News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- Former CIA officer Victor Marchetti told London's Daily Telegraph in November that the Company had a project in the 1960s ("Acoustic Kitty") in which a cat had batteries and wires surgically installed, with an antenna in the tail, so that it could be placed close to enemy operatives and transmit eavesdropped conversations back to a monitoring station. The project was five years in development when the first Kitty was deployed, but it was immediately run over by a taxicab.

-- A couple of days after the problem was highlighted in a Reuters news story (but several weeks after it had been going on), the Pentagon decided to change the color of the food packages it was dropping in Afghanistan, from yellow to blue, so recipients would be less confused. For several weeks, it had been dropping yellow packages of food and yellow packages of cluster bombs, along with fliers that explained that the square yellow packages were food and the cylindrical yellow packages were bombs, and urging people to open the former but avoid the latter.

-- In Contrast to Those Who Hold Grudges for Five Centuries: An October San Francisco Chronicle dispatch from Cape Town, South Africa, reported that the parents of Amy Biehl (who was murdered by a mob of South African black kids in a racially motivated attack in 1993) have come to grips with their tragedy to such an extent that they have established a foundation in Cape Town to help rescue kids in poverty and have hired their daughter's two principal killers to work for the foundation in order to rehabilitate their lives.

Transsexuals in the Mainstream

A judge rejected both the ex-wife's and the biological (from-the-womb) son's demands for the ashes of the late Patrick (formerly Pauline) Corn, and disposed of them according to the directions in Corn's will (Monticello, Ind., October). And former police captain Scott Cote said he would help prosecutors and testify about his estranged wife's worker-compensation fraud scheme but would only do so as Stacey Cote, his new identity (Miami, September). And Australia's Green party was represented in November elections in a Melbourne district by candidate Tony Briffa, 31, an open hermaphrodite who recently began living as a man.

Latest Religious Messages

-- Arson and Nakedness: The property-eschewing religious sect Doukhobours were in the news again recently. (The sect's breakaway Freedomites ritually burn property and ritually remove their clothes.) Mary Braun, 81, was convicted of setting fire to a college building in Nelson, British Columbia, in October. Her rap sheet for this type of thing is lengthy, and this episode appeared to be another of her revelations. She tried to attend court sessions nude, but staff members covered her with blankets.

-- Israeli security agents scrambled to high alert in September over what they feared was a suicide parachuter from Jordan, landing near the airport in the town of Eilat, Israel. It turned out merely to be Rabbi Shimon Eizenbach carrying out a pre-Yom Kippur ritual of kapparot, floating down in an ultralite glider while holding a hen in one cage (to atone for women) and a rooster in another (for men). Security forces held their fire, and the town was duly blessed.

-- In August, following an Israeli helicopter raid on the offices of the radical organization Hamas, the High Islamic Council in Saudi Arabia decreed for the first time that females would be allowed to be suicide bombers. (Two days later, a 23-year-old mother of two was arrested with 15 pounds of explosives at Tel Aviv's central bus station.)

-- In August, a Yorba Linda, Calif., Catholic official told the Los Angeles Times that a recent $5.2 million pedophile-priest settlement included a requirement that the church begin to install confessional doors that have windows, to help protect parishioners from priests. Said the official, "Building a church that creates a safe and open environment will be very important to (us)."

Cultural Diversity

-- In western Kenya near Lake Victoria, the Wanga faction of the Luhya tribe continue to practice "wife inheritance," in which a woman who becomes a widow is obliged to marry another family member (or risk acquiring a curse), a practice that opponents say is particularly bad in light of the region's high HIV-infection rate. According to a May Agence France-Presse dispatch, tradition provides that if a widow refuses to remarry, the family upon her death pays any available man to have sex with her corpse so that she can be posthumously "inherited" and her soul saved.

-- According to an October Knight Ridder dispatch from Vietnam, a favorite trysting place for prostitutes and their customers is the museum that used to be part of the "Hanoi Hilton" prisoner of war compound, and one of their preferred museum rooms is one in which U.S. pilots were held and tortured. Despite recent government attempts to curtail it, sex (under the street name "boom-boom") still flourishes.

People Different From Us

Several Canadian tax-evasion defendants have recently resorted to a language called "In the Truth" (invented by American David Wynn Miller) when they defend themselves in court. However, only true believers can distinguish the language from gibberish (one example: "With the sovereign, hyphen, authority of the Andrew, hyphen, William, colon, Sereda (the defendant) is for the stating of the authority of the noun"). Miller said he created the language to replace the "flawed syntax" of English. So far, according to an October Canadian Press report, most judges' preferred response is to award the "In the Truth" speakers a government-paid mental examination, and Canadian Immigration's response has been to keep Miller out of the country.

Thinning the Herd

William Stewart finally died of his injuries in November, three weeks after hanging himself in his jail cell, the latest tragedy to befall his Parma, Ohio, family. His wife, Joyce Stewart, died a month before William, allegedly murdered by him. William had been stopped on suspicion of DUI but then invited arrest by snapping gratuitously at the officer, "You can't get into my car without a warrant." The garbage bags in his back seat contained pieces of Joyce. Her son, Mark DiMarco, was serving 94 years for rape and murder before he hanged himself in his cell in 1999. Joyce had served time for obstructing justice in his case after having become sort of a house mother to Mark's gang of delinquents, and after Mark's death, Joyce treated Mark's bedroom as a shrine.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 20-year-old female karate black-belt, after bragging that she could catch in her hand an arrow shot from a bow, failed, merely deflecting it into her eye, which she lost (Jersey City, N.J.). Life-imprisoned Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols (whom many people would like to see dead, anyway) threatened to starve himself if he didn't get a higher-fiber diet. Researchers reported that a woman undergoing in-vitro fertilization had also become pregnant the old-fashioned way, thus producing two fetuses (Palo Alto, Calif.). The 17-year-old winner of a high school Halloween costume contest was suspended for breaking his promise to retire the costume (a full-body-length vagina) (Ann Arbor, Mich.).

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