-- University of California, Santa Barbara, researcher J. Gordon Melton's new edition of the Encyclopedia of American Religion lists 2,630 denominations in two dozen informal "families" (e.g., 116 Catholic flocks, "hundreds" of Pentecostal flocks), according to a January Associated Press report. Among the least mainstream: the (John F.) Kennedy Worshippers, the Nudist Christian Church of the Blessed Virgin Jesus, the Church of God Anonymous, the Church of the New Song (once offered porterhouse steaks for communion), and 22 that believe in UFOs (including the clone-happy Raelians).
-- The British government proposed privacy-rights legislation in January that would permit people to have sex in public restrooms as long as they could not be seen by others using the restroom. The week after that, the California Patriot (a publication of students at the University of California, Berkeley) reported that a university-funded gay students' Web site was openly discussing which restrooms on campus were the most hospitable for public sex (acts which are still illegal in California).
Some recent accidental self-shootings: Jason Gins, 19, Baton Rouge, La., January, in the genitals (gun stuffed in waistband during getaway from robbery); Michael Bent, 30, New York City, September, hit an artery near the groin (fatal) (fooling with gun in car while talking to his girlfriend); Randal Lewis, 40, near St. Louis, September, in the head (fatal) (while demonstrating to 12-year-old son how to unload gun); Robert E. Slay Jr., 55, Gonzalez, La., October, leg (trying on pants at an outlet store); Dr. Steve Kyplesky, 57, Raceland, La., hand (fumbling with gun in his truck's glove compartment); Dale B. Grimmett, 41, Ione, Wash., shoulder (pointed rifle at himself while cleaning it); 15-year-old high school student, Detroit, December, leg (bent over to pick up pencil in class).
In December, Robert John Cusack, 45, was sentenced to 57 days in jail for a June smuggling caper on a flight to Los Angeles. He had four endangered songbirds and 50 illegal orchids in his luggage, and when one bird flew off down an airport corridor during an inspection, the agent asked if Cusack had anything else. "Yes," he said. "I've got monkeys in my pants" (actually, two endangered pygmy monkeys from Thailand, which Cusack dug down for and handed over).
Police in Lowell, Mass., said in January that dozens of young Asian women had purchased sloppy breast augmentations, nose jobs and eyelid surgeries from a Cambodian couple posing as doctors in a bloody "Frankenstein's workshop." And a Venezuelan couple were sentenced to from two to seven years in prison by a New York City court in December for injecting a rooster-comb derivative into the faces of 20 women as cut-rate wrinkle-smoothers but which scarred them for life. And authorities in Guadalajara, Mexico, arrested fake "Dr." Myriam Yukie Gaona (a former stripper) in July for performing cut-rate plastic surgery on "hundreds" of women, augmenting the breasts and lips of some with industrial silicone and motor oil.
In February, the lawyer for former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke (who is to be sentenced in March for defrauding financial contributors in order to feed his gambling habit) appealed to the judge to send Duke to an upscale prison because otherwise black inmates would tear him up. And Kenneth Hawthorn, a Jehovah's Witness proselytizer, filed a lawsuit in Adelaide, Australia, against a couple whose ram attacked him, battering him to the ground, as he approached the couple's door. (The parties settled the lawsuit in January.) (Bonus detail: The ram, since deceased, was named Shit for Brains.)
In Holmes County, Miss., in October, Mr. Chocwe Lumumba, Esq., earned an acquittal for his client, former policeman Eddie Myers, having convinced the jury that it was self-defense when Myers killed his sister-in-law (who was the assistant police chief). Myers told the jury that, yes, he grabbed two .40-caliber handguns and fired 36 shots, hitting the woman 14 times, and yes, the victim's own handgun was found by emergency workers still strapped inside its holster, but it was still self-defense.
-- In November, the Pentagon rejected a Freedom of Information Act request by a reporter to see an internal training video, claiming that the law allowed it to be withheld. The video is the 22-minute "Freedom of Information Act / The People's Right to Know," which is utilized to teach Pentagon employees how to carry out the maximum-disclosure purpose of the act.
-- Convicted sex abuser Daniel Ray Erickson (who once "purchased" a 5-year-old girl whom he then molested) petitioned a judge in Brooksville, Fla., in December to have his photo removed from Florida's sex offender Web site. "How," he asked, "can a guy get married and become a good, stable citizen if they're putting your picture there?" (Indeed, he said, his previous girlfriend had left him when she found out he was on the Web site.)
-- Boston City Councilman Felix Arroyo, who opposes war in Iraq, announced in January that he was going on a hunger strike to protest U.S. policy. Arroyo said he would begin a liquid-only regimen, but then limited that to daylight hours (thus allowing himself dinner and, theoretically, breakfast), and later qualified that to mean that he would only adhere to this hardship diet on the second and fourth Fridays of each month.
The men of the Messiah Lutheran Church in Ripon, Calif., voted 25-17 in December to let women start voting on church matters, but that was still three votes shy of the required two-thirds majority. And health researchers told a conference in San Antonio, Texas, in January that they had treated a well-fed college student who had come down with the old-time mariner's disease of scurvy (absence of vitamin C in the student's steady diet of cheese, crackers, cookies and soda). And a retired professor was appointed in November by the town of Colwood, British Columbia, to find out why garage doors suddenly open, sprinklers come on, TVs and VCRs start automatically, and one couple's mechanical bed folds up while they're asleep. (Two new broadcast transmission towers are the suspects.)
Authorities in Lincolnshire, England, are trying to identify the 60-ish-year-old woman who was admitted to Lincoln County Hospital in December, suffering from amnesia but insisting she is Barry Manilow. The only things she was carrying were several Manilow albums.
The Philippine Star reported that George Mamaril, perhaps overreacting to his wife, Evelyn's, suspicion of infidelity, severed his penis on Feb. 22, wrapped it in newspaper, and tossed it through the window of her parents' house, where she was staying, with a note reading (in Filipino), "So you will not suspect I am courting another girl."
A Maryland state auditing office found, based on examining cell phone usage of 74 state employees, that the state could have saved $130,000 last year if the 74 had switched to a higher-minutes call plan. And Daniel Torres was convicted of killing a man (and his pet cockatoo) after prosecutors showed that Torres' DNA was found in the cockatoo's beak because the bird had pecked Torres furiously to defend itself (Dallas). And a highly lauded Vermont sex-crime investigation unit, staggered by government budget cuts, announced it would turn to raffle tickets and bake sales to keep the office going (St. Albans, Vt.).
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)