-- Upscale pet hotels are open in New York, Hollywood and (based on a December Washington Post report) Fairfax County, Va., where the Olde Towne Pet Resort charges up to $230 a day for pooches' use of a hydrotherapy pool, state-of-the-art exercise room, beauty parlor and suites with satellite TV, classical music and original, color-pleasing artwork (even though dogs are basically color-blind). (Products and services elsewhere on the pet-care market include gourmet food, heated dog beds, acupuncture and chiropractic treatments, herbal flea collars, water bowls with purifiers, and, according to a December Reuters dispatch from Tokyo, therapeutic mud packs for dogs, using mud from the Dead Sea.)
-- A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled in November that the U.S. Department of Justice has for about 20 years blatantly denied attorneys overtime pay in violation of federal law, a practice the department defended merely by arguing that it thought there ought to have been an exception in the law (which is an argument the department usually scoffs at when filing its own lawsuits against lawbreakers). Court of Claims Judge Robert H. Hodges Jr. said the department apparently years ago simply declared itself immune from overtime-pay law for attorneys and has been maintaining two sets of time sheets (one for pay, one to track work on cases).
Taiwanese national Shuo Shan Wang, 29, pleaded guilty in December in Oak Park, Mich., to practicing surgery without a license, specifically the kitchen-table castration of a 48-year-old man who had found Wang's "service" on the Internet. Wang told police he had 50 such surgeries under his belt, but that this patient began to bleed uncontrollably after bursting out laughing while eating a post-operative piece of pie at Wang's house. Police recovered two testicles in a Tupperware container in Wang's refrigerator.
-- In November, incoming Colombian defense minister Marta Lucia Ramirez rescinded the military's policy of encouraging the country's Marxist rebels to defect by airdropping sexy photos implying that the depicted women were waiting for them upon their surrender. Said Ramirez, "I, as a woman, add myself to (the protests of this policy)." (The so-called FARC rebels, mostly men, are not allowed to have sex without permission of their commanders.)
-- In November, the city council of Soap Lake, Wash., a 1,700-population town that did a booming tourist business in the 1950s but has fallen on hard times, voted the first step toward a revitalization that it believes will draw visitors back in droves: a 60-foot-tall Lava lamp on Main Street. The architect of the campaign, Brent Blake, said, "I just for some reason thought of (a) lava lamp."
-- Among the performers at the International Professional Rodeo Association's show at the Hardeeville (S.C.) Speedway in October: Tim Lepard and his sheep-herding dogs (which is not so novel, in that dogs are bred to herd sheep in some countries, but Lepard's three dogs are ridden during the herding by small, screaming monkeys). Said Lepard, "I wanted to put an act together that people will always remember."
-- In November, the Longchi Scenic Area in southwestern China, apparently bowing to public pressure, canceled plans to put to sleep the five monkeys that had been terrorizing the park's visitors. According to the Commercial Daily newspaper in Chengdu, the park had become so exasperated by the marauding monkeys that it had been planning on a formal execution by firing squad. The park decided instead on faraway exile.
Air Force Academy cadet Matt Bayless of Topeka, Kan., was expelled in April for honor code violations. Among the charges was that Bayless had lied to his colleagues about the reason he kept certain jars in his room, which, it was finally revealed, was so he could urinate in them at night without having to walk down the hall to the bathroom. In December, the academy demoted Bayless to the enlisted ranks for three years.
The Merced (Calif.) Sun-Star reported on Dec. 10 that an unnamed man was taken to a hospital in Modesto, Calif., after his head was split open by a brick. Police, called to the scene, were expecting to find foul play, but witnesses said the man was merely trying to see how high up he could throw a brick, and since it was dark (2:30 a.m.), the man lost track of the brick's flight and could not get out of the way when it came down on his head. Police said alcohol appeared to be involved.
A November 2002 News of the Weird item reported that a U.S. Immigration official whose "visa express" program might have made it easier for some of the Sept. 11 terrorists to enter the United States, received a $15,000 "outstanding performance" bonus for his work including Sept. 11. In December, FBI official Marion "Spike" Bowman received an FBI "exceptional performance" award (and five-figure cash bonus) for his work that included Sept. 11; Bowman is in charge of the headquarters office that whistleblower Colleen Rowley blamed for impeding the Minneapolis FBI office's pre-Sept. 11 investigation of so-called "20th terrorist" Zacarias Moussaoui.
Springfield, Mass., firefighter John S. Marrero, 25, was fired in October, and superiors said it had nothing to do with the charges of possession of crack cocaine and Oxycontin filed against him (in that he is innocent until proven guilty of those charges). Rather, he was fired because he was caught smoking a cigarette when the state trooper arrested him, and cigarette-smoking, on or off the job, is a violation of state law for any firefighter or police officer hired since 1988. (A Plymouth, Mass., police officer was fired for the same reason in 1993, and a court upheld the firing.)
Freya McDonald, 15, and her family said they would soon file a lawsuit against the Speyside High School (Morayshire, England) for violating the European Convention on Human Rights by giving her 11 after-school detentions in nine months. And following an exhaustive four-month search by Florida's child-welfare agency to find the 393 kids entrusted to it but whom it could not locate after an August crisis, Gov. Jeb Bush proudly announced that it had found all but 88. And the head of a government health agency in Thailand proposed that a leading oil company offer massages to tired motorists at its gas stations, to help reduce traffic accidents.
An 18-wheeler full of beer (Interstate 5 near Fort Tejon, Calif., July); 1,500 gallons of Southern Comfort whiskey (warehouse in Louisville, Ky., July); 20 tons of hot dogs (Interstate 70, Kansas City, Mo., August); pizza dough (leaking out of a truck's door, from rising yeast), spread over 25 miles of highway, from a Tombstone Pizza truck (near Chippewa Falls, Wis., July); 270,000 eggs (Interstate 65, Crown Point, Ind., May); $1 million in cash (U.S. Highway 160, near Pagosa Springs, Colo., May); 50,000 inch-long screws (causing scores of flat tires) (Interstate 65, near Lebanon Junction, Ky., December); and 37 voting machines (fell off of a truck and were ruined, six days before primary elections (Albuquerque, May).
A 32-year-old motorist, waiting at a crossing until a southbound train had passed, drove across those tracks but was struck and killed on a second set of tracks, by a northbound train (Santa Ana, Calif., November). And a 30-year-old man was killed by a freight train on Oct. 12 when he walked across the tracks in Hermann, Mo. According to the coroner: "The engineer (blew the whistle) hoping he'd stop but ... he just kept walking. He was talking on a cell phone, and ... stepped right in front of the train."
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)