News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 20, 2005

LEAD STORY

In January, days after a crackdown by Mexican President Vicente Fox on corruption at the La Palma jail near Mexico City, a full-page ad appeared in the daily newspaper Reforma, supposedly placed by higher-profile inmates, who, according to the ad, were now suffering under "subhuman" conditions, treated "like dogs, like animals, like we are worthless ... scum of society." What the government had done was to confiscate the drug lords' and organized-crime leaders' big-screen TVs, computers and cell phones (which they were using to retain control of their operations from behind bars), break up their prison rackets, and even end their personal pizza deliveries.

The Eternal Temptation

The Roanoke (Va.) Times reported on Jan. 17 that a Wytheville police officer had to rescue a 9-year-old boy who, with time on his hands waiting for a school bus on a "bone-deep cold" morning, decided to find out what would happen if he licked a metal pole. While awaiting someone to bring warm water to free the boy, the officer and the kid had the following conversation: "Have you learned anything?" "Uh-huh." "Are you going to do this again?" "Uh-uh."

Mainstreaming Sex Workers

In 2002, Germany legalized prostitution, primarily for tax revenue and to make sex workers eligible for health care benefits, and at the same time, it specifically declined to exempt brothels from those places of employment at which the jobless might be required to work in order to maintain their benefits. In December, there was a press report of a 25-year-old unemployed waitress complaining that she had been called for an interview at a brothel and feared that if she declined the job, her benefits would be cut. Germany's Federal Labor Office said it would not do that, but a Hamburg lawyer said there have been cases of unemployed female call-center workers being offered telephone sex-line jobs via the government.

Recent Alarming Headlines

(1) "Fireworks Explode in Pants, Burn Boy" (a January story in New Orleans' Times-Picayune about an 11-year-old boy improvidently carrying bottle rockets in his pants while holding a sparkler). "Cleric Suspect Misses Hearing Due to Long Toe Nails" (a January Reuters dispatch from London, reporting that radical Islamic rabble-rouser Abu Hamza al-Masri found it too painful to walk to court). "Cops: Mom Used Hammer on Son Over Homework" (a January Associated Press report in which police charged a St. Louis woman with excessive supervision of homework, which allegedly also included pliers).

The Entrepreneurial Spirit!

-- (1) Sehnsucht restaurant opened in Berlin recently, catering to people with eating disorders, with a tasty cuisine for anorexics, to encourage weight-gain, but also serving bulimics, some of whom will quickly disgorge the tasty meal. (2) And frog farmers in the village of Bo Talo, Thailand, struggling with a glut in the local market, developed an export product for those who don't require their frogs to be fresh: frog-in-a-can (which they hope will catch on as chicken and duck sales falter because of avian flu).

-- The Japanese company Trane KK recently introduced the "lap pillow," a large foam headrest, in the shape of a woman's kneeling lower torso so that the target audience of men can rest their heads on "her" legs. It was probably created in response to an earlier product from the company Kameo of a pillow with a "man's" arm extending downward, targeted for women to hug the arm as they drift off to sleep.

Our Awesome Animal Friends

A landmine-detection outfit in Mozambique has upgraded from explosives-sniffing dogs to giant African Hamster rats, according to a December Agence France-Presse dispatch, because the lighter, more plentiful rats have noses that are just as sensitive and don't suffer dogs' need for affection and constant reassurances. And Northern Arizona University Professor Con Slobodchikoff, who spoke to the Albuquerque Journal in December about his two decades of elaborate, patient, desert research, said that prairie dogs he has studied at three locations in the Southwest speak in different dialects but would likely understand each other, can even invent sounds for new things, and perhaps can even gossip.

-- In a tourist park next to the zoo in Chiang Mai, Thailand, handlers have toilet-trained seven elephants. In photos published in Bangkok's The Nation in January and now available on the Internet, a 5-year-old elephant is shown using a giant white, Western-style concrete toilet as if he were human, including using his trunk to pull a cord to flush.

-- Recurring Themes: Michael Henson's dog became the latest one to "drive," after he pawed the gearshift of Henson's idling truck, sending it through the front of the O'Reilly Auto Parts store in Springdale, Ark., in December. And Matthew Harper's hunting dog became the latest one to shoot someone, stepping on a shotgun's trigger and blasting Harper in the arm, near Upper Klamath Lake in Oregon in October. And Leana Beasley's rottweiler assistance dog became one of the latest to save her client's life by (as per training) nose-punching a telephone's 911 button upon seeing Beasley suffer a grand mal seizure and then barking furiously into the receiver (Richland, Wash., October).

Creme de la Weird

Paul Kelvin Hardy, 40, was arrested in Martinsburg, W.Va., after he broke into a couple's home on New Year's Eve, robbed them of $540, held them at gunpoint for more than hour, and then, when he noticed a piano in the house, ordered the husband to play two songs while Hardy sang. After the songfest, Hardy suggested they order pizza and meanwhile began playing with his gun. The siege ended, and police were called, when Hardy joined a long list of people chronicled in News of the Weird for accidentally shooting themselves.

Least Competent Criminals

Not Cut Out for a Life of Crime: (1) Earmon Wilson, 44, walked in to police headquarters in Buffalo, N.Y., in January and confessed to two burglaries at his apartment house, even though he wasn't a suspect; he said his conscience was bothering him, which is also what he said in October 1994 when he unsolicitedly turned himself in for robbing a Buffalo bank. (2) In Cincinnati in December, Ronald Godfrey pleaded guilty to a burglary, which he was forced to attempt alone because, according to a prosecutor, his brother James (also a burglar) refused to work with him, saying Ronald was too dumb. In the December burglary, Ronald accidentally hit himself in the head with a crowbar, splattering the scene with blood, which police traced back to him.

Readers' Choice

In a widely publicized move in January, Oklahoma state Sen. Frank Shurden proposed legislation to bring back the "sport" of cockfighting, which the state outlawed in 2002. To appease critics, Shurden, apparently serious, suggested that the roosters wear tiny boxing gloves instead of the razor cleats on their legs and also wear electronic-sensitive vests in order to record hits so as to non-lethally determine the winner of a match.

The Continuing Crisis

A 29-year-old woman who was killed in a one-car crash on New Year's Day in Rohnert Park, Calif., was "wearing" a live boa constrictor as a fashion accessory, which friends later said she liked to do. And two hospitals affiliated with Duke University notified about 4,000 patients in January that they had accidentally "cleaned" surgical instruments in a petroleum-based hydraulic fluid (leaving them slightly sticky even though they were subsequently sterilized before use). And Purdue University student Danlei Chen was arrested in January and charged with stabbing her husband during a sexual episode following the couple's having watched the movie "Basic Instinct," which has a famous similar scene.

(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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