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Looking out for No. 1



After marathon sessions in March, the Alabama Senate reached agreement to permit Lt. Gov. Steve Windom to retain his traditional presiding powers. During the debates, Windom was forced to remain continually at the officer's podium, and things got so tense on March 28 that he had to urinate into a pitcher because opponents would have won votes if he had taken a rest room break. Afterward, the state archives director asked for the pitcher, but Windom said it had been discarded.

Gracious exit

Unitel Corp. announced in March it was relocating its 100-job telemarketing office from small-town Frostburg, Md., to Florida. Unitel said Frostburg workers' telephone manner is too polite for the telemarketing business.

Fungus among us

University of Arizona environmental microbiologist Charles Gerba's specialty, according to a February New York Times article, is discovering germ patterns in kitchens, bathrooms and laundries. In random home visits, Gerba found that 25 percent of washing machines are contaminated with fecal matter and that hepatitis A and salmonella survive even a very hot dryer and remain on clothes. He is noted for developing the "commodograph," a visual display of where droplets of water land after they are sprayed into the air when a toilet is flushed. (Hint: Gerba keeps his toothbrush in the medicine cabinet.)

Love with the proper ranger

Janice Peck, 50, filed a lawsuit in Salt Lake City against the state Division of Wildlife for alienation of affection. The agency had assigned Janice's then-husband, Randal, to partner up with agent Jodi Becker, now 33, as a married outdoors-loving couple in order to infiltrate a poaching operation. Apparently, the couple was so good at portraying a couple that Randal divorced Janice after 23 years' marriage and married Becker. Randal and Jodi said they initially slept together in their government-supplied trailer only to give their relationship greater authenticity.

Pen pals

News of the Weird reported in 1994 on a Nassau County, N.Y., cell block bragging contest and fight over pay-telephone privileges between notorious murderers Colin Ferguson (race-motivated commuter-train killer) and Joel Rifkin (serial prostitute killer). Better spirited, according to news reports in March 1999, are the twice-a-week bull sessions at the Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colo., of bombers Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City), Ramzi Yousef (World Trade Center) and Ted Kaczynski (Unabomber). Said one former prosecutor, "This is the oddest kaffee-klatsch in the history of Western civilization."


News of the Weird has reported several times on capital punishment in China for crimes somewhat less serious than murder. Among the latest: Gao Yunliao, executed in January in Henan province, for stealing a statue, and executive Tang Mihong and his employee Zhao Jian, executed in December in Beijing, for smuggling computers.

Sleazy does it

In February, Mark Kent, 28, filed assault charges against the Kappa Kabana club in Kappa, Ill., after a dancer tried to wrap her legs around his neck while holding onto a pole on stage, causing Kent to fall off a bar stool and hit his head and elbow.

Waste makes haste

According to a February Science News profile of University of South Florida pollution microbiologist Joan B. Rose, her career is devoted to flushing fecal-germlike "phages" down toilets and then sending monitoring crews into local waterways to track down where they end up. She has found, for example, that some bacteria flushed into septic tanks can seep into nearby canals within 11 hours.

Squashed hopes

A 22-year-old woman in an automobile collision in Pendleton, Ore., in January was placed in an ambulance, but seconds later a tractor-trailer skidded into it, crushing it and killing the woman. And a 36-year-old man survived a head-on crash into a utility pole in Miami Beach in January, and was waiting to be picked up when the pole fell on top of him, killing him.

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