News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 17, 2002

LEAD STORIES

-- Among issues in the months-long labor-management strife at the Taronga Zoo (Sydney, Australia): Workers have resisted managers' alleged solution for getting Kibabu the gorilla to mate (following his rejection of all females for six years now), which was to have the keepers sedate him, stimulate him manually, and collect his sperm in a container (but that, said one keeper, would be "too bloody dangerous. What if he woke up?"). It now appears that zoo officials are resigned to use technology instead, by a process called electro-ejaculation. Earlier, workers had announced a partial strike for a 3 percent pay increase, in that they would stop picking up animals' droppings (whereupon management began docking their pay of the "poo allowance" of the equivalent of US $2.40 an hour.

-- On Nov. 2, skydiver Ron Sirull (1,000 career jumps) performed at the Air and Space Show at Vandenberg Air Force Base (just north of Lompoc, Calif.), accompanied by his Dachshund, Brutus the Skydiving Dog (100 career jumps), to the protests of animal-rights activists but (according to Sirull) to the delight of Brutus, who was "totally turned on." (Brutus doesn't jump alone; he wears goggles and rides in Sirull's jumpsuit. According to Sirull, Brutus' vet and the Arizona Humane Society say the jumps are safe.)

People Lower Than a Snake's Belly

In August, Brian Lynch of Scotchtown, N.Y., was convicted of stealing $8,000 in donations intended for a Sept. 11 FDNY widow. Also in August, Vernon Coleman, 32 (of Philadelphia), and Dane Coleman, 28 (of Upper Darby, Pa.) (who are not related), were arraigned on charges of stealing $35,000 from a donation fund for Afghan children displaced by the war. Also in August, New York City landlord Denise M. Lyman announced she would not allow the family of Sept. 11 victim Danielle Kousoulis into Danielle's old apartment to secure DNA to help detect her remains because Danielle had breached her Sept. 1, 2001, lease by failing to give three months' notice before "abandoning" the apartment.

Chutzpah!

-- According to a September New York Times report, New York City homeless-shelter workers believe that "50 to 75 percent" of the current population of 8,000 families (2,000 more than the year before) are "unreasonably picky" about moving into permanent assisted housing, thus remaining in temporary apartments at an average cost to the city of $2,800 per family per month. Sara Kelly, a mother of six and eight-year assisted-housing client, said she could not accept a three-bedroom apartment because "you had to walk through one bedroom to get to another bedroom to get to a bathroom (and) I can't live like that. (I am) choosy about where I live."

-- In White River Junction, Vt., in October, Stewart Fuller, 41, was charged with looting about $30,000 worth of goods from the house of neighbors Roger and Shirley Labelle (who were away) and holding a three-day yard sale nearby so that when the Labelles returned, they couldn't help but notice that some of their neighbors had their stuff.

-- Earlier this year, 89 wives, daughters and lovers of wealthy or powerful Mexican men posed chicly in extravagant settings with complete lack of inhibition about their opulence, for photographer Daniela Rossell's coffee-table book, "Ricas y Famosas" ("Rich and Famous"), thus appearing to taunt the 53 percent of Mexicans who live in poverty. Rossell, who comes from the upper class herself, and is thought to have made the book in part because of conflicted views of her upbringing, has since received threats from the embarrassed wealthy, who apparently miscalculated how their pictures would be perceived.

Life Imitates a Rodney Dangerfield Joke

Herbert Toney, 36, and Latisha Washington, 29, were arrested in October in St. Bernard Parish, just outside New Orleans, and face several charges including deserting their 8-year-old son. According to police, the couple instructed the son to go into a Winn Dixie supermarket and steal groceries and beer. When a security guard stopped him, the boy pointed out his parents nearby, but Toney and Washington matter-of-factly denied knowing the kid and walked away. Deputies brought the couple in again a while later, but Washington said only that maybe she had seen the boy around the neighborhood a few times. Finally, she admitted he was hers.

Extremely Effective Clothing

According to a July Reuters photo dispatch from the mountains of northeast Colombia, U'wa Indian girls' traditional "cocora" hats, designed to encourage chastity from puberty until marriage, consist of oversized cones made of layers of large sheets of green leaves, all completely covering the girls' heads, except for narrow eye slits.

People Different From Us

Suspected cult leader Scott Caruthers, 57, was arrested in September in Carroll County, Md., and charged with conspiracy to murder the ex-husbands of two of his alleged disciples; according to a Baltimore Sun report, Caruthers has claimed to be an alien who reported back to the mother ship by messages to cats. And Dem Mam, 54, head of a fringe Buddhist cult, was freed from custody in October, having been determined not responsible for three disciples' immolating themselves in a bathtub of gasoline in a Cambodian countryside pagoda; Dem Mam teaches that ritual suicide is the only path to heaven but told police that he did not need to commit suicide himself because he is already holy enough.

Least Competent Criminals

Ronnie Dale Jones, 33, was arrested in Brevard, N.C., in September after he, for some reason, drove into a parking lot and past several police officers standing by their cars, talking; Jones apparently had momentarily forgotten he had a very large marijuana plant in his back seat. And a 22-year-old man was detained by a sheriff's deputy in Gainesville, Fla., in October after he had been stopped routinely for an expired tag; as the men were conversing casually, the deputy noticed a rolled-up marijuana joint behind the man's ear (to which the motorist said, "Man, I forgot that was back there").

Multitasking Gone Too Far

In Tucson, Ariz., in August, Iris Jazmin Rangel, 24, was sentenced to three years' probation in the death of her 10-month-old daughter in a minor collision caused by Rangel's inability to brake quickly enough; her attention was diverted because she was breastfeeding the girl at the time. And South Carolina Highway Patrol officers said in July that Marie Butler, 20, triggered a five-car collision on State Road 90, sending three people to the hospital, when she lost control of her car while changing clothes during her drive to work.

The Classic Middle Name (all-new)

Arrested for murder: Anthony Wayne Grimm (Springfield, Ill., August); Daryl Wayne Smith (Wheeling, W.Va., August); Seth Wayne Campbell (Houston, July); Douglas Wayne Clark (Austin, Texas, October). Convicted of murder: Gary Wayne Davis (Louisville, Ky., September). Arrested on suspicion of murder at press time: Michael Wayne Bartlett (Ridgetop, Tenn., October). [Springfield Journal-Register, 8-21-02] [The Intelligencer (Wheeling, W.Va.), 8-6-02]

Also, in the Last Month ...

The North Korean government gave its top yearly science prize to Pyongyang Hospital for developing a rhubarb-and-marijuana concoction that is "97 percent effective" in curing constipation. Adele Robinson and several other New York City public-school contract teachers were mailed checks for 1 cent to correct a calculation error on summer-class pay. Cheyenne Harley Kahnapace, 26, pleaded guilty to violating his parole restrictions after a police officer caught him out for a walk pushing a baby stroller containing a small keg of beer (Regina, Saskatchewan). Prominent entomologist Elmo Hardy passed away at age 88, his legacy secure in that 50 species of flies are named for him (Honolulu).

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Newsweird@aol.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)

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