News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF JULY 14, 2002


-- "Dozens" of money-making Web sites have recently been created by parents who post photos they have taken of their adolescent daughters (as young as age 6) frolicking in frilly clothing or swimwear, according to a May New York Daily News report. The sites are operated like pornography businesses, with some free teaser photos, but with $30-a-month "members" getting access to the photo archive and "personal" messages from the "model." Some sites operate chat rooms where members discuss the girls in great detail. One "typical" site has 3,000 daily users, and another had 32 million page views in nine months. The parents say they are helping their daughters with modeling careers or with future college expenses.

-- China's youth and young adults are increasingly beyond the communist government's control in their spending and leisure habits, according to a May dispatch in Toronto's Globe and Mail. Although party leaders still appear on "most-admired" lists, so do Bill Gates and pop stars such as the Taiwanese boy band F4, and older Chinese complain that superficial, amoral kids know more lyrics of Michael Jackson than sayings of Mao Tse-tung. (The government recently banned an imported, 15-episode TV show starring F4, but had to back down because of the boys' popularity among screaming teen-age girls and because of complaints by government TV stations that they needed the advertising revenue the show would bring in.)

Shapers of Young Minds

Middle-school teacher Timothy Thomure, 46, admitted rubbing a knife blade along a student's finger (and other acts of intimidation) to "loosen (students) up and get them to interact" (Sedalia, Mo., March). Parents of an 8-year-old boy recently asked school officials for counseling help to deal with a lingering 1999 incident in which a teacher disciplined him by dumping a cup of cockroaches on his chest (Houston, April). A middle-school teacher was fired for allegedly throwing a chair at a student during a "behavior management" class (Pflugerville, Texas, May). A Sunday school teacher was convicted of a misdemeanor for counseling a teen-age boy that a good way to curb his masturbation habit was to write "What would Jesus do?" on his penis (Andover, Minn., June).

The Litigious Society

-- Donna Beck filed a wrongful death claim in April against the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department following the death of her son James Allen Beck in a barricade-shootout last year (in which one deputy was killed). Beck was prepared for a long stand-off, having stockpiled weapons in his home (which caught fire from a tear gas canister, resulting in Beck's death and the destruction of his body).

-- A jury in New York City recently awarded $14.1 million to a 38-year-old woman who was badly maimed after she was hit by a subway train after lying down purposefully on an underground track in a probable suicide attempt. According to a New York Law Journal report summarized in a June New York Times story, the jury found that the train conductor, who had already slowed to 15 mph following a report of someone lying on the tracks, should have been going slower. (The judge lowered the award to $9.9 million after finding that it was 30 percent the woman's fault.) [New York Times, 6-25-02]

-- Scottish train driver Jacqueline Morrison, 29, filed a lawsuit in April against her employer, ScotRail, asking about $25,000 because she bruised a fingernail (which eventually fell off) when she went to adjust her seat in the cab.

-- In April, a court in New South Wales, Australia, awarded a 20-year-old man the equivalent of $525,000 (U.S.) as a result of his being knocked out in a 1995 Narrandera High School fight that he apparently participated in willingly and in which he threw the first punches. Although he was medically cleared the next day, he said serious headaches and neurological problems have developed and that the last seven years have been physically and financially tough for him.

-- June Bond, 34, filed a $300,000 claim against Ventura County (Calif.) because her husband (on a work program for violating probation) stomped a palm frond down into a Dumpster, and it snapped back and severed his ear, causing him, she said, to no longer be affectionate. And Tim and Donna Vogle filed a lawsuit against a restaurant in St. Joseph, Mo., in June, claiming that the owner slapped Mrs. Vogle in the head with a raw steak (after she complained that it was overdone) and that as a result, the couple's sex life has been 75 percent diminished.

Least Competent Criminals

Edward O. Green, 24, was arrested in LaPorte, Ind., near the front desk at the sheriff's station shortly after he had arrived to bail out a friend. A deputy had told him to take a seat momentarily, but apparently Green, who was probably inebriated, quickly dozed off and began to snore. As deputies approached to awaken him, they noticed several small plastic bags (which tests later revealed to contain cocaine) in his mouth.

Unclear on the Concept

Correction Service of Canada recently touted some prisons' successful model programs of allowing inmates who request it to live in certain wings designated as drug-free zones (even though all sections of all prisons are supposed to be drug-free). And Suffolk County (Mass.) has begun to pay its prison guards a $1,000 yearly bonus if they test clean for illegal drugs. (The programs in both of these stories were enticements to get inmates and guards to agree to random drug-testing, which would otherwise be prohibited.)

Undignified Deaths

A 49-year-old Kingman, Ariz., inmate was killed when he slipped on feces he had expelled in his cell and struck his head on the floor (April). A 60-year-old Tucson, Ariz., model-airplane enthusiast was killed when he was accidentally hit in the chest by his own radio-controlled, 6-pound, 5-foot-wing-span plane (May). A 47-year-old female car passenger was killed when the driver accidentally smashed into a "Welcome to Minnesota" sign on Interstate 94 (April).

Our Civilization in Decline

Imprisoned Brazilian drug king Fernandinho Beira-Mar somehow arranged for a shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile to be delivered to his cell at Bangu One prison before the government confiscated it (June). A high school senior who plagiarized a paper and whose English teacher failed her was nonetheless given a last-minute makeup test in order to graduate, after her parents' lawyer threatened the school district with lengthy litigation (Phoenix, May). A federal environmental official warned of another serious danger of home methamphetamine labs, that they create 5 pounds of dangerous toxic waste for every pound of meth (Bulls Gap, Tenn., May).

Also, in the Last Month ...

Four women were taken in by a man who persuaded them to stand topless at their windows so that cutting-edge global satellite technology could give them at-home mammograms (Algarve region of southern Portugal). The "Barbasol bandit," a 44-year-old convenience-store robber whose "mask" consisted of slathered-on shaving cream, pleaded guilty (Vernon, Conn.). A 280-pound sea lion arose from San Francisco Bay, crossed two runways, and made it to a terminal at SFX airport before security detected it. A Columbus, Ohio, suburb proclaimed that residents with odd street addresses should sit in their yards on Friday nights so that people on the other side of the street can visit them, with the situation reversed on Saturday nights (Worthington, Ohio).

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