-- An ancient fear of penis-shrinking sorcery periodically surfaces in Ghana, the latest instance in December. Mobs beat seven men to death in Accra and injured others in Tema, all on rumors that the men had the power to make others' genitals disappear by a mere touch. Police said the rumors were spread by criminal operatives so that crowds of hysterical men would gather, making it easier for the criminals to pickpocket wallets.
-- Japanese researchers at Tokyo University and Tsukuba University said they will begin in February testing a project to surgically implant microprocessors and electrode sets, and eventually microcameras, into American cockroaches for a variety of possible missions, including espionage surveillance and searching for victims in earthquake rubble. The equipment, which can also receive remote-control signals to command the cockroach's movements, weighs a 10th of an ounce, twice a typical roach's weight but still only a 10th of what it potentially can carry.
-- In December, the Idaho High School Activities Association rejected a proposal by the superintendent of public instruction for extracurricular firearms competition in junior high schools. But in January in neighboring Wyoming, a House committee approved a bill that would lower the minimum age for big-game hunters to 12.
SEEDS OF OUR DESTRUCTION
-- The New York Times reported in January that the Taliban movement in Afghanistan is presiding over such a bankrupt economy that a viable career field now has men (women are forbidden to work at all) raiding cemeteries of human bones, which are then sold to dealers in Pakistan as animal bones to be fashioned into cooking oil, soap, chicken feed and buttons. Skulls must first be broken up to preserve the ruse that only animal bones are involved.
-- Recent Inappropriate Nudity: In September, dozens of schoolteachers from the state of Bihar stripped in front of the Indian parliament to protest low wages. And the Defense Intelligence Agency, in a memo disclosed by The Washington Post in October, reported the emergence of a Liberian leader known as "General 'Butt Naked,'" "from his propensity for fighting naked," which he "probably believes terrorizes the enemy and brings good luck." And Meaux, France, high school philosophy teacher Bernard Defrance was suspended in January for his pedagogical game in which he removes an article of clothing each time a student stumps him with a riddle (sometimes losing everything).
-- In a July soccer game in Tripoli, Libya, a team sponsored by the eldest son of Moammar Gadhafi suffered a questionable referee's call and began beating the official and the other team. After spectators jeered, Gadhafi and his bodyguards opened fire on them, and some spectators shot back. The death toll was somewhere between eight and 50, including the referee, and Moammar Gadhafi declared a period of mourning, the hallmark of which was that Libyan TV was to be in black and white only.
-- Role Model Gains: In October, Marcia Fann, 37, won the prestigious Bass'n Gal Classic Star XX bass-fishing tournament in Athens, Texas. Fann cheerfully discloses that she was formerly a man, having been surgically changed sometime in the 1980s.
-- In December, the entire 300-man paramilitary police force of the 83-island, South Pacific nation of Vanuatu was arrested for kidnapping a visiting Australian official in order to increase its leverage in an overtime-pay dispute with the government. The force had been suspended in November for kidnapping Vanuatu's deputy prime minister for the same purpose, and in October, several members of the force had kidnapped Vanuatu's president and held him for almost a day before releasing him because of the populace's seeming indifference.
-- A July Wall Street Journal story reported that the city jail (capacity 134) in the Seattle suburb of Kent, Wash., does a brisk business charging petty criminals from around the state $64 a day to serve their sentences of up to 40 days in comfortable settings. Reservations are recommended, and the policy is cash only.
-- A United Nations spokesman in Sarajevo disclosed in November a recent marital quarrel that escalated out of control "in classic Bosnian style" and reflected the war-saturated quality of life. During an argument, the wife of Pero Toljij fled to a neighbor's home, but Toljij chased her with a bazooka he happened to have on hand, fired at her, missed, and hit the couple's own house. He was arrested.
BOTTOM OF THE GENE POOL
-- In October in Massapequa Park, N.Y., four men, ages 19 to 21, intending to follow a recipe in the Underground Steroid Handbook, failed to wait patiently until the Drano-like concoction had reached a satisfactory pH level to make it milder. The four were hospitalized with bad internal burns, and the concoction also burned rescuing police officers when the four men vomited on them.
-- In November in Santa Maria, Texas, Luis Martinez Jr., 25, was stabbed in the neck with a broken bottle by his uncle, allegedly to punish Martinez for not sharing his bag of Frito's. In October a 20-year-old man was hospitalized in Guthrie, Okla., after encouraging his friend, Jason Heck, to kill a millipede with a .22-caliber rifle; after two ricochets, Heck's bullet hit the man just above his right eye, fracturing his skull.
-- Phillip Johnson, 32, was hospitalized in Prestonburg, Ky., in December with a gunshot wound just above his left nipple, which he inflicted upon himself because, as he told paramedics, he wanted to see what it felt like. When the paramedics arrived, said the sheriff, they found him "screaming about the pain, over and over."
I DON'T THINK SO
David S. Peterson filed a lawsuit against New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson in August for racketeering, seeking three times the sum of money that Peterson had given his girlfriend to buy him clothes but which she had lost gambling at an Indian tribal casino. Peterson said Gov. Johnson was so much a supporter of the Indian gaming industry that it was his fault Peterson was out the money.
NO LONGER WEIRD
Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (15) The burglar with poor planning skills who attempts to enter a building after hours through a chimney or vent and gets stuck, as Baltimore police say Dwayne Terry, 33, did at a convenience store on Christmas morning. And (16) certainly the thousands of times a year (about 50 in the past year in Fremont, Calif., alone) that trial-bound defendants and others cheerfully place their belongings on the X-ray machines at the entrances of courthouses, only to have their illegal drugs detected.
(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.)
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