News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- The Times of London reported in March that a convicted rapist in his 30s has been recommended for British government-provided Viagra to treat a depression he has been suffering since his release from prison a year ago. Doctors at St. George's hospital in Tooting, south London, say his main problem now is the lack of a girlfriend.

-- According to a recent issue of the Indian Journal of Orthopaedics, a majority of arthritis patients in a study showed a reduction in pain and an increase in hand-grip strength after a regimen of "autohemotherapy." About 3/4 cup of blood was withdrawn from patients' veins, mixed in a copper bowl with 1/4 cup each of honey and lemon juice, stirred for several minutes, and then taken orally.

-- Clergyman James Elrod Ogle, 46, was indicted in March for the counseling he provided a parishioner at his Bull Run Bible Fellowship in Manassas, Va. According to prosecutors, after the parishioner confided his marital difficulties, Pastor Ogle offered to kill the man's wife if the man would help him out by killing Mrs. Ogle. The parishioner reported the conversation to police and wore a wire for several meetings with Ogle before the indictment was obtained.

Frontiers of Medicine

-- Authorities at National Women's Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand, opened an inquiry in February into an unusual treatment of premature babies during 1993 and 1994 that might have been the cause of five deaths and eight cases of brain damage. The practice involved removing congestion from the lungs by striking the babies on the chest for hours at a time, up to 200 blows per treatment, which objecting parents were told was harmless and that in fact most babies enjoyed it.

-- In January, a Chicago company, Baxter International, defended a patient study conducted in 1998 in which nearly half the patients receiving its artificial blood died after treatment. Although a relatively high death rate was expected (since artificial blood was only to be given to patients in critical condition), Baxter revealed that no patient had given consent to the treatment and that instead the company had relied on a not-previously used Food and Drug Administration rule that required "community notification" rather than individual patient consent.

-- In November, Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City was fined $30,000 for permitting a medical equipment salesman, dressed in scrubs, to assist in a 1997 surgery by operating a new machine in the OR. The patient had entered for a common, uncomplicated operation (removal of a benign tumor in her uterus) but died when a surgeon was unable to detect that she had retained too much saline.

-- According to a January Chicago Sun-Times report, a 1998 National Institutes of Health surgery trial at the University of Colorado experimented with 40 Parkinson's disease patients, 20 of whom received fetal tissue implanted in their brains and 20 of whom had four holes drilled in their heads as placebos but nothing implanted. Some medical ethicists draw a distinction between giving patients placebo sugar pills and drilling holes in their heads, but apparently none of the 20 was adversely affected. However, the trial was delayed when a couple of the real-implant patients died.

Latest Breastfeeding News

World women's chess champion Zsuzsa Polgar, 29, was scheduled to give birth this month in New York City and so had been permitted to reschedule her required title defense from April to June. However, Polgar said that meant she might have to breastfeed her baby during the match, though she thought it would be more of a distraction to her than to her opponent. And a Hamilton, Ontario, lifeguard ordered Shannon Wray, 25, out of a municipal pool in February when she began to breastfeed her 9-month-old daughter. Wray assumed it was because she was offending swimmers, but the lifeguard pointed to the "no food in the pool" rule.

Music From Hell

In February, an upscale housing development north of West Palm Beach, Fla., was denied a restraining order against pig farmer Paul Thompson, who blares country and western music from loudspeakers in order to soothe his hogs and improve their appetites. And an Associated Press report from Fort Lupton, Colo., in March detailed municipal judge Paul Sacco's punishments for violators of the town's boombox noise ordinance: They must report to court weekly to listen to selections ranging from Roger Whitaker standards to bagpipes to Navajo flute music to Judge Sacco's own guitar compositions. (Several violators interviewed by the AP admitted they were scared straight by the music.)

Even Malfunctioning Airbags Save Lives

Deputy Sheriff Elbert Fuller of Sand Springs, Okla., shot and killed prisoner Clyde McShan in February after McShan pulled a knife on him in a squad car, causing Fuller to lose control, run up an embankment and flip over. Fuller, who was hanging upside down in the car and seat-belted in, managed to reach his gun and shoot McShan before McShan could stab him, which Fuller was able to do only because the car's airbag failed to inflate.

Least Competent People

-- At a routine traffic stop in Horseshoe Bend, Ark., in January, Donnie Todd, 17, presented a driver's license in which Arkansas was spelled "Arkansa" and slightly misprinted, and he was cited for suspicion of forgery. However, after investigating, officials said the license was real, issued by a Sharp County office whose computer was malfunctioning. The big loser was Francis McCabe, 19, who pleaded guilty in February to forging driver's licenses, a crime detected because he had inadvertently used a Sharp County-issued license as a model for his own bogus licenses.

-- Joseph Kubic Sr., 93, was hospitalized in Stratford, Conn., in February after he tried to punch in an additional belt hole by hammering a pointy-nosed bullet through the belt. It fired, ricocheting off a table and hitting him in the neck. (In the last two years, Kubic also accidentally cut through his leg to the bone in a chainsaw mishap and set a small brush fire that raged nearly out of control, threatening neighbors' houses.)

-- In Monson, Maine, William Ranta, 25, and Russell LaBlanc, 31, were hospitalized in January when their private road ritual went bad. The two pals had a tradition, when their vehicles met on two-lane roads, to switch lanes and pass each other on the left. However, this time Ranta spotted a truck following in LaBlanc's lane and tried to call off the pass, but LaBlanc was slow on the uptake, and Ranta hit him.

The Classic Middle Name (continued)

Arrested for murder after a fight over money, Corpus Christi, Texas, February: William Wayne Wright. Sentenced to 27 years in prison for murder, Portland, Ore., February: Bryant Wayne Howard. Arrested for the murder of his wife, Mount Airy, Md., February: Donald Wayne Holt. Arrested for attempted capital murder for attacking a woman with a hammer and setting her on fire, Arlington, Texas, February: Jimmy Wayne Miller. Arrested for manslaughter in a road-rage death, Portland, Ore., January: Terry Wayne Unruh.

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