News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


LEAD STORY -- This Will Hurt for Only a Second

Fern Cooper, 65, and 13 other cataract-surgery patients arrived at Ontario's Oakville Trafalgar Hospital on June 25 to learn that they would not receive the usual anesthesia because the hospital had decided to schedule an "experimental day" to evaluate how unsedated patients responded. (The Ontario Health Insurance Plan had recently cut anesthesiologists' fee.) A topical numbing gel, plus doctors' reassurances were provided, but Cooper, previously diagnosed with severe anxiety, told the Toronto Star of the terror she felt when, fully awake, she watched the surgeon's scalpel approaching, and then cutting, her eyeball. [Toronto Star, 7-6-2012]

The Continuing Crisis

-- Officials organizing a show for high school girls in June in Sherbrooke, Quebec, signed up a 20-year-old apprentice hypnotist to perform, but by the end of his session, he had failed to bring all of the entranced girls out of their spells, including one who was so far under that the man had to summon his mentor from home (an hour's drive away) to come rescue her. The mentor, Richard Whitbread, quickly rehypnotized her and then snapped her out of it with a stern voice, according to a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News report. He noted that his protege is a handsome young man, which might have unduly influenced the girls. [CBC News, 6-15-2012]

-- Christianity has grown in acceptance recently in Ratanakiri province, Cambodia, according to a June report in the Phnom Penh Post, as up to 80 percent of the population has given up the traditional Theravada Buddhism (mixed with animism) as too demanding. According to local officials, traditional priests typically prescribe expensive offerings, such as a slaughtered buffalo, as the price of improving a relative's health. Said one convertee, with the money saved using Western medicine instead of traditional sacrifices, she was able to build a house for her family. [Phnom Penh Post, 6-12-2012]

-- According to a June lawsuit by a former student, Western Nevada College's course in human sexuality was so over-the-top that it might be described as a collection of instructor Tom Kubistant's erotic fantasies about college-age kids. Among Kubistant's demands, according to "K.R.," were keeping a masturbation journal (and ramping up the activity to twice the student's pre-course level), disclosing one's uninhibited sexual fantasies that in some cases were described by the instructor to the class at large, and conducting discussion groups on the uses of sex toys and lubricants. By the fifth week, K.R. claimed, Kubistant had abandoned his schedule of topics and begun to dwell extensively on "the female orgasm." Kubistant's instructions appear to fit the faculty handbook's definition of sexual harassment. [Courthouse News Service, 6-28-2012]

-- "Deer stands," classically, are jerry-built platforms hunters climb onto to spot deer in the distance, but county officials in Duluth, Minn., complained in July that the woods are becoming cluttered with elaborate tree houses that are too often abandoned on public land at the close of the season. One official was alarmed by "mansions" -- tree stands, he told the Duluth News Tribune, with "stairways, decks, shingled roofs, commercial windows, insulation, propane heaters, carpeting, lounge chairs, tables, and even the occasional generator." [Associated Press via The Oklahoman, 7-9-2012]

Bright Ideas

Rhesus monkeys have always posed delicate problems in India, where they are both revered (by Hindu law) and despised (for damaging property and roaming the streets begging for food). In Delhi, the rhesus population has grown dramatically, aided by the Hindus who feed them, and streets and private property are increasingly fouled. However, Amar Singh's business is good. He owns 65 langurs (apes much more vicious than rhesus monkeys) and, for the equivalent of about $200 per month, periodically brings one or two by a client's house to urinate in the yard so that the rhesus monkeys will steer clear. [New York Times, 5-23-2012]

Family Values

-- Awww, Mo-ther! Alleged drug dealer Jesus "Pepe" Fuentes, 37, was arrested in Chicago in May after his mother botched a heroin pickup for him. Fuentes, eager to catch a concert by the rapper Scarface, sent his mother instead to gather the 10-kilo drop. She collected the drugs, but the entire shipment was lost when she failed to use a turn signal and was stopped by police. [Chicago Tribune, 5-24-2012]

-- Catherine Venusto, 45, was arrested in July and charged with breaking into the computer system of the Northwestern Lehigh School District in Pennsylvania (where she formerly worked) and changing the records of her two children (and while at it, reading private e-mails of 10 school officials). Venusto allegedly switched a daughter's F grade to M (for medically excused) and one grade of her overachieving son from 98 to 99. [ABC News, 7-19-2012]

Movie Scenes Come to Life

Should Be an Olympic Sport: Romanian gang members have apparently been apprehended after a series of robberies during March, April and May that resembled a scene from a recent "Fast and Furious" movie. The gang's vehicle approaches the rear of tractor-trailers traveling at highway speed, and gangsters climb onto the hood, grab the 18-wheeler's rear door, open it using specialized tools, and steal inventory, apparently without knowledge of the driver. In one video released by police in Bucharest, the gang members, after peering inside the trailer, decided to take nothing and climbed back out. [Daily Telegraph, 6-12-2012]


Chicago staged its annual gun buy-back program in June (a $100 gift card for every firearm turned in) amidst its worst homicide epidemic in years, in which 259 have died on city streets in the first six months of 2012. However, the program appears to be, inadvertently, a win-win project for both anti- and pro-gun forces. The city reported that 5,500 guns were removed from circulation (bringing the total to 23,000 since the program was inaugurated), and included this year were several machine guns. On the other hand, 60 of this year's guns were handed in by a local pro-gun organization, Guns Save Life, which promised to use its gift cards to buy ammunition for a National Rifle Association-supported shooting camp for kids. [Chicago Sun-Times, 7-1-2012]

The Aristocrat!

Jacksonville, Fla., sheriff's officers were investigating in July a suspect (not identified) who they believe is responsible for several incidents in which boxes of ready-to-use saline enemas were purchased at a CVS drugstore, opened, used, put back in the boxes, resealed and returned for refund (and which in some cases wound up back on the store's shelves). The sheriff's office noted that the man they suspect is in custody, having been arrested on unrelated charges in June. [The Smoking Gun, 6-29-2012]

Recurring Themes

British Scared-y Cats: U.K. bureaucrats are constantly drawing criticism for their alleged over-concern with safety. In June, Royal Mail notified businesses on a street in Doncaster that it would no longer deliver to them on rainy days because the street was too slippery. (One clumsy postman had just suffered a broken shoulder when he slipped and fell.) And in May, the Somerset County Council ordered the removal of a yard sign advertising an upcoming public fundraiser on the ground that someone might bump into it at night. An event organizer pointed out that the particular yard sign was stuck in the grass directly in front of a tree, which was likely equally hard to see in darkness. [The Star (Sheffield, England), 6-13-2012] [Western Daily Press, 5-17-2012]

Readers' Choice

(1) "Meth Lab Explodes in Man's Pants" was the headline on one newspaper's version of an April Associated Press dispatch from Okmulgee County, Okla. Police have warned that "one-pot" labs, "cooking" in a soda bottle, can be ready to go in about 40 minutes, but that the contents are many times more highly pressurized than, say, a fizzing soda bottle. (2) At first impression, visitors to New York City's Central Park seemed excited to be greeted by a man dressed as the "Sesame Street" character Elmo, but then, when a crowd gathers, Elmo incongruously begins a raunchy anti-Semitic rant, denouncing various Jewish conspiracies. Following complaints of several incidents, in June, police took him to a hospital for observation. [Associated Press via Kansas City Star, 4-27-2012] [The Smoking Gun, 6-25-2012]

Thanks This Week to Sandy Pearlman, Jeremy Hamilton, Scott Huber, Lisa Stapleton, Ben Hestir, Reid Stacey, and Roy Henock, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

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