-- No state has had more serious budget anxiety attacks recently than Oregon, which saw some public schools close early this year after running out of money. However, another crisis surfaced in April when death-row inmate Horacio Reyes-Camarena told prison officials he would reluctantly accept the kidney transplant that would save Oregon taxpayers most of the $120,000 a year they now pay for his dialysis (and must, by law, pay until his execution, which may be as long as 10 years away, because of appeals). Some law-abiding Oregon kidney patients are being turned down for transplants because post-transplant drugs are too expensive.
-- Just as Democratic presidential candidate Bob Graham's daily, quirky, minutely detailed, written diaries are in the news (e.g.,"6:50-7:00 - Apply scalp medication"), the Pentagon was seeking bidders for contracts to create electronic "diaries" (the LifeLog program) that could record virtually all facets of a person's daily existence (via sensors, microphones and wearable cameras), to be dumped into gigantic databases, searchable to detect behavior patterns that might be useful to the military. A Pentagon spokesman said not to be alarmed, that only consenting subjects would be used, but one privacy advocate told Wired magazine that LifeLog could be "TIA cubed," referring to the previously revealed Total Information Awareness program, which would track everyone's purchase transactions and computer usage.
-- A February BBC report noted the fascination among tribes in Meghalaya, India, to appear mischievously worldly by giving their children prominent Western names (such as those of candidates in the Feb. 26 local elections, Adolf Lu Hitler R Marak, Tony Curtis, Rockefeller Momin and Hilarious Dhkar). Also popular are Roosevelt, Churchill, Bush, Blair, Clinton and Saddam.
-- Officials in Saudi Arabia recently began to campaign against the culture of intrafamily marriage, which is practiced by almost half the country, according to a May New York Times dispatch. "Saudi Arabia is a living genetics laboratory," said an American researcher stationed there. Several genetic disorders have festered, but in many tribes, such disorders (attributed to God's will) have not in any way diminished the ideal of first-cousin marriages.
-- In February, a 6-month-old girl was married in a Hindu ceremony in a village in southern Nepal, according to an Agence France-Presse report. Her cradle-robbing husband is 3, and their farming-cast families feared that if the children didn't tie the knot then, each one's marriage prospects would diminish as they got older.
-- From a religious advice column in Arab News (an English-language daily newspaper in Saudi Arabia), 5-9-03: "(Question:) A person feels very uncomfortable during prayers because he gets recurrent thoughts that he might have discharged wind (during the prayers, and thus) invalidated the ablution." "And it is all without sound or smell." "(Answer:) (A) wind discharge is ascertained by sound or smell. If neither is present, then no wind discharge has taken place (and therefore the ablution has not been invalidated)."
-- In May, a priest of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, Monsignor Robert V. Yarnovitz, pleaded no contest to indecency charges for an incident at a conference in nearby Huron Township. According to police, Yarnovitz was wandering, drunk and pantsless, through the Sawmill Creek resort and when confronted by police, he repeatedly and aggressively answered their every question by uttering "Michael" and a slang phrase commanding someone to perform oral sex on him. (A spokesman at Yarnovitz's church said the incident "was not characteristic of Monsignor.")
Nancy Fortson Reynolds, 49, pleaded guilty in May to having embezzled more than $1 million from an Athens, Ga., animal vaccine manufacturer during the five years she handled the company's accounts payable. According to a police detective, Reynolds and her husband spent all of the money on a multitude of consumer products, making only one enduring capital expenditure: constructing an addition onto their double-wide mobile home.
Last year's edition of the Washington, D.C., public school system's standardized-test guide for elementary students was such a disaster of errors and typos that the new edition was anticipated to be a showcase of near-perfection. However, some critics told The Washington Post in April that this year's guide was even more embarrassing. For example, one question, featuring an image of nine flowers, asks the student to count them out, but the only multiple-choice answers available were numbers between 22 and 30. Another contained only this information: If 234 people saw a theater's first show, and 456 saw a theater's second show, how many people saw both shows?
In a 2002 story, News of the Weird mentioned Cuba's Guinness-Book-record milk-producing cow, Ubre Blanca. In April 2003, a German newspaper profiled Susan Schulze, 31, of Leipzig, who the paper said was the country's most prolific milk-producing human, having provided 50 gallons of her breast milk (collected in four to six daily sessions for more than a year) to a children's clinic at the University of Magdeburg.
Barbara Schwarz is history's most prolific filer of Freedom of Information Act requests, according to a May profile in The Salt Lake Tribune. Schwarz says she is a daughter of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and a granddaughter of President Eisenhower and said she endured a number of kidnappings and mind control and microchip-implanting procedures in her quest to learn the whereabouts of her alleged husband, whom Schwarz said disappeared after he was charged with murdering Barbara Schwarz (yes, the same one). She has, said the Tribune, "carpet-bombed" "every" federal agency with "thousands" of FOIA requests, followed by "dozens" of follow-up lawsuits (one containing 2,307 pages, naming 3,087 defendants).
A 36-year-old man was tackled by customers after he had robbed the Zions Bank in Salt Lake City shortly after it opened on May 2. Several customers had had their eyes on him after they had seen him waiting outside for the bank to open but already wearing a hooded sweatshirt and mask, and the man meekly waited in a bank line for his turn before snatching money from a teller. And serial killer Robert Maury had his appeal turned down by the California Supreme Court in April. He had claimed that the Shasta County "secret witness" program should have concealed his identity when he called a hotline with crime tips, including the whereabouts of three murder victims, but police photographed him when he came by to collect his reward, and eventually he was convicted of those three murders.
Last Words: (1) Jackson Thomas was stabbed to death in May in Brooklyn, N.Y.; he had made comments about his wife's putting on weight, leading to an argument, provoking her to grab a knife, but Mr. Thomas advanced on her, saying, "What are you going to do, stab me?" (2) And a week before that, in West Hempstead, N.Y., taxicab passenger Kenneth Hill, 39, died after the driver hit him with a tire iron; he had been chased by the driver after he tried to skip out on a $5 fare and continued to taunt the driver, saying, "I'm not going to pay you, and there is nothing you can do about it."
A deputy governor in Japan resigned after criticism that he had continued to play a pachinko pinball gambling machine for a half-hour after a chaotic, magnitude-7 earthquake hit a few days earlier (on a day in which he was actually the acting governor) (Akita prefecture). Cockfight breeders filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that new restrictions on transporting fighting chickens constitute illegal ethnic discrimination against Cajuns and Hispanics (New Orleans). A gas station booth was rammed by a car with a dead man at the wheel; the man had shot himself to death hours before with the engine idling, and rigor motris caused his foot finally to either fall off the brake or hit the accelerator (Boston).
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)