News of the Weird

Week of June 10, 2001


-- The human-egg-donor business is flourishing in America, with brokers offering tall, athletic, brainy blondes as much as $80,000 for a multiple-egg harvest (though the average woman gets $5,000 or less), according to a May Los Angeles Times report. Several Ivy League women told the Times they pay off a semester's bills in a single doctor's visit to have eggs extracted by syringe (after a several-week hormone regimen). Said a bioethicist, "There is not much difference between those [egg brokers'] ads and what goes on with prize breeding of animals."

-- Saddam Hussein recently ghost-wrote a 160-page romantic novel, "Zabibah and the King," according to CIA sources interviewed by The New York Times in May, which included a rape sequence in which his heroine (whose name translates to "people of Iraq") was invaded, probably as an allegory to the Gulf War. Sample dialogue: The King: "I'm a great leader. You must obey me. Not only that, you must love me." Zabibah: "The people need strict measures so that they can feel protected by this strictness."

-- British researchers, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists in San Francisco in May, reported that a poison used by South African Zulu tribesmen to coat the tips of their spears and arrows appears in trials to deprive human cancer tumors of blood without harming the surrounding tissue and thus could be a major weapon against cancers of the colon, ovaries and lungs. The toxin comes from the root bark of the Cape bushwillow.

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (43) People who impersonate teen-agers and return to high school to satisfy various psychological needs, such as Treva Throneberry, 31, who for four recent years was Brianna Stewart (Evergreen High, Vancouver, Wash., Class of '00, GPA 2.83), notable for getting a D in drama class despite her successful ruse and for getting a 45-year-old man jailed for having sex with an underage girl (which, in reality, she was not). And (44) the periodic scares in African nations, in which vigilante mobs are stirred up against outsiders rumored to have the power to make local men's penises disappear, as happened in April (two killed) in Ilesa, Nigeria.

Latest Rights

-- Richard L. Greist filed a lawsuit in January against the state mental hospital in Norristown, Pa., where he has been a patient since 1978 because he killed his pregnant wife and stabbed his daughter and grandmother. Greist complained that when officials would not consider him for an in-house job as a clerk, they violated his rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act, in that they were obligated to "accommodate" his severe paranoid schizophrenia.

-- Debby Messer of Livonia, Mich., filed a $1 million lawsuit in February against her late ex-husband, Gordie Milner, claiming that because he allegedly harassed her after their divorce, she still fears him to this day and cannot stop imagining that he is lurking around her. She said she knows full well that he passed away six months earlier but said that he still "continue[s] to hurt me [and] hurt the children."

-- In January, a Canadian court ruled in favor of convicted drug trafficker Khon Ha Tri in his lawsuit against the prison in Peterborough, Ontario, for his 1996 injury when he fell out of his bunk and tore a knee ligament. Tri said that a prison doctor had prescribed him a lower bunk because of a previous prison-incurred injury but that guards ignored the order. Though Tri had been released from prison after the lawsuit was filed, he has since been re-jailed on another charge.

Not My Fault

-- In March, the day after a federal grand jury in Philadelphia handed down a massive fraud indictment against him, former U.S. Rep. Edward Mezvinsky sued his doctor, his drugstore and the pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding, claiming the reason he got into trouble with his investment business was because the anti-malaria drug Lariam fogged up his thinking. Mezvinsky, who took the drug for business trips to Africa, was charged with 56 counts, totaling $10.4 million, based, said the government, on a series of lies to banks and clients, including his mother-in-law.

-- Martin Joyce, 20, filed a lawsuit in April against Reese's Tavern in Warminster, Pa., for serving him alcohol, which he says caused him to get shot. According to the lawsuit, if Reese's hadn't served him illegally, he would not have thought it such a good idea to stop a motorist just outside the bar to ask to borrow money to make a phone call. According to a police report, when the motorist declined the request, Joyce became belligerent, reached into the car, punched the motorist and threatened to kill him. The motorist then pulled out his licensed gun and shot Joyce in the stomach.

What's the Problem?

Questionable Crimes: An adult brother and his sister were arrested and charged with beating up three men who were conducting loud cell-phone calls while standing in front of the siblings' father's home in an early-evening hour (Boston, March). And three men were being sought by Hartford, Conn., police after a 14-year-old boy and a friend got beaten up in February; most likely, according to police, because the boys had been standing in a street, throwing candy at passing cars. And in April, Wisconsin state Rep. Marlin Schneider sought to formally legalize some retaliatory behavior, introducing legislation to permit battery if committed upon someone who is physically abusing a close relative (but local domestic violence officials were opposed to the bill).

People Different From Us

In Charleston, W.Va., in April, James Dale Duncan, 38, was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison for having sex with his daughter beginning when she was 13, for the purpose, according to him, of preventing her from ruining her life by getting pregnant with her boyfriend. Duncan insisted he acted only "from a parent's point of view and not a pervert's," and his sister agreed, telling the judge, "He didn't do this for pleasure." Unremorseful, Duncan said, after sentencing, "I'm going to jail knowing she won't end up pregnant."

Thinning the Herd

A 46-year-old toll-booth operator slipped and was accidentally dragged to his death by an 18-wheeler when he reached out of the booth to grab snow on the moving truck to arm himself for a snowball fight with another toll-booth operator (Wilmington, Del., March). Subway "graffiti artists"/vandals were killed on the job in April in Brooklyn, N.Y. (hit by a train), and Chicago (electrocution). And a 19-year-old man was killed as he ran a red light while attempting to flee a minor traffic accident that he caused (Largo, Fla., April).

Also, in the Last Month ...

A judge threw out charges against a couple carrying 560 pounds of marijuana, because the search was triggered by the incompetent police dog "Falco," two-thirds of whose previous discoveries turned out to be bogus (Knoxville, Tenn.). A man was arrested for locking his 5-year-old nephew in a 100-plus-degree car because he feared thieves would steal the stereo if the car were unattended (Los Angeles). A 42-year-old Good Humor vendor was convicted of disrupting a public school, because so many junior-high kids were walking out of classes to buy ice cream (Winnipeg, Manitoba). Glenda Stevens' dog Sweetie was hit by a mail truck and presumed dead, and then ceremoniously buried in Stevens's back yard, but minutes later, Sweetie dug her way out and is now mending (broken leg and jaw) (Park Hills, Mo.).

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or, or go to

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

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