News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

LEAD STORIES

-- Officials at the Central Penitentiary in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, revealed in October that they are encouraging male inmates to marry each other in order to hold down HIV infections. Eight couples have taken the plunge so far and received a certificate in which they pledge mutual fidelity. The marriages are valid only in prison because Honduran law does not recognize same-sex marriage.

-- Ontario College of Art student Jubal Brown told the Associated Press in November that it was he who vomited publicly on two masterpieces this year and that he plans a third episode. At the Art Gallery of Ontario in May, he regurgitated red food coloring on a Raoul Dufy work, and at New York City's Museum of Modern Art on Nov. 2, he threw up in blue on a Piet Modrian painting. His third work will be in yellow. His goal, he said, is "to liberate individuals and living creatures from [art's] banal, oppressive representation."

-- Roberto Alomarism in the News: In September, East Pittsburgh, Pa., school custodian Anthony DePaulo spit on the car of a city councilman he did not like; in October, Robert Cossia in Belleville, Ill., spit on the truck of Gregory Brown (and allegedly on Brown himself), after a dispute over a bounced check; in November, British doctors reported in The Lancet that meningitis was passed to a man when another spit in his face; and also in November, according to U.S. News & World Report, the National Spit Tobacco Education Program happily reported that televised tobacco chewing and spitting during the 1996 World Series was down 80 percent from the average over the last 10 years.

LATEST RIGHTS

-- In August, the parents of Alexandra Taylor, 5, received an undisclosed settlement from Continental Airlines because the airline permitted another customer to bring a 6-foot-long python into the cabin of a 1994 flight, which allegedly caused Alexandra to have severe nightmares. The snake's owner had brought along her companion as a "support snake" prescribed by her therapist to help her overcome the trauma of being sexually harassed by a professor.

-- In June, a federal magistrate ordered physician Susan J. Powers to pay the government $292,000 for breaking her contract to provide medical care to underserved rural areas in exchange for the government's having funded her medical education. Powers tried to get out of the contract by claiming that she could not leave her "support network" of friends in the San Francisco Bay area, or she would become despondent and possibly suicidal.

-- The Minnesota Civil Liberties Union was successful in gaining the right to vote in the November elections for three diagnosed "sexual psychopaths" confined by law to a hospital in St. Peter but who have no pending criminal sentences. One was escorted to a polling place, but the other two were not permitted out and had their ballots brought to the hospital by an election monitor.

-- Charles Murphy, who is bald-headed, filed a lawsuit in August against Lisa Aune, the manager of the federal building in Eugene, Ore., after he was dismissed as security officer. He claims Aune fired him for violating a neat-grooming rule merely because he has too much chest hair, which bulges out in the summertime when rules permit him to wear open-necked shirts.

-- After four months of increasingly violent attacks on them by vigilantes, South African criminal gangs began lobbying for police protection in November. More than a thousand gangsters stood outside the gates of Parliament in Cape Town, begging for "justice" and "peace" in the wake of news that one gang leader was shot 72 times by a vigilante and his body set on fire. The gang members claim they are basically good people and that their own murdering, thievery and drug-dealing were merely attempts to cope with apartheid.

-- In November, a federal appeals court turned down Albert Johnson's lawsuit against the Cook County (Ill.) Jail to reassign female guards away from the showers and toilet areas, saying their presence was "humiliating" to his religious belief in "Christian modesty." A dissenting opinion agreed with Johnson that permitting the monitoring by females was "cruel and unusual" punishment.

WEIRD SCIENCE

-- British doctors, writing in The Lancet in November, announced they were stumped and asked for help worldwide in diagnosing a man's infected hand that has for five years carried an incredibly putrid odor. A finger was nicked while the man was dressing chicken carcasses, with the cut yielding an "overpowering" odor that is "almost intolerable" in a closed examination room.

-- China's Xinhua news agency reported in September that Ms. Lui Yuxue, 16, had successfully undergone tongue-reduction surgery to snip off several inches' worth that extended outside her mouth.

-- German physicians from Eberhard-Karls University in Tubingen reported in a November New England Journal of Medicine that a 53-year-old surgeon accidentally transplanted a patient's malignant tumor cells into his own hand when he nicked it during surgery on the patient.

-- In an October issue of The Lancet, pediatrician Andrea Scaramuzza and his colleagues at the University of Pavia in Italy reported that boys aged 10 to 14 who train intensely in soccer tend to have smaller testicles and less blood circulation to their testes than their less-athletic peers.

UPDATES

Knoxville, Tenn., dentist Stephen Cobble, who made News of the Weird a year ago when patients and former employees described alleged unorthodox treatments (such as transferring C-section scar tissue to treat a jaw disorder and prescribing a diet of beef, salt, and at least two eggs and a quarter pound of butter daily), had his license revoked in November by the state Board of Dentistry after protracted hearings over whether his unconventional anesthesia methodology might have contributed to a patient's death. And retiring U.S. Rep. Wes Cooley of Oregon, who made News of the Weird in March 1996 over accusations of serial lying, was indicted in December for falsely claiming on his official state voter's guide biography that he had fought in Korea during the Korean War. Cooley apparently was done in when he offered as verification the name of his Army supervisor who he thought was dead but who turned up alive and revealed that Cooley spent the war in Georgia.

GOD'S WILL

At least 25 religious pilgrims drowned in November when an overcrowded ship sank in the Acara River in northern Brazil; the boat was headed to the town of Acara to celebrate the Virgin of Nazareth. And in August, at least 113 Hindu pilgrims, nude and smeared with ash, died in a snowstorm in the Himalayas as they were en route to worship a stalagmite believed to be the phallus of the god Shiva.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or 74777.3206@compuserve.com. 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.)

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