News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- More Extremist Muslims: In October, a judge in Sokoto, Nigeria, ordered Ms. Safiya Hassaini, 35, stoned to death for adultery while her probable partner (her cousin, Yahaya Abubakar, 60) had the same charge against him dropped for insufficient evidence. (The evidence against Hassaini was that she is not currently married but had just given birth.) Sokoto is one of the northern Nigerian states that practice Muslim Sharia law, and as with the Afghanistan Taliban, posses of men with clubs roam the country looking for lawbreakers. Another quirk in the law: Though Hassaini is on death row, she was released on bail to care for the kid briefly, after which time she is supposed to report back to court so she can be killed.

-- In September, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution profiled desolate Echols County, Georgia (between Valdosta and the Okeefenokee Swamp), well-known to the state's judges because that is where they encourage lawbreakers to go when they really want them to leave the state altogether. The Georgia constitution prohibits banishing people from the state as punishment for crimes, so judges merely banish them from 158 of the state's 159 counties, trusting that they would never voluntarily settle in Echols, anyway, and such strategy seems always to work.

-- While most of North America endures a fear-of-anthrax frenzy, the Ontario Health Ministry in October fired its only five biohazard scientists for budgetary reasons, replacing them with three lab technicians with community-college degrees. Liberal Party spokespeople blamed the decision on the health minister's long-standing philosophy of smaller government, irrespective of consequences.

Urban Legends Come to Life

An April story from the official newspaper of the People's Republic of China reported that convicted killer Fu Xinrong had indeed had his kidneys illegally harvested after execution, by a company in Nanchang. And in October, a man walked into a Porsche dealership in Palo Alto, Calif., and through smooth-talking and luck, convinced an employee that he was the owner of the $125,000 Turbo 996 that the real owner was scheduled to pick up 20 minutes later. And in an incident reminiscent of a partially made-up June Slate magazine story, two men pleaded guilty in Corpus Christi, Texas, in July to having illegally "fished" for coyotes on federal land by reeling them in with fishing poles baited with deer meat.

Rights and Privileges

-- Britain's Legal Services Commission granted imprisoned murderer Shaun Armstrong, 39 (whose victim was 3 years old), legal aid for his privacy-rights lawsuit for about $25,000 against the friend to whom he confessed in writing and who turned him in. Armstrong wants back the letters he sent the friend, claiming ownership of his confession (which reads, "Yes, I'm responsible for the crime, but please don't tell anybody.").

-- An Ontario Superior Court judge ruled in May that spouses have no legal duty to inform each other of their adulterous affairs. A 52-year-old man had sued his estranged wife for about $210,000 (U.S.) for breaching her duty of "good faith" and "honesty" by hiding her affairs from him for 21 years, but the best the judge would do is agree only in cases where "hazardous" sexual activity outside the marriage would subject the spouse to health risks.

Trouble in the Workplace

-- London's Daily Telegraph reported in July about a recent job opening in Exeter, England: The Austern Electric Circus' knife-thrower Jayde Hanson's assistant had just walked off the job after being nearly hit in the foot, which would have been her third serious wound this season, which is also the number of wounds Hanson's former girlfriend took before she walked off the job last year.

-- Nolan Lett was awarded $17,000 from his former employer, Aramark Corp. (Oak Brook, Ill.), in October. He had fallen and broken his wrist after being chased by a goose as he arrived for work one day at Aramark's building, which he proved in court was a "high-goose" area, encouraged by the company's elaborate pond and garden. "It was very ferocious," Lett said. "It started acting crazy."

-- Municipal clerk Anne Frank filed a lawsuit against Greenwich, Conn., in August for back pay owing to her boss's having had an 11-year affair with his secretary. According to the lawsuit, the trysting couple were so often going at it that much of the secretary's work was passed down to Frank, and it was work that she was expected to complete in uncompensated overtime.

People Different From Us

-- From the police column of the weekly Leonard Graphic (Leonard, Texas, 35 miles north of Dallas), May 3, 2001: "A man claiming to be a medical student was charged with theft of service and given a trespass warning after it was discovered he lied about his reasons for being in the local nursing home two months ago. He told aides there he had permission from the home to 'live the life of the patient' and be bathed and diapered as part of a learning experience. However, when he returned to try the scam again on April 17, police were waiting for him. He was found to be a registered sex offender living in Melissa (Texas)."

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Six men were indicted in New York City in October for operating a drug ring, which came to the attention of firefighters, and then police, when one of the men curiously refused to evacuate his apartment across the street from the World Trade Center in the late morning of Sept. 11, despite the area's fires, falling debris and widespread panic. The reason: Inside, police found large supplies of drugs and paraphernalia.

Undignified Deaths

An elderly man was accidentally struck and killed by a fire truck that had been dispatched to take him to a hospital (Jacksonville, Fla., July). And a 41-year-old man ejected in a bar fight was accidentally struck and killed by a sheriff's patrol car responding to the bar's call for help (Fort Worth, Texas, August). And a 52-year-old woman was accidentally struck and killed by a friend driving to help her after she fell from her horse due to a bee sting (Middleburg, Va., September).

Also, in the Last Month ...

A mother, frustrated that a Sallie Mae loan office would not believe that her debtor-son was deceased, mailed them the cremation certificate and two teaspoons of his ashes, which not only was inadequate proof but caused a full anthrax panic (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.). Descendants of the 19th-century feuding Hatfields and McCoys resumed battling, in court, over whether McCoys are being blocked from a cemetery whose main access is controlled by the Hatfields (Pikeville, Ky.). Model (Ms.) Julian Fallon was awarded about $8,500 for career-stifling injuries from the collapse of a second-floor rehearsal studio, which left her straddling a beam and with disfiguring nail holes in her derriere (Dublin, Ireland). Deputies subdued a man after a 10-minute shootout, which he provoked, he said, because he was irritable after a long bout of constipation (Bloomington, Ind.)

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