-- The New York Post revealed in October that the New York City Police Department has spent more than $260,000 since 1992 in overtime pay for nightshift officers waiting for a flow to start for their urine tests. Drug testing of randomly selected officers is done only during the day shift, and the average overtime claim is 3.5 hours.
-- In October, Miriam Flores, serving six years for robbery in Mexico City, was selected Miss Mexico Jailhouse in a pageant that featured 14 of the city's foxiest female inmates. A week later, Ms. Pham Ngoc Tam won first place in a nationwide beauty contest of female jail guards held near Hanoi, Vietnam. (A press report said Pham is "probably best described as 'handsome.'")
-- In October, Richard Evans, a member of the Australian Parliament, proposed that the country eliminate all cats within 25 years. Evans offered evidence that cats have killed off nine native species of wildlife and proposed that a fatal virus to be released on feral cats. He said also that domestic cats should be neutered until they die out and that in the interim, cat curfews and a registry should be put in place.
-- Construction worker Sidney de Queiroz was hospitalized in Sorocaba, Brazil, in October when a barroom fight left a 5-inch-long knife blade partway inside his brain after he was stabbed close to his right eye. The blade remained in his head for a week while doctors pondered how to get it out without causing more damage. Finally, in nine hours of surgery on Nov. 2, the knife was removed.
-- In Huntsville, Ala., in November, Justin Lee McKinney, 24, whose truck rammed a chain-link fence, was impaled on a 3-inch-wide, 20-foot-long steel pipe, which went completely through his chest. Surgeons successfully removed it, but, said Dr. Russ Jaicks, "If anyone (at the accident site) had pulled that pipe out, he would've died (of blood loss)."
-- In November, a Calgary, Alberta, man collapsed and fell face-first in his office while brushing his teeth. The bristles end of the toothbrush penetrated about an inch into his eye socket below the eyeball, but ophthalmologist Rob Mitchell said the man would suffer no permanent injury.
-- In July, in Denver, a machine that packs explosive devices into car air-bag detonators blew up in the face of Nicolas Villarruel, 29, leaving one explosive lodged in his nose, sending him to the hospital. The device was removed by surgeons in lead-lined gowns and with Villarruel's head under water because the explosive is activated by air.
-- In July, Jesse James Taylor, 32, drove himself to the Pikeville, (Ky.) Methodist Hospital emergency room with a meat cleaver stuck in his head and part of a butcher knife in his back, as the result of a fight with his girlfriend's 16-year-old son over rent money. After surgery, he was released the following day.
-- Paul Stiller, 47, was hospitalized in Andover Township, N.J., in September, and his wife, Bonnie, was also injured, by a quarter-stick of dynamite that blew up in their car. While driving around at 2 a.m., the bored couple lit the dynamite and tried to toss it out the window to see what would happen, but they apparently failed to notice that the window was closed.
-- Among the latest highway truck spills: a load of frozen french fries on I-70 in Columbia, Mo., in July; a pickup truck full of ricotta cheese in Providence, R.I., in July; 21 tons of large plates of glass in Davenport, Iowa, in July; 30,000 cans of Milwaukee's Best beer in Belpre, Ohio, in August; 12,000 roofing nails (that punctured tires of about 50 cars) in Baton Rouge, La., in September; and 103,000 eggs on Highway 92 near Winterset, Iowa, in July.
-- Jimmy "Jim Dog" Williams Jr. was arrested in New Haven, Conn., in October and charged with taking the life of a 19-year-old man in a brawl. Police were drawn to Williams when they found a set of gold-plated teeth inscribed "Jim Dog" at the scene of the fight.
-- To assure that she would not be disqualified in last summer's Olympic Games, Brazil's female heavyweight judo champion Edinanci Fernandes da Silva, 19, underwent surgery in May to remove partially formed testicles that were responsible for her abnormally high levels of testosterone. "I'm a normal woman," said da Silva.
-- A company called Polo International, from Switzerland, announced in October that it would introduce "snow polo" to the U.S. on Dec. 28, in Aspen, Colo. It is regular polo, played on a frozen lake, on horses outfitted with shoes with 2-inch spikes.
Perhaps America's most dysfunctional family, the Sextons of Ohio and Florida, made News of the Weird in May 1994, when sex abuse charges were filed against Mom Estella in Canton, Ohio, alleging that she sexually assaulted one or more of her kids, either acting alone or with husband, Eddie, who is now on death row in Florida. Son Jamie Sexton, 20, was charged in November 1996 with aggravated murder in Canton after allegedly setting a fire to kill a former friend. The month before, Jamie had testified against Estella, helping to convict her on those 13 sex-abuse counts. Eddie is still on death row, convicted of killing a son-in-law who knew that Eddie had smothered the man's baby for excessive crying. (However, the paternity of the deceased baby is in dispute, in that one or more of the Sexton kids say that their sister's baby was actually fathered either by Eddie or by one of the kids.)
THINNING THE HERD
Benjamin Arley Ortega suffocated in October in Napa, Calif., when his head got stuck between a wall and the ceiling of a storage shed he was burglarizing. And Rafael Miettunen drowned near Cleveland, Tenn., in April as he was making a getaway on a Jet-Ski he had stolen. And Rex C. Stark, 36, drowned in a pond near New Castle, Ky., in November where he had sought refuge from a state trooper, who had chased him after a car accident.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Chuck Shepherd's latest paperback, "The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics," is now available at bookstores everywhere. To order it direct, call 1-800-642-6480 and mention this newspaper. The price is $6.95 plus $2 shipping.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600