News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


LEAD STORY -- Man's Other Best Friends

People's love for their pets reached a new high in December when a British man paid a veterinarian the equivalent of $500 to perform delicate surgery on a sick office goldfish (typical pet store "replacement" price: $1 to $5). Vet Faye Bethell of North Walsham, England, told the Eastern Daily Press in December that there was "nothing special" about the fish, but that the customer "just liked it a lot." In fact, the goldfish likely did not even have a pet name -- as Bethell in an interview spoke intimately of another patient by name (Cadbury, the skunk). (Bethell's procedure involved removing the patient from the bowl, flooding its gills with anesthetic-fortified water, and using a tiny scalpel to remove lumps that were causing it constipation, with the surgery guided by a miniature heart-rate monitor.) [Eastern Daily Press (Norwich, England), 1-1-2015]

Iraqi TV Goes "Jerry Springer"

Iraq's government-run channel, Iraqiyya TV, has a reality show reminiscent of American confrontational programs, but is designed to force captured ISIS fighters to acknowledge the pain they have created. One episode of "In the Grip of the Law" (described in a December Associated Press dispatch) showed family members of car-bombing victims on a street corner in Baghdad haranguing one of the men convicted of the crime. A young man in a wheelchair, having lost his father in the attack, faced off against the convict, screaming until the jihadist "began weeping, as the cameras rolled." [Associated Press via New York Daily News, 12-22-2014]

Wait, What?

-- On Nov. 6, a couple (aged 68 and 65) were hospitalized after spending almost 13 hours locked in their car inside their own garage in Alexandra, New Zealand. The night before, they had been unable to remember a salesman's tutorial on how to unlock their new Mazda 3 from the inside and had spent the night assuming they were trapped because they had forgotten to bring along the battery-operated key. The wife was unconscious when neighbors finally noticed them, and her husband was struggling to breathe. (The door unlocks manually, of course.) [Otago Daily Times, 12-13-2014]

-- At first, it seemed another textbook case of a wrongly convicted murderer being released after a long prison stint (15 years), based on a re-examination of evidence. Illinois officials freed Alstory Simon, who had "confessed" in 1999 to killing two teenagers (before a defendants' advocacy organization convinced a judge that the confession had been coerced). That 1999 confession had allowed the man previously convicted, Anthony Porter, to go free, but prosecutors in October 2014 had second -- or third -- thoughts. They once again believe that Porter was the killer -- even though a different defendants' advocacy organization had originally worked to free him. (In any event, "double jeopardy" prevents Porter's retrial.) [Reuters via Yahoo News, 10-30-2014]

-- Undersheriff Noel Stephen of Okeechobee County, Florida, acknowledged to WPBF-TV in December that among the public services his office performs is supervising parents' spanking of children. After two sisters argued on Dec. 29, their father decided to administer a whipping to one and asked Deputy Stephen to drop by and make sure he stayed within the law. That's "not something we advertise to do," said the deputy, but he estimates he has monitored about a dozen spankings. [WPBF-TV (West Palm Beach), 12-31-2014]

Government in Action

-- The Government Accountability Office was on the job in December, issuing an emphatic ruling that the National Weather Service could not legally issue its workers disposable cups, plates and utensils on the job. Such items are "personal," GAO declared, even though most NWS facilities are in remote locations, staffed by two-person shifts that almost force employees to eat on the premises. "You can't run out" and "grab a burger," one employee said. Nonetheless, after a lengthy deliberative process, GAO said its decision is final. [Washington Post, 12-30-2014]

-- In a November ruling, France's minister of housing and minister of ecology jointly announced further streamlining of law books, removing bulky, out-of-date regulations. Among the rescissions, beginning Dec. 1, is the ban on installing toilets in kitchens. [The Local (Paris), 11-12-2014]

Best Recent Foreign News

-- Championship-Level Theft: China's reported in December the arrest of a man in Yulin City, accused of stealing more than 2,000 items of underwear from women in his neighborhood, taken within the last year. He hid his stash above ceiling tiles in stairwells in his apartment building, but he drew attention when one of the ceiling spaces caved in from the weight of the garments, showering the stairs in an array of colorful lingerie. (Just within the last month, according to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, two other men, in Zhejiang and Hubei provinces, have been detained for similar crimes. In the latter case, the alleged thief was also wearing lingerie.) [South China Morning Post, 12-21-2014]

-- British makeup artist Jordan James Parke, 23, told London's The Sun in December how he had fallen in love with the look of U.S. celebrity Kim Kardashian and thus had forced himself to spend the equivalent of about $150,000 on "more than 50" cosmetic procedures to adopt her "pouty" look, including lip and cheek fillers, eyebrow tattoos and laser hair removal. "I love everything about Kim ... the most gorgeous woman ever," he said. "Her skin is perfect, her hair, everything about her" (except that, in The Sun report, only her parts above the neck were mentioned). [People Magazine, 12-18-2014]

-- Artist Megumi Igarashi, 42, known as "no-good girl" in Japan, taunted officials with over-the-top pornography twice in 2014, first in July when she designed a kayak in the image of her genitals and then sought donations by sending contributors data on how to make a 3-D-printed model of her vagina. In her December arrest, according to a BBC News dispatch, she had complained of the contradictions in Japanese culture (also cited in previous News of the Weird stories) that allow glorified public displays of the penis as a symbol of fertility, but banish the vulva from public sight. [BBC News, 12-24-2014]

Recurring Themes

-- Hopeful Signs for the New Year: (1) Police in Phoenix estimate celebratory gunfire into the air on New Year's Eve was down 22 percent from last year, since the department received reports on only 206 bullets discharged without concern for where they would land. (2) Authorities in Paris estimated that 12 percent fewer cars were set on fire in France on New Year's Eve, with only 940 strangers' vehicles mindlessly torched instead of last year's 1,067. [Associated Press via Tucson News Now, 1-1-2015] [Associated Press via ABC News, 1-1-2015]

-- Recurring, With Different Result: A court in Buenos Aires, Argentina, granted a "habeas corpus" petition in December ordering the freedom of a Sumatran orangutan from Buenos Aires Zoo. Sandra, age 29, is a "non-human person" and thus sufficiently advanced in "cognitive function" to be not merely an object that humans can own without obligation. A Reuters report found no similar judgment on record, but rather, contrary recent rulings in New York (regarding Tommy the chimpanzee) and San Diego (on behalf of orca whales). [Reuters, 12-21-2014]

A News of the Weird Classic (March 2011)

World's Greatest Lawyer: Christopher Soon won an acquittal in February (2011) for his client Alan Patton -- even though Patton had been charged with violating a law that had been written primarily to stop Alan Patton. That law makes it illegal to collect urine from public restrooms. Patton, of Dublin, Ohio, was convicted in 1993 and 2008 (and charged again in October 2010) of waiting in restrooms and, when young boys finished using the urinal (after Patton had obstructed the flushing mechanism), rushing to gather the contents, which he admitted sexually excited him. After Patton's 2008 conviction, the Ohio legislature made that specific act a felony, and Patton's arrest in October was supposed to lead to a triumphant conviction. (The judge did find Patton guilty of criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.) [Columbus Dispatch, 2-17- 2011]

Thanks This Week to Russell Bell and Steve Ringley, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

(Read more weird news at; send items to, and P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, FL 33679.)