News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



Update: In July 2004, as News of the Weird mentioned, a federal appeals court ruled that the leak-safety standards for the long-awaited nuclear waste depository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain were too weak, in that the Environmental Protection Agency would regard the facility as safe for only 10,000 years (almost five times the length of time since the birth of Jesus). One National Academy of Sciences panel had recommended against the site unless leak safety could be certified for at least 300,000 years. In August 2005, EPA issued a revised durability standard, now claiming the site would be free of unsafe leaks for a million years. (Context: 110 years ago, science had not even discovered radioactivity.)

Leading Economic Indicators

-- A 1958 Pablo Picasso original, "Atelier de Cannes," was placed on sale recently by the discount chain Costco (at its Web site, priced to move at the retail-type listing of $129,999.99. Costco began offering art on consignment from dealers last year, but "Atelier" (a crayon drawing authenticated by daughter Maya Picasso) is by far its most expensive piece. According to an August report in the New York Post, the company extends its regular guarantee of full refund if dissatisfied.

-- A Pakistani company, The Resource Group, seeking more call-center work from U.S. firms, set up an office this year in Washington, D.C., a block from the White House, and installed a receptionist, live from Karachi, via a flat-screen TV on the office wall. According to a May Washington Post report, Ms. Saadia Musa cheerily greets visitors, answers and routes phone calls to the Washington office, lets in deliverymen, and orders sandwiches from down the street.

-- In July, Uttar Pradesh Eunuchs Association, in Lucknow, India, demanded that the district magistrate and the senior superintendent of police order cops to begin exposing fake eunuchs by lifting their skirts to verify their status. Charlatans, according to the group, deprive real eunuchs of "legitimate" income (a large part of which derives from eunuchs' entering places of business and private parties, exposing themselves and otherwise being obnoxious, and demanding a fee to leave).

You Mean, These Are Crimes?

Police in West Hartford, Conn., arrested Matthew Flynn, 46, in August for allegedly threatening to castrate a Melly's ice-cream truck driver with a pair of hedge clippers because the driver blared his jingle on and on and on, even though Flynn told him that no kids lived on the street. And David Owen Rye, 48, was arrested in Los Angeles 10 days earlier for allegedly firing at least three bullets into a Toyota Camry in an apartment-house parking lot because its car alarm wouldn't shut off.

Cutting-Edge Research

-- Fire-Freaking: Apparently, forest fires make the jewel beetle (also known as the black fire beetle) frisky, according to Dr. Helmut Schmitz and colleagues at the University of Bonn (Germany), for males and females will fly toward one in a mating frenzy after detecting even the faraway flickering of flames and crackling of burning wood. Schmitz, and predecessor William George Evans, hypothesized that the fire eliminates the beetle's predators and prevents tree secretion from trapping the beetle larvae, according to a March report by BBC News.

-- In research published in May in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, biologist Brian Langerhans and colleagues found that large genitals in some fish species (such as the western and Bahamas mosquitofish) represent evolutionary pluses and minuses. Apparently, females prefer well-endowed mating partners, but on the other hand, well-hung males tend to have shorter life spans because, weighted down as they are, they cannot swim away from predators as nimbly as can mosquitofish with smaller endowments.


Sam, the 14-year-old Chinese crested, won in June for the third time as the World's Ugliest Dog at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in California. According to an Associated Press reporter, the hairless dog's "wrinkled brown skin is covered with splotches; a line of warts marches down his snout; his blind eyes are an alien, milky white; and a fleshy flap of skin hangs from his withered neck. And then there's the Austin Powers teeth that jut at odd angles from his mouth." Owner Susie Lockheed said that even the judges recoiled when they first saw him. (Fortunately, for those concerned with dog beauty, Sam has been neutered.)

First Things First

(1) On July 3 in San Marcos, Texas, Dave Newman, 48, rescued a swimmer caught in the currents of the San Marcos River, pulling the man underneath a waterfall and to shore. However, when Newman tried to climb out of the water, a police officer offered his hand but only to arrest Newman for interfering with "official" rescuers (who, of course, failed to get to the man before Newman did). (2) According to police in Jacksonville, N.C., Dorothea Thomas was shot six times by her boyfriend in June and forced to jump from her apartment's second-story balcony to survive, but by the time she returned from the hospital, her landlord of nine years, United Dominion Residential Community, had posted an eviction notice, kicking her out for letting such a dangerous man come onto the property.

-- Star wide receiver Brandon Jackson might just play in at least half of Lancaster (Texas) High School's football games this season because he doesn't go to court until Oct. 17 on six counts of aggravated robbery from two January armed holdups. Lancaster High's dedication to the presumption of innocence for high school football players is apparently so strong that the only remaining issues, at press time, were (1) whether his relocation from his previous high school will be permitted under the general rules on transfer and (2) whether he will be allowed to remove his ankle monitor during games.

-- Werner D. Anderson was arrested on several traffic violations in Missoula County, Mont., in June after a two-county car chase with deputies that ended with Anderson creeping along at 20 mph until he stopped. Deputies say that when Anderson finally got out of his van, a syringe fell to the ground, and Anderson said he had been driving so slowly at the end because he needed to shoot up with cocaine one last time before he got arrested.

Least Competent Criminals

Jeremy Suggs, 21, was arrested in Las Vegas in August and charged with robbing a Wells Fargo bank, done in by the familiar lapse of having accidentally left behind his wallet and a name-imprinted deposit slip. Also, according to police, he had fired two shots in the bank out of frustration at noncompliance with his demands, with one narrowly missing his own head, and had to re-count down a threat to shoot ("5, 4, 3, 2, 1") when no one gave him money the first time. His alleged partner and getaway driver, known as "Jap," had supposedly talked him into the crime by assuring him that there were no surveillance cameras, but of course there were.

Bright Ideas

(1) The owner of Al's Lock and Safe in North Platte, Neb., made a truck key in June based entirely on looking at an X-ray of the key inside the stomach of Arthur Richardson, who had accidentally swallowed it in an inept attempt to play a prank on the friend of his who owned the truck. The friend said he needed the truck right away and couldn't wait for Arthur to receive a nature's call. (2) Grandmother-of-six Mari Savage and other senior friends in Margate, England, began a campaign this summer to wear hooded sweatshirts and baseball caps, in order to discourage teenagers from dressing that way, which Savage believes encourages gang behavior. Said Savage, to the Daily Telegraph, "Once older people like us get hold of (these garments), they lose all their street cred."

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