News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



The Federal Communications Commission ruled in October that the "F word," used as an adjective with the "ing" ending by U2 singer Bono during the live telecast of the Golden Globe awards ceremony in January, is not obscene language because Bono was not using it sexually but rather to enhance the word "brilliant." And two weeks later, Texas's 3rd Court of Appeals ruled that making the well-known middle-finger gesture is not illegal because it is not so provocative these days as to incite immediate violence.

So Hard to Be a Student Nowadays

Brandon Kivi, 15, was suspended from Caney Creek High (Conroe, Texas) in October for possibly saving the life of his girlfriend (a fellow classmate) by lending her his asthma inhaler after she had misplaced hers; that was delivery of a dangerous drug. And Raylee Montgomery, 13, was suspended from school in Duncanville, Texas, in September when her shirttail became untucked, a violation of the dress code (raising the number of dress-code-caused suspensions in her 3,500-student school to more than 700 in just five weeks).

Questionable Judgments

-- In April, community activists and other volunteers established a "safe injection site" in Vancouver, British Columbia, so that addicts can bring their heroin, crystal meth or cocaine, and prepare and inject it with clean equipment and in an environment free of hassling by police, who have been reluctant to close the site down. Often, there is a volunteer registered nurse on duty to provide advice on injection technique.

-- Marion, Ohio, inmate Willie Chapman got permission to delay his scheduled parole by one day until Aug. 12 so he could attend a prison meeting of the religious/personal-responsibility organization Promise Keepers. Chapman's inspirational decision made the newspapers, inadvertently alerting his manslaughter victim's family, who complained to the Ohio Parole Board that Chapman should not be free at all. Consequently, the board reconsidered Chapman's parole and delayed it 991 days, until May 1, 2006.

Police Blotter

-- In Knoxville, Tenn., in September, Thomas Martin McGouey, 51, apparently set on committing suicide, left a note and painted a bull's-eye on his body before arranging a standoff in which he pointed a gun at police officers so they would kill him in self-defense. McGouey's scheme failed because Knox County sheriff's deputies, who fired 28 shots at him, missed with 27 and only grazed his shoulder with the other.

-- From recent newspaper Police Logs: (1) Wayne Leonard Hoffman, 45, was arrested for DUI (0.39 reading) at a gas station in Minnetonka, Minn., where he was "attempting to add air to his vehicle's tires using a vacuum cleaner hose" (Lakeshore Weekly News, July). (2) Two Wilson, Wyo., men were feuding over a parking space at a K-Mart when one drove alongside the other and spit at him through his open window. According to the police report: "As (the victim) saw the projected body fluid traveling through the air, he dropped his jaw in shock, and the phlegm landed square in (his) mouth where he swallowed it in a gag reflex" (August, Jackson Hole News & Guide).

-- NYPD officers Paul Damore and Farrell Conroy were briefly suspended without pay in July for their conduct in the 45th Precinct station house in the Bronx, when they got into a fistfight over which one would get to be the driver of their patrol car.

Unclear on the Concept

-- In widely publicized criticism in August, the Arab League (22 nations, all of which are governed by monarchies, clerics or military dictatorships) charged that the new American-installed Iraqi Governing Council was illegitimate because it was not freely elected but consisted only of appointed representatives from various interest groups. The league's secretary general announced that Iraq's former seat in the Arab League would therefore remain vacant until the country has an elected government (which would then make it the league's only elected government).

-- Thailand's leading massage-parlor/prostitution entrepreneur, Chuwit Kamolvisit, reacted with outrage when he was charged this summer in connection with two criminal cases because, he said, he has paid police the equivalent of US$2.5 million in bribes to get immunity. Mr. Chuwit called a series of press conferences in July, at which he released information on whom he had been bribing and who some of his customers were, and in September, he announced he would form a new political party to put an end to Thailand's culture of official corruption.

-- In August, the city of Edmonton, Alberta, ordered the owners of Keep It Simple, a nonalcoholic "bar" catering to recovering alcoholics by creating the ambience of a tavern without the temptations, to enforce the city's no-smoking law for businesses. However, smoking is a popular crutch for recovering alcoholics, and the owners sought an exemption from the law in order to retain their customers, but the city said the only legal exemption on the books is for establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. (In September, Keep It Simple applied for a liquor license but said it would still not serve alcohol.)

Recurring Themes

For many years, News of the Weird has covered charity-sponsored "cow patty bingo" competitions (a field divided into squares wagered on by contestants; a cow released to answer nature's call; the grand prize going to the owner of the lucky square), but in July, a variation called "Moulette" (sponsored by Dunlop Tires in Toronto) drew criticism because an actual 50-foot-long roulette board was to be used instead of a field. Critics charged that, despite the charitable aims of the contest, it was "cruel" to deprive a cow of the convenience of dirt and grass on which to conduct her business.

Recent Alarming Headlines

(1) "Flying Bowling Ball Breaks Bone in Woman's Leg" (a July Greensboro, Ga., Herald-Journal story about a driver running over a bowling ball, pinching it out from under a tire with great force and hitting a woman walking to her mailbox); (2) "Bible Study Group Captures Murder Suspect" (a September Arizona Republic story about six men dropping their Bibles to rush to their host's garage to stop a fugitive trying to steal a car); (3) "Flies Are Like Us: Scientists" (a July News Limited story on discoveries by the Neurosciences Institute of San Diego that fruit flies show human-like anticipation of alarm, among various learning, memory and perception traits).

Recent Tiny Joy-Riders

Kids who commandeered family vehicles and drove off: Ms. Taccara King's 2-year-old son (crashed a pickup truck into the B Line Transport office, Vero Beach, Fla., July). Rex Davis, 2 (crashed a car into a room at a Red Roof Inn, Tampa, Fla., September). A 5-year-old girl and her 4-year-old brother (crashed car into a McDonald's, Edmonton, Alberta, September). A 6-year-old boy (drove his baby-sitter's car 30 miles, looking for his mother, hitting only three cars along the way, Luling, Texas, July). A 7-year-old boy, assisted by a 3-year-old girl holding down the gas pedal (crashed into a tree, Hannibal, N.Y., July).

Also, in the Last Month

An 18-year-old student with the rare vasovagal syncope syndrome was ordered to begin stuffing himself with junk foods in order to drastically increase his salt intake (Scunthorpe, England). A 39-year-old man was arrested for burglary after police found his name-imprinted dentures at the scene, surmising that he had stumbled over something in the dark but was forced to flee before he could find them (Muncie, Ind.). A 27-year-old man was charged with poisoning a drinking-water reservoir, hospitalizing at least 42 people, in order to boost sales of his water purifiers (Henan province, China).

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