News of the Weird

Week of March 19, 2000

-- Welsh artist Donald Jackson began work in March on a hand-lettered, 1,150-page Bible, whose specially pigmented ink will produce illuminated calligraphy and illustrations; the $3 million, six-year project is by St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn. At the other end of the technology spectrum, the Henderson (Ky.) Gleaner newspaper profiled in February retired bricklayer Truman Meredith, 64, who, despite never having learned to read, had just finished a yearlong project of neatly printing the entire text of the Bible onto 1,700 pages in 14 loose-leaf notebooks, with direct quotes of Jesus in red ink.

-- Prescription drugs suitable for both humans and animals usually carry different price tags, even though they may be exactly the same product, and are usually much more expensive for humans, according to a February report by the U.S. House of Representatives Government Reform Committee. For example, Medrol, an arthritis remedy for humans and an anti-inflammatory for dogs, is about one-fifth the price when intended for dogs. Critics say the pharmaceutical houses charge more for humans because most sales are at least partially reimbursed by insurance.

Professional Pride

At his booking on drug charges in December, Norman Hardy Jr. was asked by Brattleboro, Vt., police what his occupation was and answered defiantly, "Selling drugs." And at his booking in connection with a carjacking in November, Rafael A. Jackson, 28, was asked his occupation by East St. Louis, Ill., police and responded, "Homicide and robbery."

Can't Possibly Be True

-- After a 35-year-old man reported to a Brunswick, Ga., emergency room in January complaining of abdominal cramps, doctors removed 55 thin glass cocaine pipes (one of them 4 1/2 inches long) from his stomach; the man said he did not realize they were there because he was always high when he accidentally ingested them. (In September, according to a New Delhi, India, newspaper, veterinary surgeons removed 100 pounds' worth of plastic bags and other litter from the stomach of a cow during a four-hour operation.)

-- The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in October that Pennsylvania's lawsuit settlement with the tobacco companies included a $42 million windfall for the two law firms chosen by the governor to represent the state (about $1,300 an hour per lawyer), even though the case's research and arguments were largely copied from other states' lawsuits and the negotiations were streamlined because the tobacco companies had begun settling those cases. Among the expense-padding: $62 to one lawyer for 12 minutes' work (reading The Wall Street Journal) and $290 to another for an hour he spent ordering books.

-- In December, a court in Lusaka, Zambia, approved Dorothy Mapani's strategy to settle the dispute with her husband, Effas Ondya, over which of the two is more responsible for the couple's lack of a sex life. Ondya said he is uninterested because he believes Mapani is infertile, and Mapani has accepted Ondya's challenge to get pregnant, with any man, within 90 days. The $300 bet, said the court's two justices, seemed a reasonable way to resolve the issue.

-- Gay adult club owner Keneth McKeigan was convicted in Toronto in December of running a bawdy house and sentenced to 100 hours of community service. McKeigan's crime was running a three-month promotion at the club during 1995 and 1996 called "Sperm Attack Mondays," in which male dancers would masturbate on stage and for which some front-row customers donned raincoats.

-- An October New York Times report referred to the 75-mile stretch of I-95 between West Palm Beach and Miami (plus its connector freeways) as the "impalement capital" of the country because of the frequency with which unsecured cargo flies off of speeding trucks and cars, including the three times recently when metal rods skewered motorists' bodies, tacking them to the insides of their cars (though all survived). Drivers complain also of having to dodge, among other things, flying car parts, surfboards, lawn mowers and washing machines.

Great Art!

-- In December, the publisher Benedikt Taschen debuted a 480-page, 70-pound "coffee-table" book by renowned photographer Helmut Newton that is only available with its own coffee table, designed by Philippe Starck, for about $1,700.

-- In March, the venerable San Francisco Art Institute disciplined student Jonathan Yegge, 24, for his 10-minute performance-art piece, which he said "explores Hegel's master-slave dialectic" and Kant's theories on freedom of thought and action. However, what 20 observers and two instructors saw was Yegge and a blindfolded volunteer engaging in oral sex, then Yegge administering an enema, then the two men exchanging excreta. Complained Yegge, "They say you can do whatever you want as long as you can justify it artistically. I was given no chance to do that (before being disciplined)."

Parenting Licenses Revoked

In February, Dawn Marie Sprinkle, 29, was ordered by a judge in Helena, Mont., not to get pregnant for the next 10 years; she had failed several drug tests after her conviction for giving birth to a girl with amphetamines in her system. And in February, Kathy Looney, 29, was ordered by a judge in Monroe, La., to choose between sterilization and 10 years in prison, following her conviction for the extension-cord beatings of three of her eight children (all of whom she has now been denied custody).

Update

In June 1999, News of the Weird reported that Palestinian researcher (and 15-year U.S. resident) Mazen Al-Najjar had just completed his second year of federal incarceration in Bradenton, Fla., having never been charged with a crime and never told of the "evidence" against him. In February 2000, the FBI's General Counsel told a House immigration subcommittee that four other men are similarly incarcerated with no chance to present favorable evidence or to cross-examine witnesses against them. These exceptions to fundamental American rights are apparently permitted under a 1996 anti-terrorism law even though the "terrorism" evidence is known only to a few people in the U.S. government.

Thinning the Herd

A 24-year-old man accidentally shot himself to death in London, Ohio, in February while doing a scene with two friends in a rap music video. In other horseplay tragedies, a 22-year-old man fell to his death after sliding backward down a banister at America West Arena during the Phoenix Suns' basketball game on Dec. 20, and a 26-year-old standout amateur wrestler fell to his death from a Las Vegas light pole he had climbed in order to celebrate New Year's Eve better.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A land developer filed a lawsuit against a former city councilman for the return of the $25,000 bribe he paid (and for which both had gone to prison) (Kansas City, Mo.). A sixth-grader won a $1,500 judgment in small claims court against his school, which lost his 161 Pokemon cards after confiscating them (Pittsburg, Calif.). Twenty-one mayors and more than 100 other officials lost their jobs when a new provincial law in Newfoundland took effect, tossing out any officeholder who owes back taxes. A couple on a Valentine's Day holiday lit romantic candles, accidentally setting a major fire in their hotel (Hull, Quebec). Two teen-age boys fled police rather than stop for a minor equipment violation but were caught when they accidentally crashed their car into a police station (Modesto, Calif.).

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

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