News of the Weird

Week of September 5, 1999

-- Under a bill expected to become law next year, the government of the Netherlands recently proposed to loosen restrictions on euthanasia for pain-wracked, incurably ill people, even extending the right to children as young as 12. In principle, those age 12 to 15 would also need parental permission to choose death, but doctors in some circumstances could honor a kid's wishes even without it. (Euthanasia would still be illegal under the bill, but doctors adhering to the new guidelines would be immune from prosecution.)

-- Nuclear scientist Eric Voice, 73, told England's The Guardian in August that, as far as he knows, inhaling plutonium (as from the effects of a nuclear war) is not dangerous, citing his own successful test 18 months ago in which he sniffed some to try to allay the public's fears. Voice said nothing bad has happened to him so far and that, in fact, plutonium has never harmed anyone, except for those two bombs on Japan.

Apparently, Another Tragic Affliction of Seniors

John Glover, 74, explaining why his car was in the middle of Deal Lake (N.J.), June: gas pedal got stuck. Billy W. Parkham, 68, on why his minivan smashed into a dress shop, Seekonk, Mass., August: gas pedal got stuck. Eleanor Soltis, 76, on why her car ran out of control in downtown Chicago, killing three people (and who agreed to pay a $1.5 million settlement in August): gas pedal got stuck. Marie Wyman, 87, on why her Buick crashed through the Lobster Trap & Steakhouse, Winslow, Maine, July: gas pedal got stuck.

Cultural Diversity

-- Latest Holy Icons: Crocodiles, in a lake near Karachi, Pakistan, where thousands brought fresh-meat offerings in March to secure blessings for their babies; two frogs, joined in Hindu matrimony in Gauhati, India, in March to please rain gods and end a four-month drought; and six Franciscan priests, in remote Copacabana, Bolivia, who specialize in blessing motorists against drunk drivers, bad brakes and gasoline shortages, based on a mixture of Catholicism and Andean Indian beliefs.

-- According to a June Boston Globe dispatch, the kingdom of Bhutan, nestled between India and Tibet, recently legalized television-watching for its 700,000 people and began broadcasting the news and other programs. Before that, the country's few TV sets were used only to watch imported videos. (And, according to a June New Yorker travelogue, the Bhutanese landscape is dominated by penis art, which is a tribute to the legendary Drukpa Kunley and supposedly inspires fertility.)

-- Zimbabwe, which seemed on the verge of a breakthrough on rights for women just 15 years ago, was set back by an April unanimous decision of its Supreme Court that adult females are inherently inferior to males and have a status akin to that of teen-ager. The court cited "the nature of African society" as its basis.

-- An April Chronicle of Higher Education report reviewed research showing that, in more than a dozen South American societies plus others in New Guinea, Polynesia and India, all men who have sex with a pregnant woman are considered joint biological fathers. In this "partible paternity," the fetus is considered fertilized by repeated contributions of sperm, and at least one society, the Canela of Brazil, believe the baby will most resemble the man who contributes the most sperm at any time during the nine months.

Cliches Come to Life

-- In June, Panama City, Fla., elementary school teacher Wanda Nelson was reprimanded for confiscating a National Geographic magazine from a fourth-grade boy because it was "pornography" (i.e., drawings of naked humans in a story on evolution). And two Illinois researchers told a professional convention in May of their findings that telling a lie triggers a release of hormones to the nose, increasing its size.

-- Sound Like Monty Python Sketches: Clifford Shattuck, 66, owner of the Lighthouse Motel in Lincolnville, Maine, was barred by court order in May from having any contact with motel guests after one complaint too many of his harassing his customers, including once tossing rocks at a potential guest's car. And in July, the first European Swamp Soccer Championship (with 62 teams competing) was played in Hyrynsalmi, Finland, on a playing field purposely knee-deep in mud.

-- Deborah Lee Benagh, 44, filed a lawsuit in July in Denver against Six Flags Elitch Gardens amusement park for roller-coaster injuries. Because her shoulder harness did not hold her securely, she said, she repeatedly struck her head during the ride and later suffered headaches and nausea, as well as short- and long-term memory loss. The name of the ride is "Mind Eraser."

Never Give Up

John Paul Roby, 56, was convicted in Toronto in May of 35 counts of sex crimes against minors, but not before a long and torturous trial in which a mountain of evidence (including testimony of 42 victim-witnesses) was produced against him, which in most cases he simply ignored while denying guilt. Highlights: a long colloquy in which he denied that a thoroughly authenticated photograph of him was really of him; a flat denial that "I never masturbate, period"; and repeated assertions that he could never have exposed himself in men's rooms (as witnesses claim) because his bladder control makes urination a rare event in his life.

Update

Michael Robert Wyatt, now 38, made News of the Weird in 1990 when he pushed a woman to the ground in Little Rock, Ark., and began sucking her toes. After several such incidents, he was ordered into counseling and has since stayed out of the news, getting married and taking a job as a mechanic in West Plains, Mo. However, in August 1999, Wyatt was arrested in Fayetteville, Ark., for allegedly harassing several women by telling them they would really look hot if they amputated some of their toes. Some women in West Plains reported similar incidents.

Least Competent Criminals

In Calgary, Alberta, in June, David Thomas Poole, 49, was sent to jail for one year for perjury committed while challenging a routine traffic ticket. Poole submitted a photograph of the intersection at which he was ticketed showing there was no left-turn-only lane, as the ticket stated. Actually, the left-turn lane had been reconfigured recently, and though Poole swore that he had taken the photo at the time of the incident in January, the judge was struck by the scene's green grass and trees in full flower.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 47-year-old burglar was crushed to death when a pickup truck fell off the jack as he was attempting to steal the wheels (London, Ohio). The police commissioner of Cambridge, Mass., admitted there was no scientific evidence to support the statement in his training manual that Mexican-Americans' diet makes them immune to pepper spray. An anesthesiologist was charged with stealing her surgeon-colleagues' credit cards from their lockers and buying designer clothes (San Francisco). Two police cars collided on the way to a doughnut shop (Panama City, Fla.; actually, the doughnut shop was a crime scene). Four veterinarians treated 10 dogs exhibiting "hallucinogenic stupor" and believe the cause is wild marijuana near the town's railroad tracks (Nelson, British Columbia).

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

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