News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF MAY 26, 2002


-- High school baseball pitcher Daniel Hannant, after being hit in the head by a line drive, filed a lawsuit in Chicago in April against the makers of Louisville Sluggers, claiming that the company's aluminum bats are "unreasonably dangerous" to pitchers because they are designed to hit baseballs very, very hard.

-- Kinder, Gentler Revolutionaries: In May, leaders of a Colombian right-wing paramilitary, the AUC, publicized an e-mail address for reporting complaints about their forces' mistreating of civilians; senior leader Carlos Castano admitted that he has killed many people himself, but that he is concerned about his organization's "excesses." And in Nepal in April, American Raymond Coughron told reporters that his mountain-climbing party had been robbed by revolutionaries devoted to the philosophies of Mao Tse-tung; the rebels first negotiated with the victims about what property they would take (finally settling on money only) and then wrote out a crude receipt for the amount taken.

New Wave of Female Protests

Four women bared their chests in downtown Eugene, Ore., in December, protesting society's use of child-unfriendly pesticides (and in favor of legalized hemp). And "hundreds" of women bared their chests in Lusaka, Zambia, in January, protesting the allegedly fraudulent election victory of president Levy Mwanawasa. And in a protest in Helsinki, Finland, in April, "hundreds" of women publicly vowed to refrain from bearing children for four years unless parliament stops authorizing nuclear power plants.

Questionable Judgments

-- Inmate Charles H. Hankerd, 39, was arrested on contraband charges in Valparaiso, Ind., in April after authorities discovered he was selling cigarettes (a prohibited item) at $2 each to cellmates. To produce his inventory, Hankerd allegedly had swallowed several plastic bags of tobacco just before turning himself in at the jail and, once inside, patiently waited for nature to take its course.

-- Patience Owens, 17, whose 2-year-old son had just accidentally drowned in a filthy backyard swimming pool, was arrested in the February incident despite two separate warnings by the Tampa, Fla., 911 operator that Owens should not jump into the pool after the kid because it was too dangerous for her. And in Montreal, Quebec, Keri Wilson, 17, who seconds before had saved the life of an elderly man on subway tracks by jumping down to pull him up, was publicly chastised by transit police, who recited company policy to first notify authorities to cut power to the tracks (but which in this case probably would not have stopped the next train in time to save the man's life).

-- In two April speeches in Iowa, New York environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said major hog producers are a greater threat to the United States and its democracy than are Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network. Current law allows all hog waste to be applied to cropland, which Kennedy said is OK for small farmers, but for a farm of 100,000 hogs (each of which produces the waste of 10 humans), the resulting air and water pollution is disastrous.

Cliches Come to Life

-- Voters in laid-back Sausalito (Marin County), Calif., turned down construction of a $7.8 million police station in March, in part on the advice of a consultant on the ancient Chinese art feng shui who said the proposed building was not harmoniously designed in that it would block the positive flow of energy to other places in town. Said the consultant, Ms. Sidney Nancy Bennett, the building would "cut off the mouth of chi" and compromise "the arrows of sha." (In April, 400 villagers in Vinh Phuc province, Vietnam, held three farmers captive for several days, having blamed them for putting a curse on the village that disturbed its "geomantic flow," according to an Associated Press dispatch, which resulted in several traffic accidents.)

-- Reminiscent of Classic Scenes from "I Love Lucy": Graham Wright, 51, who was sentenced to eight years in jail in January for several bank robberies in Southport, England, told the court that his girlfriend never knew he was a wanted man because, when he sensed a crime report with his picture about to come on television, he started dancing in front of the TV set to distract her. And in May in Uniondale, N.Y., a gold Mercedes-Benz sports sedan was delivered by mistake to Ruth Shepard's driveway, causing her to believe it was a surprise Mother's Day present; a short time later, she was arrested for resisting police officers' attempts to get the car back for its rightful owner.

People Different From Us

In May, Trenton Veches, 31, resigned from his job with the Newport Beach, Calif., after-school recreation program when he was arrested on multiple counts of sucking the toes of boys age 6 to 10. Police said as many as 45 kids may have been involved, with several appearing on videotapes recovered from Veches' home. There was no evidence of anything beyond toe-sucking, but any touching of a child for sexual gratification is a crime in California.

Least Competent People

Police in Slidell, La., were looking for Henderson Stephen Palmer, 23, and Brian Parker, 24, suspected of a drive-by shooting in March that badly missed the target house, with half of the bullets hitting only the interior of their car and one shattering the kneecap of Palmer's sister, who was in the back seat. Police said the suspects fired as Parker sped down the street (perhaps not realizing that when professionals do a "drive-by," they actually stop the car in front of the target so they can aim better).


Still more information on beneficiaries came out on the federal farm subsidy program mentioned in News of the Weird four months ago (and which Congress voted to expand substantially in April). It has already been widely reported that generous subsidies go to non-needy "family farmers" such as Enron's Kenneth Lay, newsman Sam Donaldson, basketball's Scottie Pippin, and the nonstruggling Ted Turner and David Rockefeller. In March, the Associated Press reported that major league baseball player Kevin Appier has received several thousand dollars in subsidies for his farm in Kansas, which he bought because as a kid, he always dreamed of playing baseball and being a farmer. "I have no idea why I wanted to have a farm," he said. "I wasn't raised on a farm or anything. I just always thought it would be neat."

Our Civilization in Decline

According to a Los Angeles Times story, a handful of school districts in six states have banned dodgeball, intending to save kids from the violence and hurt feelings that result from humans throwing objects at other humans (March). People who watch TV and relate to the characters tend to believe they have more friends and a more lively social life than they really do, according to a study by a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (May). A 20-year-old suspected holdup man, fleeing police in Baton Rouge, La., while holding his 18-month-old son, tossed the kid at a police dog in an effort to buy a few more seconds in his escape (May).

Also, in the Last Month ...

Eight British tourists were sentenced to three years in jail after being caught practicing their hobby of "plane-spotting" (similar to bird-watching) in Greece because authorities would not budge from their belief that anyone writing down airplane numbers must be a spy (Kalamata, Greece). Police sought a man who was making offers to women to clean out their septic tanks in exchange for sex or guns (Camden, Ark.). The director of the New Brunswick (Canada) Symphony was refused airline boarding until he baggage-checked his $120 (U.S.) conductor's baton (a blunt-ended, flexible wooden instrument with a cork handle) (St. John, New Brunswick). A 46-year-old man, under orders to clean the junk off his property, instead created a giant sculpture of a bare human torso, bent over, with the back end aimed at the street, but was then arrested for disorderly conduct (Altamonte Springs, Fla.).

(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