News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF MARCH 28, 2004


In March, Awards World magazine sponsored the inaugural "Awards Awards" at London's Dorchester Hotel, handing out awards to members of the British awards-presentation industry for the year's best awards shows. Spokesperson Barbara Buchanan explained, "Everybody likes to win an award," even the people who give out awards (who staged ceremonies for about 1,000 major presentations in Britain last year). Although Buchanan called this year's program a success, she said it is disqualified from receiving any awards at next year's Awards Awards.

Yogis in the News

In February, a consortium of yoga teachers filed a lawsuit in San Francisco against yoga master Bikram Choudhury (creator of the celebrity-trendy "Bikram" style), demanding that he become a little more serene, himself, and stop hassling them by claiming a copyright on his positions, some of which, they insist, are centuries old. And Agence France-Presse reported in January that yoga classes for dogs are available in Miami, New York City and Hollywood, producing such success stories as the aging pooch that, having assumed special dog-yoga positions, supposedly regained mobility in her hips.

Finer Points of Privacy Law

Patient privacy regulations (under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) were recently blamed for hospitals' placing restrictions on ward visits by Santa Claus (in Davenport, Iowa, December) and by clergy members (in Morgantown, W.Va., January), unless all patients give permission. And a Silver Spring, Md., woman was billed $17,000 by Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center before the hospital was allowed to tell her who the patient was, because of federal privacy laws. (The patient was her missing-person husband, who had been killed by a hit-and-run driver, news the police were late in giving her.) And privacy laws recently prevented the public school system in Nashville, Tenn. (and undoubtedly other cities), from having an "honor roll," unless all parents consented (even parents of mediocre students, who would be publicly revealed as non-honor roll).

Can't Possibly Be True

-- Cheryl L. Cooper was, until October, a counselor for Pyramid Healthcare Inc. in Pittsburgh, working with drug- and alcohol-addicted patients, but following a break-in and armed robbery of her home, she was summarily fired. Pyramid claimed (according to a February Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story) that since she had become a target of neighborhood tough guys, Pyramid clients and staff who would be with her at any time were thus in danger. (Among the problems Pyramid counselors must work through are traumas to crime victims and rehabilitation of criminals.)

-- In March, a court in Ansbach, Germany, turned down a challenge by a 43-year-old unemployed man to the government's denial of benefits stemming from his temporary separation from his wife, who is in her native Thailand. He claimed that since she could not afford to return to Germany, the government should pay for the travel, and since it refused to do that, it should pay him for at least four visits a month to a prostitute, plus an allowance to buy condoms, pornography and an appliance to aid masturbation.

-- In February, social workers found a feral family of six (only the father spoke a recognizable language; others used hand signs and noises) living in a shed on a farm at Theunissen, in Free State, South Africa. None of the kids (aged 14 to 26) had ever met anyone outside the family and simply ran into the woods any time visitors approached. One boy ambulated only in a frog-like manner. The father said the kids were born normal, and he assumed their poor development was punishment because he could not afford the ceremonial sacraments of the Majola tribe.

-- A case report in the January issue of the Indian Journal of Chest Diseases and Allied Sciences described a 27-year-old woman with an unshakable cough who, based on a radiograph, was found to have a condom lodged in her "upper right lobe bronchus," which eventually she disclosed to doctors had happened because she had accidentally "inhal(ed)" it during fellatio.

-- An African Grey parrot, N'kisi (trained by New York City artist Aimee Morgana), has apparently been reliably observed with an English vocabulary of 950 words and the ability to manipulate some of them in context, according to a British Broadcasting Corp. magazine report. According to a Cambridge University veterinary professor, the most promising gains from cognitive-ability testing on animals recently have been achieved with parrots.

-- In January, Sunnyside Elementary School (Stanton Heights, Pa.) suspended Brandi McKenith, 7, for a day for bad language, specifically for pointing out to a classmate that he was going to wind up in "hell" because he had said, "I swear to God." And in December, Ernest Gallet Elementary School (Lafayette, La.) sent Marcus McLaurin, 7, to a special discipline class for telling a fellow student, accurately, that his own mother is "gay" (which, he said, "is when a girl likes another girl").

Least Competent Criminals

(1) The December attempted robbery of a BB&T bank in Chesapeake, Va., was aborted when the robber and the teller arrived at a stalemate. The robber pushed a holdup note across the counter, but the teller read it, said, "I can't accept this," and passed it back. The robber pushed the note through a second time. The teller wadded the note up and tossed it back at the robber, who picked it up and walked out. (2) And the robbery of a liquor store in Greenville, S.C., in February was aborted when the clerk ran out of the store after the perp told him to empty the register, while pointing his bare index finger at him, simulating a gun.

Thinning the Herd

A 44-year-old man was crushed to death by a slow-moving tractor-trailer when he jumped underneath it to get the reportedly "well-worn" baseball cap that the wind had just blown off his head (Lethbridge, Alberta, November). And a 55-year-old man died of a heart attack, most likely, said the police, during or moments after stabbing his wife numerous times in a domestic altercation (Keene, N.H., December). And a 23-year-old man was hit by a subway car at New York City's 34th Street station when he leaned over the tracks to see the oncoming train, not realizing that it was coming from the other direction (December; the last press report available said the man was in critical condition).

Also, in the Last Month

A female Catholic catechism instructor was awarded $950,000 from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for injuries from being punched by a priest during a discussion of teaching techniques. And the San Jose Mercury News reported that teachers at several California schools have begun offering extra course credit to students who bring in vital classroom supplies no longer affordable under school budgets. And Abbeyfield School (Chippenham, England) banned regulation-size soccer balls during recreation periods, permitting only small, soft balls, but denied the reason was fear of lawsuits.

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