy Cross Abbey promoted its Monastery Fruit Cake on "The Monk's Homepage," getting 300 orders last Christmas, until a brother discovered the page, administered by a layman, contained Monty Python sketches, including the one about Catholic cardinals and the unexpected Spanish Inquisition. John Goydan of Bridgewater, N.J., filed for divorce, accusing his wife of using a computer to carry on a "virtual" affair. Attached to the divorce papers were dozens of e-mail exchanges, some sexually explicit, between Diane Gordon and a married man in North Carolina she met on America Online who called himself "The Weasel." The illicit relationship apparently wasn't consummated, although John Gordon claimed the two had made plans for their first real tryst.SEX IS ITS OWN PUNISHMENT A Nashville, Tenn., jury convicted Raymond Mitchell III, 45, of tricking women into blindfolding themselves and having sex with him by claiming to be their boyfriend. Prosecutors said most of the hundreds of women that Mitchell called hung up, but of the 30 women who reported the encounters to police, eight said they had sex with the caller. One woman admitted having sex with the man twice a week over two months until she discovered he wasn't her boyfriend during one encounter when her blindfold slipped off.GAY NINETIES Rather than let gay high school students form a club, the Salt Lake City School Board voted to ban all non-academic organizations in the city's three area high schools. The move affects some 30 service, ethnic and sports clubs. "Everyone suffers because of the gays," complained Brett Shields, 16, a member of East High's Beef Club, which the Associated Press reported met "to eat steaks and burgers and attend a 'monster truck' rally." Japanese automaker Subaru unveiled an advertising campaign targeting lesbians after its market research showed they are four times as likely as the general public to buy Subarus. According to Advertising Age, the company's first ad, running in gay magazines, shows two women looking at each other, with the line, "It loves camping, dogs and long-term commitment. Too bad it's only a car."SOME YAM Vo Nhu Da, a farmer in central Vietnam, was forced to lock himself in his house with a 187-pound sweet potato, Hanoi's Lao Dong newspaper reported, after neighbors heard about the giant tuber and "came thousands of times to Da's house for a look."Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306. Odd-news hounds will enjoy the latest compilation, "Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest: True News of the World's Least Competent People," by John J. Kohut and Roland Sweet (Plume/Penguin).

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