News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF JANUARY 22, 2006

LEAD STORY

Inappropriate Kisses: Malaysian Shahimi Abdul Hamid, 33, announced that on March 11, he will, as a matter of Asian pride, challenge the world record for speed-kissing a venomous snake, which is held by an American, and he smooched up a 9-foot-long cobra at his press conference. And last Oct. 31, according to a Minneapolis Star Tribune police column, "An employee of a business ... complained that a former co-worker had been constantly showing up and kissing his truck, leaving lip marks all over it. Police warned the man to stay away."

Signs of the Times

-- In September, fertility experts interviewed by London's Daily Telegraph said an alarming number of women were choosing in-vitro fertilization not because of trouble conceiving but merely because "fast track" pregnancies better fit their busy lifestyles. (Said one clinician, "Some people are horrified by the idea that they have to have sex two to three times a week (to maximize the likelihood of conception).") And in October, an official at the Erasmus fertility clinic in Brussels, Belgium, said that because more lesbian couples were seeking insemination at a time of dwindling sperm supplies, the clinic might have to restrict its services to male-female couples.

-- The provincial government in Buenos Aires began in December requiring all retail clothiers selling to adolescent girls to stock a range of "plus" sizes in order to encourage larger girls to obsess less about being thin. And in November, researchers from the Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Ireland told a convention in Chicago that two-thirds of their patients who received injections into the buttock muscle had not received the full dose of medicine because existing needles are not long enough to reach beyond the fat.

Recent Tacky Political Candidates

(1) In a race between two African-Americans, Don Samuels was elected again to the Minneapolis City Council in November, despite (or thanks to) his 2004 statements that he can effectively serve the city's blacks because he descended from "house slaves" in the South rather than "field slaves." (2) City Council member Clark Griep failed in his bid for mayor of Broomfield, Colo., despite his "October surprise" of revealing that the incumbent mayor, Karen Stuart, had had an extra-marital affair eight years ago with him. (She denied it.) (3) Former Durham, N.C., city council member Jackie Wagstaff was beaten in the race for mayor last fall, having run as "J-Dub" on a "gangsta" platform, promising to bring "street teens" into her administration. (Eight of the 17 mayoral and council candidates in Durham, including J-Dub, had criminal records.)

Government in Action

-- Some of the most heavily armed park rangers in the world (carrying AR-15 and Galil automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns and protected by body armor) patrol 124,000 acres west of Mexico City, to protect monarch butterflies. The rangers keep loggers out of the area because the monarch population (22 million, this season) represents an 80 percent drop from the year before.

-- When Welsh Assembly Member Jenny Randerson was turned down in December in her request under Wales' Freedom of Information Act for government documents about the budget, the official explanation given in the letter of denial was that, "The exposure of some of these discussions to the public domain, via a freedom of information request, may lead to individuals ... being targeted for ridicule through the media." (Randerson pointed out that the act doesn't mention that defense.)

-- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service once again in December rejected efforts to remove the gray wolf from the list of endangered species in Nevada, despite general agreement among biologists that the last confirmed sighting of one in the state was in 1941. (The agency said its hands are tied by the wording of the law.)

-- The Los Angeles Times, after a public records search, found in January that the city's Department of Water and Power had spent $1 million in the last two years in a campaign to convince residents that the city does, indeed, have top-quality municipal water, yet its employees spent $88,000 of taxpayer money during the same period on commercial bottled water.

Great Art!

In November, prominent, occasionally self-mutilating performance artist Marina Abramovic, 59, performed "covers" of other performance artists' seminal works (with their permission) in her "Seven Easy Pieces" show at New York City's Guggenheim Museum. In one, according to a New York Times profile, she covered her head in honey and gold leaf, cradled a dead rabbit, and whispered to it about pictures on the wall (original artist: Joseph Beuys). In another, she lay on a bed above lighted candles and made cuts on her fingers while slides of women painting their nails flashed on a screen (original artist: Gina Pane). However, she was stymied by the denial of permission for her fondest proposed "cover": Chris Burden's 1973 piece in which his hands were nailed to the roof of a Volkswagen as it was rolled out of a garage.

Police Blotter

(1) From the Union Democrat (Sonora, Calif.), 11-20-05: "Big Oak Flat. A woman said an exhaust system stolen from her vehicle was returned and reinstalled" (2) from the Peru (Ind.) Tribune, 10-14-05: "(A) caller ... told the (sheriff's office) a man was in the middle of the road. The man told officers he was looking for his tooth that he lost yesterday while eating peanuts. He thinks he may have tossed it out the car window while he was tossing out peanut shells."

Least Competent Criminals

If the December robbery of a pharmacy went down the way McMinnville, Ore., police believe, it indicates the suspect, sheriff's deputy David Verbos, 36, had little respect for their crime-solving ability. Verbos allegedly took OxyContin at gunpoint in the robbery, but later called the McMinnville police to report that someone had stolen his license plates (perhaps hoping to insulate himself in case a witness had glimpsed the plate at the scene). However, when police arrived to take a report, they noticed that Verbos, a stocky man about 5-9, was wearing a black jacket, gray sweat pants, and white sneakers, thus fitting nearly dead-on the description of the man who had robbed the pharmacy.

Readers' Choice

(1) A judge in Montgomery County, Md., ruled in January that angrily pulling down one's pants and "mooning" a neighbor (even in front of the neighbor's 8-year-old daughter) is not illegal in the state (though the judge did call it "disgusting"). (2) Widespread news reports in December at first said a Blue Springs, Mo., woman had "swallowed" her cell phone after an argument with her boyfriend, but of course, miniaturization technology is not quite that advanced, and, several days later, Blue Springs police said it was not a swallowing but an attempted cramming and arrested the boyfriend.

Undignified Deaths

The family of a 55-year-old motorcyclist filed a lawsuit in December over the man's death, which allegedly occurred when he was hit on Highway 16 near Custer, S.D., by an airborne toilet. (The portable toilet had come off of a truck of Sander Sanitation Co.) And a 47-year-old passenger in a pickup truck on the way to work near Childersburg, Ala., in January, was killed instantly by an airborne deer (struck by an oncoming car and knocked through the pickup's windshield).

CORRECTION: Two weeks ago, I labeled the Colorado developer Bigg Homes as the "creator" of the community of Eagle Mountain. However, Bigg is only one developer, and many people who live there have no relationship with Bigg.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)

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