News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



-- University of Wisconsin-Madison veterinarians said in September they now have the technology to detect the fraudulent use of three udder-enhancing schemes employed on show cows at dairy exhibits. Forty percent of a cow's grade is on how full, symmetrical and smooth her udders are (but unlike in, say, human beauty contests, cow udders are important only for their financial, milk-producing potential). Tests of the milk can detect whether saline was injected into the udder, and ultrasound can reveal whether the udder has received isobutane gas "foamies" or a liquid silver protein that does for the udder what Botox does for human wrinkles.

-- In recent months, at the same time that the Bush administration was mobilizing support for a military invasion of Iraq, other administration representatives were working with Iraq (and Iran, Libya, Sudan and the Vatican, and against almost all of the U.S.'s traditional allies) to resist United Nations worldwide support of "reproductive health services" (including abortion), sex education (except "abstinence") and gay rights. One critic called it "pervers(e)" to blame Iraq for "unspeakable acts of terrorism" while joining them "in the oppression of women."

Contemporary Holy Shrines

(1) A Mud Puddle (in the shape of Buddha's footprint, attracting pilgrims to Thailand's Pungna province and "guarded" by a frog whose skin is being fondled by people searching for lottery numbers) (September); (2) a Potato (in the shape of the Hindu god Ganesh, attracting pilgrims to a private home in Bombay, India) (September); (3) An Outline in a Dead Tree Trunk (in the likeness of the Virgin Mary looking down at her baby, attracting pilgrims to the property of nonbeliever Bill Gaede in Fresno County, Calif.) (September); (4) the Condensation on a Greenhouse Wall (in the image of the Virgin Mary, attracting pilgrims to a private home in Ile-a-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan) (September).

Can't Possibly Be True

-- In September, Washington state Sen. Joe Zarelli acknowledged to The Columbian newspaper that he had collected $12,000 in unemployment benefits in 2001-2002 without declaring that he was also being paid $32,000 a year as a senator, but he blamed the state bureaucracy for not catching him and explaining to him why that was wrong. Sen. Zarelli said he "had no clue" that he was supposed to report his legislator's salary (which would count against any benefits he might receive) and said he thought the reason the Employment Security agency was after him was because he is a Republican.

-- Medell Banks, a retarded, poor black man from Butler, Ala., is serving a 15-year sentence for manslaughter as a result of his confession that he killed his newborn baby in 1999, despite strong evidence that there was never a baby in the first place. While in jail in an earlier incident, Banks' estranged wife claimed she was pregnant, hoping for lenient treatment, but refused to be examined except cursorily by a local doctor who said he thought he heard a fetal heartbeat. When Mrs. Banks' "baby" vanished, authorities assumed it had been born and killed. (Mrs. Banks had been sterilized four years earlier, and doctors say she remains sterile.) (In August, a state appeals court ordered a new trial for Banks, but he remains in prison through the obstinacy of the district attorney, Robert Keahey.)

Police Blotter

-- From the Bozeman (Mont.) Chronicle, 9-24-02: "A caller reported at 7 p.m. Sunday that a man was holding a knife to a woman in a car parked in the Albertson's parking lot. Officers responded and determined that the woman was actually using the man's knife to clean her teeth."

-- From the Orem, Utah, Daily Herald, 9-4-02: "Orem police officers responded to a report of someone seeing a man dragging a woman into a residence.... The woman explained that she had been 'playing hard to get' and had been running around until her boyfriend could catch her, and he then played like a caveman and dragged her into the house, (a police) spokesman said."

-- From the August 2002 Alta, Utah, town newsletter (as featured in the Salt Lake Tribune): "July 14: At 12 p.m., the deputy on duty responded to a report of a man chasing a moose in Albion Basin. It is suspected that this is related to a subsequent report of a moose chasing a man."

People With Issues

"Shy," "brilliant" (according to colleagues) neurologist Joseph James Warner was arrested in Gainesville, Fla., in August (following a domestic altercation) and charged with illegally storing numerous human heads, brains and other body parts in his home. Warner was teaching at the University of Florida but was immediately fired because the body parts belonged to the school's lab and could not be lawfully removed. A former girlfriend called the Warner home a "hellhole" because of the organ-containing tanks and jars strewn around the house, and a St. Petersburg Times reporter said many of Warner's co-workers described him as a "deeply troubled man."

Recurring Themes

As News of the Weird has reported, sometimes workers accidentally fire their nail guns into their heads, and often they survive just fine, thanks to skilled surgeons (and luck). In August, Denver firefighter David Lilja's gun kicked back, propelling one 3 1/2-inch nail through his jaw and another through his cheek, but they missed vital parts (except for an artery, but the position of the nail kept the artery from hemorrhaging); he's fine now. A few days later in Santa Clarita, Calif., an errant nail went through construction worker Jorge Hernandez's eye socket, into his brain, but he remained conscious and didn't realize what had happened until he looked into a mirror; he's fine, too.

Updates to Recent "News of the Weird" Stories

Swaziland's King Mswati, who decreed last year that virgin girls proudly wear wool tassels signifying their purity, was sued by the mother of his prospective 12th wife, objecting to the king's "authority" to snatch girls from their families (His father had 125 wives.) (September). And British composer Mike Batt (who issued, as a song, a minute's worth of absolute silence) caved in, paying off the estate of John Cage (composer of "4'33"" -- 4 minutes, 33 seconds of silence) in a copyright settlement (September). And the Raelians announced they had implanted several cloned-human embryos and that they fully expect the first to be born in early 2003 (July).

Our Civilization in Decline

A 12-year-old boy drowned because the 10 people on the river bank watching him flail away wouldn't budge until the boy's father raised the rescue price to the equivalent of $1,100, but by then it was too late (Henan province, China, July). The education commissioner of Nova Scotia announced a new high-school graduation system, with some graduates receiving specially marked diplomas noting that they never passed the mandatory literacy test. A Norwegian environmental research group said the chemical pollutants PCBs, drifting northward, might be responsible for recent strains of polar bears born with both male and female sex organs.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 55-year-old condemned murderer-drug dealer, who suffered a heart attack just as the hangman's noose was placed on his neck, was revived, hospitalized and rescheduled for execution (Khomeini Shahr, Iran). A 25-year-old man in scrubs was arrested at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital and charged with sexual assault for fondling women after telling them that he was a "lactation consultant." And at a meeting on Oct. 8, citizen J.T. James angrily threatened to initiate a lengthy recall campaign against all five Salinas, Calif., city council members, apparently unaware that all five are up for re-election on Nov. 5. And Montana Republican U.S. Senate candidate (and former salon owner) Mike Taylor angrily withdrew from the race after his Democratic opponent ran attack ads that Taylor said made him look gay.

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