News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF JUNE 3, 2007


High-Tech Pet Care: The Japanese company Medical Life Care Giken said it will begin marketing, later this year, a device that measures pets' stress levels. The tiny patch on the bottom of a dog's or cat's paw changes color depending on the amount of sweat secreted, according to the researchers at Toyama University who developed it. And in March, New York's Long Island Veterinary Specialists performed complicated hip-replacement surgery on a 1-year-old shorthaired cat, using a material about the width of a wooden matchstick. Oreo was discovered wedged in the crawl space of a house. (Dogs receive hip replacements almost routinely now, but cats were thought to be too small.)

Compelling Explanations

Local music producer Ricky Lackey, during questioning in March by a judge in Cincinnati to help her determine an appropriate sentence for Lackey for his crime of attempted theft, told her that he has no children but that he has "six on the way." The judge sought clarification. "Are you marrying a woman with six children?" "No," said Lackey, "I be concubining." All six women are due during August, September or October. Lackey, who had recently paid restitution to his victim, was released without additional sentence.


-- (1) So many U.S. executives want to visit India to make deals to outsource their companies' jobs that in March, India's Washington, D.C., embassy said it was forced to outsource the job of processing the executives' visa applications. (2) Yet another U.S. job was outsourced to India in May, that of "local government reporter" covering city hall politicians in Pasadena, Calif. The publisher of the Web site said the local beat could be handled very well from India, through telephone interviews and by watching live city council telecasts on the Internet.

-- In March, the Los Angeles City Council agreed to pay wrongly accused Juan Catalan $320,000 to settle his lawsuit over having been held in jail for five months for a 2003 murder he could not have committed. Catalan maintained all along that he had been at a Dodgers baseball game at the time of the crime, with his 6-year-old daughter, but police distrusted the alibi. However, Catalan's lawyer subsequently learned that the HBO TV show "Curb Your Enthusiasm" had been filming at Dodger Stadium that day for an episode and, poring over time-stamped outtakes of crowd shots, finally found a scene with Catalan and his daughter in the stands.

The Litigious Society

-- (1) In lawsuit-friendly Madison County, Ill. (termed "the promised land" by some trial lawyers), a judge awarded $311,700 to Amanda Verett for a long series of painful injuries that her courtroom-veteran chiropractor has been treating. Verett said she was holding a door open at a Pizza Hut when an employee yanked it open farther, and calamitous shoulder, arm and hand injuries resulted. (2) In a more traditional settlement upstate in Chicago, Joyce Walker was awarded $4,110 in May for a workplace injury when she hurt her knee in a hospital restroom after slipping on a banana peel.

-- In January, Joshua Vannoy, 18, filed a lawsuit against the Big Beaver Falls School District near Pittsburgh for the disruption to his high school years when he and his family were forced to moved to another school district because Joshua was being too harshly taunted. His troubles stemmed from an incident a year earlier, just before a Denver-Pittsburgh playoff football game when Joshua chose to wear a Broncos jersey to class and was then forced by one teacher to sit on the floor and endure paper wads being thrown at him because he was, according to the teacher, a "stinking Denver fan."

The Continuing Crisis

-- At least five convicted sex offenders in Florida's Miami-Dade County have their official residence in a makeshift encampment underneath a bridge on the Julia Tuttle Causeway to Miami Beach, with the blessing of the state Department of Corrections, according to an April report by CNN. Officials say that the state's tough zoning law for sex offenders bars the offenders from most neighborhoods in the county because they are too close to where children congregate (and some sex offenders maintain regular homes even though they can't live in them because of the zoning law). The causeway camp, officials say, at least keeps the men visible to probation officers.

-- "Hey! Pick Up That Wrapper!": Great Britain is now famously saturated with surveillance cameras monitoring public spaces (4.2 million of them), creating alarming privacy concerns. On top of that, in April, after a pilot project in Middlesbrough, the government announced it will attach loudspeakers to the cameras in 20 districts so that officials who monitor the video can actually scold citizens who are spotted engaging in "antisocial" behavior.

-- Who Says the Internet Will Replace the Daily Newspaper? Sixth-grade students at South Hall Middle School in Gainesville, Ga., drew praise from the community in May with their impressive collection drive and charitable donation of 13,580 discarded newspapers (creating stacks totaling 142 feet). The local Humane Society's dogs and cats will put the papers to good use, and furthermore, said the teacher, urinating on the papers will help biodegrade the newspapers' ink.


Try to Read This Without Wincing: A cable broke on a leg extension machine at a YWCA facility in Akron, Ohio, in 2004, catapulting a steel bar forcefully at a 22-year-old football player working out for a shot at a college scholarship, hitting him squarely between his parted legs, whacking his left testicle. Three years later, he still walks gingerly and bow-legged because the slightest contact is painful (although he did manage to father a child in the interim). In April 2007, a jury awarded him $786,000 after hearing that the machine had been in disrepair.

Fetishes on Parade

In January, Ronald Dotson, 39, pleaded no contest to attempting to break into a Ferndale, Mich., store in order to steal a mannequin outfitted in a French maid's uniform, which authorities said was his seventh "statuephilia"-related offense in 13 years. "I thought I was getting my life together," he told the judge, even though his arrest came only days after he was paroled for the sixth offense. One of the previous arrests involved an apparently irresistible "woman" in a pink dress and bobbed hair, and in another, he was found in an alley with three lingerie-clad beauties.

Least Competent Criminals

Claude White, 34, was arrested in April in Elizabethton, Tenn., and charged with stealing a forklift, which sheriff's deputies later found overturned in the middle of a road, but with a pair of shoes and socks trapped underneath. Around the same time, a call came from Sycamore Shoals Hospital about a patient (White) telling an odd story of how he had suffered a foot-mangling (but not mentioning a forklift). By that time, however, deputies had found an exact match for the patient's missing toe, inside the sock that was inside the shoe that was underneath the forklift.

Leading Economic Indicators

Updates: (1) Zimbabwe's almost comically sad hyperinflation, which News of the Weird reported had reached 1,593 percent in January (one could buy a house, pool and tennis court in 1990 for the same dollars as would buy a single brick today), was up to 3,731 percent in May, and is expected to get much worse. (2) Star Trek obsessive Tony Alleyne, who News of the Weird reported in 2006 was having a hard time selling his small apartment in Leicestershire, England, that he had fastidiously outfitted to the specifications of the starship Enterprise, and then redesigned as the flight deck of the Voyager, reported in May that he had a buyer, for the equivalent of about $840,000, roughly five times the value of a comparable flat in that neighborhood.

UPDATE: In November, News of the Weird reported the arrest of Michael McPhail of Spanaway, Wash., who was charged with bestiality under the state's brand-new law, having allegedly been caught by his wife having sex with the family dog. In May 2007, a jury in Tacoma, Wash., found McPhail not guilty.

(Visit Chuck Shepherd daily at or Send your Weird News to or P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, FL 33679.)

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