-- News of the Weird last year ran the announcement that an Australian scientist was working on growing human sperm cells inside mouse testicles, and in February 1999 a team at Tottori University in Japan announced it had actually grown some that way. But just when science was making men obsolete, prominent British fertility researcher Lord Robert Winston told reporters that his book (due in April) would show how an embryo could be planted in a man's abdomen, develop to full term by massive infusion of female hormones and attachment to certain organs for nourishment, and be born by Caesarian section.
-- Despite his high-profile job, Tarrant County (Fort Worth, Texas) Sheriff David Williams has apparently stopped meeting with the Fort Worth police chief and county commissioners and even his own administrators, and rarely goes to his office, according to a February Houston Chronicle report. His defenders say he is merely extremely shy, but critics say he hasn't taken criticism well (his too-close ties to the Christian political right, his eccentric new projects such as a helicopter fleet, and his earlier attempt to acquire sovereign powers from the county under the law of the Republic of Texas as it was in 1836).
In December, a telephone company in Ukraine cut off service to the Russian naval fleet patrolling the Black Sea because of unpaid bills of about $150,000. Additionally, the fleet owes about $3 million for heat and electricity to the port city of Sevastopol. And in December, the chief surgeon at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn Hospital told reporters that Thailand is now the pre-eminent country in the world for sex-change operations, which could, if exploited, help the nation's anemic economy, considering that more than 35,000 transsexuals worldwide are now on Thai surgeons' waiting lists.
From recent police reports: Fort Lupton, Colo., December, woman tried to rob a Bank of Colorado wearing a large garbage bag over her body. Huntsville, Ala., December, man robbed a Circle C convenience store with his face swathed in toilet paper. Bexley, Ohio, January, man robbed a National City Bank while wearing checkered pajamas and bedroom slippers.
A top Columbia University law student, Zolton Williams, 29, was convicted in December of running a cocaine-smuggling operation to help finance his studies. And in January, University of California at Santa Cruz National Merit Scholar Emma Rose Freeman, 18, was charged with robbing a beauty salon and a Costco store at gunpoint (along with her philosophy-major boyfriend). And Berkley, Mich., honor student and athlete Sarah Plumb, 16, was charged with the armed robbery of a gas station in December (on her way to gymnastics practice), allegedly to feed a 2-year-old heroin habit.
-- Carmel Valley, Calif., grocery cashier Sandi Lewtschuk was fired in October after 20 years at Safeway because, though she had no customer complaints, she was deemed deficient by management in executing the company's "smile" policy. (Lewtschuk and other Safeway employees have criticized required smiling as phony, and some female employees in San Francisco said the policy encouraged male customers to believe the women were flirting.) And in January, flight attendants for Cathay Pacific Airways (Hong Kong), feuding with management over automatic pay hikes, threatened to violate that company's smile policy by frowning for one hour per flight.
-- Brian Mills, 20, was charged with malicious destruction of property in December after he returned to a fast-food restaurant in Lincoln Township, Mich., where he used to work and urinated into the deep-fat fryer. (Local health officials said the risk to the public was minimal because the frying temperature is so high.)
-- In January, a union filed a complaint on behalf of a male civilian employee at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida who was recently barred from wearing earrings, makeup and a bra to work as an airfield management specialist. On the other hand, the Canadian armed forces last year approved the application of a 35-year-old male combat leadership instructor to continue his career as Sgt. Sylvia Durand by undergoing hormone treatment and surgery.
-- Inmate George Davis, 58, filed a lawsuit in February against the federal correctional center at Fort Dix, N.J., for its failure to treat his sleep apnea, a condition that causes loud snoring. He said he needs treatment especially because he is vulnerable to getting beaten up by inmates whom his snoring keeps up at night. (At his last facility, he says, he was knocked from his bunk, had water dumped on him, and once had his bed set on fire.)
-- The lawyer for suspected Dayton, Ohio, Bank One robber Donnie D. Tunstall said she might challenge a police search that turned up a shotgun. Tunstall and the gun were found in January in a downtown Dempsey Dumpster, which the lawyer said is actually Tunstall's home (and which contained bedding and other personal items), and police need a judicial warrant to search someone's home.
-- Mr. Wim de Nijs had his piloting privileges restored by the airport in Groningen, Netherlands, in August after a court ruled the airport had gone too far in punishing him for abusing radio frequencies. De Nijs was notorious for tying up air traffic controllers' channels by singing the theme song to "The Flintstones" in English for up to 20 minutes at a time.
Fort Smith, Ark., police arrested James Newsome, 37, in January and charged him with taking money at gunpoint from the Gas Well convenience store. The robber was easily identified from the surveillance tape, plus, the coat worn by the robber was found in Newsome's car. Also, Newsome's wife said the family car had a radiator leak, and a puddle of antifreeze was found beside the store where the robber parked. Also, the robber wore a hard hat with "James Newsome" on it.
News of the Weird has reported several times on people who have swallowed large quantities of metal objects for various reasons (suicide, mental illness, showing off). In Ankara, Turkey, in February, Mr. Omer Faruk Cetinkaya reported to a hospital with abdominal pains, which turned out to have been caused by the screwdriver, 20 nails, six magnets, and several lengths of wire in his stomach, which were removed by surgeons. The patient's father said his son had recently undergone counseling but that it had not been successful.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com.)