News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- Patrick J. Murphy, deputy superintendent of schools in Cambridge, Mass., resigned in December after admitting that he solicited two of his staff members to write papers on Shakespeare for his 19-year-old daughter's literature class at Stonehill College in nearby Easton, Mass. The scheme blew up on Murphy when one of the papers received a D, and he tried to get the employee to rewrite it.

-- Among the new dog designer fashions unveiled at the 12th Pat Pet Friend Festival in November in Bangkok: a red-and-black, Michael Jackson-style military coat; a yellow-and-black bike racing jacket with bike-style helmet; a silver space suit-like cape; and a blue silk gown. According to designer Vasinee Apornpanit, the biggest market by far for dressing up dogs is Japan, where pet owners are now asking for cell phones and other high-tech gadgets to be sewn onto the dogs' outfits.

Schools That Need Zero-Tolerance Policies for Teachers

In October, a first-grade teacher in Rialto, Calif., taped a disruptive student's head to the wall of the classroom. And seventh-grade teacher Carrie White was accused in October of flinging a dictionary and a calculator at two disruptive students in Lodi, Ohio. And in June, high school substitute teacher Steven M. Catena was fired in Keansburg, N.J., after reports that he wrapped one student in masking tape and butcher paper in class and implored students to give another classmate a "swirly" (dunking in a toilet). And in Durban, South Africa, in May, a high school teacher and a principal pulled guns and opened fire on students who were protesting higher fees.


-- In an August dispatch from Katy, Texas (near Houston), the San Francisco Chronicle featured "Forbidden Gardens," P.H. Poon's 80-acre, $20 million, 1/20th replica of the Forbidden City in Beijing (shown as life-size in the 1987 film "The Last Emperor"), "what must be," according to the Chronicle, "one of the world's least known theme parks." The reporter noted only one vehicle in the parking lot and only a group tour of 16 kids in attendance.

-- After arresting Teri Harrington, 31, and Deana Watson, 28, in September, Sacramento, Calif., police told reporters that the women had apparently stolen large numbers of items from local stores at least 14 times in the previous two weeks, casually walking out each time with 20-gallon bins filled with clothes, videos, CDs, games and cosmetics.

-- In Windsor, Ontario, in August, the small wheel of a man's wheelchair got stuck on railroad tracks as a train was heard in the distance, and a female passerby in a wheelchair rolled out to help him, but her small wheel got stuck in the same rut. Both suffered minor injuries when the oncoming train could not completely stop.

First Things First

-- In October, Argentina exiled former Paraguayan military leader Luis Oviedo to remote Tierra del Fuego for violating the rules of his political asylum, which it had given him six months earlier. Oviedo had unsuccessfully requested a stay of his banishment, arguing that he had recently undergone a hair transplant and felt the windy, sunny weather in Tierra del Fuego would disrupt his new plugs.

-- In November, Robert Horton, 52, walked into a Phoenix courthouse carrying his wife, Belinda, who was bound at the legs, arms and mouth with gray duct tape. He told a security officer that she was due in court that day on a charge of assaulting a police officer, that he had posted bail for her, that she had threatened to skip the court hearing, and that he had taped and lugged her downtown to make sure he got his bail money back. Unknown to the Hortons, the charge against Belinda had been dismissed earlier that day, but prosecutors are still deciding whether to file charges against Robert for kidnapping his wife.

Ewwww, Gross!

-- Convicted killer Kenneth D. Williams escaped from prison in Arkansas in October by hiding in a 500-gallon barrel of hog slop being towed to a prison farm; he was apprehended 36 hours later. And two weeks later, robbery suspect Roderick King, 19, was found in a Dumpster full of fetid garbage in Knoxville, Tenn., where he had been hiding from police who chased him after he had gone to the home of the victim's aunt to convince her he was innocent.

-- Diana Thorneycroft's government-supported art exhibit, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in September, consisted of 12 dead rabbits, hung from trees and rotting, in the woods outside town; said the artist, "I'm celebrating the gloriousness of putrefaction." And in November, an unnamed male artist, submitting a project for an Accrington, England, show aiming to revitalize the local village, acceded to sponsors' wishes and redesigned his live-maggot exhibit, which was opposed by environmental officials.

People Who Should've Held It Until They Got Home

Elderly Margaret Barrs filed a lawsuit in Houston in November against Jack in the Box restaurants because she lost a fingertip when a heavy restroom door slammed on her hand in 1998. And Toronto lawyer Edward Skwarek, 37, filed a $1.5 million lawsuit in November against Starbucks for his restroom injury in one of the chain's New York City restaurants; Skwarek said he was seated on the commode, and when he turned to reach for toilet paper, the seat slipped and trapped his penis between it and the top of the bowl, mangling it.

Recurring Themes

-- News of the Weird has reported several times on successful surgeries to remove unusually large benign tumors, most recently in February 1999 in women in Baltimore (80-pound tumor) and Lancaster, Pa. (75 pounds). In December 1999, doctors at the University of Chicago hospital, working for 18 hours, removed a 200-pound tumor from a 40-year-old woman who weighed 120 pounds just 12 months earlier when the tumor's growth began. The largest tumor-removal on record, 303 pounds, occurred at Stanford Medical Center in 1991.

Least Justifiable Homicides

Insufficient Reasons to Kill Someone: Resisted taking a shower (Joseph Meehan, charged with strangling his son, 8, Toronto, November). Violated chess etiquette by moving a knight to a new square but then moving it back, even though he did not lift his hand (Mr. Buth Ratha, charged with clubbing his opponent to death with a wooden pestle, Prey Veng, Cambodia, July). Got accepted to kindergarten while her playmate did not (Mitsuko Yamada, 35, mother of the rejected, charged with strangling the accepted child, Tokyo, November).

Also, in the Last Month ...

A black man defended a bank robbery charge by claiming a 44-year history of brain damage owing to racism (Pittsburgh). A 23-year-old woman climbed down after two years high atop an ancient redwood tree where she had prevented a logging company from clearcutting the site (Stafford, Calif.). A Filipino man received 75 lashes for having two liquor-flavored chocolate bars at an airport in alcohol-dry Saudi Arabia. A man was arrested with a stolen TV and VCR, having called attention to himself by hauling them on the street in an obviously stolen U.S. Postal Service cart (York, Pa.). A Wicca-store owner at a mall sued a psychic-store owner at the mall for slander in their heated business rivalry. (Cape Cod, Mass.).

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