-- More than 500 accidental electrocutions were reported in Russia last year from people stealing power line electrical cables for resale as scrap metal. According to an April New York Times dispatch, more than 15,000 miles of power lines have been pulled down in recent years, rendering millions of households dark for weeks at a time. One recent victim, interviewed in intensive care, said he was confident when he saw a single line left on a pole, believing that thieves had taken the other lines safely; he is now without his left arm, right leg and colon.
According to a January Associated Press report, China has a government-sanctioned UFO research organization with 50,000 members, processing 500 alleged sightings a year, which is to be expected, said the director, because extraterrestrials, too, are interested in the country's rapidly developing markets. And Professor Liu Dalin opened a sex museum last year in Shanghai, with 1,000 exhibits, including a historical, imperial-palace stamp used to mark the derrieres of virgin girls. And according to an April Wall Street Journal story, there has been a recent "explosion" of successful litigation in China by elderly parents suing their children for failing to care for them in old age.
-- The British supermarket chain Tesco announced in January that its film-processing department had collected a total of 24,000 photographs over the years in which customers had accidentally snapped shots with a finger on the lens (the right middle finger being the most popular).
-- Hussen Farah Mohammed, 46, was released from jail in Bloomington, Minn., in January after 16 months' incarceration for entering the U.S. illegally from Canada; he said he had accidentally wandered across the unmarked border while in the woods birdwatching, but after he was captured, Canada refused to take him back. And Houston car mechanic Edgar Garfield Gibbons, 41, returned to the U.S. in March after nine months in jail in Georgetown, Guyana, to which country he had been mistakenly deported when he was confused with a New Jersey man of the same name.
-- In December, former Gastonia, N.C., prison guard Timothy Ramey filed a legal challenge to his dismissal, saying the precipitating incident was merely a minor mistake. Ramey was arguing with his superintendent about something and became so frustrated that, in an effort to "ignore" what his boss was saying, Ramey reached into his briefcase, "pulled the first thing out" that he found, and pretended to concentrate on that. It was a copy of Playboy magazine, which infuriated the superintendent.
-- In December, a joint committee of the Colorado Legislature approved an emergency grant of $75,000 to Morgan Community College in Fort Morgan, Colo., after it dawned on administrators that, because of "an oversight in the plan for the project," the just-finished student center building had no restrooms.
-- Latest Unsuccessful DUI Excuses: John B. Byrnes, Windsor County, Vt. (January): claimed he was in the passenger seat, and that it was his setter ("Becky") that was driving. Ronald McDonald Jr., 40, Norristown, Pa. (November): claimed he drove a short distance only so his girlfriend could clean her hands after changing a diaper so she wouldn't dirty the steering wheel. A 76-year-old man, Milwaukee (February): claimed he was under a doctor's orders, driving or not, to have two drinks a day.
-- In 1996, a federal court in Miami ordered Cuba to pay $187 million to the families of three Cuban-American men on protest flights shot down by Cuban military jets in open waters. In November 1999 (three weeks before Elian Gonzalez was rescued off the Florida coast), in perhaps a retaliatory court proceeding at Havana's Provincial Popular Tribunal, the United States was found to have harmed Cuba through 40 years of "aggressi(on)" and was ordered to pay the Castro government $181 billion.
-- In February in Largo, Fla., James Brian Kuenn, 40, was convicted of killing a teen-age girl, despite his claim that she had accidentally fallen and hit her head; Kuenn said he was so embarrassed at the accident that he made it look like murder to throw police off. And Thomas Storey, 27, was sentenced to 26 years in prison in Santa Ana, Calif., in December for murdering his wife, despite his claim that she had actually killed herself; he said he stabbed her dead body 25 times only to simulate murder to spare their son the shame of his mother's suicide.
Saskatchewan legislator Brad Wall, lamenting in December the invasion of bats at Regina General hospital: "I'm not sure what is more disturbing: the fact that nurses spend part of their day catching bats or that nurses were advised not to catch these particular bats because they could be rabid."
-- Twice in the last five weeks, News of the Weird has reported on dental-office abuses in the U.S. In November, a Melbourne, Australia, dentist was accused by the Victorian Dental Board of professional misconduct for allegedly engaging in the unauthorized (but not unheard of) facial-pain remedy of administering ozone through the patient's rectum, including 15 treatments to one patient in a three-week period. Advocates of the treatment say it can also be administered in the ear.
At a village near Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, police said a Muslim woman beat her 10-day-old son to death in January because he preferred to be breastfed by his father's other wife. And in Tokyo in March, Mitsuko Yamada, 36, pled guilty to killing a 2-year-old girl, apparently solely so that Yamada would no longer have to face the girl's mother, who had allegedly ignored Yamada during the neighborhood playground's social hour when mothers gather while their kids play.
A German shepherd police dog was caught shoplifting a slab of prime rib from a grocery store (Waukesha, Wis.). Police said two arrested drug dealers had been routinely issuing customers receipts but also charging them sales tax (Victoriaville, Quebec). A man pled guilty to burglary and the theft of Big Mama, a 50-pound halibut that was the main attraction at a showcase hatchery (and which the man also ate) (Redondo Beach, Calif.). Police phone taps of computer hacker "Mafiaboy" inadvertently uncovered an unrelated plot by the hacker's father to beat up a business associate (Montreal). Honolulu Heart Program researchers linked consumption of tofu during middle age to subsequent decline in brain function.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Weird@compuserve.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)