News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF JUNE 26, 2005


Gerardo Flores, 19, was convicted of murder in June in Lufkin, Texas, in the death of the 5-month-old fetus of his girlfriend, Erica Basoria. Flores admitted that he had stood on Basoria's stomach several times at her request to induce a miscarriage, but Basoria had told authorities that she had also punched herself in the stomach several times. Under Texas law, killing a fetus is a capital offense, and so Flores automatically received a life sentence, but Basoria could not be charged because of her constitutional right to abortion.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

-- (1) British entrepreneur Colin Dowse recently introduced Sprayonmud (about US$14 a quart), dirty water chemically treated for greater stickiness, mainly for urban SUV owners to pass themselves off as all-terrain adventurers. (2) The maker of Doggles (which for several years has sold sunglasses for dogs at about $25) now offers corrective-lens Doggles starting at $75, which veterinary ophthalmologists can prescribe as alternatives to $2,000 lens-replacement surgery, according to a March report by KMGH-TV in Denver.

-- In the last few years, Taiwan entrepreneurs have opened restaurants with motifs such as prisons, zombies and Mao Zedong, but the latest is Eric Wang's "Marton," in Kaohsiung, whose theme is the toilet. All seats are what you would think, with food served on a glass tabletop resting on a bathtub, and some of the delicacies are presented in miniature toilet bowls (among them, curry hot pot, and disturbingly, chocolate ice cream).

Science on the Cutting Edge

-- Recent scholarly findings (reduced to their essence in a May Wall Street Journal column): It's much easier to identify someone if he is physically near you than if he is up to 450 feet away (Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, February). People who choose their careers carefully, rather than on a whim, experience greater job satisfaction (Journal of Economic Psychology, vol. 26, no.3). College students tend to drink more alcoholic beverages than they realize (Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, April). If patients voluntarily tell a doctor about a bad side effect of a medicine, they are more likely to be switched to a safer one than if they don't (Archives of Internal Medicine, January).

-- According to a study by Professor Martin Gibala and others, published in the June Journal of Applied Physiology, people can get the health benefits associated with two hours' cycling in just two minutes. Gibala said that over a two-week period, two hours daily of moderate-speed riding made cyclists no healthier than four all-out, to-the-max 30-second bursts daily (with four minutes' rest in between). (However, all subjects were already at least moderate exercisers.)

Leading Economic Indicators

-- (1) New York state Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, from Manhattan, introduced a bill in June to require a minimum wage for comedians (at least $125 per 20-minute show at comedy clubs on weekends and $28 on weekdays). (2) North Carolina correctional officials began rethinking inmate manufacturing programs recently when they discovered that, even though they pay prisoners only $3 a day in their T-shirt-making concession, suppliers in Bangladesh can make the shirts for 38 percent less.

-- London's Housing Market: Agence France Presse reported in May that an agency had just rented out a 54-square-foot apartment in Notting Hill (loft bed over a kitchenette, closet and shower) for the equivalent of US$1,065 a month. And in the Haringey Park neighborhood, developer Andrew Markey proposed to convert the kitchen and hallway of a house he owns into its own two-story townhouse (producing a living room 21 feet by 8 feet). Agents said such a house might go for the equivalent of US$325,000, but in June, the local council rejected his initial plans.

Man's Best Friend

In March, Mark Allen Shook, 43, attempting to flee (with his dog) Mountain Ranch, Calif., police officers who had come to arrest him on a domestic violence charge, was captured after a chaotic fight during which the dog bit off part of Shook's ear. And in Eltham, England, in May, a family's dog, chasing a ball, bumped the ladder on which a man was standing to trim some bushes with a chainsaw, causing him to fall and fatally slice the neck of his wife, who was holding the ladder.

More Things to Worry About

(1) Five Buddhist monks in Bangkok were defrocked in May after a street fight culminating years of hostility between two temples, according to a Reuters dispatch. Said one (who used brass knuckles), "When an ordinary person is given a middle-finger sign, he will be mad. So will I." (2) In May, a 1,500-pound camel named Poon, roaming around his home at the Mayle Farm in Shinnston, W.Va., decided to sit down on top of a woman who was painting a fence. No one could hear her muffled screams, but she managed to call 911 on her cell phone, and help arrived just as Poon had begun to bite her.

People Different From Us

In March, The Australian newspaper identified an upswing in the business of some beauticians who have responded to customers' desires to lighten the skin around their anuses. A beautician in Sydney said she had long been helping sex workers for that condition but that lately the clients are civilians trying to please boyfriends who are taken by how "clean and light" porno actresses seem. Said another beautician of the ingredient she uses, "I explain that it will give them eczema and (other problems), but they want it anyway."

Least Competent Criminals

Easy Identifications: (1) Awiey "Chucky" Hernandez, 20, was arrested when he went to the 90th Precinct station house in Brooklyn, N.Y., to check on the status of a pal and inadvertently stood directly in front of his own "wanted" poster (on robbery and drug charges). The in-custody pal Hernandez had come to inquire about was Huquan "Guns" Gavin, 18, who appears with him on the poster. (2) Charles Cross Jr., was arrested on the street minutes after allegedly robbing a Fifth Third Bank in Louisville, Ky., in May, because he displayed the effects of having been looking directly into his stash bag at the moment the red-dye device exploded.


Even though AIDS continues to spread through sub-Saharan Africa, the pernicious custom of the village "cleanser" persists in Zambia, Kenya, Malawi and other countries (mentioned in News of the Weird in 2003). When a husband dies, the widow traditionally must break the marital bond by soon having sex again, lest the entire village be spiritually condemned. The preferred partner is a relative of the husband, but if none is available, the village leader calls on a professional "cleanser" who performs the task in exchange for a chicken or other remuneration. According to a May New York Times dispatch from Malawi, cleansers believe that wearing a condom will provoke other bad spirits.

Thinning the Herd

A man fell to his death from an overpass onto Interstate 5 in Seattle, the loser of a who-can-hang-the-longer game with a friend (May). And a 22-year-old intoxicated man from Aberystwyth, Wales, accidentally fell through a window and fatally landed on a spiked fence after having pulled down his trousers and screamed to no one in particular, "Who wants some of this?" (April). And in Frederick, Md., a judge convicted Ben Meacham, 23, on two misdemeanor counts for his role in the death of a 21-year-old pal, who had said he wanted to do something unusual on his motorcycle because it was about to be repossessed over a loan default. With Meacham videotaping, the pal, pantsless, did a wheelie before losing control and accidentally, fatally ramming a parked truck (June).

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