News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- In September, Italy's highest appeals court ruled that a spouse's obsession with another person was grounds for divorce even though she never had a relationship, sexual or otherwise, with the other man. A lower court had ruled that the wife, identified publicly only as Anna, was not at fault because there was no "carnal betrayal"; however, the Court of Cassation wrote that her constant thoughts about a bus driver whom she knew had broken her marriage's "trust and intimacy" just as surely as if the two had had sex.

-- Earlier this year, Mayor Dan Gibson of Crystal Springs, Miss., decided to run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination and, with the support of his wife and son, resigned and liquidated his assets to finance the campaign, including the couple's five-bedroom antebellum home, antique furniture and two Cadillacs. He finished fourth, and the Gibsons now live in a cramped one-bedroom apartment with one used car for transportation. Gibson told the Associated Press in August that he has no regrets and agrees with the voters: "I need more maturity (before holding office)."


During the Aug. 11 eclipse: A baby born during the blackout was killed by its 31-year-old mother, who feared it was thus cursed (Strahotin, Romania). Abdel-Nasser Nuredeen was charged with killing his wife because she was too fascinated by the eclipse to make him a cup of tea (Cairo, Egypt). Bulgarian TV apologized for missing eclipse coverage because its camera crew was delayed at an erotic film shooting. A police superintendent released three prisoners under the assumption that the eclipse meant the world was ending (Picui, Brazil).


-- Latest Highway Truck Spills: 20 tons of dog and cat food on I-70 near Denver (March); 1,800 liters of caramel (which required a hazardous materials cleanup crew) in Calgary, Alberta (April); thousands of cases of Anheuser-Busch beer on I-55 in St. Louis (August); a tractor-trailer full of vodka, tequila and Scotch on Candora Avenue in Knoxville, Tenn. (June); 60 toilets being hauled on I-25 in Albuquerque (June).

-- Two Canadian astronomers admitted in June that they made a serious error the month before in their 23-page message beamed into outer space designed to inform extraterrestrials that there is intelligent life on Earth. One section was to show, via symbols, that Earthlings have mastered mathematics, but two different "equals to" symbols were used. The Dutch researcher who found the error was chagrined that aliens will now believe Earthlings "a sloppy species."

-- In June, during a British Airways flight from London to Los Angeles, a pre-recorded emergency-warning message was accidentally transmitted to the cabin, horrifying the 400 passengers, but it was quickly turned off by the captain. He knew to act quickly because it was the third straight month that such an emergency tape had come on during a British Airways flight. In the first glitch, in April, a voice on the tape actually told passengers that the plane was about to ditch into the Atlantic Ocean.

-- In April, a 34-year-old Filipino seaman had to be air-evac'd to a Port Lincoln, Australia, hospital after he accidentally swallowed his four-tooth dental plate. And in June, during an operation for bowel obstruction, surgeons recovered a set of false teeth David Flanders of Mopeth, England, had accidentally swallowed as a teen-ager. And in July, a bronchoscopy revealed that the asthma-like condition of Mike Russell, 60, of Bath, England, was caused by his four-tooth dental plate, missing since a highway collision eight years ago but which was lodged just above his right lung.

-- In Warminster, Pa., in September, inmate David Marshall Brown, 54, was freed after serving 34 years for felony murder. He was to have been released in 1980 on a plea bargain, but no one could find the paperwork, and Brown remained long after his co-pleader (who had his paperwork) was released. Brown's paperwork had been misfiled by his then-lawyer in his co-pleader's records.


-- In August, Independence County (Ark.) Sheriff Ron Webb, freshly convicted on a federal charge of sexually assaulting a female prisoner, billed the county about $140 for car mileage and meal costs during his two-day trial in Little Rock, claiming the trial was official business. (A few days later, he withdrew some of the claims.)

-- In June in North Knoxville, Tenn., just as Sharon Gilbert was delivering an order from Glenwood Sandwich Shop to Pardon's Jewelers, a well-dressed man snatched her money bag and knocked her down. The 5-foot-3 Gilbert jumped on the man, pried the money bag loose, and chased him for a ways until he got in a car and drove away. Minutes later, according to a manager of Pardon's, the still-unidentified man called, angry, to complain about how Gilbert had roughed him up.


According to a July San Jose Mercury News report from Zimbabwe, claims of demons and tiny "tokoloshi" gremlins have proliferated as the country reels into its third year of economic downturn. While ordinary criminals and mentally ill people are arrested or beaten up as witches, other parts of Zimbabwe society are thriving: The black-market demand for human body parts (for making evil potions) is up, and "traditional medicine" practitioners say business is good, as the country's down-and-outs purchase evil spirits to humble their enemies.


News of the Weird first reported on "crush videos" in February 1999, alarming readers that scantily clad women in stiletto heels were being photographed stomping insects and tiny animals to death for the viewing pleasure of foot fetishists. Two producers were arrested for animal cruelty in May in Los Angeles; another company is under investigation; and federal legislation has been introduced. Jeff Vilencia, whose Squish Productions is out of business, told USA Today in August that while he agrees on the immorality of squishing pets, "mice and rats might be a gray area."


Lovers Jose Agustin Noh and Ana Maria Camara Suarez succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning as they slept after a bout of sex in a hearse whose engine was running to keep the air-conditioning on (Campeche, Mexico, in May). And in April, truck driver Ling Yiu-hung's 1997 death was officially ruled carbon monoxide poisoning by a Hong Kong coroner; Ling had passed out and died while stuck for hours in a traffic jam.


Jealous boyfriend Rafus Garrett Jr. was charged with assaulting rival John Garrett (no relation) in a fight on Willie Garrett Road (Folsom, La.). The U.S. Forest Service apologized for charging two New Hampshire men with the crime of "maintaining (White Mountain National Forest) without a permit" because they had spent two days cleaning up a lake. Cocaine smuggler Nicole Bos, 18, won a gala, televised beauty pageant inside a Lima, Peru, women's prison. The National Postal Museum opened an exhibit honoring the five clerks who died trying to lug the mail to higher ground on the Titanic (Washington, D.C.). A bank robber was arrested later at a bar down the street when he attracted attention by buying a round with $100 bills (Sioux Falls, S.D.).

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