News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- On the same day in June that the Colombian government was announcing that it would henceforth count cocaine farming (estimated at $1 billion a year) in its official economic figures, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange went to the remote village of La Machaca to meet with a top commander of the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which the U.S. State Department has labeled a terrorist group. NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso reportedly invited the leader, Raul Reyes, to New York to learn more about international markets.

-- In June the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a 1998 decision upholding the privacy rights of child-porn suspect James Anderson of Duluth, Ga., who, as the object of a federal sting operation, allegedly took illegal videos into his workplace. Child porn photos uncovered at Anderson's home were later used against him in his trial, but the courts ruled that the workplace stash was illegally seized because Anderson had a legitimate "expectation of privacy." And three weeks later, British Columbia's highest court ruled that Canada's child-porn possession law was unconstitutional for also criminalizing erotic material written up from one's own imagination.


-- In April, police in Broomfield, Colo., issued a trespassing summons to Kristopher C. Ward, 36, who apparently had moved a female companion, all their furniture and two dogs into a vacant house belonging to Michael Deetz. When Deetz brought a police officer around to evict the squatters, Ward said he had been trying to get ahold of Deetz and decided that the best way to bump into him was just to move in and wait until he dropped by.

-- In April, a judge in Ottawa, Ontario, ruled against inmate Herbert Miller in his lawsuit against the Bowden correctional institution in Alberta. Miller had just lost his prison job, which was aimed at preparing him for work on the outside, and was demanding more than $3,000 (U.S.) in back pay, vacation pay and overtime.

-- Former Florida state Rep. Deborah Tamargo, visiting the House chamber in April for a reunion with ex-colleagues, sat next to her old seat while ex-seat neighbor Rep. Harry C. Goode went out for a smoke. While Goode was away, a bill was brought to the floor, and Tamargo apparently couldn't resist the temptation to vote on it. She pushed the "yes" button, to Goode's astonishment when he found out later. The bill, to ban trespassing on the grounds of a private school, passed.

-- The director of the worldwide charity Feed the Children, Steve Highfill, and several administrative employees were caught on tape in May by Nashville, Tenn., TV station WTVF taking home boxes of goods that had been donated for impoverished kids. Highfill saw nothing wrong with that: "If that's wrong, fine. I don't think so, and I don't think people are going to think so." Apparently, people did think so because the next day, Highfill resigned, and a week after, 14 employees were fired.

Weird Animals

-- Three University of Sheffield (England) researchers reported in May that they had found a unique bird whose males not only experience orgasms during sex but also are equipped with a penis-like protrusion (though it does not contain a sperm duct). The male buffalo weaver bird uses the protrusion to stimulate the female so that when he expels sperm, the female will be better able to accommodate them.

-- Awesome Dogs: Casey, a golden retriever in Raytown, Mo., that made the news in April by recovering from three gunshot wounds to the head. And Suzzy, a German shepherd in Granite City, Ill., that in March was fine after surgery to remove $7.37 in coins she had swallowed. And the husky Whitey, which with local residents' help has eluded animal control officers in the town of Laconia, N.H. (population 15,000), for more than a year now, despite officers' frequent sightings.

-- According to police in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, the blood all over the furniture of the burglarized house in May was the thief's, courtesy of the homeowner's parrot, which attacked the perp and drove him out. Said a police spokesman, "The bird was fairly annoyed." And in an April Stroudsburg, Pa., trial of a man accused of burglary, prosecutors subpoenaed a parrot that was abducted in the crime, in the slight chance that it would identify the thief in court, but the bird was noncommittal.

Loose Change

York County (Pa.) reported in June that its Resource Recovery Center had found about $43,000 in carelessly discarded coins among the last year's trash. Also in June, the Miami-Dade County (Fla.) government announced the demotion of an administrator in charge of processing parking meter collections; the 21-year veteran had just not gotten around to bank-depositing about $150,000 in coins collected over a four-year period.

Brains in the News

In February, Russian brain surgeon Svyatoslav Medvedev told reporters in St. Petersburg that he had achieved an 80 percent success rate curing alcohol addiction by removal of a part of the brain that he says facilitates such addiction. And in April, a University of Toronto researcher concluded that patients with brain damage to the right frontal lobe don't get the punchlines of jokes, even though they laugh easily at simpler kinds of humor, such as slapstick.

Least Competent Criminals

In May, according to officials at the Brookings (S.D.) County Jail, on the day before trusty inmate Jeffrey Kumm was to be released, he swiped three deputy's shirts and two prison uniforms and hid them outside on the grounds so he could retrieve them the next day after he got out. (He was caught and sentenced to six more months.)

Notable Passing

In February, Don Giuseppe Avarna, 83 (the Duke of Gualtieri), died in Messina, Sicily. The duke achieved celebrity in the 1980s when he abandoned his family and took up with a young American female flight attendant and then proceeded to irritate his wife for years by ringing a chapel bell in their village every time he and the young woman made love.

Also, in the Last Month ...

An arson suspect had to be hospitalized after he fell off the roof of a building while admiring the fire he allegedly started (St. Louis). Bangkok police, trying to end traffic-stop bribes, started offering free rice to ticketed motorists who come to the station to pay their citations. The city of Graz, Austria, said it would start paying beggars about $260 per month to stay out of sight. A fire extinguisher exploded from the heat of a fire in the home of a 70-year-old woman and spewed foam wildly, which doused the fire (Rochester, Minn.). About 1,000 Pakistani cricket fans angrily surrounded the home of a player on the national team and threw rocks at his windows two days after the team lost the world title to Australia.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679, or

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600