News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



Art Comes to Life: In a 1999 episode of TV's "The Simpsons," Homer became a temporary multibillionaire by accidentally inventing a "tomacco" plant that sprouted tobacco-bred tomatoes that were hopelessly addictive from even a single bite. Inspired (and hoping to draw attention to the show's anti-smoking message), Rob Baur of Lake Oswego, Ore., tried to grow such a plant and has somewhat succeeded, although a forensic researcher believes that only the plant itself, and not the fruit, contains nicotine. In February, he announced that he would auction off the golf-ball-sized fruit.

Unclear on the Concept

-- Ronald Paul McAllister, 43, allegedly robbed a Bank of America branch in Tulsa, Okla., in January, during which incident he was quoted as advising a teller, "Don't do anything stupid, lady." Moments later, as McAllister fled with his loot, he forgot to take his holdup note, which was a pre-printed withdrawal slip with his name on it. He was easily tracked down, and police now say McAllister had robbed another bank in October.

-- Ariel Alonso, who lives near Roanoke, Va., was indignant when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration wrongly accused him of setting up a methamphetamine lab, and asked rhetorically, after the charges were dropped in January, "How do I get my ... dignity back?" The laboratory of Alonso (and his then-partner Jonathan Conrad) was in reality making the so-called "fluid of life," which they goaded customers into buying (at $20 to $40 a dose) by claiming that it is the component of human cells and can cleanse people internally and build new tissue, even though it was just potassium chloride and white grape juice. (That, apparently, is the business plan that gave Alonso "dignity.")

-- Convicted murderer Robert Ivey continued to tell a court in Montreal, Quebec, in December that (contrary to a jury's finding) he is not guilty of killing the 42-year-old victim and that if only he had enough money to challenge the conclusive DNA tests (which showed that his blood was all over the victim's apartment), he would be a free man. A few moments later during his recitation to the court, Ivey asked the judge for credit toward his sentencing because of his conscientiousness in having spent "seven hours" cleaning up the crime scene and the victim's body.

-- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who is widely believed by United Nations officials and Far East experts to be tolerating the starvation deaths of perhaps millions of his countrymen, launched a nationwide campaign in January to improve national health by eradicating smoking, whose practitioners, said Kim, are one of the "three main fools of the 21st century" (along with people ignorant about music and computers).


-- In November, Jacky Bibby, 52, of Whiskey Flats, Texas (near Fort Worth), first sat in a bathtub with 81 live rattlesnakes and then extended his own Guinness Book record by stuffing the tails of nine of them into his mouth. Protocol required that he band the tails together at the rattles and hold them in his mouth for 10 seconds while leaning forward. (The Associated Press reported that Bibby's day job is "marketing" for a drug treatment center.) (Also, in December, Brian Moffitt of Winnipeg, Manitoba, extended his Guinness Book record of 702 body piercings by inserting 900 surgical needles into his leg at the same time.)

-- Geologist David J. Siveter of Leicester University (England) wrote in the journal Science in December that he and his team had found a fossil 425 million years old that is probably the oldest record of an unambiguously male animal. They named the half-inch-long shellfish Colymbosathon ecplecticos, which they said means "swimmer with a large penis," referring to its organ that is one-fifth of its body length.

Conditional Love

Eva Reyes, 71, the mother of convicted murderer David Maust of Hammond, Ind., said in December, upon being informed that Maust had been charged with three more murders: "I love David, but, yes, (the death penalty) would be the right thing to do for him (if convicted)." Also in December, Lynda Nixon, the mother of convicted double murderer Ian Huntley (Soham, England), told The Sun newspaper: "I believe Ian should not live after what he's done. I truly wish we had capital punishment" (and she went on to specify an "electric chair").

More Things You Probably Didn't Know

(1) The first international camel beauty pageant was held in November in the Alxa League area of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous region of China, according to an Associated Press dispatch, featuring nearly 100 dressed-up camels judged (by veteran herders) for the shine of their hair and the uprightness of their humps. (2) And a Duke Medical Center study, announced in December, concluded that doses of nicotine might reduce age-associated memory impairment ("senior moments"), thus adding to the conditions (others: schizophrenia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) that can benefit from nicotine.

Recurring Themes

In January, doctors at the Selian Hospital, Arusha, Tanzania, removed a toothbrush from the stomach of a 54-year-old man who had become the latest person to swallow one while brushing his teeth. And in December in Cortland, N.Y., Ron Tanner was captured after about a year on the run as a fugitive from a prison in Wyoming, where he was serving time for theft. Tanner is now the latest innocent man (the Wyoming Supreme Court recently threw out his theft conviction) jailed for escaping from a prison where he was being wrongfully detained, and he faces up to 10 years behind bars if convicted.

The District of Calamity (continued)

Even after it had learned that its chief technology officer's claim of a college computer sciences degree was bogus, the Washington, D.C., Elections Board declined to fire her, reasoning that such a degree was not important to her job (January). And the D.C. Contract Appeals Board declined to suspend a paving firm that had pleaded guilty last year to bribing district officials, thus allowing it to resume normal contracting work (January). Also in January, a government audit revealed that the district last year had failed to use (and therefore had lost) $5 million from federal grants for breakfast and lunch programs for low-income children because it could not figure out how to spend it.

Also, in the Last Month

The 48-year-old father of a high school basketball player, riled at the officiating of a game, was charged with assault after allegedly biting two of the three referees in an on-court brawl (Colorado Springs, Colo.). And crude oil bubbled up from the toilet and sinks of Leila LeTourneau's home, covering the floors (possibly from an old, uncapped well under the home) (Longview, Texas). And two Cubans who had tried to land in Florida last year on their pontooned 1951 Chevy truck (but were turned back by the Coast Guard) tried again with a pontooned 1959 Buick (but were again turned back).

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