-- In July, a St. Paul, Minn., jury acquitted the well-to-do Gerald and Judy Dick and an adult daughter of all but one of the shoplifting counts brought against them by Roseville, Minn., police, who had charged that family members had engaged the services of a personal shoplifter to steal them expensive items from Dayton's department store. Though police testified that their sting operation was successful, and even had Mrs. Dick uttering, "You caught us red-handed," jurors said the police work was sloppy. The allegedly stolen items were not admitted into evidence because there was no search warrant, and the audiotape of the sting was first withheld by police and then revealed to have been doctored. Mrs. Dick was convicted on one count of attempting to receive stolen goods.
-- The New York Post reported in June that New York state has provided about 25 free organ-transplant operations (costing taxpayers about $1 million) for illegal aliens during the 18 months since Gov. Pataki promised to end the practice. State officials cited by the Post said they knew of "dozens" of cases over the years in which foreigners flew into the city, applied for Medicaid, received the expensive transplant surgery (including sex changes), and then flew home.
-- Life Imitates a Simon & Garfunkel Song: In May, according to a call taken by a Madison, Wis., police officer, a 26-year-old man phoned 911 to report that when he returned from a bathroom visit in the middle of the night, a stranger wearing only boxer shorts had taken his place in bed. The man turned out to be a very intoxicated 22-year-old student from DePere, Wis.
-- In December, at least 2,000 workers at a Sanyo Universal Electric company plant in Bangkok burned down the eight-story headquarters building along with the factory, warehouse, and inventory of refrigerators and TV sets. The workers were upset that they would receive a bonus of only three months' wages, which is generous by Thai standards but still only about half of last year's bonus.
-- In June, three environmental activists from Greenpeace set up a 12-foot-by-6-foot survival station atop a narrow, barren, 65-foot-high rock called Rockall, 290 miles off the coast of Scotland, and vowed to remain there until the British government stops oil exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. In Rockall-area storms, waves often reach heights of 90 feet and more.
-- Items Recently Thrown in Protest: A live pig, thrown into the office of the Massachusetts Bar Association in Boston in February to protest the legal profession; rotting bison entrails at Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman in March in Gardiner, Mont., by a man protesting the thinning of the bison herd; about $4,000 worth of money by a man in front of city hall in Seoul, South Korea, in May, to protest corrupt politicians; and bags of excrement and rocks, hurled by Ultra-Orthodox Jews at other Jews in Jerusalem in June, to protest mixed-gender praying.
-- A January New York Times story reported on the limited success so far in eliminating, in some parts of Ghana, the practice of giving a virgin daughter to a priest in order to atone for some sin of the girl's family. One example cited was a 12-year-old girl, the product of a rape, given to the local priest by the rapist as a slave (sexual and otherwise) in order to appease spirits who otherwise would treat the rapist and his family harshly. If the sin is severe, the family must provide girls for several generations.
-- In April, Premier Lien Chan of Taiwan ordered a crackdown on the national craze of public betel-nut chewing, which he said was responsible for mouth cancer, slimy sidewalks when they are spit out, and immorality, in that they are mostly sold by young, underdressed women at sidewalk stands. The betel nut is reportedly a mild stimulant and is slightly more expensive than a cigarette.
-- The Washington Post reported in May that some tribes in Yemen routinely kidnap tourists and hold them for days, though treating them well, regaling them with propaganda, and ultimately offering them to the government in exchange for political concessions, such as new road construction. Said the speaker of the Yemen parliament, "Kidnapping is part of tourism. [The] tourist will end up learning about the customs of the tribes, as well as their good hospitality."
-- A May report in the Jakarta Post described the daily rush of ill people to the home of Cecilia Subini and her husband Florentinus Suparmo in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in order to be therapeutically licked and nuzzled by their bull Joko Andhini. Thousands believe in the power of Joko's body, saliva and urine (which some rub on their skin and others drink) to cure such maladies as incontinence, arthritis, strokes, rashes, diabetes and cancer. And an Associated Press dispatch from Hyderabad, India, in June touted the success of the sardine-and-herb asthma treatment that hundreds of thousands travel for, to the Goud family home, on the one astrologically auspicious day of the year for swallowing the fish.
-- In January, despite increasing worldwide condemnation of so-called female circumcision in certain areas of Africa, an organization called the Bondo Society (described in a Reuters news report as a "powerful women's secret society") in Freetown, Sierra Leone, arranged for the unanesthetized clitoral removals from about 600 girls in a homeless persons' labor camp.
LEAST COMPETENT CRIMINALS
-- According to New York City police in May, Sidonia Williams tried to open a Lord & Taylor charge account by flashing a piece of U.S. currency in the amount of $1 million. There is no such denomination. Hers was created by pasting 0's onto a $1 bill and running it through a color copier. She cheerfully pointed out that she had 194 more just like it in her bag and insisted to the federal magistrate that she had committed no crime.
-- Steven Richard King, 22, was arrested in April for trying to hold up a Bank of America branch in Modesto, Calif., without a weapon. He used his thumb and finger to simulate a gun, but unlike most robbers who use this tactic, he failed to keep his hand in his pocket while doing it. The teller, realizing he had nothing to fear, merely walked away. King got tired of waiting and walked away, too, but police caught him nearby.
-- Robert A. Jackson, 17, and another man were arrested in July and charged with robbing a St. Peters, Mo., convenience store and a Citgo gas station. According to police, after the first robbery, Jackson couldn't get his getaway car started and so apologized to the clerk and gave the money back in exchange for a jump-start. The clerk started the car, then called police, who were in the area looking for Jackson when he allegedly pulled the second job.
-- Reginald Hunter, 43, was arrested in June and charged with robbing a convenience store in York, Pa., at 3 a.m. When the clerk told police the man's footwear consisted of flip-flops, police surmised he might live nearby. Sure enough, Hunter lives a few doors down from the store.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or Weird@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.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600