-- Dutch researchers writing in an April British Medical Journal advocated that Viagra be dispensed for free in the Netherlands because, even though costly, Viagra enhances the quality of its users' lives even more, for example, than kidney transplants. In fact, according to the researchers' Quality-Adjusted Life Year measure, a dollar spent on Viagra brings twice as much benefit as a dollar spent on breast cancer screening.
(1) A live, 14-foot-long python (prayed to by residents of Kien Svay, Cambodia, according to a January Deutsche Presse-Agentur story); (2) jazz saxophonist John Coltrane (for 29 years the idol of the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco, according to a February report in The Independent of London); and (3) dirt, either plain (worshipped by parishioners in Chimayo, N.M., according to a December USA Today report) or perfumed (the result of a New Delhi, India, company's cosmetic dumping, which has attracted huge crowds of pilgrims, according to a December Associated Press story).
-- In January, Boston police officials investigating corruption in taxi-driver licensing, released the test paper of applicant Pierre Edouard, who was granted a passing grade and a license even though he answered only seven of 60 questions correctly and in fact left 45 questions blank.
-- In February, Canada's Reform Party denounced $60 million (all figures U.S.) worth of art grants given by Canada Council, including $3,000 for a piece on the history and culture of chewing gum; $4,000 for a video on the rubber stamp "as a low-tech marking device"; and $900 to an aboriginal poet to write a pamphlet on one of his race's anatomical traits, entitled "Where Did My Ass Go?"
-- In December, three lawyers working cases as court-appointed counsel for indigent defendants in the District of Columbia Superior Court filed a federal lawsuit against the court for constantly missing deadlines for paying them, sometimes even by months. By federal court rules, the Superior Court was obligated to answer the lawsuit within 20 days but, true to form, according to the lawyers, the Superior Court missed that deadline, also, and the lawyers were declared winners by default.
-- In March, a judge in Dedham, Mass., sentenced Thomas Flanagan, 47, to nine years in prison for the longtime physical abuse of his wife and three kids. Included were three counts of attempted murder and 39 counts of assault and battery, but the kids also told investigators that Flanagan made them endure the daily ritual of "plucking," in which he lined them up and yanked out their nose hair with tweezers.
-- In January, suspected serial killer Hadden Clark, 47, led police officers from several New England states to sites around the region in search of bodies of his alleged victims. Massachusetts State Police obtained Clark's cooperation by acceding to his one request, which was that they go buy him some women's panties to wear during the trip.
-- Jason Samuel Lee, 30, was charged in March with improperly disposing of his wife's corpse. Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Canmore, Alberta, said Eda Lee, 26, starved to death while fasting with her husband on a remote mountain. Jason, according to the RCMP, is a prophet who believes that food is an "instrument of Satan" and was trying to form a cult but was having difficulty attracting followers.
-- In Milton, N.Y., in March, Thomas Prussen, 42, was charged with endangering the life of a 38-year-old woman he had met through a magazine ad. According to police, the woman was infatuated with a certain Civil War soldier, wanted to "join" him, and so much trusted Prussen (because he, too, claimed to have communed with the soldier) that she asked him to kill her. Admitted a police investigator, of the possibility that Prussen was simply in love with the woman, "It's tough to say what their mindset was."
Minivan passenger Rick Hanson, 27, mooning motorists, was thrown from the vehicle when the driver crashed (giving Hanson a posterior "road rash" and a broken pelvis) (Prunedale, Calif., April). Chris Bailey, 19, was jailed briefly after mooning a police officer, and within an hour of his release had mooned several more and was back in jail (Belleville, Ill., March). Robert White, 49, angry that his trial for disorderly conduct was not going well, mooned the judge, running his total jail time to 40 days (Little Rock, Ark., March).
In 1994, News of the Weird reported the trend of judges ignoring DNA results when they are used to disprove fatherhood among men who have mistakenly accepted legal paternity. Courts put the interests of the child first and thus order support payments to continue unless the actual father steps up. In April 2000, Dennis Caron, 43, went to jail for 30 days in Columbus, Ohio, protesting a court order to continue supporting his 10-year-old "son" despite exonerating DNA evidence, and the same month in St. Louis, Bill Neal lost his lawsuit to extricate himself via DNA evidence from supporting a boy that his girlfriend had convinced him in 1989 was his.
An 11,000-volt cable broke during a Hindu ceremony in Daltenganj, India, in April, electrocuting 28 followers. And police in Baghdad, Iraq, arrested four vigilantes in January and charged them with killing at least 19 men recently who religiously incorrectly were alone with their girlfriends in a downtown lovers' lane. And following deadly meningitis outbreaks in four countries introduced by worshippers returning from the Haj pilgrimage in Mecca in Saudi Arabia, French officials announced in April that traces of cholera were found in 10 barrels of holy water brought back to the Alsace region by the Moslem pilgrims.
An eighth-grade teacher apologized for assigning his kids the math problem of calculating how much gas Nazis needed to fill a gas chamber (Boise, Idaho). A save-the-whales activist had to call off a trans-Pacific protest sail after his 60-foot boat was damaged by two passing whales (San Francisco). National Archives researchers seeking to reclassify 50-year-old nuclear-weapons documents discovered actual uranium dust in some files (College Park, Md.). A 16-year-old boy under house arrest allegedly broke into a neighbor's place and beat two girls, one fatally, but authorities did not know about it because the neighbor's house was inside the 150-foot range of his ankle monitor (Anderson, Ind.). An Army supply clerk mistakenly got an order to parachute jump and obediently reported and bailed out, anyway, without training (Fort Bragg, N.C.).
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Weird@compuserve.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)