News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

LEAD STORIES

-- In May, a Plainfield, Conn., religious sect called God's House filed a $200,000 lawsuit against the state Department of Children and Families for sending to foster care the young daughter of sect leader Sister Rachael. According to the Sister, the little girl is very important to the sect in that she is the result of Rachael's impregnation by God.

-- Jim Gordon, a candidate for South Carolina's elected agriculture commissioner, told a campaign-stop audience in Greenville in May that the two most important issues stifling the family farm are access to technology and "the homosexual agenda." "How does that relate to agriculture?" he asked rhetorically. "We can't have Bob and Bob being married" without hurting the concept of the family farm.

-- In May, Bobby S. Hidalgo, 34, who renamed himself "Kern" on the ballot, won the Democratic nomination to challenge powerful incumbent Dan Burton in November for Indiana's 6th congressional seat. According to an Indianapolis Star report, Hidalgo has impersonated a local female judge; was imprisoned for doctoring a check; was arrested (but acquitted) for offering oral sex to an undercover policeman (and maintains anyway that he is a virgin); and has extensively used without consent the name of former "Charlie's Angels" actor Tanya Roberts to get entree to various local events and people.

Job-training That Works

In February, police in Bemidji, Minn., raided a methamphetamine lab and discovered that several of the workers making the drug were local jail inmates on a work-release program. The alleged meth kingpin was also a local contractor and had requested the inmates for his legitimate business, but then diverted them.

Unclear on the Concept

In a 32-part series ending in December, the Providence (R.I.) Journal-Bulletin chronicled Wendy Moricas' pregnancy in which she received the sperm of her sister's husband, Joe, and bore the couple a child that would have many of the couple's genes. Said sister Kathy, after having given Wendy a syringe containing Joe's sperm, "This is God's will." Also in December, Pietra Thornton (estranged wife of actor Billy Bob Thornton) told USA Today that she was proud of her surgically enhanced breasts. "[S]uddenly everyone's looking," she said. "God gave me this body, and I shouldn't be ashamed of it."

Postal Services Still Have Some Issues

In April, an assistant to Vice President Gore told The New York Times that Gore's "Hammer Award," to the New York Police Department for creative excellence in government, "will probably be FedExed" to the mayor (rather than sent by Postal Service Overnight Mail). And Italy's controversial law forbidding the payment of ransoms was circumvented in late 1997 by the family of prominent businessman/kidnappee Giuseppe Soffiantini, who gathered about $2.3 million and was ready to pay but never could because the kidnappers' drop-point instructions were lost in the mail.

Nurture vs. Nature

Vying for a council seat in the town of Beaufort in eastern France this spring were identical twins (i.e., every gene the same) Christian and Claude Buchots. Christian is of the Gaullist (conservative) party; Claude is a Socialist-Green candidate. On the other hand, in March, the Albuquerque, N.M., jail was the temporary home of John Simms, 52, and his son Stacy, 27, both charged with separate rapes.

Cultural Diversity

-- In March, according to an Associated Press report, there were once again calls in Thailand to end the custom of the ex-Burmese Padaung tribe to routinely outfit some women with up to two dozen metal coils around their necks. A typical set of rings can weigh 11 pounds and severely elongate the neck by pressing down on the collarbone and ribs, and the practice continues largely for the photo opportunities it provides tourists at about $6 each.

-- In March, a representative of the former Soviet republic of Ingushetia made a formal plea to Boris Yeltsin for the Russian government to stop hampering the Ingush tradition (and that of most of the surrounding Caucasus) of a man's selecting a wife by kidnapping a woman and carrying her away. Said the Ingush lobbyist, "This practice should be [regulated] by local authorities, who understand local needs."

-- The chief justice of Sudan, Obeid Hajj Ali, issued a decree in April to halt the flogging of women, following an outcry over the recent government beatings of 40 females who had merely handed an official a note protesting Sudan's military involvements. However, the chief justice said there were exceptions to the decree and that women could still be flogged for drinking alcohol or committing adultery.

-- The French Health Ministry disclosed in March that it had produced five short sex-education films, so graphic as to be called hard-core pornography, supposedly for the purpose of remedying a major lapse in sexual knowledge in France. As one film director described it, "I had to show that if a man has sex with two women together, he must use a different condom with each one." Men's ignorance in that circumstance, said a Health Ministry spokesperson, is "a big problem."

-- The Austrian parliament approved a law in February to require that husbands assume half the household chores and child-rearing responsibilities. (In a recent case, a man had won a divorce because his wife didn't use a certain dishwashing detergent.) On the other hand, after studying 1,000 women, Dr. Jean Claude Kaufmann, a sociologist at the Sorbonne in Paris, reported in March that more than half found housework pleasurable, with nearly all who worked in the home saying the work heightened emotion in some way, even erotically. One said she ironed immediately after breakfast to experience "explosions of joy"; another became "inflamed with passion" by touching "the merest dishcloth."

Least Competent Criminal

FBI agents arrested Jeffrey Brian Whitlock, 26, in Richmond, Va., in February and charged him with making telephone bomb threats to three downtown federal buildings. Agents went to the ransom dropoff point and found it to be the office of a telemarketing firm; when the agents explained why they were there, the manager looked over his work crew on duty and suggested that Whitlock might be the guy. Indeed, according to the FBI, Whitlock soon confessed.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported several times on charitable bingo games in which a recently fed cow is let loose in a pasture marked into squares, with the winning square being the one onto which the cow first relieves herself. (The last such story, in 1997, reported Nova Scotia's banning the game because it was deemed too easy to rig.) In March 1998, the Bryanston Primary school in Johannesburg, South Africa, raised about $60,000 with "elephant-patty bingo," played the same as with cows except with larger squares.

Least Justifiable Homicides

Cheung Tat-kwong, 76, was found guilty in March in Hong Kong of murdering his roommate, Mr. Wong Fai, 75, after Mr. Wong had complained one time too many about Cheung's habit of scratching his butt around the house. And in a two-week period in March, a 20-year-old man was shot and killed in New Orleans, allegedly by his brother, and a Baton Rouge, La., man was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the murder of a friend, with the cause of both incidents being fights over the TV remote control.

(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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