News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- In May, at a National Organization for Women's gathering in Utah, Elizabeth Joseph, an attorney, and Ellen George, secretary of the NOW Utah office, praised multi-wife polygamy as an alternative for feminists, an idea that was a few years ago denounced by NOW as slavery. Joseph lives informally in such an arrangement with her husband, six co-wives, and 20 children; some wives stay home, and others work. Said George, "We fight for lesbian families and single-parent families. I don't know why we wouldn't support this."

-- The University of Minnesota was seeking more "specialists" to work on its three-year, $390,000 program to set an "odor emissions rating system" for regulating the state's 35,000 animal feedlots, according to an August Minneapolis Star Tribune story. Having judges, or government officials, go sniff the feedlots apparently would give insufficient due process of law; rather, a panel of sniffers will develop objective standards on the types of odors and their strength. Already 35 people are employed and have begun sniffing the nearly 200 chemical components of cow and pig manure in order to categorize them for the formal state stench test.

-- In a study released in September and using United Nations statistics, University of Pennsylvania professor Richard J. Estes concluded that the United States enjoys only the 27th most favorable social conditions among 160 nations of the world, ranking behind such paradises as Bulgaria. According to Estes, the social situation in Bulgaria is "miserable," but the country responds to basic human needs (literacy, basic health care, housing, retirement income) better than the United States. (In the U.N.'s own data analysis, the U.S. is fourth in the world.)


-- Bathroom Rights in Alabama: In January, the U.S. Supreme Court put to rest Luverne High School student Jerry Boyett's 1993 lawsuit over whether a public-school student has a right, if he needs it, to a restroom break during class. Answer: No. And in April, a jury in Columbiana, Ala., told Clara Kizer the same thing about her dog. She had filed a lawsuit against her neighbors for complaining about her dogs' poop. She said dogs should have the right to poop within 11 feet of a street because that is public land even if it appears to be private property.

-- In August, Scott and Sonya Rutherford filed a $40,000 lawsuit against a Houston school district because the baseball coaches at Cypress Falls High School failed to use their son enough as a pitcher to give him a chance at a college athletic scholarship. The Rutherfords say, also, that they have been humiliated around town by the coaches' failure to play their son. According to the Rutherfords' lawyer, the coaches' decision violates the U.S. Constitution.

-- "Civilized gentlemen do not wear short-sleeve dress shirts," said Derrill Osborn, director of men's clothing for Neiman Marcus, apparently speaking for many managers in a July Wall Street Journal article. The few who spoke up for the comfort of those shirts, especially in the summer, accused Osborn and others of a brand-new political incorrectness: "sleevism."

-- In February, members of the West Palm Beach, Fla., Pit Bull Terrier Club received notices that some insurance companies would not renew their homeowner policies because that breed of dog was responsible for an increasing number of liability claims. Club officer Linda Kender termed such insurance company stereotyping "dog racism."

-- The Dutch Federation for Military Personnel union (which 20 years ago won the right for soldiers to wear their hair long) announced in April it would back a female recruit's desire to wear a tongue ring. The code of conduct, the union said, bans jewelry "on the head," not "in the head."


-- In May, Kent, Wash., elementary school teacher Mary Kay LeTourneau, 35, gave birth to a baby girl, the father of whom is one of her sixth-graders. LeTourneau is the daughter of ex-U.S. Rep. John Schmitz, an intense right-wing Republican who was so notoriously opposed to sex education in schools that he would move little Mary out of any school contemplating such a program. In August, she pleaded guilty to child rape. (Unofficially, though, she admires the boy: "There was a respect, an insight, a spirit, an understanding between us that grew over time." They met when he was in second grade.)

-- Reasons College Men Fight in 1997: In Ithaca, N.Y., in May, a 21-year-old college student was arrested for beating up a guy in a bar fight over who had the better-looking goatee.

-- Life Imitates TV: (1) A Bangkok hotel worker was convicted in July of stealing from guests' safe-deposit boxes by rubbing his nose oil onto the buttons so he could check later to see which buttons had been pushed by the guest to open the safe. He said he learned the trick from watching the TV show "MacGyver." (2) A 27-year-old man driving a stolen truck was caught by sheriff's deputies in Salt Lake City in August but not before he eluded one deputy by vaulting over a backyard swimming pool while the squad car went straight in, lights flashing, reminiscent of "The Dukes of Hazzard."

-- Psychologist Sandy Wolfson told The Times of London in June that her research on fans of "Star Trek" reveals as many as 10 percent meet the clinical definition of addicts, especially when they go through physical withdrawal during their show's absence. Further, like classic drug addicts, they seem to require ever-increasing doses to overcome their tolerance levels.


-- News of the Weird reported in 1994 on the controversy over who owned the world's largest cow hairball, but it now appears that an also-ran at that time, Mike Canchola of Sterling, Colo., is now No. 1. In 1994 a Garden City, Kan., historical society had a 37-incher, but Canchola has since come across one measuring 43.3 inches around. In the course of his work at a local beef plant, Canchola plucks out the non-championship hairballs, dries them, has colleague Frank Alcala paint faces or scenery on them, and sells them for $50 each.

-- United Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., announced in May that it was looking for someone to take over curating its collection of more than 14,000 human hearts, each stored in a plastic bag and the collection featuring specimens of nearly every kind of heart disease. Dr. Jesse Edwards, who started the collection and is now 85 years old, is retiring, and says maintenance of the hearts by a staff of five costs $650,000 a year.

-- In a June Associated Press feature, Dr. Charles Emerick, 67, a retired ear, nose and throat specialist in Portland, Ore., described his 450-item collection of things that he has personally removed from patients. Among the most prominent: a bag of decomposed bees (a kid ran into a swarm of them); an eraser that a kid put up his nose that stayed for 15 years until the boy, then in the Navy, had trouble breathing; and a plastic whistle from a boy ("His parents said he whistled every time he took a breath"). And Dr. James A. Downing's collection of 300 similarly gathered items remains on exhibit through Oct. 27 in Des Moines, Iowa.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or 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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