-- In December, NBC News, citing Pentagon and intelligence sources, reported that thousands of Sony PlayStation 2s may have been purchased by Iraqi sources recently, to capitalize on the device's powerful computer processor and video cards, possibly to use in connection with weapons systems. One expert told the World Net Daily news service that an integrated bundle of 12 to 15 PlayStation 2s could provide enough power to control a chemical-weapons-delivering Iraqi aircraft. (A Sony spokesperson said it was unlikely anyone could buy thousands of units.) And among similarly alarming, everyday products described in an October New York Times Magazine report were the 2001 Cadillac Deville (whose sophisticated night-vision system is potentially useful for tanks) and automobile airbags (whose compact explosive charge might be useful to terrorists).
-- In December, CNN founder Ted Turner offered to donate $35 million to cover the shortfall in U.S. dues to the United Nations that Congress is so far unwilling to pay. Two months earlier, however, to show his appreciation to the three local fire departments whose workers had fought summer blazes on his ranch near Gordon, Neb., Turner could only manage donations totaling $3,500.
Al Gore (presumably, the same one who ran for president) was elected by write-in votes as director of the Marion County (Ore.) Soil and Water Conservation board (but was disqualified because he owns no land in the district). And in Hartford, Conn., Terrell Bush beat out Johnny Gore in November voting to become homecoming king of Weaver High School.
-- Child-protection officials removed a 6-year-old boy from the home of his 32-year-old mother in Champaign, Ill., in December after they concluded that she had forcibly breastfed him until just recently. The mother defended her "parenting philosophy," telling the Chicago Tribune that society was too uptight about breastfeeding and denied that she coerced him.
-- London's Observer newspaper reported in November an increasing number of artificial inseminations in which a woman is impregnated with sperm from her husband's father, in order to improve the chances of continuing the genetic line when her partner's own sperm won't work. Two Japanese physicians told The Washington Post in December that they, too, see the practice increasing: "Japanese people put strong importance on the bloodstream. We are a homogeneous people."
-- In July in Tucson, Ariz., Corey Viramontes, 15, pled guilty to murder and faces up to 22 years in prison for viciously stabbing a service station supervisor to death during a robbery. Corey has three brothers: Robert, 21, is serving life in prison for beating a neighbor to death with a baseball bat; Anthony, 22, will be sentenced in January (possibly to death) for beating a man to death for eating his pizza; and Samuel, 18, is already serving a life sentence for his role in bludgeoning the pizza-eater. The boys' records include other frequently vicious beatings. As an Arizona Daily Star writer put it, "Victims of the Viramontes brothers do not die easily."
-- In Chicago in November, Marcus Henderson, 22, was charged with kidnapping and other crimes after he took his 68-year-old grandmother at gunpoint to an ATM and forced her to withdraw money for him. Police said that when they later arrived at the grandmother's apartment, Henderson held the woman in front of him as a shield and opened fire, hitting one officer before being captured.
-- In March, Nathan King, 12, of Helena, Mont., made News of the Weird by surviving a lunge for a football that resulted in his falling on the point of a pencil, which penetrated his heart; if anyone had removed the pencil before he reached the hospital, he would have died almost instantly. Then, in October, Ms. Destiny Lopez, age 6, survived the same fate when she tripped on the way to her first-grade teacher's desk and fell on her pencil; her teacher talked calmly to her until paramedics arrived, and surgeons later removed the pencil, which had penetrated 3 inches into her heart.
-- News of the Weird has reported over the years on prisoners' sometimes-prodigious aptitudes for safekeeping valuables in their rectums. A man arrested on drug charges in Amarillo, Texas, in November 2000 allegedly was rectally housing 80 $100 bills (along with two $50s and money orders totaling $4,200), easily beating the record of $2,000 kept by a Florida State Prison inmate in 1991 (though that man also had six handcuff keys, seven hacksaw blades and 34 razor blades in a pouch in his rectum).
Michael H. Cautela, 39, was sentenced to 300 hours' community service in Columbus, Ohio, in December, specifically targeted to cleaning restrooms and zoo cages, for two counts of assaulting women by spraying them with a mixture of salad oil and urine. (When the judge asked why, Cautela said, "I just like to see ladies with oil on them." But, said the judge, "This had urine in it." Cautela held firm: "It was mostly oil.") And in December in Orlando, Fla., Joseph Edward Nichols, 29, was sentenced to five years in jail after a no-contest plea to squirting as many as 11 people with a water pistol containing his semen.
Charged with murder, Edgefield County, S.C., October: Steven Wayne Bowman. Charged with murder, Tucson, Ariz., November: Bryan Wayne Padd. Charged with murder, Sequoyah County, Okla., October: Jeffrey Wayne Leaf. Now embroiled in a marital-estate fight while on death row for murder: Scott Wayne Blystone (who is housed at the State Correctional Institution in Waynesburg, Pa.). Testified against his former partner, Tavares, Fla., October: convicted murderer Terry Wayne Johnson. And in a double-suicide pact in October at the jail in San Marcos, Texas, accused murderer Kenny Wayne Lockwood (who made News of the Weird in July 2000) was successful, but accused child molester Bradley Wayne Dixon survived.
Highway Death Toll: A 22-year-old man died of massive head injuries after jumping reflexively out of an open convertible to avoid a cigarette butt flicked by the driver (Virginia Beach, Va., October). A 37-year-old motorist was killed when another driver hit a piece of debris on the road, launching it through the victim's windshield and into his chest (Fort Worth, Texas, October). A 29-year-old woman was fatally run over by a street-sweeping machine (Washington, D.C., September)
A judge granted John Turner a divorce after a 38-year union, persuaded by testimony that Mrs. Turner compulsively rearranged their furniture every single day they were married (Thornaby-on-Tees, England). The man claiming the world's longest fingernails (47 inches) announced he wanted to sell them to a museum for $200,000 (Pune, India). A 20-year-old hotel parking attendant joyriding in a guest's Ferrari 355 GTS ($175,000) totaled it into a palm tree (Dana Point, Calif.). A federal judge rejected, with a decision in poetic verse, a prisoner's lawsuit against Penthouse magazine for fraud in overpromising how revealing its recent nude pictorial of Paula Jones would be (Austin, Texas).
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Weird@compuserve.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)