News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

LEAD STORIES

-- And Perrier and bowls of red M&M's: When authorities raided a cockfighting operation near Gadsden, Ala., in July, they found not only a restaurant and 250-seat theater for patrons, but two air-conditioned trailers in which the roosters hung out before their matches, one of which featured piped-in country music.

-- According to a Reuters wire service report in August, lobbyists in Bonn, Germany, called the Working Group for the Unemployed held a series of rallies to demand six weeks' annual paid vacation for people out of work, pointing out that those looking for work often are under greater stress than those with jobs and thus need a longer holiday.

-- In September, federal, state and local authorities raided a field near Salinas, Calif., and seized about 1,000 khat plants, which produce a controlled substance that is still fairly new to the U.S., probably having been introduced by soldiers who served in Somalia. Khat is said to produce bliss, clarity of thought, euphoria and excessive energy. And the Chicago Tribune reported in August that Abbott Laboratories has just completed successful human trials of ABT-594, a drug said to be 200 times as powerful as morphine but still nonaddictive. The drug comes from a tiny Ecuadoran frog whose highly poisonous secretions have long been used to coat blowgun darts.

First Things First

U.S. News & World Report disclosed in July that Iraq, with a supposedly hungry populace yet limited to buying only essential "humanitarian" items under the U.N. trade embargo, ordered 25 rowing machines and four liposuction devices from a German company. And in August, in a 13-page bequest released by the Register of Wills in Bethlehem, Pa., Robert Allan Miller of Bethlehem was revealed to have set aside $5,000 for 10 monthly awards "to the most conscientious police officer(s), who (give) the most traffic tickets to motorists who double-park." Said a friend, "(Miller) lived on a really narrow street."

Husbands' and Wives' Intimate Moments

In August, a 26-year-old woman reported being raped by five men in her van on a street in Spokane, Wash., and a massive police manhunt began. Several days later, she apologized and said the sex was consensual, part of a fantasy she lived out by picking the men up, and that her husband was involved. And in August, a couple from Silver Spring, Md., were arrested for indecent exposure at an adult cinema in Baltimore after the husband had arranged for four men to have sex with his wife on the premises. According to police, several other males in the theater complained, apparently because the live sex interfered with their watching sex on the screen.

More Police Chiefs and Their Guns

John Grotluschen, police chief of Clarksville, Iowa, accidentally shot himself in the hand in August while cleaning his gun. And Bruce Seal, sheriff of Claiborne County, Tenn., accidentally shot himself in the foot in July while reaching into his pocket for his car keys. And Chuck Lewis, police chief of Coggon, Iowa, revealed to reporters in July that because of his 1995 assault conviction, Sheriff Don Zeller won't give him a license to carry a gun.

I Don't Think So

-- Rev. Muhamed Siddeeq, spiritual adviser to Mike Tyson, telling the New Jersey State Athletic Commission in July that the fighter is of such great character that not only should he get back his boxing license (which was removed after he bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear in his last fight) but is a prime candidate to succeed Kofi Annan as U.N. secretary general: "I see Mike solving many of the world's problems."

-- Mary Lauro, head of a civic group seeking to incorporate the new town of Imperial in Jefferson County, Mo., upset in May that her issue was not being taken seriously enough by the county commission: "(Commissioner Jon Selsor) is right next to Hitler, Stalin and all the other dictators."

-- The Los Angeles Times reported in July that in addition to construction of a small park in Washington, D.C.,'s Dupont Circle neighborhood named for the late Sonny Bono, there is "talk" at the University of California, Riverside, of creating a Sonny Bono School of Government.

-- In July, a 28-year-old man was ticketed for speeding in Great Falls, Mont., allegedly doing 104 in a 45 mph zone. According to the Cascade County Sheriff John Strandell, the man said he had just washed his car and needed to drive fast to dry it off.

-- In September in Arusha, Tanzania, former Rwandan prime minister Jean Kambanda was convicted of genocide in a United Nations tribunal for his role in the slaughter of 500,000 Rwandan Tutsis in 1994 but professed surprise that he was sentenced to life in prison. His lawyer said that because Kambanda had cooperated with authorities in naming his henchman, he was hopeful of doing no more than two years.

Least Competent Criminal

James L. Liddell was arrested in Granite City, Ill., at his home, about an hour after police say he robbed a Magna Bank branch. Police said Liddell apparently decided to rob the bank while in line to cash a $12.19 payroll check made out to him, which was recovered at the scene, along with the ID he intended to use to cash it.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in 1995 on the preferred expression of worship at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church, Toronto, Ontario: falling to the floor in soothing laughter over the greatness of the Holy Spirit. Worshipers came from around the world seeking the "Toronto Blessing" that is likened to the euphoria in other religions that causes adherents to speak in tongues. Among the more successful programs in the U.S., according to recent reports in the Chicago Sun Times (August) and the Providence Journal-Bulletin (September), are the nondenominational Fun Church in Chicago that also attracts busloads of worshipers from Indiana and the "Laughing Revival" of the New Life Worship Center in Smithfield, R.I., whose parishioners may remain on the floor for up to an hour, giggling.

Undignified Death

In September in Lanham, Md., a 26-year-old man lost control of his motorcycle and crashed, killing himself. Police said it was alcohol-related; four hours earlier, the man had been driven home from a part-time job, which was to get drunk at a police training class so officers could practice doing sobriety tests on him. When he left work, he had a 0.12 blood-alcohol level.

(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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