News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*Explaining his June no vote in the California legislature on a bill to ban discrimination against gays, assemblyman-rancher Peter Frusetta told his colleagues: "I've seen thousands and thousands of [heifers and] three, maybe at the top four, had the hormonal imbalance ... that makes them shy away from bulls and take up with other heifers. But they are rare. And it's a very unnatural thing." Frusetta's side won. And in June a Helena, Montana, sheep researcher said her work over the past ten years reveals that about ten percent of rams are homosexual and that such sexual orientation appears to be linked to brain structures that regulate hormones.

*Minneapolis firefighter Gerald Brown, age 55, who was fired in 1995 for abuse of sick leave but was reinstated with eighteen months' back pay after a grievance hearing, was scheduled to return to work on June 2. He called in sick.

*In January 1995, according to an April 1997 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, about 1500 Cuban refugees housed at the American naval base at Guantanamo severely mutilated themselves in order to qualify for speedy entry to the mainland United States. (Four months later President Clinton declared them all eligible for immigration.) Among the self-injuries: injecting diesel fuel into the scrotum, applying molten plastic to cause second- and third-degree burns, inducing blood in the urine by urethral trauma, and severing the Achilles tendon.

Compelling Explanations
*At a South Carolina board of education meeting in May, board member Henry Jordan, age 52, was arguing for the right of students to post the Ten Commandments in public schools when opponents told him it might offend those of other religions. According to a recording of the meeting obtained by a Columbia newspaper, Jordan then said, "Screw the Buddhists and kill the Muslims. Put that in the minutes." Explaining his comments a few days later, Jordan said, "Both of those religions aren't really religions. They're cults, if you define a cult as someone who worships someone other than Jesus Christ."

*Three young adults were convicted of manslaughter in Tampa, Florida, in May for pulling a stop sign out of the ground, which led to an accident at the intersection the next day in which three teenagers were killed. The defendants admitted that the night before the accident they had gone on a stop-sign-uprooting binge in the area, yanking nineteen signs out of the ground. They denied touching that particular one.

*Earl Zea, age 34, of Johnstown, New York, amputated his penis with pruning shears in May because, as he later told the district attorney, a man was romantically interested in him, and he thought if he cut off his penis the man would leave him alone.

Questionable Judgments
*In February a court ordered Lisa Stiller, age 47, of Las Vegas, to catch up with her $180-a-month child-support payments for her three teenagers or go to jail. Stiller's attorney said she earns about $1000 a month and cannot afford the payments, especially since her ex-husband, Steven Scroggin, earns about thirteen times that much as an investment manager and was able to win custody of the kids largely on the ground that he could better provide for them.

*In March Patrick Wayne Manning II, age 32, decided to be a conscientious citizen and report for jury duty in Tulsa. A routine records check made of all jurors turned up an outstanding 1987 murder charge against him, and he was whisked off to jail.

-- By Chuck Shepherd