-- As Illinois legislators debate solutions to the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance, newspaper reports from several cities have chronicled the local exodus of neurosurgeons and ob-gyn doctors to avoid the state's oppressive premiums (typically tripling or quadrupling over the last three years), costs that doctors usually must absorb because of health-insurance contract restrictions. Carbondale brain surgeon Sumeer Lal is moving to South Carolina ($40,000 premium vs. $300,000 in Illinois), and nearly one-fifth of the state's neurosurgeons are closing this year. These days, said outgoing obstetrician Eileen Murphy of Chicago (who makes $170,000 in salary but pays a $138,000 premium), "if anything goes wrong (in delivery), you can almost guarantee you're going to be sued."
In Louisville, Ky., local Republican Party activists John Lowler and Peter Hayes feuded recently over their status at the upcoming state convention, with Lowler alleging that Hayes punched him. Lowler had first accused Hayes of smearing him by suggesting that he had recently had gay sex. (Lowler acknowledges that he used to be gay but says he is now straight). Hayes said it was Lowler who smeared first by denigrating Hayes' religion, the Unification Church (headed by Rev. Sun Myung Moon). Hayes told the Louisville Courier-Journal in April that Lowler had taunted him by saying, "Moonie, Moonie, Moonie, Moonie, Moonie." (However, Lowler said he could recall saying only "Moonie, Moonie, Moonie.")
Lawyer Larry Feingold, 53, testified at his January trial in New York City that he was merely trying to commit suicide in 2003 when he turned on the gas in his apartment and that the subsequent blast that devastated three floors of his building caught him by surprise because he didn't know that gas could explode. "I thought gasoline did," he said, under oath, "but I didn't know about gas." And Bromley Preston, 44, filed a claim late last year after he split his head open on the water slide at The Lakes Resort at Berry Springs, in Australia, even though he admits he tried to go down the 100-foot-high slide on all fours instead of on his back, feet first.
In February, officials in the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen established the world's first formal stock-market-type arrangement in which farmers and producers can efficiently buy and sell liquid manure. And the London Evening Standard reported in March that soaring funeral prices in Germany have created markets for cost-saving services, including a thriving business in sending loved ones' bodies to Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic for disposal (a phenomenon known in the trade as "corpse tourism").
-- From a November 2003 article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, on the fatal transmission of Rocky Mountain spotted fever from two dogs to their owner: "One man in Mississippi contracted Rocky Mountain spotted fever when he killed ticks he had removed from his dog by biting them with his teeth. This may seem unusual," the veterinarian-authors wrote, "but we have since encountered other persons who claimed to kill ticks by biting them."
-- A 23-year-old man in Hartland, Maine, was hospitalized in March after apparently attempting to commit suicide by crucifying himself. According to an account in the Portland Press Herald, he built a wooden cross, placed it on the floor, and nailed one hand to it. According to the officer, "When he realized that he was unable to nail his other hand to the board, he called 911," although the officer said he wasn't sure if the call was for an ambulance or for someone to come help him nail the other hand.
-- News of additional bizarre species was released recently from last year's deep-sea research voyage by scientists from Australia and New Zealand (and reported in News of the Weird in October). The oddest this time was the "deep sea angler fish," because of its sex life. According to Dr. Mark Norman, curator at Museum Victoria in Australia: "The female is the size of a tennis ball. It has big savage teeth" and "a rod lure off the top of its head with a glowing tip to coax in stupid prey." The male "looks like a black jellybean with fins." The mating male bites into the female's side, drinks her blood and gives her sperm. Their flesh eventually fuse together permanently. Said Norman, "They have found females with up to six males attached."
-- Mice Living the Good Life: University of Southern California researchers announced in February that they were able to breed mice with a certain skin gene "overexpressed," resulting in the mices' growing thicker hair, more whiskers and "significantly larger" "external genitalia."
According to a March Arizona Republic profile, Phoenix's Haskell Wexler, 73, is in his 12th year of contesting three $31 parking tickets, a dispute that has taken him through 12 so-far-unsuccessful lawsuits. His complaint is that he thinks the ticket charges were unfairly raised by the city in 1992 from $6 to $16 and that the $15 late fee was entirely inappropriate. Even more burdensome than the lawsuits are Wexler's almost-daily telephone calls seeking his $93 back. A city attorney said Wexler's crusade plays the same role in his life as golf might for other retirees.
A 40-year-old man and his 16-year-old son (carrying a shotgun) were walking home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in March when they decided to rob passing pedestrians of the beer they were carrying; in the ensuing fight, police later said, the beer did not change hands, and the son accidentally shot the father. And according to police in Toledo, Ohio, in March, during the robbery of the Gold Star Market, Joseph Allen Wilson, 18, accidentally shot and killed his 30-year-old accomplice, who was posing as a customer and whom Wilson was "threatening to kill" as part of the clever plan to get the clerk to open the register.
-- Rev. Dwayne Long, 45, a Pentecostal preacher in Rose Hill, Va., died the day after being bitten on the finger by a rattlesnake during a serpent-handling sermon on April 11. He had refused treatment because, as a parishioner said later, "(I)t's the Lord's will." (According to Mark 16:17-18 in the New Testament, "(Believers) shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.")
A speeding pickup truck went out of control, hit a low wall, and became airborne, landing on the roof of Fish Bowl's Bar and Grill, where firefighters rescued the driver (Jefferson, W.Va.). And after visitor Dave Alsop stopped his car in the West Midland Safari Park to photograph Sharka the rhinoceros mating, Sharka uncoupled and instead passionately mounted Alsop's small Renault automobile, heavily denting it before Alsop could drive away (Bewdley, England). And a bill was introduced in the Louisiana legislature to make it illegal for anyone to wear pants that ride below the waistline.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)