News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF MARCH 26, 2006


Because perhaps hundreds of Japanese Yakuza gangsters are nearing retirement age, the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare has drafted rules for the former gambling, loan shark, and protection workers to qualify for benefits, according to a March dispatch from Tokyo in The Times of London. Since organized crime leaves no employment paper trail, ex-mobsters must supply a letter of retirement from their crime boss in order to sign up, although local governments are expected to accept as partial proof gang tattoos, criminal records, demonstrations of missing finger tips (the sign of traditional Yakuza punishment for mistakes).

Can't Possibly Be True

-- Victoria Lundy, 41, in custody in Chillicothe, Ohio, in January for a barroom shooting, apparently smuggled her gun into the jail at the time of her arrest by putting it inside her vagina. A shot was fired in a holding cell, and according to a fellow prisoner interviewed by the Chillicothe Gazette, the gun had gone off when Lundy sat down on a bench in the cell. (No one was hit.)

-- Among the places of business particularly affected by Americans' cell-phone rudeness was the Green Oaks Family Dentistry clinic in Arlington, Texas, according to a February USA Today story. Office manager Lisa Teague said patients were carrying on phone conversations while hygienists worked in their mouths. "It was very disruptive," she said.

-- Chicagoland Schools in Crisis: (1) In February, a sixth-grader at Waldo Middle School was suspended and charged with a felony by Aurora, Ill., police when he brought powdered sugar to class for a science project and jokingly told another student that it was cocaine. A custodian overheard the conversation and reported him. (2) The Chicago Tribune reported in March that dozens of blind students in Chicago public schools are nonetheless required to take driver education classes. One sightless but otherwise optimistic student told the Tribune she resented the requirement because it made her uncharacteristically dwell on something that she cannot do.

-- Andrew Thurnheer, 45, was elected in January as the highway superintendent in Danby, N.Y., even though he still lives with his parents. He doesn't sleep in his old bedroom, though; he sleeps in his tree house, 40 feet up, which he built nearly 20 years ago, and which has a generator-powered elevator, a shower and a propane heater, according to a January Associated Press dispatch. (Mr. Kapila Pradhan, also 45, has also been living in a tree, for the past 15 years, but that is in a village in Orissa state in India. He sought solitude after a fight with his wife, according to a January BBC News dispatch.)

Names in the News

Arrested in February in Town Creek, Ala., on drug-related charges: University of North Alabama basketball player Reprobatus Bibbs ("reprobate," in the dictionary, is "morally depraved" or "beyond hope of salvation"). And sought in a February shooting death in New Orleans: 20-year-old Ivory Harris, whose nickname is "Be Stupid."

Unclear on the Concept

(1) When the U.S. Department of the Interior was ordered to reimburse lawyers for American Indians $7 million for their successful lawsuit over missing royalty payments on Indian land, the department decided that budget considerations would force it to raise almost half of that $7 million by cutting back programs of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. (2) According to a November Washington Post poll (whose results were published in February), 94 percent of Americans said they are "above average" in honesty, 89 percent "above average" in common sense, 86 percent "above average" in intelligence, and 79 percent "above average" in looks.

Bring the Pain

(1) In January in Kyoto, Japan, a 32-year-old nurse was sentenced to more than three years in prison after she was convicted of relieving her overwork-induced stress by tearing off the fingernails and toenails of immobilized patients. (2) British dentist Mojgan Azari was de-licensed in January after a conviction for allowing her unqualified boyfriend to do fillings on more than 600 patients. (3) Terra Linda High School (San Rafael, Calif.) wrestler D.J. Saint James, a senior, was profiled in February in the Marin Independent Journal for his sterling record, including a freshman match in which he suffered a ruptured testicle (which eventually swelled to the size of a fist) but toughed it out for three minutes before summoning up an almost-miraculous burst of energy to pin his opponent.

Cliches Come to Life

-- Life Imitates a GEICO Commercial: A teenager lost control of his car in Kettering, Ohio, in March, and smashed into a house, causing major damage. According to police, he had swerved to avoid hitting an albino squirrel (which, unlike in the commercial, did not survive). Another squirrel caused a four-car collision in March in Mount Pleasant Township, Pa., but no injuries were reported. Neither human was cited by police.

-- "What She Really Wants to Do Is Direct": When Tamara Anne Moonier filed rape charges against six young men in Fullerton, Calif., in June 2004, she seemed the disconsolate victim of vicious predators. However, shortly afterward, one of the accused gave police a video of the entire incident, and Moonier consequently was indicted in 2005 for filing a false police report and defrauding a victim assistance fund. In February 2006, Orange County Weekly published several pieces of dialogue from the video and described numerous "scenes" in which Moonier is shown laughing (27 different times), dominating action, ordering certain sex acts and positions, complimenting the men's bodies, and barking out exhortations for the men to improve their virility and performances.

Well, Of Course!

(1) Russian president Vladimir Putin apparently surprised diplomatic observers in Britain in January when he declined to expel four U.K. diplomats who had been accused of espionage. Reasoned Putin, according to a January dispatch in Britain's Guardian, these four weren't smart enough to avoid getting caught, and if he expelled them, the U.K. would just send replacements who are more clever. (2) A recent study by economists Naci Mocan and Erdal Tekin concluded that unattractive teenagers grow up to commit more crimes than do attractive people. A February Washington Post summary of the research posits that fewer job opportunities and social opportunities might be what accounts for the "consequences of being young and ugly."

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (77) The disgruntled debtor who finally agrees to pay, but obnoxiously delivers it all in pennies, or in $1 bills, as William Lewis Jr., did on a foreclosure judgment in Sebring, Fla., in March. (78) The latest recycling laboratory breakthrough that makes possible the conversion of manure, urine or methane gas into a new energy source, as was Japanese professor Sakae Shibusawa's March announcement that, by pressure and heat, he can produce an ounce of gasoline from 5 pounds of cow dung.

Readers' Choice

-- A February BBC News story, citing a local newspaper in Upper Nile state in Sudan, reported that village elders had required a Mr. Tombe, as punishment for having been caught having sex with a female goat, to pay a dowry to the goat's owner and to care for the nanny as if they were "married." (The story ran worldwide, with Australia's News Limited's Web site reporting it with a file photo of a goat, adorned with a black bar across its eyes, to protect its privacy.)

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or or go to

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600