-- Officials at the Paralympic Games, held in Sydney two weeks after the Olympics, said performance-enhancing drugs were a concern, certainly, but that some athletes with spinal-cord injuries presented yet another problem in their quest to get an edge: Some jabbed pins into their legs, or sat on tacks, or blocked their catheters to overfill their bladders, which research shows improves athletic performance (by raising blood pressure) by an average 10 percent. Even though such abuse is pain-free, it is dangerous, a Canadian team doctor told the Globe and Mail newspaper. "(B)ut," he said, "like every other athlete, (these abusers) feel invincible."
-- The New England Journal of Medicine reported in October on apparently the first-ever transfer of a food-poisoning virus during a football game. Florida State beat Duke, 62-13, in the 1998 game, but 43 nauseous Duke players and assistants got some measure of revenge by inadvertently making 11 FSU players violently ill during and after the game by passing the virus via their unwashed hands and the fresh vomit on their own uniforms. The cause was contaminated turkey sandwiches.
Re-release of the 1973 movie "The Exorcist" in September is but one event fueling a recent flurry of Satan-dispatching attempts. The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago revealed in September 2000 that it had, for the first time, appointed a full-time exorcist. And the Vatican revealed in September that Pope John Paul II had failed in his own exorcism of a 19-year-old woman after the church's chief exorcist had also failed. And in a July investigative piece, the New York Post reported that the $1 billion annual donations worldwide to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (Brazil-based, but with 15,000 members in the United States) are made largely under the church-created fear that such giving is the only way to obtain exorcisms.
-- Bismarck, N.D., police reported in October that a man recently telephoned two fast food restaurants posing as a police officer and instructed the manager to strip-search employees for contraband. The caller's persuasiveness caused an adult male to strip for a female manager and an adult female to strip for a male manager.
-- An unidentified man was finally caught by police in August, in Stafford County, Va., after two years of sightings in which he would lie on mountain-bike trails camouflaged with dirt and leaves in hopes (sometimes successful) of getting run over by an all-terrain vehicle. (Last October, according to one sighting, he staggered away from such an incident, bloodied.) The man, who lives in Burke, Va., was not arrested but was ordered to stay off bike trails.
-- Toes in the News: In August, sheriff's deputies in Pineville, Mo., arrested truck driver John Hooker, 54, and charged him with sexually abusing two underage boys by a seduction scheme that started with his fetish for sucking toes and culminated with oral sex. And a different person was reported (but not apprehended) in a St. Louis suburb in October after he forcibly sucked a woman's toes in a hotel hallway. And a police officer in Central Point, Ore., was placed on medical leave in June for forcibly sucking the toes of two women after they had rebuffed his request to submit to the sucking voluntarily.
-- The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now formally considering (following a public comment period that ended in September) new regulations that would reduce the minimum size of Swiss cheese holes in Grade A cheese from 11/16ths of an inch in diameter to 3/8th of an inch. The dairy industry said it could provide the cheese more efficiently if the holes were smaller.
-- Heavy-Handed Regulatory Reform: A sausage factory owner grew tired of repeated visits by federal food-safety inspectors and, according to police, shot three of them dead (San Leandro, Calif., June). A man angry at his treatment at a Social Security office opened fire, killing a guard (Sacramento, Calif., September). Two city officials were shot dead by a homeowner when they tried to cross his property to attend to a sewer problem (Bunker, Mo., September). Five Miami-area homeowners, fearful they will lose their trees, have been charged in 2000 with brandishing guns at state inspectors looking for an infectious citrus disease.
-- In October, the large psychic-hotline company, Access Resource Services of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., promised in a settlement with the state attorney general not to engage in fraudulent practices. One provision of the settlement absolutely forbids the company to hire bogus counselors, but contains the exception allowing telephone psychics to be hired if they swear in writing that they can read people's minds.
New York University instructor (and accused shoplifter) Elizabeth Ayres filed a lawsuit in August against Lord & Taylor in New York City, claiming that when security guards found an unpaid-for bra in her bag, it must have been because they planted it there so that they could accuse her of theft and "torture" her until she confessed to stealing it. At NYU, Professor Ayres teaches creative writing.
-- Among the latest Muslim "fatwas" (religious rulings): Men and women must use separate checkout counters in supermarkets (Malaysia, April). Husbands may hit their wives "gently," "as a warning," but must take care not to hit them in the face (Turkey, July). Having a spouse who smokes is a legitimate ground for divorce (Egypt, July). No shopping at a discount store (Egypt, June). Women caught working for British-funded aid organizations will be kidnapped and forcibly married, in order to keep them at home (Pakistan, August). And an October fatwa by the Egyptian Islamic Group instructed disciples to "kill Jews wherever they are found."
In September, a 34-year-old man drowned in his car after he drove through well-marked barricades and plunged into a 15-foot-deep sinkhole in Eau Claire, Wis. In August, a 42-year-old man drowned in Lake Erie near Painesville, Ohio, diving in to retrieve his favorite fishing lure. A 54-year-old man drowned in September after diving into Joe Pool Lake near Dallas after his hat.
A 36-year-old hunter shot and killed a state-protected mountain lion, but according to witnesses had no choice because the lion attacked him while he was squatting with his pants down, answering nature's call (Siskiyou County, Calif.). In a study, 43 percent of doctors said they would have no problem being the one to kill a death-row inmate by lethal injection (Chicago). Angered by his country's soccer loss in the Asian Cup games, Saddam Hussein's son, Uday, imprisoned the team's three most disappointing players and had them whipped on the soles of their feet (Baghdad, Iraq). The mother of a girls' high school softball player sued a teammate's father because his daughter hit a foul ball into a parking lot, damaging the roof of the woman's convertible (Bristol Township, Pa.).
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Weird@compuserve.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)