-- The Times of London reported in July on an 86-year-old woman living without electricity in her Sheffield, England, home for 20 years because she had interpreted a power failure in 1977 as her being dropped as a customer. It turns out that Yorkshire Electric Co. had only accidentally failed to hook her back up, but she said she was too embarrassed by her low utility use to ask if there had been a mistake. For years, neighbors thought the woman preferred to live by candlelight.
-- A Washington Post report in March on prison corruption in Mexico revealed that drug traffickers supposedly under maximum security actually have "spacious rooms, cooks and maids, cellular phones, a gymnasium, a sauna, and manicured gardens where they host barbecues," among other things. And in May, The New York Times revealed that a federal jail in Brooklyn has been run as a "Mafia social club," where family business "sit-downs" featured smuggled-in meatballs, manicotti, vodka and wine. And in May, imprisoned Gangster Disciple leader Larry Hoover was convicted in Chicago of running a vast prison drug operation in which he typically issued memos and gave orders by cellular phone while wearing $400 alligator boots and eating specially prepared food in his cell.
-- Union News: In July, a Teamsters local in Oakland, Calif., protested Mills College's use of goats to clear brush on its land. Since the union has a contract with Mills, a Teamsters official said the college should either replace the goats with its members, or unionize the goats. And in June, The New York Times reported that the union representing office cleaners gives worse treatment to the workers who clean its own New York City headquarters offices than it gives to any other office cleaners. The union's own cleaners have no right to grievance procedures regarding wages, discipline or firing.
-- In April off the coast of Long Beach, Calif., the Coast Guard managed to rescue 16 people from a 40-foot yacht that began to sink while a commercial porno movie was being shot on board. Among the rescued was the veteran star Nina Hartley.
-- Maria Soto, 42, of Silver Spring, Md., was charged in April with practicing dentistry without a license based on a complaint from a patient who was referred to her because she was "cheap." According to the complaint, Soto extracted the wrong tooth from the man, and on yet another visit, she said a tooth was too big for his mouth, removed it, filed it down, and put it back it with Krazy Glue.
-- Student Jaimie Rising of Indiana University of Pennsylvania filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in March against Prof. Gordon Thornton for his behavior in his psychology of death course. According to the lawsuit, Thornton asked in class whether any student had ever kissed a dead person, and Rising said she had kissed her father when he died, an action which Thornton then described aloud as "disgusting and gross." Thornton allegedly continued, asking Rising whether she had "stuck her tongue down her father's throat."
-- In May 1996, Marvin Bright was shot to death, reportedly by a co-worker near Nashville, Tenn. Since then, five women have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the alleged assailant, claiming they are the mothers of one each of Bright's five children. And in June, Glynn "Scotty" Wolfe, 88, reported to be the world's most often-married man, passed away in Redlands, Calif., but none of his 29 wives claimed the body, and only two weeks later did his son (from wife No. 14) do so.
-- Buenos Aires psychologist Federico Andahazi's first novel, about the discovery of the clitoris by a 16th-century Italian doctor, won a prestigious local literary prize last year, but when the sponsors canceled the award ceremony rather than honor such a controversial book, "The Anatomist" became a best seller. According to a May New York Times story, many Argentinians hope the book "will generate a new understanding of female sexuality," since male pleasure needs still predominate in that country.
-- During a March review of University of New Mexico Hospital expenses, the Board of Regents found that in 1996, a hemophiliac patient (a boy who has since died) received a genetically engineered blood-clotting medicine that cost $2.4 million over a three-month period. A hospital official explained that the clotting agent is so rare, they were unable to negotiate a volume discount. The university said it hoped Texas, where the boy lived, would pick up the tab.
-- Recent Medical No-No's: In May, a University of Maryland entomologist warned that people should not wear dog flea collars to ward off bugs, noting that human skin is far more sensitive to the ingredients than animal fur. And also in May, a doctor in Dublin, Ireland, writing in a British Medical Association journal, told of a golfer who developed hepatitis from the "agent orange" defoliant used by his golf course because he had the habit of licking his ball for good luck before each drive.
-- In May, the business school at the University of California at Berkeley appointed Ikujiro Nonaka to an endowed position (sponsored by $1 million from Xerox Corp. and its Japanese affiliate) as Distinguished Professor of Knowledge.
-- How to Tell If You're Too Rich: The Wall Street Journal reported in May on the growing market for designer clothing for the very young. One homemaker from Short Hills, N.J., reported spending $20,000 on clothes for her 2-year-old daughter. Among popular toddlers' items: a $250 Versace black motorcycle jacket and a $329 denim jacket-and-pants set from Moschino.
In Alabama, murderer Billy Wayne Waldrop was executed in January, and the next month, murderer Dudley Wayne Kyzer was turned down for parole. Two weeks later, murderer Coleman Wayne Gray was executed in Virginia. In May, murderer Larry Wayne White was executed in Texas. In July, Maryland inmate Richard Wayne Willoughby was sentenced to life in prison for killing another inmate. And once again this April 19, the nation was reminded that the Oklahoma City bombing date commemorated not only the seige at Waco, but the 1995 Arkansas execution of murderer and militia hero Richard Wayne Snell.
-- In May, News of the Weird mindlessly reported the conclusion of the editors of the journal Nature that the use of dog-hair DNA in a murder case was the first criminal-trial use of nonhuman DNA. Not only is that incorrect, but News of the Weird itself reported one such incident in 1995, in which two men were charged with cattle-rustling in Cocoa, Fla., based on matching the DNA of a calf with the DNA in an uncooked slab of pot roast from the calf's mother. A News of the Weird reader turned up an even earlier cattle-rustling case, in 1993 in Brownstown, Ill.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com. Chuck Shepherd's latest paperback, "The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics," is now available at bookstores everywhere. To order it direct, call 1-800-642-6480 and mention this newspaper. The price is $6.95 plus $2 shipping.)