News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



(G)Ass Backwards: To support its December rate-increase request, the Connecticut utility Yankee Gas Services said it needs more money because too many of its customers have lowered their bills by heeding calls to conserve energy. And a November report commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce included the proposal that Congress replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund by imposing a special tax on gas-saving hybrid cars (in that those cars consume less fuel than regular cars and therefore pay less in gasoline tax).

Cultural Diversity

-- In South Korea, which has the highest rate of high-speed Internet use in the world, more than one-third of the population plays video games, with the result an alarming number of obsessive gamers requiring counseling (and, so far, two deaths after, respectively, 50 and 86 straight hours of playing). According to an October Associated Press dispatch from Seoul, at the many Internet cafes, gamers "typically live on instant (noodles) and cigarettes, barely sleeping and seldom washing." Video games are also a spectator sport: Three cable channels show matches, and the government is building an electronic-sports "stadium," where competitions will be shown on big screens.

-- Update: In 2001, News of the Weird reported on the Mosuo people's (in southern Tibet) tradition in which females nightly choose the men who will be their bed partners, but a September BBC News dispatch emphasized females' dominance in other aspects of the society, e.g., only women have the right to inherit property or raise children, with the "father" barely an occasional presence. BBC reported that the picturesque Mosuo region around Lugu Lake is now so popular with visitors that commerce is superseding Mosuo traditions.

Questionable Judgments

-- (1) Police in Hampton, Va., knew who the suspect was for the robbery of a Wachovia Bank in October (a man named David Wescott, 44), but he got away. They learned his identity because, said witnesses, after he fled the bank with the money, he ran to a nearby cellular phone store to pay his bill before leaving the area. (2) Quebec's La Fromagerie Boivin announced in October that, even with divers and high-tech equipment, it had given up on finding the nearly 1 ton of cheese that it had sunk underwater in 2004 north of Quebec City in a plan to improve its taste.

-- Andrew Uitvlugt, candidate for mayor of Kelowna, British Columbia, proposed in November to coax drug addicts into public jobs, such as trash collection, by rewarding them with crack cocaine, on the theory that the work would be so fulfilling that they would ultimately decline the drugs. (He finished fourth out of five candidates.)

-- Hair Mania: (1) Pontypool, Wales, bus driver Mark Davis had his hair colored red, with an actual (small) fir Christmas tree woven in, along with a string of lights (according to a December BBC News report, with photo). "It gives everyone a laugh," he said, but "(i)t's very difficult to sleep with it." (2) An October profile in the Jamaica Star reported on barber Darain Housen, 40, who is well-known in St. Thomas parish as the guy who has shaped his bristly hair in the form of a baseball cap, with the bill extending out a couple of inches over his forehead.

More Animals' Weird Mating Habits

-- In September, scientists from the Institute of Marine Research in Vigo, Spain, described, for likely the first time, the probable mating ritual of giant squid (which are typically 50 feet long, with eight legs and two tentacles, living in the blackness of the ocean a mile down). Based on examining five squid stranded on a beach in Spain, they posited that the larger female could rather easily resist the male, whose 8-foot-long, hypodermic needle-like penis is wielded so clumsily that he could mistakenly inseminate another passing male, or his own tentacle.

-- Even though bonobos (small chimpanzees found in the Democratic Republic of Congo) are among the most copulating animals on Earth, poaching has dropped their population by 90 percent in the last 25 years, according to a September dispatch in London's Daily Telegraph. Explained the director of a primate orphanage in Kinshasa, mellow bonobos enlist for sex immediately upon sensing any danger, stress or friction: "They also have sex for pleasure, but most of the time, it's a way of making peace."

Least Competent Criminals

-- In New Braunfels, Texas, in November, Robert Villarreal, 34, was sentenced to 50 years in prison after he sold drugs to the same undercover officer for the third time in a 14-year period. He had actually argued "entrapment," claiming that for the first sale, in 1988, he was so young that he shouldn't be expected to remember later what the officer looked like.

-- In September, Washington, D.C., police charged George Haynes with three robberies and suspect he is the man who committed two dozen more in the area since being paroled in 2004. Haynes was fingered for the latest robberies after he violated parole in July and was fitted with a global positioning satellite tracking device, linked to his ankle monitor. He apparently was not aware that police then knew his whereabouts 24 hours a day, to within a few feet, and found that Haynes was in the exact area of the three robberies at the exact, odd hours in which they occurred.

Clumsy People with Guns (all-new)

People who accidentally shot themselves recently: A 22-year-old driver, in the abdomen (gun in waistband) while reaching down to pick up money (Colorado Springs, Colo., October). A 34-year-old hunter, in the foot, where his rifle was pointed while he was loading it (Barrington, N.H., November). A 15-year-old boy, in the hand with a shotgun he was building based on instructions he had downloaded from the Internet (Round Rock, Texas, November). A 59-year-old man, in the hand, while removing his gun from a hook in the men's room at a gun show (Faribault, Minn., November). A 22-year-old man, in the leg, when his propped-up rifle fell over while he was posing for photographs with a deer he had just killed (Lawrenceburg, Tenn., December).

Recurring Themes

More Pain-Resistant People Scamming Insurance Companies: A 50-year-old dentist in Amsterdam, Netherlands, received only a suspended sentence in November for a scheme in which he had chopped off a finger but then staged a car accident to claim the equivalent of about $2.2 million for the finger-maiming under his auto policy. Also in November, a 35-year-old man in St. Johann, Austria, was arrested for trying to claim the equivalent of about $1.17 million in insurance based on his severed finger, from a bicycle injury, when, according to police, he had actually placed his finger on a rail and let a train run over it.

Thinning the Herd

(1) A 23-year-old man was found dead of smoke inhalation in a burning house in Billings, Mont., in November, and police said, to the best of their knowledge, it was the man who started the fire in two rooms to cover up the burglary he had just committed but that he wasn't able to get out of the house in time. (2) And in Reseda, Calif., in September, one man was killed and his pal wounded in a shootout as they attempted a random carjacking but didn't realize that men in the targeted car were FBI agents on surveillance.

CORRECTION: In News of the Weird's previous installment of Weird Animal Mating Habits (in November), concerning a great white shark tracked 12,400 miles over nine months ostensibly in search of sex, I reported that the shark was a male. It was female.

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