News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



According to an August Washington Post profile, Maura Hall of Washington, D.C., has spent more than $25,000 (an amount which a United Nations food program says will feed 350 Third World children for a year) for a kidney transplant and post-operative care for "Lily," her longhaired gray cat. (Among the post-op procedures: weekly, $200 blood tests for the rest of her life.) Hall said she encounters hostility from not only those who disagree with her priorities, but also other pet owners who feel guilty that they can't afford such expensive care. (Also, an August BBC News dispatch from Brazil reported on the various cosmetic procedures available for dogs and other pets, such as wrinkle reduction, eyebrow correction and even full face-lifts, but which, fortunately, are less expensive than a kidney transplant, e.g., about US$75 to make drooping ears un-droop.)

Authoritarian Toilets

Sales recently passed 1.8 million units for German inventor Alex Benkhardt's "WC Ghost," a toilet voice alarm, activated when the seat is lifted, which scolds a man who tries to urinate while standing up. It is a difficult sell for some Germans, though, in that a slang word for "wimp" (sitzpinkler) is, literally, a man who sits to urinate. The scolding German voice resembles Chancellor Gerhard Schroder's, and the planned British version might use a voice resembling the queen's. And in the Netherlands, artist Leonard van Munster outfitted toilets in an Amsterdam cafe with more versatile sensors, able not only to admonish stand-up urinators but to offer, for example, anti-smoking messages if it detects that the user is lighting up.

Things Are Rarely As They Seem

In August, The Washington Post profiled a staunch pillar of the community of Kalispell, Mont., Richard A. Dasen Sr., who is widely respected for the many good things he has done for the town and its citizens over the last 40 years. However, according to recent revelations, his beneficence is marred by one eccentricity (which has resulted in a criminal charge): In the course of counseling the many local women who have come to him for help, he has spent well over a million dollars (at $1,000 to $6,000 per episode) in gifts to some of the women in exchange for sex (including, allegedly, one who was underage).

The Sacred Institution of Marriage (continued)

In the village of Ceres, South Africa, in August, the family and friends of David Masenta staged a posthumous matrimonial ceremony so they could remember him forever as married to his beloved fiancee, Mgwanini Molomo. Actual marriage had become impossible because Masenta murdered the pregnant Molomo and then killed himself.

The Continuing Crisis

-- California's Budget Crisis, Explained: In August, the state legislature reached a compromise in a long-standing, intensely debated issue with the state's owners of pet ferrets. Though the animals are banned by the state as crop menaces, the legislation would grant legal status to all existing pet ferrets whose owners pay a $75-per-head fee. However, even though the state desperately needs the revenue, the money raised cannot be used for anything except a study to determine whether the state can tolerate more ferrets.

-- Heavy rains around Dunn, N.C., in mid-August pounded soap-based runoff from the H&H Products facility just off U.S. 301, creating an awesome wall of white bubbles at least 20 feet high that obscured not only Jonesboro Road but the telephone poles alongside. A few drivers tried to go through the mess, but most avoided it until firefighters cleared the foam to the side of the road with their hoses.

-- Three Michigan entrepreneurs, alarmed at continuing bad news about childhood obesity, have begun selling "My Kid's First Coach" on DVD, featuring exercise regimens for children, beginning at age 6 weeks. (The youngest work on "flexibility and muscle awareness," with the parent actually guiding the child through the movements yet familiarizing the child with the sensations, advancing in perhaps a year to batting a ball or walking to follow a piece of tape on the floor.)

-- In August, the International Paralympic Committee rejected quadriplegic British rugby player Mark Fosbrook for the upcoming Paralympics because he is too able-bodied. Fosbrook has no feet, and two fingers at the end of each arm, but he was rated 4.0 in functionality, with 3.5 the highest level allowed to compete.

People With Issues

(1) Michael J. Sterkins, 51, was arrested in Lockport, La., in July and charged as the man who, in five incidents, grabbed girls and women in cemeteries and cut off their ponytails. (One ponytail was recovered from his home, with the ends glued, placed underneath the Bible at his bedside.) (2) Among the evidence found in a search of Sung Koo Kim's home in Tigard, Ore., in June (Kim is a suspect in the disappearance of a female Brigham Young University student): 1,000 pairs of women's underwear, bagged, with some labeled as to which college dorm and woman it came from, and bags of clothes-dryer lint, labeled as to the campus laundry room of origin.

Least Competent Criminals

At an August hearing in Calgary, Alberta, in which four prostitutes testified against a 17-year-old male customer who had allegedly committed post-sex armed robbery against them, one of the four described the incident that eventually led to the youth's capture. While the boy held a dagger to the woman's chest and rummaged through her purse, he came upon her recent eviction notice, prompting him to ask her if she would like to rent the basement apartment in his home (and he gave her his phone number).

Recurring Themes

Once again, housekeepers at a museum mistook part of an art installation for ordinary garbage and tossed it out (this time, a bag of newspapers that was part of Gustav Metzger's "Re-creation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art" at London's Tate Britain gallery, in August). And once again, a suicidal man leaped to his death off a building but landed on a pedestrian, killing him, too (this time, in Nishinomiya, Hyogo, Japan, in August).

Readers' Choice

In August, Kenneth Davis, 42, saw a wild, 6-foot-long blacksnake in his neighborhood in Lawrence Township, N.J., and decided to coax it, probably as a joke, toward the residence of his friend Michael File. Michael's father saw the snake in his yard and stomped it to death, angering Davis, who knocked the father down. Michael File came to his dad's defense, but Davis picked up the snake, twirled it over his head, and began to beat Michael with it. Michael File then grabbed a baseball bat and hit Davis just as police and rescue workers arrived. (According to police, alcohol was involved.)

Almost All True

Three of these four things really happened, just recently. Are you cynical enough to figure out the made-up story?

(a) A judge in California told juror-candidates that if they were embarrassed to admit that they couldn't be fair, just to make up another excuse, and he'd let them go.

(b) Australia's tax agency signed up as a sponsor of this year's awards pageant for the country's pornography and prostitution industry.

(c) The insurer Lloyd's of London wrote a policy on a male model that would pay off if accident or illness caused him to lose 85 percent of his chest hair.

(d) A court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, approved the forcible implanting of a radio frequency identification tag in the arms of a man's two wives so he can monitor their whereabouts.

Answer to Almost All True: (a), (b) and (c) are true.

Thanks This Week to Mike Mendenhall, Karen Donofrio, Corey Newton, Melanie Collison, Shankar Unni, Leslie Stewart, Chris Knisely, Gary Goldberg, Larry Alexander, Joy Sargent, and Bea Westrate, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

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