News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



-- Plastic surgeons told The Wall Street Journal in August that requests for designer navel and nipple surgery are increasing (probably brought on by the skin-revealing tops women wear), with slim, horizontal-oval navels preferred (a preference also found by panelists in a 2000 surgical journal article), and firm, prominent nipples seen almost as an "accessory" for the excitingly dressed woman. (Almost all such U.S. surgery is in conjunction with tummy tucks or breast enhancement, but navel sculpting as stand-alone surgery has been popular for several years in Japan.)

-- Update: In July, a Texas district judge ruled that any professional thoughts that software engineer Evan Brown had in his head during his 10 years with DSC Communications (now Alcatel USA Inc.) belonged to the company even though they may never have been expressed in any tangible form. (News of the Weird reported DSC's filing of this lawsuit in 1997.) Brown had signed a contract agreeing that DSC owned any "invention" or anything "conceived" on the job but said he actually began thinking about his high-level source code solution 12 years before he started work at DSC.

Motiveless Crimes

Nathan A. Williams, 18, admitting that he robbed a convenience store in White River Junction, Vt., in July, told the judge, "I still don't know quite to this day why I did it." And Gerald Fitzgerald, 73, pleading guilty to a series of petty crimes in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, in July: "I don't know why (I did it)." And Ms. Rie Fujii, 24, pleading guilty in Calgary, Alberta, in June to abandoning her children while she partied: "I don't know why." And Darlene Eva Gallant, 41, sentenced to two years in prison in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, in May for maliciously injecting her grandson with insulin: "I hurt someone more precious than my life, and I don't even know why." And pharmacist Robert Courtney, pleading guilty in Kansas City, Mo., in February to diluting customers' cancer drugs: "I keep asking myself, 'Why?'"

Cultural Diversity

-- The several African nations' soccer teams that rely on witchcraft to give them an edge were confounded at this year's World Cup when Senegal almost made it to the semifinals after supposedly rejecting that strategy and competing solely on ability. Teams from Ivory Coast and Mali have been in the news this year for their relentless black-magic beliefs (e.g., animal parts buried on the soccer field at midnight; hexing spells by witch doctors on a team's sideline). In February, a Cameroon assistant coach was dragged off the field by Mali military personnel after he was suspected of wielding a lucky charm.

-- The traditional, manure-based "Many Weed Tea," taken by generations of rural black families in Alabama as a cold and flu remedy, is fading away despite continued testimonials to its effectiveness, according to a June Birmingham News story. Its recipe calls for forming a tea bag of cloth and filling it with two open lemons, stalks of the lavender plant, honey and several dried cow patties, preferably containing visible, undigested leaves and twigs. The brew is supposedly safe for humans provided that it is boiled long enough before steeping.

Latest Messages From Above

-- A group of Christian protestors disrupted a pagans' spring equinox ceremony in Lancaster, Calif., in March by blasting their car stereos to drown out the songs and chants of 300 witches and warlocks. What apparently really set off the Christians was the pagans' merry attempt at "animal sacrifice," which they accomplish by fonduing a candy bunny. When a pagan leader yelled "Sacrifice the chocolate rabbit," the Christians leaped from their cars and advanced on them, but violence was averted.

-- Bishop C. Vernie Russell's Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church (Norfolk, Va.) has raised $340,000 from his congregation in 14 months for the specific purpose of helping randomly chosen members (59 so far) to get out of debt by having their credit-card bills paid off by the church, according to a June Wall Street Journal report. At the special, monthly "debt liquidation revival," congregants dance and chant, "stomping" the devil, who is believed to be the cause of the credit-card debt in the first place. Lucky winners must cut up their cards and attend counseling, and Russell believes "cured" borrowers are much better tithers.

-- More Violence in Jerusalem: In July, Ethiopian Orthodox Christian monks brawled with monks from the Coptic Christian Church of Egypt at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the site of Jesus' burial and resurrection) after an Egyptian on the roof moved his chair into the shade. The roof space and all other space and furniture in the church have been allocated by agreement among various Christian organizations, and the Egyptian was said to have crossed a line, provoking the Ethiopians to respond by throwing rocks, iron bars and chairs. Seven Ethiopians and four Egyptians were injured.

Unclear on the Concept

Greeting the arrival of singer R. Kelly ("I Believe I Can Fly") at the courthouse in Chicago on Aug. 7 for a hearing on the 21 counts of child pornography he has been charged with were 40 children, yelling support and wearing T-shirts reading "Not Guilty," "Case Dismissed," and "Kill his name/Kill the fame/That's the game," among other messages. Said organizer Janet Edmond, "(People) need to stop looking at all the negative stuff and start looking at the good things R. Kelly is doing. (K)ids need something to reach for. They have no role models."

It's Hard Being an Animals Rights Activist

Aztar Corp. casinos in Evansville, Ind., Atlantic City, N.J., and Las Vegas have recently featured tic-tac-toe games in which gamblers compete with chickens that punch in X's and O's with their beaks, and in June, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals made a formal protest, both of the oppressive conditions under which the chickens labor and the "disrespect" of the chickens that the game represents. Also in June, traveling Alaskan circus artist Emily Harris had her expensive bicycle mistakenly sold while she visited a second-hand shop in London, and the resulting news stories called attention to her particular circus art, which is that she hypnotizes chickens and makes them play a piano.

Least Justifiable Homicides

Taketomi Miura, 30, was arrested and charged with killing a newspaper carrier, allegedly because Miura thought that a murder conviction would help obscure the shameful fact that he had been embezzling from his employer (Tondabayashi, Japan, June). Shane Sloan, 29, was convicted of killing his mother, supposedly because he was angry at her for interrupting his suicide attempt (and Sloan indeed killed himself in his cell 10 days later) (Pittsburgh, June).

Our Civilization in Decline

Angel Martinez, 36, was only recently released after serving 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, 13 of those years after another man had confessed; Martinez's lawyer had never told him about the confession (New York City, June). A 22-year-old church pastor and his brother were arrested for administering an hour-long beating with a rod to an 11-year-old boy (resulting in kidney failure) because he allegedly cheated in Bible study class (San Antonio, July). Colombian rebels wounded eight humans and destroyed 20 homes with a bomb strapped onto a horse (Guadalupe, Colombia, July).

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 15-year-old girl won a talent search by "jumping" rope 100 times while seated (by raising her butt for each pass) (Keller, Texas). Witnesses said a 39-year-old youth-league soccer coach rushed onto the field during a time-out and aggressively elbowed the other team's star player (an 11-year-old girl) in the stomach (but the league has specific penalties only for coaches who attack referees) (Mississauga, Ontario). A 44-year-old man, angry that a check he was expecting didn't come, beat up the postal carrier (Shreveport, La.). A catwalk collapsed at Aquarium of the Americas, sending 10 VIP visitors into a tank with 24 sharks (but which, fortunately, had just been fed and were docile) (New Orleans).

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