News of the Weird

Week of March 11, 2001

-- In December, a judge in Albuquerque approved the settlement of a class-action lawsuit against Primerica Life Insurance in which the class's lawyers get about $7.5 million in costs and fees while only two people out of the 6 million-customer "class" get any money at all ($30,000 each). Also imminent until mid-February was the settlement of a similar lawsuit against Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance in which the class's lawyers would receive $5 million plus other benefits while only two members of that 3 million-customer "class" would get any money at all (a total of $350,000). (Because of heavy criticism in the latter case, the settlement collapsed in mid-February.) Both lawsuits came about when lawyers felt the insurance companies had not disclosed the precise charges for customers who pay premiums monthly instead of annually.

-- "Vote for Me, and I'll Fight for You": In January, a 55-year-old member of the Turkish parliament died shortly after being punched in the head about five times by legislators from the far-right Nationalist Action Party who disagreed with him on whether the chamber's rules of debate should be changed. Although it was the parliament's first death, fights are known to break out there, unlike the extraordinary two-judge fistfight in January at the courthouse in New Orleans; according to WDSU-TV, the combatants were judges Steven Plotkin and Charles Jones, and the results were not announced.

-- In January, News of the Weird reported that a North Dakota man had qualified under that state's law for a concealed-weapon permit even though legally blind, but that man had at least satisfied the state's reasonable shooting test by hitting a human-sized target 10 times out of 10 from a distance of 21 feet (after practice shots to get his bearings). However, in February, according to a report in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky's weapons law has also permitted at least two legally blind people to obtain licenses, and in that state, the shooter must hit the human-sized target, also from 21 feet, only 11 times out of 20.

Latest Protests

According to Reuters news service, a January campaign attributed to Venezuelan military dissidents has seen more than 100 pairs of women's panties mailed to current military brass to make the symbolic point that the generals have been pushed around by President Hugo Chavez. And police in Davos, Switzerland, trying to contain protesters at the World Economic Forum in January, loaded their high-pressure water cannons with manure bought from local farmers. And among the chants by union-organizing strippers picketing to keep potential customers away from a San Francisco club (in a new British documentary): "2-4-6-8! Don't come here to masturbate!"

Inexplicable

-- In December, the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Fire Department was designated as the year's recipient of a $2,400 donation by a civic group that, for the fourth straight year, raised money by holding an event at a strip club, the motif of which was that dancers had their bare chests rubbed with a ham. (Despite the department's current need for $8,000 to buy a computerized talking fire truck to use in safety exhibits, the fire captain declined the contribution as inappropriate.)

-- Bob Manion, who has appeared as Flasher the Clown at festivals near his home in Clayton, Calif., for nearly 20 years, was rejected in January for this year's Walnut Festival and will probably be rejected as well for Clayton's Fourth of July parade, as organizers of both events say his act has started to worry people. Manion carries a small Yorkshire terrier inside his pants, and for a surprise, opens the costume and allows kids to pet the dog.

-- In February, Girl Scout officials of the San Jacinto Council near Houston announced that this year's father-daughter event would be a "pajama party" dance in which fathers and the girls, aged 11-17, would come dressed in sleepwear; after some complaints ("It would attract every pervert in the city," said one mother), the council changed the dress code to sweatsuits. And The Tennessean newspaper reported in November that the longstanding Halloween tradition of the Morris Levine family near Nashville, to hand out gift "daddy bags" to fathers accompanying trick-or-treaters, was not well-received by all parents because some of the bags contained copies of Penthouse and Hustler.

Ewwwww! Gross!

-- The Museum of Natural History in London decided against creating the scent of the dinosaur because it was just too disgusting, according to a February Associated Press dispatch identifying Dale Air Deodorising Ltd. of Lytham, England, as the company that had the contract to simulate the smell. Said Dale's owner Frank Knight: "The T-rex would have to be the most putrid, foulest thing that ever lived. A hyena times 10 would not even get you close." The odor would have to account for the chunks of rotted meat of its prey caught in its teeth, he said, and probably a few pus-filled wounds, as well.

-- The Ontario Court of Appeal, in the course of its January ruling that drug charges against a teen-ager at a Marilyn Manson concert would have to be thrown out because of police entrapment, described a scene that some concert-goers found gross and scary in its own way: older men (undercover police officers) dressed in Goth garb trying to trick kids into selling them marijuana by saying things like, "Hey, man, it's going to be a wicked concert" and "Hamilton (Ontario) sucks."

Least Competent People

Barry Darrell Freeman, 29, was convicted in January of an attempted rape last year near Philadelphia. According to testimony, things started to go bad for Freeman when the victim asked him to take off his own clothes and then chided him until he did. With his clothes off, the woman saw that he was not carrying a gun, and ran away, eventually to outrun Freeman to safety. However, during the chase, according to the woman, Freeman kept muttering something about not being able to trust a woman.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has reported on studies revealing that certain types of water pollution are causing some simpler forms of marine life to change sexes, but in a report in a December 2000 Science News, University of New Brunswick (Canada) researcher Kelly Munkittrick disclosed that most of the large female chinook salmon around Washington state appear to have been born males, although he believes so far that neither escaping nuclear materials from the Hanford plant near Richland nor estrogen-rich pesticides common to the area appear to be the cause.

People Different From Us

Excerpts from letters written by convicted murderer Christa Pike, 24, to fellow imprisoned Tennessee Satan-worshipping murderer John Fryman, who apparently believe they can communicate their love for each other telepathically (as reported in the Knoxville News-Sentinel in January): "(Blood) is quite beautiful before it turns brown." "I love the feel of life then lack thereof in my hands. And just knowing the pain I can cause after accepting so much." "I like to see blood and brains fatty tissues and wide-open ripped flesh." "See, I have an innocent baby face, the face of an angel. It disguises me to a lot of people. I need my horns so I'll have something to hang my halo on." "I used to have 3 (demons), now only one. The other 2 were weak. I do wish you'd remove this one. He may be big and tough, but he's stupid, and he's holding me back." "I'm unlike all the others, Johnny. You know that!"

Also, in the Last Month ...

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a state law protecting public school teachers from insults, as unconstitutionally vague (though the justices did agree that the 13-year-old defendant was wrong to call her teacher a "bitch"). A 19-year-old zookeeper was mauled to death after answering nature's call too close to the cage of a tiger, which was attracted by the scent (Jinan, China). Rep. Joseph Brooks introduced a bill in the Maine legislature to add a nickel-a-butt deposit (as now with soda bottles) to each cigarette sold. A customer filed a lawsuit against Taco Bell for injuries she suffered during an employee food fight (Nashua, N.H.)

(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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