News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF JUNE 16, 2002


-- In a May dispatch from Cuba, The Wall Street Journal reported that Fidel Castro proposed in 1987 to alleviate a chronic milk shortage by trying to get his scientists to clone the most productive cows, shrunk to the size of dogs so that each family could keep one inside its apartment. The cows would feed on grass grown inside under fluorescent lights. Cuba was the home of the late Ubre Blanca, the Guinness book record-holder as the most milk-productive cow of all time.

-- A Dutch livestock-breeding-device manufacturer recently began selling a $27 vibrator that supposedly relaxes sows during artificial insemination to increase the chances of fertilization. Said the sales manager at the company Schippers Bladel BV, "Once the vibrator is inserted, the pig's ears will go up and she will stand ready to be serviced." The company also makes a remote-controlled plastic pig whose movements, mating sounds and scents supposedly encourage the sow to be serviced.

Recent Lack-of-Fashion Statements

Among those arrested in May for inexplicable nudity: a 45-year-old man, driving naked on Interstate 95 (Cocoa, Fla.); a 23-year-old man, driving a pickup truck naked over the lawn of the state capitol (Lincoln, Neb.); a woman riding naked atop an SUV (Indianapolis); a 21-year-old prisoner who stripped and jumped against a bulletproof courthouse window in a futile escape attempt (Hillsboro, Mo.); a man in his 20s who ran onto an ice rink naked, interrupting a late-night skating class (Richmond, British Columbia); and a 20-year-old man who broke into a house and immediately removed his clothes (Eugene, Ore.).

Compelling Explanations

-- They've Got the Shining: After the body of Chandra Levy was found in a wooded area of Washington, D.C., in May, former Georgia state Rep. Dorothy Pelote, who via a much-maligned psychic vision last year "saw" Levy's body in a ditch in the woods, said this proves that she has "the gift." And Fort Lauderdale, Fla., attorney William Cone told reporters in April that Federal Trade Commission fraud charges against his client, the psychic Miss Cleo, are bogus because she actually can see the future. Cone also said his California-born client's claim to be a Jamaican shaman was true, too, and gave seven possible explanations for that, saying one of them described Miss Cleo but refusing to tell reporters which one it was.

-- Testifying at the child pornography trial of John Robin Sharpe in Vancouver, British Columbia, in January, English literature professor James Miller (University of Western Ontario) said Sharpe's self-published writings were comparable to mainstream literature such as that of Dickens and Dante. According to Miller, Sharpe's book "Sam Paloc's Boyabuse: Flogging, Fun, and Fortitude: A Collection of Kiddie Kink Classics," was "transgressive literature" that "celebrates, in a ritual way, alternative visions of culture," "reveal(ing) the seismic ironies in the new world order associated with globalization." (In March, a judge acquitted Sharpe on his writings but convicted him on two counts of possessing child porn photos.)

Not My Fault

-- In Scranton, Pa., in May, Janice Taylor, who maimed her 4-year-old son in 2000 in a stabbing attack because she thought he was the Antichrist, filed a lawsuit against two psychiatrists and an obstetrician for not giving her enough anti-psychosis medication. Taylor was pregnant at the time she attacked the boy, and her doctors were wary of prescribing more medication for fear it would harm her fetus, but they finally relented and gave small doses of Thorazine. (The baby was born unharmed, even though Taylor made a stab at it, too, plunging the knife into her abdomen.)

-- According to police in Woodinville, Wash., when Anita Durrett, 42, tried to speed away in her car with $266 worth of groceries shoplifted from an Albertson's store, an employee pursued her in his car, and when Durrett lost control and crashed at 90 mph, her 9-year-old daughter, riding in the front seat, was killed. Though Durrett has been convicted of vehicular manslaughter, she filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in May against Albertson's, claiming that they should not have chased her.

Latest Rights

-- Italy's highest appeals court ruled in April that a 29-year-old out-of-work lawyer still has the right to be housed and financially supported by his parents. The son, Marco Andreoli, owns property and has access to a $200,000 trust fund, but he objected when his father cut off his $675 monthly allowance that had been ordered when his parents divorced, saying he needed it because he had not found a job fulfilling enough. (More than a third of all men in Italy between ages 30 and 34 still live with their parents.)

-- Born-again-Christian roommates Derrick Mitchell, 38, and Teresa Tafawa, 58, were served eviction notices in May by their landlord in Cornwall, Ontario, because of complaints that they pray loudly and often around the apartment complex. Mitchell says he can't help himself when he receives "visions," especially the holy alerts about local devil worship; he said he is moved to speak in a high, quivering voice that Tafawa calls "the ecstasies" and that the pair may pray and sing for several hours a day, even in the laundry room and the parking lot. Said Tafawa, "We try to walk with the Lord all day."

Unclear on the Concept

In April, Judge Gerald Jewers of the Manitoba (Canada) Court of Queen's Bench awarded Lynette Mary Sant, 55, about $63,000 (U.S.) because she believes very strongly that a company's chemical vapors made her ill even though the judge admits that there was no evidence that the vapors caused her problems. The judge found Sant's symptoms were real but that tests exposing Sant to distilled water had the same effect.

Thinning the Herd

A 54-year-old school guard was accidentally shot to death by a colleague as the two demonstrated quick-draw techniques to each other outside a school dance (New Orleans, April). A 38-year-old angler was killed when he overestimated the height of a cement bridge beam he drove his boat under while speeding at midnight in a no-wake zone (Wilton Manors, Fla., March). The 22-year-old man behind the wheel of a drive-by-shooting car was accidentally killed by the passenger-side shooter, firing out the driver's-side window (Los Angeles, May).

Our Civilization in Decline

High school students in Palm Beach County, Fla., needed only a score of 23 percent to pass a standardized state history test (55 is an A) (May). Through bureaucratic error, sensitive U.S. Air Force spy-plane parts, originally intended for destruction, wound up in private hands and were up for auction on the online eBay service (May). Also through bureaucratic error, 50 large boxes of sensitive abuse reports and medical records of foster children and other clients of Florida's embattled Department of Children and Families were offered at auction and purchased by a TV reporter for $5 (May).

Also, in the Last Month ...

Three young Amish drivers were charged with traffic violations after their late-night buggies' race caused a collision with another Amish-driven buggy (Leon, N.Y.). A 17-year-old boy who had allegedly vandalized a beekeeper's hives with a truck was identified because his family Bible had fallen out of the driver's side door during the incident (Northeast Harbor, Maine). A 24-year-old man dashed frenziedly out of his apartment after settling down to sleep and encountering a 3-foot-long snake under the sheets, left over from a previous tenant (Guelph, Ontario). Police put out bulletins for the "dork bandit," named for his demeanor, who is wanted in three robberies (Atlanta).

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