News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- In the December Medical Journal of Australia, an authority on in-vitro fertilization predicted that sexual intercourse will largely fade away as a means of procreation, in favor of technology that can achieve genetic preferences and avoid genetic risks. Such technology, noted another author in the issue, would eventually render males unnecessary for reproduction, and in fact, given the growing weakness of Y chromosomes, alternative reproduction methods (such as cloning) would be necessary even to assure males' continued existence.

-- In January, Recanati, Italy (population 20,000), enacted animal rights regulations that are among the world's toughest, including requiring people to respect domestic animals' need to socialize with their own breed and for their "legitimate sexual needs." Also, pets' living quarters must be at least 9.6 square yards, lighted, ventilated, and kept at a comfortable temperature.

The Green Protein

-- Because jellyfish genes contain a protein that turns green, scientists have used them frequently in recent years in genetic modification work, including the protein's introduction into a potato to enable the spud to glow when it needs water (Scottish Agricultural College, June) and its proposed introduction into a Douglas spruce to create Christmas trees with glowing needles (Hertfordshire University, England, October). A similar process can be done with firefly genes, which was proposed for the Douglas spruce project and is also now being done with zebrafish in order to produce organisms that light up when they detect certain water pollutants (University of Cincinnati, December).

Creme de la Weird

-- The 287-gun collection of legally blind Philadelphia psychiatrist John Ingui was briefly confiscated by police in August after his landlord discovered the arsenal on a visit to collect overdue rent. Federal officials said Ingui's 60 assault rifles, 150 semiautomatic pistols and 50,000 rounds of ammunition were properly registered and returned them to him.

-- Connersville, Ind. (population 15,500; tooth decay rate 20 percent higher than the state average), is by far the largest town in the state not to have fluoridated water, but the new city council elected in November is expected to change that. Until now, anti-fluoride activists had scared the town with claims that "fluoride" was really disguised toxic wastes that the federal government needed to discard and that if it got into Connersville's water supply, it would kill townspeople's brain cells.

-- Despite his criminal record (rape), his failure to pay income tax and his bizarre testimony, former world heavyweight boxing champion Trevor Berbick won his deportation hearing in Toronto in December and can remain in Canada for at least five more years. At the hearing, Berbick insisted that his criminal record was the result of a conspiracy masterminded by boxer Larry Holmes and that he lost his title to Mike Tyson only because someone pumped gas into his hotel room before the fight. At one point in the hearing, Berbick yelled out, "Power nap!" and abruptly fell asleep for a few minutes at the table.

Government in Action

-- In November, U.S. Customs finally decided to let in 20 tons of birdseed from Canada after having detained it in Detroit since Aug. 9 because records indicated it had been processed from industrial hemp, which is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant from which marijuana is derived (even though hemp is notoriously nonpsychoactive and, according to an October New York Times report, the Detroit hemp had 1/2800th the potency of even the weakest marijuana).

-- In November, following legislation pushed through by the Labor Party, the seats of the 755 members of Britain's House of Lords who inherited their titles were eliminated, but the members were allowed to elect 92 among them to continue, with each candidate's "campaign" limited to a 75-word written statement. Among the platforms: Viscount Monckton of Brenchley's proposal to muzzle cats outdoors and to oppose fishing with rods, and Lord Colwyn's highlighting his experience as chairman of the Refreshment Subcommittee.

-- According to a paper leaked to reporters in September, the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, was fully prepared in the event of the Second Coming of Christ at New Year's. City Manager Mike Richardson, a fundamentalist Christian, had prepared the paper for his religious brethren, noting that the city's swimming pools could be used for mass baptisms; the newly refurbished Jade Stadium was available for saints' meetings; and the recently completed downtown Cathedral Square symbolized a defeat of Satan, who had tried to delay construction.

-- The Boston Globe reported in November that a woman recently evicted from public housing for assaulting a neighbor was temporarily put up for three nights free of charge at a four-star Boston hotel (the Back Bay, at $285 a night) and then at a Holiday Inn for two more nights (at $175 each). According to the Boston Housing Authority, use of the Back Bay was justified because local conventions had used up every other hotel room in the city.

People Who Are Not Like You and Me

In December, Leonard Oak, 51, was convicted of aggravated assault in St. Johnsbury, Vt., for shooting Richard Lavoie in the shoulder. According to an eyewitness, Oak and Lavoie were "playing chicken" with their rifles at Lavoie's home by firing rounds as close to each other as they could without hitting anything. After Lavoie missed Oak's head by no more than 6 inches, Oak shot out a clock in the home, which infuriated Lavoie and caused him to threaten Oak, who then shot Lavoie to show that he was not intimidated.

Recurring Themes

The Classic Middle Name (All-New): Suspected of murder (Montreal, October): Michael Wayne McGray. Charged with murder (Rocky Mount, N.C.; February 1999): Thomas Wayne Akers and (Park Hills, Mo., December) John Wayne Moore Jr. Indicted for murder (Talbot County, Md., October): Richard Wayne Spicknall. Convicted of murder (Benton, Mo., August): Michael Wayne Summers and (Appomattox County, Va.; February 1999) Brandon Wayne Hedrick. Execution Stayed (Jarratt, Va., October): murderer Michael Wayne Williams. Escaped and still at large (Calgary, Alberta, November): murderer Darryl Wayne Claughton. Escape attempt foiled (Starke, Fla., December): murderer Ronald Wayne Clark Jr.

Least Justifiable Homicides

Music Kills: Dario Bongo, 36, admitted in September that he killed Carlos San Miguel in Carlton, Minn., stabbing him 80 times, because Mr. San Miguel insufficiently appreciated the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan. And Robert Chaulk, 30, admitted in December that he stabbed to death a Bosnian refugee couple he was visiting in Winnipeg, Manitoba, because they wouldn't let him put on a Joe Cocker album.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 36-year-old man, baby-sitting girls ages 6 and 7, was charged with tumbling them in a dryer as punishment (Toledo, Ohio). An embezzler asked a judge to give him back some of the restitution money he had paid because he was having trouble finding work (Durham, N.C.). A prison inmate, saying that he feared the New Year, sewed his eyes and lips shut with dental floss (Concord, N.H.). A 52-year-old man in Copenhagen, Denmark, inebriated and playing with toy boats in his bathtub, phoned in several "mayday" calls to a rescue agency claiming his ship was going down in the Baltic Sea. A 38-year-old man stole a Mack truck and went on a downtown car-smashing spree, blaming confusion caused by the government-implanted, satellite-activated microchip in his stomach (Tampa, Fla.).

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