News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 1, 2004

LEAD STORY

National Geographic TV reported in January on designer-breeding of dogs, with emphasis on the not yet officially recognized species of Labradoodle. Breeding decisions must be carefully made because, say experts, some interspecies pairings create unhealthy offspring. For example, mating a pug with a Pekingese would likely create a dog whose eyes would fairly easily dislodge from their sockets, and a Newfoundland-Saint Bernard match-up would produce a dog particularly vulnerable to hip dysplasia. On the other hand, Yorkipoos and schnoodles appear to be safe, and the Labradoodle is a low-allergy, lightly shedding version of the Labrador retriever.

Right of the Clumsy to Bear Arms

People Who Accidentally Shot Themselves Recently: Anthony McCoy, 20, Edwardsville, Pa. (while he was playing with a gun, said police, it fired, nicking his scrotum, July). Maceo Price, 32, a bodyguard for singer R. Kelly, Marietta, Ga. (accidentally shot himself in the leg while removing his gun at a nightclub, September). Randy Robinson, 19, Toronto (fatally shot himself while pocketing his gun as he fled a taxi robbery, December). Thomas Morris Van Dyke, 40, South Buffalo, Pa. (fatally shot himself in the neck while climbing into his shoddily made hunter's tree stand, December). And police officers in Collinsville, Ill. (December), and Hopatkong Borough, N.J. (November) (the Collinsville officer shot his foot during a drug raid, and the New Jersey officer shot his leg during his annual firearms qualifying test.

Least Competent Criminals

Police in Franklin Township, N.J., charged a 20-year-old man with shoplifting two pythons from the Animal Trax pet shop and driving away with them. The man's poor judgment was not the reason police caught him, but when they did later encounter the stolen snakes in the man's house in January, he admitted that one of the snakes had wriggled out of his pocket during the getaway, wrapped itself around his leg, and bit him in the "groin area."

Can't Possibly Be True

-- Junior Allen, 63, feels 2004 will be his year. The North Carolina Parole Commission will decide soon whether to grant his application for release, after 25 straight rejections. Allen's only conviction, in 1970, was for stealing a TV set, which today would carry a probable sentence of probation only. Meanwhile, the same commission released Howard Washington on parole in January after 10 years in prison for murder; he committed his crime one week before the state eliminated parole as a possibility for murders such as the one Washington committed.

-- In December, New Hampshire's state drug abuse and prevention program was turned down for a $17 million grant on the sole ground, said the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, that its application was typed with smaller margins than permitted. The federal agency did not give the state an opportunity to correct the formatting, even though the victims of the rejection were not the grant-writers but drug-addicted patients.

-- Deborah Hayes, who was awarded more than $1.3 million by a jury in Beaumont, Texas, in November for the heart damage she suffered while taking the Fen-Phen weight-loss drug, said in December that that was too much money and that she thought she had demonstrated only about $588,000 in damages.

-- Wanda Hudson, 44, said she was inadvertently padlocked into her 30-by-10-foot locker by a careless employee of the Dauphin Island Parkway storage facility near Mobile, Ala., on Nov. 7, 2001, and did not get out until a neighboring unit renter heard her cries 63 days later. Hudson, who said she survived on canned foods and juice, was found weighing 85 pounds and in a clinical state of "advanced starvation." She sued Parkway for $10 million but in September 2003 was awarded $100,000 by a jury.

-- Americans continue to be divided over the wisdom of "zero tolerance" laws that require heavy punishment even for slight, technical violations, especially as applied to public school students. In December, for example, the Bossier Parish, La., school board voted to uphold the year-long expulsion of a 10th-grade girl for "drug" possession, specifically an Advil tablet. And in January, a Rio Rancho, N.M., middle school student was drug-suspended for five days for possession of a Gas-X tablet. (National media attention eventually caused both school districts to lessen the penalties.)

-- In December, payoff checks started arriving from Citibank's class-action lawsuit settlement that required it to refund overcharges for credit-card fees, but since the $18 million payout had to be split among 20 million customers and former customers, the checks were for as little as 4 cents, while the lawyers who brought the lawsuit shared $7.2 million. A major Citibank "abuse" corrected by the lawsuit: It was charging interest from 10 a.m. on the payment-due date but agreed to start charging it only as of 1 p.m.

Update

News of the Weird reported in 2002 that Armin Meiwes, 41, had been arrested for killing and eating a 42-year-old man in Kassel, Germany, but presented videotaped evidence that the murder was consensual (which would still be a crime in Germany but with a lighter sentence). Prosecutors have since learned that the "international cannibal community" may include hundreds of men who communicate on the Internet, including several who visited Meiwes to discuss becoming his dinner but who changed their minds (and were permitted to leave). Among Meiwes' e-mail exchanges (revealed at his trial, which is ongoing), a potential victim wrote, of the symbiotic nature of their proposed relationship: "Hey, we seem to have discovered a market niche." Meiwes: "We could solve the problem of overpopulation and famine at a (single) stroke."

Readers' Choice

According to police in Spokane, Wash., two young men on a lark decided to stop their car at a Denny's on a cold Jan. 14 morning at 5 o'clock, take off their clothes, and give the customers and staff a thrill by cavorting through the restaurant. However, one customer had the last laugh. He left, got into the streakers' idling car (which contained their clothes) and drove off. The car turned up five days later, minus CDs and the clothes. (Remarkably, the streakers, and a third pal, who remained clothed, have not yet been identified by local media.)

Also, in the Last Month

German and Swiss engineers, finally connecting their respective parts of the new Upper Rhine Bridge in Laufenberg, Germany, discovered that one half had been built 54 cm lower than the other, requiring massive reconstruction. And a 16-year-old boy, after holding a week-long series of parties while his father and stepmother were away, and seeing the damage done to the $380,000 house, burned it down to hide the destruction, according to police (Cincinnati, Ohio). And a 28-year-old man was sentenced to 10 months in prison for embezzling money from his company (a law firm), which itself is under indictment for stealing money from its clients (Brattleboro, Vt.).

(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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