News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- In May, Arizona state Rep. Tom Gordon inexplicably faked a Naval Reserve order, hopped a military plane to the Balkans, and engaged in unspecified "unauthorized activities" (according to a U.S. official) in Sarajevo for six weeks before being ordered home. Afterward, Gordon refused to answer most questions except to say that he had been held hostage by Serbs and that "lots of things need to be explained, and in due course, they will be."

-- As Predicted in the "South Park" Movie: In August, the Ottawa Sun reported general outrage in Canada (led by the war veterans'group, the Royal Canadian Legion) that gay-hating Topeka, Kan., pastor Fred Phelps had burned the Canadian flag while in Ottawa recently. Phelps was protesting a Supreme Court of Canada decision to include same-sex couples as having "spouses" and had called the smoldering Canadian banner the "Fag Flag." Said a retired army captain, "Our government has got to make the stand."

Things Nobody Cares About

In July, Massachusetts filed a civil complaint against convicted murderer Sean Smith, 34, on behalf of three of Smith's fellow inmates who said Smith bilked them out of $55,000 of family money in an investment scheme. And three days later, a judge in Tampa, Fla., denied tobacco-litigation lawyer Henry Valenzuela his $20 million share (out of $200 million set aside for legal fees from the state's 1997 settlement with tobacco companies) because he had been late in paying his $2,500 share of a litigation expense.

Can't Possibly Be True

-- Allegedly jealous husband Floyd John Weseman, 27, was arrested in Morristown, Tenn., in April and charged with domestic assault after he reportedly beat his wife and attached a small padlock to her genitals.

-- In June, a New Orleans court awarded bicyclist Jerry Lawrence, 60, $95,000 after he suffered a fractured skull and two broken legs when hit by a police car on call. Lawrence prevailed even though he was drunk and ran a stop sign, which put himself directly in the path of the cruiser, which had siren and emergency lights on. Said Lawrence's lawyer, "(D)runks have some rights, too."

-- In July, a 48-year-old woman filed a lawsuit against Gold Coast Hospital in Southport, Australia, for about $450,000 (U.S.) because the hospital apparently misplaced part of her brain after aneurysm surgery in 1996. According to the lawsuit, doctors were to temporarily remove her right frontal lobe and replace it when swelling subsided, but then, when they went to insert the lobe, they couldn't find it. She has a temporary titanium plate but claims various symptoms including "irritability" and a "perception" that the lobe might have been fed to dogs.

-- According to a March Boston Globe story, residents of Portsmouth, N.H., are finally at the breaking point over the city's ancient and deteriorating sewer system that has resulted (according to one resident) in raw sewage overflow in his basement and on city streets during every high tide in the past 10 years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency believes repair would be so costly that it has long exempted Portsmouth and 100 New England communities from raw sewage discharge regulations. The city manager said a solution is at least 10 to 15 years away, but, asked one resident, "Why are we talking about building a new library and parking garage when we have sewage in our basements?"

Science Fair

-- The Safety Tanteisha detective agency in Osaka, Japan, told New Scientist magazine in June that it sells about 200 aerosol-spray kits a month (at $400 each) to help women find out whether their men are having affairs by detecting the presence of fresh seminal fluid on their underwear. Another "miracle product," Infidelity Detection Cream, rubbed on a man's skin, will cause blisters the next time he showers, which would subject him to wifely questioning if he arrived home with freshly blistered skin.

-- In May, scientists at the University of Hawaii announced that they had successfully transferred the gene that gives jellyfish a green color over to the permanent DNA of a mouse via a method of "transgenesis" that breaks the coating of sperm and allows gene-commingling. That a pink mouse turned fluorescent green under an ultraviolet light was cool, but the scientists were much more excited that their transgenesis was a big improvement over previous methods.

-- The Times of London reported in May that officials from Britain's Ministry of Defense had recently met with Eric Herr, the American who has patented a phaser gun and seeks $500,000 to make a prototype. Current "taser" guns are not effective unless applied directly to the skin, but Herr's gun would shoot a laser at someone up to 100 yards away and then pass an electrical current through it that would temporarily immobilize the target.

Latest Philanthropy

Londoner Lisa Wright was granted a loan of about $4,500 from the Prince's (of Wales) Trust during the spring to help her start a business to design "respectable and elegant" women's clothes for male transvestites. Said Wright, "If they're going to dress as women, they must learn how to dress properly. We don't want transvestites to frighten children." And according to documents released by Canada's Reform party in June, film director Cynthia Roberts received about $78,000 (U.S.) in 1996 and 1997 from the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council to make "Bubbles Galore," starring American porn queen Nina Hartley and featuring, according to Roberts, "wall-to-wall sex."

Recurring Themes

On July 7 in Bari, Italy, neighbors found the skeleton of a man, later learned to have been born in 1928, fully clothed and lying on his bed. After contacting relatives and neighbors, police estimated the man had been dead for around five years. That might tie the record set by the late Wolfgang Dircks of Bonn, Germany, when his body was found in November 1998; he apparently expired during December 1993 based on the TV program guide next to the still-"on" (but broken) television set that the body was propped in front of.

Least Competent Criminals

In May, four men, aided by an employee of the State Theater in Menomonie, Wis., stole a print of the "Star Wars" movie "The Phantom Menace" (value: $60,000) in one of the worst-executed crimes in state history. As the men lifted the 3-foot-wide spool from the projector, it unraveled, leaving two miles of celluloid on the floor. The men scooped the mess up, took it home, and tried to wash the film in a bathtub to get rid of their fingerprints (hint: doesn't work). Then, they cut it up for disposal but, after a while, finally realized they needed to turn themselves in. (Authorities said alcohol was heavily involved in the caper.) In sentencing in July, each man got five days in jail.

Also, in the Last Month ...

-- A thief who stole $500 from Frieda Folsoms 36 years ago returned it to her anonymously (but without interest, which would have been another $2,200) (Sacramento, Calif.). A 42-year-old Boy Scout volunteer, missing for 24 hours, was found naked and hanging by his ankles from a tree, as a result of an autoerotic mishap (Orlando, Fla.). A groom divorced his wife at their wedding reception after she had dissed his mother's dancing ability (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia). A credit-union robber ducked out quickly with his stash, failing to notice that the teller had honestly misread the holdup note asking for "$2500" and put only "$25.00" in the bag (Pawtucket, R.I.). A pizzeria robbery was foiled when the manager thought the robber's "I want it all" demand referred to a large-sized pizza and began reading off the options and prices, confusing the man (Dayton, Ohio).

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