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News of the Weird



Lead Story

In January, University of Utah hospital surgeons removed nearly half of Briana Lane's skull to save her life after a car accident. But because Lane, 22, was uninsured and unable to afford the surgery that would replace the section of skull, she was sent home in February with a street hockey helmet to wear for protection while hospital and state officials negotiated who would pay. The skull section remained in a freezer for nearly four months as Lane battled what she said was serious pain; she also said she often awoke to find that her brain had shifted while she slept. On April 30 she finally got her skull back in a procedure covered retroactively by her mother's insurance. She now faces charges for drunk driving the night of the accident.

The Sacred Institution of Marriage

Oklahoma state representative Mike O'Neal, married with three children and author of the state's proposed "Defense of Marriage Act" (an anti-gay-marriage statute), was charged with felony sexual battery in February for grabbing a woman's buttocks in an Oklahoma City hotel bar. When the victim and another woman fled, the 55-year-old O'Neal allegedly chased them into an elevator and tried to force his way inside the car.

Adventures With Lubricants

In January a National Park Service ranger arrested Marvin Buchanon at a scenic overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina on charges including drug possession. Buchanon was discovered sitting naked in his truck, covered in baby oil, with a pair of women's underwear at his feet. And in May, Roger Chamberlain, 44, was arrested in Binghamton, New York, after having allegedly smeared 14 containers' worth of petroleum jelly all over the walls and furniture of a Motel 6 room. He was found shortly afterward at another motel, covered with the same substance.

Bright Ideas

Among the secret British military plans revealed by recently declassified Cold War documents: (1) A series of 16,000-pound nuclear land mines was proposed for use in West Germany; to keep the mines from freezing during winter, it was suggested that live chickens be housed inside them. (2) A pigeon enthusiast in the Royal Air Force briefly enjoyed some high-level support for his idea to train pigeons to carry biological agents such as anthrax to enemy targets. One intelligence report warned: "It is clear that pigeon research won't stand still. If we don't experiment, other powers will."

Questionable Judgments

Although the wait time for outpatient brain surgery in Nottingham, England, was at the time 39 days, the Queens Medical Centre suspended senior neurosurgeon Terence Hope in March because he was accused of taking extra soup (or croutons, say some sources) from the hospital cafeteria without paying. The suspension was lifted three days later, by which time three operations had been postponed.

The University of Manchester (England) announced in March that it would look into its hiring of Paul Agutter--who served seven years for attempted murder after poisoning his wife's tonic water and then putting poisoned bottles in a supermarket to mislead police--as a part-time teacher of adult-education courses in medical ethics.

News That Sounds Like a Joke

On March 10 in Orlando, Florida, a motorist was unable to stop her SUV after making a turn and plowed into a Just Brakes auto repair shop. One mechanic was injured.

Least Competent Criminals

A 21-year-old man and his 14-year-old accomplice were arrested late one night this April in Austin, Minnesota, after allegedly stealing the cash register from the Tendermade Restaurant. Officers called to the scene followed a 100-foot trail of unspooled cash-register tape into some bushes, where the two were hiding. In Honolulu the same month Gavin Bolosan, 26, was arrested for stealing a woman's purse and using her credit card; police found him via information he allegedly filled in on the warranty form of a digital camera bought with the stolen card.

Pets Living Large

In March the Mirror (London) released a list of the world's 20 richest animals. Number one was a German shepherd, Gunther IV, heir to a fortune now worth over $330 million. His father, Gunther III, inherited it from the late countess Karlotta Liebenstein. Next came Kalu the chimpanzee, who got about $98 million from shipping heiress Patricia O'Neill, followed by a poodle named Toby Rimes, who's worth about $80 million; his ancestor Toby became an heir of New Yorker Ella Wendel in 1931. The rest of the list consists of ten cats, three more dogs (one of them the Jack Russell terrier who played Eddie on the TV show Frasier), a hen, a tortoise, a parrot, and a herd of cattle and flock of sheep supported by a British royal trust.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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