News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF JANUARY 4, 2004

Lead Story

In December, the 200 employees at SAS Shoemakers in Pittsfield, Mass., and the 270 workers at Stine Seed Co. in Adel, Iowa, were each given Christmas bonuses of $1,000 for every year of service to the company. In other bonus news, Tower Automotive of Traverse City, Mich., gave employees $15 Thanksgiving grocery gift cards, but then withheld $5.51 of that as federal and state income tax, and Air Canada gave coupons to 100 of its best-performing customer-service personnel, redeemable at restaurants owned by its in-flight food service contractor, worth C$5.00 (US$3.75).

More Things to Worry About

In December, Putnam County, N.Y., passed a law to further the aims of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act by permitting shoppers in wheelchairs to bring their service monkeys into stores to fetch items from shelves. (Legislator Sam Oliverio said he didn't know of any service monkeys in use but wanted to be ready.) And in July, a ranch owner in San Diego County, Calif., was found not guilty of cruelty for disposing of 30,000 live, "nonproductive" hens by dumping them into a wood chipper, pointing out in defense that it was basically a "standard industry practice" endorsed by a member of the animal welfare committee of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Bright Ideas

-- To fight two speeding tickets emanating from the same police camera in a 60km/hour zone, Carlos DeMarco, 39, went to the trouble of commandeering a 70km/hour sign and affixing it to the pole underneath that very speed camera, then photographing it to show that he was not speeding. In November, the judge in Parramatta, Australia, detected the clumsy nature of DeMarco's work and fined him another A$1,000 on top of the A$246 in tickets (about US$880).

-- Toronto police arrested Walter Nowakowski, 35, in November on several pornography counts as well as theft of services after an officer spotted him driving the wrong way on a one-way street at 5 a.m. According to police, Nowakowski was pantsless, with a laptop computer running in the front seat, as he drove slowly down streets in search of wireless Internet signals that he could use to download pornography.

-- In October, in the ongoing trial of 22 members of the South African white separatist movement Boeremag, a police informant testified that the group's plans included enlisting 8,000 rebels to stage a coup, seize military bases, assassinate ex-president Nelson Mandela, and, somehow, force all the country's blacks to march out the N1 freeway across the border to Zimbabwe. (There are 35 million blacks in South Africa.)

Oops!

-- In October at the UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Oakland, Pa., a 35-year-old man having a kidney transplanted from his mother awoke prematurely from his anesthesia and bolted upright, which caused the just-sewn-in kidney to thrust up with such force that it ripped an artery and protruded from his abdomen. The kidney could no longer be used and was removed the next day.

-- Motorcyclist Steve Dass withdrew 72 $100 bills in October to take to his mother to pay for her new furniture, but he apparently forgot to zip up his jacket pocket, and all the money blew out along Highway 4 in Pittsburg, Calif. (A few finders returned the money.) But in Kalispell, Mont., in November, two men turned in a sack containing $14,600 they found lying in a bank parking lot; it was a pick-up from Wal-Mart that had been inexplicably dropped by Security Armored Express (which earlier this year was named as the best armored carrier in the country by Wal-Mart executives).

-- Pro football punter Chris Hanson played only one-third of the season this year because of a self-inflicted leg injury. His Jacksonville Jaguars coach had put a log and an ax in the locker room as a motivational symbol that the team needed to work hard in order to succeed. Hanson took a swing at the log, missed, and banged his leg so badly that he needed emergency surgery.

Least Competent Criminals

A two-week spree of five customer holdups in front of ATMs in Cambridge, Mass., came to an end in November with the arrest of Richard McCabe, 38. In four of the five robberies, bank security cameras photographed the perpetrator, and McCabe was apparently so disliked by so many that when police released the photos, more than 100 people called up to rat him out. Said a detective, "Many ... people knew him personally from dealing with him in the past."

Recent Names in the News

-- Delegates of French "villages of lyric or burlesque names" formed an association in October as sort of a promotional and support group made necessary because so many visitors laugh at the towns' names. Among them are villages whose names, translated into English, are beautiful mad, cuckold hill, filthy pig, my bottom, eat onions, very stupid and double-ass, as well as several names that are merely inexplicable.

-- Names to Be Read by Immature Readers Only: Re-elected in December as chief minister of Delhi, India: Honorable Sheila Dikshit. Arrested in May for prostitution in Grove City, Ohio: Ms. You Suk Kim. Revealed in September to be threatening to use his $5,000 Oakland, Calif., government arts support money to kill African-Americans: artist Richard Aswad. Killed in August in a village near Sihanoukville, Cambodia, as a result of having his testicles defensively squeezed by his battered wife: Mr. Ouch Yan.

Update

Texas' anti-marital-aid law, previously mentioned in News of the Weird, remains in force. In November, the county attorney in Burleson, Texas, filed a misdemeanor charge against Joanne Webb for selling two vibrators, which are illegal if they are intended for "stimulation." Although many adult stores in Texas keep the police away by posting signs calling the inventory merely "novelties," an officer in Burleson said Webb's are certainly "obscene" because he can tell that just by looking. Mere possession of vibrators is not illegal unless a person has six or more. Webb sells the vibrators by staging Tupperware-type sales parties ("Passion Parties") in private homes.

Alternate Universe

In December, Vice President Cheney led a "hunting" party to the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier, Pa., to shoot pheasants, which had been specially bred to be killed by the club's members and guests. Cheney reportedly bagged 70 ringneck pheasants plus some captive mallard ducks, and his party killed 417 of the approximately 500 pheasants released. A Humane Society executive deplored the shoot, suggesting that clay-target shooting would be just as challenging: "This wasn't a hunting ground. It was an open-air abattoir."

Also, in the Last Month

A man implicated in the 1992 crime that moved activists to push for California's nation's-first "three strikes" law was arrested for theft, which would be his third strike (Fresno). A 4-foot-high, half-ton snowball fell on an 11-year-old boy on a school playground, pinning him until several teachers lifted it off (St. Catharines, Ontario). To ease pressure on the judicial system, the Netherlands government announced it would no longer prosecute airport drug smugglers with less than three kilos of cocaine.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)

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