News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF AUGUST 11, 2002

LEAD STORIES

-- Serial killer Coral Eugene Watts, 52, thought to have been put away for life by a Houston judge in 1982, is now scheduled to be released in 2006 because of a drafting error in his plea bargain. (Because of a paucity of evidence about the 13 murders to which Watts confessed, he was allowed to plead to "aggravated" attempted murder and be sentenced to 60 years without parole, but the prosecutor neglected to specify any "aggravated"-type weapon, and an appeals court ruled that only "aggravated" crimes justify no parole; consequently, Watts has been amassing "good time" requiring early release.) (And a judge released accused murderer Corey Pernell McNeil in Newport News, Va., in July because a clerk forgot to sign the victim's death certificate; by the time the error was corrected, McNeil could not be found.)

-- In July, for the second time in a month, a village council in Punjab province approved an abuse of females that had to be stopped by the Pakistan government. Tribal law allows a convict to be pardoned if the victim's family accepts cash compensation, but the council pardoned condemned murderers who agreed to send cash and their eight teenage daughters for marriage to elderly relatives of their victims. Two weddings had already taken place by the time the police halted the deal.

Good News for Men

New York University researchers writing in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that sex-abstaining women and women whose partners wear condoms were more frequently depressed and concluded that hormones in semen may enter the bloodstream and pep women up (May). And Concordia University (Montreal) researchers reported that their PT141 drug seems to encourage female rats to solicit sex from males three times as often as they otherwise would and are scheduling human trials (May). And Hebrew Rehabilitation Center (Boston) researchers found that the grain in beer (which men consume far more than women) must be a major reason why men suffer less osteoporosis (July).

Compelling Explanations

-- Prosecutors in Pottstown, Pa., said in May that they thought that some of rap singer Karim Ali Howard's lyrics might be used against him in his upcoming trial for cocaine trafficking. (A sample: "I'm going to sell coke until you call me pope, do dirt until the lord tries to stop me, it's gonna take hundreds of bullets just to drop me.") And in June, Russell Adam Pelletier, 24, was convicted of murder in Louisa, Va., despite arguing that a supposed confession captured by undercover wire was just freestyle verse by Pelletier, who admits he writes misogynistic and violent rap music.

-- Among recent denials of child sex-abuse: Choir official Frank Jones, 51, said he was merely massaging a 13-year-old boy with slippery sports cream and that "My hand slipped" onto a "private area" (New York City, April). And teacher Carl D. Reid, 38, said he had no idea that several female elementary school students of his had crawled under his desk, and that before he knew it, they had put their hands underneath his gym shorts and touched him (Newport, R.I., May).

-- Eleven alleged members of San Francisco's Big Block street gang claimed in a court filing in June that they have a constitutional right to carry guns, pointing to a declaration last year by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft that changed the law. Previously, the Justice Department had thought that Second Amendment rights applied only to state militias, but Ashcroft declared in May 2001 that henceforth, the Second Amendment would be regarded as giving fundamental gun-toting rights to individuals. Nonetheless, in July 2002, the federal judge trying the Big Block gang declined to dismiss the gun charges.

Latest Rights

-- The City of New York agreed in July to pay a Sri Lankan-born schoolteacher $50,000 for the "hostile work environment" he encountered in the classroom because of his nationality. The administrators said they couldn't stop students from hassling him because they were emotionally troubled "special needs" students, protected by law.

-- Claudia Huntey, 38, who has suffered from Tourette's syndrome since age 9, filed a federal lawsuit in Denver in April after she was evicted from Torrey Pines apartment complex because her frequent screams during the night disturbed her neighbors. Huntey, whose most frequent symptom is to yell "Fire!" at the top of her lungs, claimed that since those are "involuntary vocalizations" protected under federal disability law, her neighbors would just have to get used to them.

-- The Afkhami family of Gaithersburg, Md., filed a civil-rights lawsuit in July against Carnival Cruise lines, which the plaintiffs said unlawfully denied their right to travel from a Miami port with 160 live bees, in bottles, because two of their adult children on the cruise were practicing alternative medicine involving the bees. The Afkhamis said the rights were denied because of the family's Iranian nationality.

Update

From time to time News of the Weird has reported on the fluctuating value of the late Italian artist Piero Manzoni's personal feces, which he canned in 1961, 30 grams at a time in 90 tins, as art objects (though, over the years, 45 have reportedly exploded). Their price to collectors has varied from about $28,000 for a tin in 1998 to $75,000 in 1993. In June 2002, the Tate Gallery in London excitedly announced it had purchased tin No. 004 for about $38,000. (The price of 30 grams of gold at press time was a little over $300.)

Least Competent Criminals

Whatever Happened to the Concept of "Hiding Out"? Police in Edwardsville, Pa., on the lookout for a stolen white car, arrested two men who were busily painting the stolen white car black in the middle of a shopping center parking lot on the town's main street (June). And in Martinsburg, W.Va., following a bank robbery, law enforcement saturated the area looking for the getaway vehicle, a red Jeep Wrangler; the next day, the vehicle was spotted, with a "For Sale" sign on it, in the front yard of a 39-year-old local woman, who police say then readily confessed to the crime (May).

Our Civilization in Decline

An orthopedic surgeon at Guy's and St. Thomas's Hospital in London was threatened with disciplinary action for racism after he became enraged that none of the recent-immigrant nurses could understand his during-surgery instructions (July). A Brooklyn, N.Y., school official convicted of embezzling millions of dollars in federal education funds is one of seven recently convicted teachers or administrators who are still in their jobs because union-friendly arbitrators refuse to allow them to be fired, according to a New York Daily News report (June).

Also, in the Last Month ...

When a car full of suspected thieves crashed after a high-speed police chase, the one person inside who was well enough to flee on foot did, but made it only a short ways before his prosthetic leg fell off (Englewood, Ohio). Another man on trial for fleeing police in his van allegedly apologized when they caught him, reasoning that he had just bought crack cocaine and wanted to go somewhere to consume it before he went to jail (Rochester, N.Y.) Three obese and unhealthy people filed a lawsuit against McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and KFC for addicting them to unhealthful food (New York City). A 36-year-old woman sued Delta Airlines, claiming agents publicly humiliated her after finding a "sex toy" (that she and her husband had just purchased) vibrating in her checked baggage (Clearwater, Fla.).

(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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