As of mid-October (six months after the so-called fall of Baghdad), nearly one-fourth of U.S. troops in Iraq still had not been issued life-saving Interceptor ceramic body armor and were using comparatively porous Vietnam-era flak jackets, according to an Associated Press report quoting congressional sources. And a few days later, responding to an alarming United Press International report, the government abruptly stepped up money for medical treatment of Army reservists and National Guardsmen who had been wounded in Iraq but were being warehoused at Fort Stewart, Ga., sometimes for months, because, allegedly, preference was being given to active-duty soldiers.
Mr. Ashrita Furman, 48, claims the world record for breaking world records (81, 20 of which are still recognized by the Guinness Book), demonstrating extraordinary but fanciful skills, such as the fastest mile run while balancing a bottle of milk on his chin, unicycling backward for 53 miles, and pogo-stick jumping (3,647). According to a June New York Times profile, Furman is a celibate bachelor with few possessions and lives quietly in an Indian-American community in Jamaica, N.Y., whose residents are spiritually guided by guru Sri Chinmoy. He said he would go the distance in the Nov. 2 New York City Marathon not by running but by skipping.
German law requires a divorcing couple to equalize pensions, and thus it is common for an ex-husband to pay part of his pension to the wife. However, not only do the payments continue if she remarries, but in September, administrative judge Bernhard Wanwitz ruled that if she dies, the ex-husband has to continue the pension payments to her widower (Mainz, Germany). And it was not until September that the German government ended a longtime loophole that allowed citizens to continue to collect welfare benefits while living abroad, as in the case of "Rolf J.," 64, who lives in Miami Beach because he said living in Germany fueled his clinical depression.
-- In September, Australia's National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre identified a problem that was serious enough that it felt it had to issue a warning, mainly for partygoers in the "club" scene: There is no physiological benefit, the Centre said (and maybe a great harm), in trying to revive drug-overdosers by administering ice-cube enemas.
-- In a recent government raid on a Colombian rebel compound, authorities recovered a videotape apparently made at a Christmas party of the violent National Liberation Army (ELN) and released it to TV stations in September. Among the scenes on the tape was a mock beauty pageant featuring giddy male rebel soldiers, in bikini bottoms and with sashes across their chests, strutting along a makeshift catwalk, with tongue-in-cheek narration by a ski-masked emcee who playfully chides the contestants. Interspersed, however, were non-humorous scenes of kidnapped Colombians being held for ransom.
-- In September, Ohio's state medical board charged family practitioner William J. Stefanich, 78, with negligence after investigations of two patient complaints, including one by a female hemorrhoid-surgery patient who was later told in an emergency room visit that a wide area of her anal canal had been removed and her anal opening sutured closed. Stefanich disputed the diagnosis.
-- Alleged Gambino family strongman Thomas "Huck" Carbonaro was convicted in October in New York City of plotting to kill turncoat Salvatore "Sammy Bull" Gravano, evidence of which included reference to Carbonaro's tattoos: (on his stomach) "Death Before Dishonor" and the three-monkeyed "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil" and (on his lower back) "Rats Get Fat While Good Men Die."
-- John Edward Knowles II, 45, was convicted in October of the attempted murder of two Shasta County, Calif., sheriff's deputies, based in part on a surreptitious jailhouse audio recording, in which he admitted the crimes and lamented his failure to achieve a longtime dream. Knowles, who, after the shooting, had stolen his sister's car (which made it easier to catch him), said on the tape: "I always wanted to be on the FBI's top 10 Most Wanted list. I would have made it if (my sister) hadn't woke up and reported the car stolen."
-- In Sparks City, Nev., during the summer, City Attorney Chet Adams, perhaps influenced by the legal challenges to the Alabama courthouse monument displaying the Ten Commandments, ordered an employee to scissor out "God" from the town's Sept. 11 "God Bless America" signs around City Hall. (Mayor Tony Armstrong, among the many baffled by the newly anonymous blessing, immediately bought more "God Bless America" signs and posted them, himself.)
-- In September, a British government-funded charity, Family Planning Association, distributed a cartoon booklet teaching the joys of masturbation to a target audience of 9- to 11-year-old girls. Also in September, the British teen community-service organization Connexions distributed a primer on marijuana smoking printed on a poster resembling a package of rolling papers. And the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor this semester offered another edition of its sociology course, "How to Be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation" (but its creator said "initiation" is a sociological term and does not refer to initiation of straight students).
People Who Recently Failed to Get Out of the Line of Their Own Fire: (1) Jonathan Rodriguez, 17, Newark, Del. (a home-invasion suspect who batted on a door with the butt of his handgun, which fired into his groin; July). (2) Joshua Michael Short, 18, Houston (got up from a table at Memorial City Mall food court and bumped the gun that was in his waistband, firing a round into his buttocks; July). (3) Detroit police officer Michael Allen, 22 (tried to cram his gun under the front seat of his car at a Canadian border-crossing, but it discharged into his leg; July).
Raymond Garfield Gordon, 23, who was scheduled to be a contestant on the "Canadian Idol" TV show, was arrested in August after an alleged public-masturbation spree, during which at least once he, nude, followed a woman and implored her, "Look at me. Please look at me." And police in Barcelona, Spain, arrested a man in August whom they thought was the serial mugger (19 victims) whose modus operandi included, most of the time, telling the victims that he knew what he was doing was bad and that they should spit on him (and, according to an officer, several did).
A San Francisco Giants fan was killed at Pacific Bell Park on Sept. 17 after his sunglasses fell to the ground during a game and he hit his head after falling from a light pole trying to retrieve them. And a 17-year-old girl accidentally fell to her death after sitting on a 15th-floor ledge, to which she had retreated to get away from cigarette smoke during a party (Strathclyde, England, May). And in October, the family of a 61-year-old man had their lawsuit reinstated for his May 2000 wrongful death, which occurred when he fell on a defective stairway into the basement of the Wells Funeral Home (Stanton, Ky.).
-- The Colorado prisons' inspector general's office said that because of the state's new no-smoking law, inmate profits of 450 times costs can be made on contraband tobacco, vs. typical profits of eight times costs on contraband cocaine. And the chief of a remote Fiji mountain village agreed to apologize for his ancestors, who killed and ate British missionary Thomas Baker in 1867 after Baker innocently pulled a comb out of the then-chief's hair. And 750 students in two Paris high schools went on strike after their principals decided to strictly enforce French law banning smoking in the schools.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)