News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

LEAD STORIES

-- In January, The New Yorker magazine reported the latest trendy body ornamentation in the city: small jewelry charms inserted under the skin, producing boil-like bulges in the shapes of the charms. The "subcutaneous jewelry" can be inserted in the forehead, the back of the hand, or any other place in which the skin can be pinched.

-- Through what a company spokesman later called "human error," the front door of the CoreStates Bank in Robesonia, Pa. (10 miles from Reading), remained unlocked through the Veterans Day weekend, and no one knew until a customer, who had forgotten it was a holiday, innocently walked in at 9 a.m. Monday, setting off a silent alarm that alerted the police. The customer said his first thought on seeing the bank empty was that robbers had locked the tellers and customers in the vault.

-- The Wise Judiciary: In December, a Bloomfield, Iowa, judge sentenced two men, who had clubbed 23 cats with baseball bats (killing 16), to one day in jail per cat, but then he suspended even that sentence. Also in December, a judge in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, sentenced the men who beat a man to death on the eve of his wedding to 16 months each in prison. (In reaction, a Dutch inmate serving eight years in a stomping death asked Queen Beatrix for a pardon, claiming his own sentence was thus way too severe.) And in January, a judge in Mexico City freed confessed killer-bandit Alonso Gonzalez, calling him "a modern Robin Hood, who not only shares what he earns from robberies, but gives his companions more money (than he keeps)."

POLICE BLOTTER

-- In September, a federal judge in West Palm Beach, Fla., dismissed the disability lawsuit filed by police Lt. Ed Wagner against the department, ruling that Wagner was not really penalized for having the disability in that he was merely denied a special assignment. Wagner was removed from the SWAT team for having a sensitive neck, a condition which came to light when he complained that an old neck injury flared up after a colleague got him in a headlock and gave him "noogies."

-- Hours before the Dec. 5 inaugural address of Mexico City's new mayor, who was expected to announce stern measures to deal with rampant crime and police corruption, the mayor's top assistant was mugged in a taxicab, giving up his wallet and briefcase, which contained the mayor's speech. And in June, an armed robber took the purse of the executive director of Crimestoppers of New Orleans outside her office.

-- Recent Dangerous Weapons: roast beef sandwich (pedestrian, angry at a motorist, Matteson, Ill., November); burrito (motorist, angry at another, Longview, Ore., September); carrot (reaction to spouse's demand for divorce, East Hanover, N.J., August); Etch-A-Sketch toy (two teen-age boys, overpowering a jailer and escaping, Clinton, Tenn., November); cordless drill (mother hit stepdaughter because her dog was barking too loud, and the daughter struck back with a "fish whacker" tool, Wasilla, Alaska, August).

-- In October, a man robbed the Capital Bank of North County in San Diego, Calif., and escaped in a pickup truck. According to a teller, the man never claimed to have a gun, but demonstrated his impatience at the teller's dawdling by showing her a photograph of another man holding a gun.

OOPS!

-- In September, workers delivering crates to the Museon museum in The Hague, Netherlands, accidentally dropped one containing a 75 million-year-old dinosaur skeleton made from bones recovered in Montana, breaking it into 188 pieces. And in January during a break-in at the Yammonoki Museum in Ito, Japan, a thief being chased by a guard dropped a 600-year-old Ming Dynasty platter worth about $400,000, shattering it.

-- In November, an adviser to Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu conceded that, due to a bureaucratic oversight, the Western Wall in Jerusalem is not owned by the government but by an organization called the Islamic Trust, which administers various Muslim holy sites. After capturing Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, Israel apparently formally appropriated the land beside the Wall, but not the Wall itself.

-- The Nov. 7 edition of the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano contained statements declaring that homosexuals "do have the right" to adopt children and to live together as couples, attributed to staunch moralist Father Gino Concetti. After several days of panic at the Vatican, editor Gianfranco Grieco located the problem: a computer glitch that removed only the word "not" several times from the story.

-- In October, Harwinton, Conn., local official Marie Knudsen told the Waterbury Republican-American that the first person snared in a radar trap she intervened with the state police to have set up was the husband of the constituent who complained the loudest to her about speeders ruining her neighborhood.

-- In August, British mountain climber Alan Hinkes, who had already conquered nine of the world's 14 highest peaks, had to postpone his ambitious quest to climb the other five in one year when number 10 failed. He was at the base camp of the 26,600-foot-high Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, ready to eat a piece of local bread when the wind blew the flour topping in his face, causing him to sneeze, which resulted in a slipped disc.

INEXPLICABLE

-- The Sacramento Bee reported in November that a group of young people from the East Valley Foursquare Church in Orangevale, Calif., were recently observed playing what they called "Bambi Baseball," supervised by youth minister Robin Gattis. The name came from what was used as a bat: the frozen leg of a deer. (A frozen cow tongue was the ball.) It was also reported that an earlier version of the game was played by swinging a frozen trout to hit a frozen squid.

-- In 1987 a leaky tank car containing the volatile chemical butadiene exploded in a New Orleans rail yard. No one was hurt, but 8,000 nearby residents were evacuated and later filed lawsuits for their injuries, which consisted of 36 hours of displacement and a general fear of future illnesses, which have so far not materialized. About 20 so far have won an average of $100,000 each in compensatory damages. In addition, in September 1997, the entire class of potential plaintiffs won a jury trial for punitive damages against the CSX railroad and four other companies for a total of $3.4 billion. CSX was ordered to kick in three-fourths of the total even though the National Transportation Safety Board had ruled it blameless in the explosion.

-- Peter Sansom began work on Jan. 19 at his new, two-day-a-week job with the big Marks & Spencer department store in London. For the next six months under a government grant program run by the Poetry Society, he will work for about $1,500 per month as the store's poet in residence. He said he hopes generally to raise employees' and customers' level of awareness of poetry. A lesser-known poet in residence, at London's Botanical Gardens, said she has already had an impact on that organization, as witnessed by her telephone message recording: "Sarah Maguire can't get to the phone/So please leave a message after the tone."

(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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