News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

LEAD STORIES

-- In an October story on San Francisco's blood-scene community, one prominent participant told the newspaper SF Weekly, "I'm a writer, and I drink blood. It's such a Californian, like, 'That's my lifestyle,' kind of thing." Said another, "The initial cut hurts, definitely, but then there's the rush, and it definitely gives me energy. If (cutting myself) makes people think, then I feel I've accomplished something." Said another, "(B)lood is still a medium that hasn't reached saturation level yet. When it does, I'm ready to come in with pus! Squeezing pus!"

-- In November, ecology activists in Chile issued an alert that 2-foot-long mutant rats were attacking livestock in Santiago. At about the same time, residents of Brooksville, Fla., were complaining about the sudden public appearances of 3-foot-long, 14-pound nutria rats (vegetarian rodents once imported from South America for their fur). And two weeks later, The New York Times reported on the recent work of Louisiana professor Robert A. Thomas, hired with a $2 million federal grant to contain that state's nutria rat population, largely by trying to convince the public that nutrias are tasty.

-- Bobbittization News: In December, Alan Hall, 48, reported to police in Fairfield, Calif., that he had been Bobbittized by a woman in revenge for Hall's having killed a friend of hers 14 years ago. (Hall served time for voluntary manslaughter.) Then, two days later, Hall admitted that there was no other woman and that he had done it himself for unstated reasons. The incident took place only three weeks after Danish surgeon Joern Ege Siana reported outfitting a world-record 5.7-inch penis extension on a 42-year-old man, and only two days after the former Lorena Bobbitt, herself, was charged in Manassas, Va., with punching her mother in a family squabble.

SCHEMES

-- In November, dentist W. Stephen Randall, 41, was charged with 26 drug-related counts in Bristol, Conn. According to the prosecutor, Randall had a drug habit and in various ways managed to appropriate patients' prescriptions. In one instance he made a rare house call on a patient, but while in the house, he raided the patient's medicine chest of valium and other drugs, and in another case, he copped a root-canal patient's painkiller and left her instead over-the-counter acetaminophen.

-- In June, Lake Zurich High School teacher Douglas Petrovitch, 28, was indicted in Waukegan, Ill., on six counts related to a scheme of awarding some students good grades if they would allow him to shoplift at stores in which they worked after school. In two instances, said the grand jury, Petrovitch arranged with students to pay about $100 for merchandise worth about $1,000.

-- Police in Edmond, Okla., issued an arrest warrant in July for Edward M. Jennings, 37, as the man who toured flea markets, pawn shops and swap meets over the last two years attempting to sell his homemade box, rigged with computer parts, as an "atomic bomb" for $1 million. Because Jennings was on the lam, he was unavailable to tell why he thought someone at a flea market might have $1 million to spend on an atomic bomb.

-- In December, an industrial tribunal in Bristol, England, took under consideration the case of whether the 1996 firing of Gavin Rogers-Ball, 30, a member of the Wells Cathedral Choir, was justified. The chief complaint against him was that he had bribed a schoolboy in the choir to feign illness on a long bus ride during a tour of Germany -- so that the driver would have to stop, which would enable Rogers-Ball to take a cigarette break. A 10-year-old boy induced himself to vomit in the back of the bus and thus collected the award, and his mother says she does not want the boy to grow up thinking this behavior is acceptable.

FAMILY VALUES

-- Thomas Tillman pleaded guilty in September in Tampa, Fla., for whipping his son and stepson with a water-soaked leather strap and videotaping the beating. Tillman said he made the tape so that the boys could one day show it to their own kids as an aid in disciplining them.

-- Brian Cook, 29, was charged with aggravated burglary in Springfield, Tenn., in November after trying to rob his grandmother, Sue Denning, 64. Denning grabbed an antique clothes iron and hit Cook in the head, sending him staggering from the home.

-- The New York Times reported in October on the secret life of a 25-year-old British-born daughter of Pakistani immigrants living in Bradford, England, who has changed residences 19 times in the last five years just to avoid death threats from her own father and brother, who are angry that she refused at age 16 to accept a family-arranged marriage. The woman said that in her last conversation with her brother, he had promised to track her down and kill her "slowly."

-- In November, John Michael Harris, 17, escaped from a Wetherby, England, correctional institution, and police warned he might be dangerous, though his mother, June, called him a "good boy" and blamed "the system (for letting) him down." Harris is known in the press as "Blip Boy," because his 17-page criminal record, with 103 convictions since age 9, has by itself noticeably increased the juvenile crime rate.

UH-OH

-- In September in Cormierville, New Brunswick, Kevin Bastarache peeled an orange and saw an inch-long, orange-colored Pacific tree frog leap out at him. A local zoo official, familiar with the species, said the frog must have entered the orange through a tiny hole and then survived on the juices. The frogs are found from California to Canada and are harmless, and in fact are sometimes kept as pets.

-- The Times of London reported in July that a telephone had gone on sale in England with a built-in stress-linked lie detector and a retail price of about $4,500. The manufacturer said the most promising sales market is executives, who would use the device to gather business information. In a test, a Times reporter called a used-car dealer, who consistently registered a high (probably lying) reading but also phoned a notorious London nightclub owner to talk about his public claim that he had had sex with more than 2,000 woman -- and found the man scored low (probably truthful).

-- In November, two professors from Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., announced that, based on their study of 10 journalists at the local Times Leader newspaper, having Muzak on in the background at work not only reduced stress but slightly improved the journalists' immune systems.

-- In August, just after a Hudson Foods processing plant in Nebraska was closed down based on a highly publicized federal investigation that found e-coli bacteria contamination in ground beef, the company suffered another crisis. Hudson's Noel, Mo., poultry-processing plant became the first U.S. firm to be fined ($300,000) by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for causing workers anxiety by providing insufficient restroom breaks.

(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.)

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