News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- A small but growing number of people in strife-torn Pakistan deal with their woes by smoking scorpions, according to a November Reuters dispatch from Quetta. Users dry the scorpion's stingers, grind them up, light the powder, and suck in the smoke. "When I smoke scorpion," said Ghulam Raza, "then the heroin is like nothing to me." Quetta addicts tend to hang out at a local cemetery, where outsiders will not bother them (though there is an occasional problem with enstupored persons falling into partially dug graves).

-- A 33-year-old man was taken to Via Christi Regional Medical Center in Wichita, Kan., on Nov. 13 with a coat hanger stuck in his throat, but there was a logical explanation, he told the hospital staff. At a party, "someone," he said, had slipped a dime-sized balloon containing what he heard was cocaine into his drink, and after accidentally ingesting it and feeling it stick in his throat, he decided to try to fish it out with the coat hanger. Surgeons unhooked the hanger, but police recovered the bag, and prosecutors said they would probably file a felony drug possession charge against the man.

-- Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation told a Society for Neuroscience meeting in November in San Diego that their study had found that muscles were strengthened 35 percent and 13 percent, respectively, among two groups of people who merely concentrated on imagining they were exercising (vs. no increase at all by control groups that neither exercised nor imagined exercise).

Breakthroughs in Artificial Body Parts

In August, the Food and Drug Administration approved the artificial Neosphincter, a prescription-required, pump-operated device to give relief for otherwise-hopelessly incontinent people; although the device recorded too many "adverse incidents" in trials to be marketed to the general population, it claimed a 90 percent success rate for patients specially trained in its use. And in October, Toronto cosmetic surgeon Robert Stubbs, who has a thriving practice in silicone testicle implants for men missing one or both, told the Edmonton Journal that he can now offer special implants for fully testicled men who merely want bigger ones.

The Litigious Society

-- Dionne French filed a lawsuit in federal court in New Mexico in October over a 1998 incident, charging the Santa Fe Southern Railway and a conductor and brakeman with negligence in not stopping a train in time to avoid hitting her. French, who was homeless at the time and living near Santa Fe, admitted that she was lying on the tracks asleep, and with a brown blanket over her, but said the railroad still had the obligation to detect her presence and stop.

-- It Actually Happens: Dorothy M. Ellis Williams filed a lawsuit in July against the QuikTrip gas station in Edwardsville, Ill., for injuries to her back and knee when she slipped on a banana peel while walking out the front door.

-- Scott Bender filed a lawsuit against U.S. Airways in October, charging that a crew on a February flight from North Carolina had closed up the plane that was parked at a gate in Birmingham, Ala., and left him sleeping in his seat. Bender said he deserves some money from the airline because when he woke up, it was pitch black, and he thought for a few seconds that he was dead.

Sex Crimes on Trial

-- Sudanese-born gynecologist Darwish Hasan Darwish dropped to his knees and praised Allah after he was found not guilty by a jury at Preston (England) Crown Court in October on a charge that he had raped a woman whom he had put under hypnosis. The woman later gave birth to his child, which was assumed for years to have been her husband's, until her husband, who is a plumber, installed a sauna in the Darwish home and noticed a resemblance between one of Darwish's daughters and his own. The jury apparently believed the sex might have been consensual, but among the things the judge did not permit jurors to know was that Dr. Darwish had already been convicted of having sex with patients under similar circumstances nine times.

-- In July, Dr. Richard Dye of Half Moon Bay, Calif., was acquitted of sexual assault on female patients despite his admission that he had therapeutically brought at least four women to climax on his examination table during his years as a family practitioner. (Police said he had told them it was "100" women.) Though several woman had made complaints against him, a large contingent of his female patients attended the trial, enthusiastically supporting him.

People Different From Us

In an incident resembling a movie scene, Alan Martin, 49, was hospitalized in fair condition after being run over on Oct. 1. He had deliberately lain down in the middle of a busy street in Daly City, Calif., as a protest against officers' confiscating his RV, which had just been involved in a minor accident. Martin refused to budge from the street so officers tried to shield his body for a while by blocking a lane of traffic with their cruisers, but then along came one of those notorious California hot-pursuit police chases, with the car driven by fleeing suspect Kevin Domino, 37, accidentally ramming the stopped cruiser, then driving over Martin's body, then trying to straighten out his car and inadvertently running over Martin again, before taking off. (Police caught Domino a few blocks later when his car stalled out.)

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported several times on romantic-revenge cases from Japan, in which spurned lovers make it nearly their life's work to harass former suitors, sometimes telephoning dozens of times a month for years. Recently, Masashi Kimura made 220 phone calls to the 25-year-old woman who had ignored his advances, and the man was arrested in October. In most traditional cases, the couple had had a previous relationship; in this case, Kimura (of Nagoya, Japan) was still trying to pester the woman for just a first date, and the 220 calls were made in about one month's time.

Least Competent Criminals

Stephen Millhouse, 20, was convicted of burglary in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in October, for breaking into the apartment of a 21-year-old woman and awakening her. According to her testimony, Millhouse was only slightly aggressive, mostly asking politely for sex, which she declined. Frustrated, Millhouse then asked for an actual date. She finally gave him her phone number just to get rid of him, and when he called her back, she arranged a meeting and, ultimately, for his arrest. Millhouse's lawyer told the jury that his client is too stupid to be dangerous, even asking Millhouse on the stand, "Did you really think she wanted to see you again?" (Millhouse answered, "I didn't know for sure. That's why I called.")

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 22-year-old man got 60 years in prison for shooting two guys who laughed at his brother's haircut (shaved all around except for a patch of hair surrounding his pony tail) (Chicago). Former president Lee Teng-hui of Taiwan warned citizens that if they didn't vote for the candidates he is endorsing, he will kill himself. The 270-pound president of a group that helps steer at-risk kids away from crime (and who coaches a football team of 7-year-olds) was arrested for punching a referee in the head (Sarasota, Fla.). Two weeks after the House of Representatives' highly criticized decision to fearfully shut down because of anthrax mail, its members voted themselves $12,000 pay raises.

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