*Calgary, Alberta, construction worker Michael Pearse, age 22, an admitted hothead, pleaded guilty to making threats in 1996 while trying to find a friend's ex-girlfriend, but at his sentencing hearing in November 1998 he claimed to be a gentle man and had the report of a government neuropsychologist as evidence. The cause of his change: In February 1998, Pearse was hit in the head and knocked out by a crowbar that bounced off a wall after he swung it. When he came to, his "amnesia" turned him into what the doctor said is a "considerate, caring, benign guy," with no aggression at all. The judge postponed sentencing so he could think things over.
*In November after French surgeons transplanted an arm and a hand on a man, prominent Italian plastic surgeon Nicolo Scuderi announced that he was ready to perform the world's first penis transplant and had three potential patients. Scuderi said the operation would be less complicated than a reattachment although he was not sure that all penile functions would be effective. He said his initial operations would be on transsexual women seeking to become men instead of on men seeking larger genitals. And the next day, China's Xinhua news agency reported that army surgeons had constructed a new penis out of abdominal tissue for a six-year-old boy who was injured in an accident.
*Diane Ellis of Clearwater, Florida, candidate for a state House seat, received 27 percent of the vote despite her persistent, inexplicable claims that her opponent, the son of locally well-known U.S. Representative Michael Bilirakis, was an imposter from out of state hired to impersonate the younger Bilirakis.
*In an upset proportional to Jesse (The Body) Ventura's becoming governor of Minnesota, a challenger to the Mendocino County, California, district attorney won, despite the incumbent's stature as president of the state association of district attorneys. The new DA is ex-con Norman Vroman, who served time for tax evasion and still owes $1.3 million in back taxes, but is very popular because he favors decriminalization of marijuana. (Vroman says he will prosecute anyone arrested by the newly elected sheriff, who also favors decriminalization of marijuana.)
*The Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Arkansas, surgeon Fay Boozman, said during the campaign that a "rape exception" for abortion is not necessary because the stress of rape produces hormonal changes in a woman that prevent conception. He did not produce research but said his statement was based on general knowledge in the medical community.
*Voters in Newport, Maine, voted almost three to one against a proposed ordinance that would make female public toplessness illegal. The issue had been forced by the propensity of Desiree Davis, age 34, to mow her mother's lawn without a shirt, thereby provoking complaints despite the fact that current law only forbids exposing the genitals and buttocks.
*In July British climber Alan Hinkes succeeded in scaling the 26,000-foot-high Nanga Parbot in Pakistan, a year after his previous attempt failed. As reported in "News of the Weird" last year, Hinkes, who went to great expense and preparation, was about halfway up when the wind blew the flour from the chapati (Pakistani bread) he was eating into his face. The flour made him sneeze with such force that he pulled a back muscle, thereby making further climbing impossible.
-- By Chuck Shepherd