News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

LEAD STORIES

-- In February, Cambridge (England) University researcher Fiona Hunter, who studied penguins' mating habits for five years, reported that some females apparently allow male strangers to mate with them in exchange for a few nest-building stones, thus providing what Hunter believes is the first observed animal prostitution. According to Dr. Hunter, all activity was done behind the back of the female's regular mate, and in a few instances, after the sex act, johns gave the females additional stones as sort of a tip.

-- In March, trial began in Lesli Szabo's $1.7 million lawsuit against a Hamilton, Ontario, hospital for not making her 1993 childbirth pain-free. Physicians said that painless childbirth cannot be achieved without the anesthesia's endangering the child, but Szabo said she expected enough comfort to be able to read or knit while the child was being delivered. She admitted to previous run-ins with physicians, explaining, "When I'm in pain, the (words) that come out of my mouth would curl your hair." After five days of trial, the parties reached an undisclosed settlement.

-- David Samarzia, 44, who won a $650,000 judgment against the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Duluth, Minn., as damages for being molested as a kid by former pastor Daniel Reeb, told reporters in February that since the church cannot pay the judgment, he most likely would take over the house of worship himself as payment and turn it into a place to help other sex abuse victims.

FAMILY VALUES

-- Following the August death of 122-year-old French woman Jeanne Calment, Canadian Marie-Louise Febronie Meilleur, 116, was named by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's oldest person. In an interview with the Associated Press on that occasion, Meilleur said her hobby was finding a girlfriend for her 81-year-old son at the nursing home where they both reside.

-- In November, Howard and Jean Garber of Anaheim Hills, Calif., announced that in spring 1998 they would have a grandchild despite their daughter Julie's having passed away a year earlier at age 28 from leukemia. Julie had harvested 12 eggs before undergoing radiation treatment, and after her death, her parents selected a father and surrogate mother, who announced on Thanksgiving Day that she was pregnant.

-- While locked up in the Kerr County (Texas) jail in November, burglar Bill Wells, 40, met up with burglar Corey Hillger, 22, for the first time in about 22 years. Hillger is Wells' son. And in October near New Orleans, according to sheriff's deputies, George Francois, 72 and drunk, slammed his car into a vehicle driven by another drunken driver, his son, Roland Francois, 35. Both were hospitalized.

-- In January in Union Township, N.J., Phyllis Klingebiel, who said she had always had a "close and loving relationship" with her adult son, Michael, filed a lawsuit against him after he refused to share the winnings on an October Pick 6 lottery ticket that paid $2 million. According to Phyllis, the two had pooled $20 a month each for tickets for more than 10 years, and Michael had called her after the winning ticket was announced to say that "we" had won, but then the next day, he called his mom back to say that the winning ticket happened to be one that he had bought on his own.

I DON'T THINK SO

-- At his trial in Fort Worth, Texas, in January, William Lee Monroe, 28, admitted he stole a gas stove from an apartment but denied responsibility for the resulting ruptured gas line, explosion and fire that sent two people to the hospital and injured three others. According to his lawyer, Monroe is too dumb to know that an open gas line is dangerous. "Stupid is as stupid does," said the lawyer. (Guilty anyway, said the jury.)

-- Two days after Arthur Downey's arrest in Phoenix in October, during a drug bust in which an 8-year-old boy was detained as Downey's runner, Downey (whose age was not given but who is at least in his 20s) told the Arizona Republic newspaper that, actually, the boy was the boss and that he, Downey, was the runner.

-- John Kieser, 45, was convicted in Philadelphia in January of carrying a weapon on an airliner. While a passenger on a US Airways flight in August 1997, Kieser had uttered the word "hijack," which is illegal to do, but protested later that he was just responding to someone who had addressed him by saying, "Hi, Jack." A search of his carry-on bag revealed a flare gun and 17 fire-starting flares.

-- In November, the police chief of New Haven, Conn., explaining why $23,000 was missing from the police evidence room following an investigation into illegal gambling, said in a report that the money must have accidentally fallen into a garbage can and been thrown out. And Wells Fargo armored-car personnel David Faircloth and Steven Stepp reported that $209,000 missing from their truck in Research Triangle Park, N.C., in December must have accidentally fallen out the open back door and that they don't know what happened to it.

WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME

-- According to a December report in PC Week magazine on the recent Comdex computer convention, the exhibitor Prescient Systems installed its new Gotcha video surveillance software to record the construction of its convention booth, as a tool to help sell the software once the convention opened. During the night following the installation, two convention-hall guards, unaware that Gotcha was operating, broke into the Prescient booth and stole two boxes of Pentium chips. The guards were identified on Gotcha's digital tape and arrested the next day.

-- People Who Should Have Kept a Lower Profile: Daniel Thorn, St. John, New Brunswick, on the lam for parole violation, was arrested at a Toronto Blue Jays game in September when he happened to take a seat a few feet away from his parole officer. And Steve Graves, Phoenix, behind in child-support payments, inadvertently revealed his whereabouts to his wife when he got his picture in the newspaper in November for publicly handing in $23,000 that he found on the street. And Neil Ramirez, also behind with child support and moonlighting behind a beard as Santa Claus in December in Brooklyn, N.Y., saw his unwitting toddler-daughter wander up to his lap. The kid recognized him and yelled, "Daddy is Santa!" at which point the ex-wife grabbed some child-support paperwork from her purse and crammed it into Ramirez's Santa suit.

SMOOTH REACTIONS

-- In December, a 24-year-old woman was charged with battery in Beloit, Wis., for allegedly hitting her husband with a plant stand, sending him to the hospital for six stitches. According to police, the couple had been married for two months and fought frequently about sex. That night, she was angry that he had retired for the evening after only four episodes.

-- Still More Recent Rages: "Rejected Her Marriage Proposal Rage" (Amy J. Weir, arrested in Vancouver, Wash., in December, suspected of killing her reluctant boyfriend, cutting up his body, and flushing some of the parts down a toilet). "Relatives Staying Too Long Rage" (Jonathan M. Charest, 31, Rochester, N.H., in January allegedly carved open his guest-bedroom door with a chain saw to stop one of the frequent, loud arguments between visiting in-laws). "Road Rage (Variation)" (Jerry Russo, 51, Howell Township, N.J., in December allegedly ran down a car whose occupants had been laughing at him for picking his nose while driving).

(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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