News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*Township supervisors in East Marlborough, Pennsylvania, proposed an ordinance in November to ban offensive smells within the town, requiring that a panel of people with "ordinary and reasonable sensibility" be convened to determine which odors are unacceptable. The issue arose when one supervisor complained about the smell from a Chinese restaurant.

*On December 5, for the seventeenth consecutive year, hundreds of Thai men underwent free vasectomies to honor King Bhumibol Adulyadej, age 69, on his birthday. The daylong festivities included free food and drink and a condom-inflating championship. The king has been praised by family-planning organizations for cutting Thailand's population growth rate by two-thirds over the last 25 years.

*The sanctity of heterosexual marriage: In September Painesville, Ohio, judge Fred V. Skok issued a marriage license to Paul Smith and Debi Easterly, even though he was aware that Paul describes himself as a lesbian, usually dresses in women's clothes, and is on a three-year program to change gender. Judge Skok, mindful that he could not under Ohio law approve a female-female marriage, merely required a doctor's certificate that Paul currently still has male sex organs.

Courtroom Antics
*In the Tasmanian Supreme Court in November, Martin Bryant pleaded guilty to the April murders of 35 people at a tourist attraction in Port Arthur, Australia, but he couldn't stop laughing. Wrote the Associated Press: "Bryant laughed so much he had trouble saying the word 'guilty' and had to be hushed by his own lawyer." And convicted child molester Francis Robinson, age 76, at a September bail hearing for a charge of sexual abuse of a child in Markham, Illinois, had to be admonished by the judge because he chuckled while prosecutors described how Robinson allegedly fondled the girl.

*At an October retrial in Leeds, England, jurors took about an hour to acquit police officer Andrew Whitfield, age 30, of stealing a calculator worth about four dollars. The cost of the trial, plus the original mistrial, plus keeping Whitfield on paid suspension for fourteen months as required by law, was about $158,000.

Compelling Explanations
*At the trial in his racial harassment lawsuit against Pitney Bowes in Los Angeles in September, black salesman Akintunde I. Ogunleye testified that he had been addressed by one co-worker as "Akintunde, ooga-booga, jungle-jungle." The co-worker, who is of French-Canadian ancestry, later testified that he was misunderstood, that what he said was "Bonjour, bonjour." The jury awarded Akintunde $11.1 million.

*In September Roy T. Moore was convicted of exposing himself while seated in his car at a gas station in Goderich, Ontario, despite his explanation that what a witness saw was actually only a half-eaten cookie from a bag he was holding in his lap. The judge refused to admit the cookie as evidence but did allow Moore's lawyer to use a tape measure to illustrate to the jury the size of the alleged cookie.

*Orlando Juvenile Court Judge Walter Komanski was caught by office workers making printouts of pornography in the courthouse in October and of keeping pornographic videos and magazines in an office cabinet. He said he kept them at work only because he had teenage boys at home and that, as a responsible parent, he didn't want them to find his stash. He also said he had visited Internet sex sites only to determine how to keep his kids away. (He was reassigned to finance cases.)

-- By Chuck Shepherd