News of the Weird

Lead Story
*In West Monroe, Louisiana, in February, a 35-year-old mother allegedly bit a teacher, a teacher's aide, and the principal during a parent-teacher conference. And in January a couple filed assault charges on behalf of their son against his Kentucky high school basketball coach, Bobby Keith, for allegedly biting the kid during a game. Also in January, the Nebraska Court of Appeals ruled that teeth are not a "dangerous weapon" under state law and thus bites should be punished as minor assaults.

The Litigious Society
*Bowler Sheila Torimino filed a $50,000 lawsuit against Montclaire Bowl in Edwardsville, Illinois, in December after a piece of popcorn that was stuck to her shoe caused her to lose balance during her approach, sending her sprawling onto the lane. She claimed Montclaire Bowl should have posted warnings about popcorn on the floor.

*In November Vickie Dugan, fired as the women's softball coach at Oregon State University, was awarded one million dollars by a jury in her sex discrimination lawsuit. She showed that she had been paid less than the men's softball coach and argued that her win-loss record (9-112 in conference games, 0-24 her last season) and the fact that two mostly female search teams have recommended she be replaced were irrelevant.

*In December Kingston, Ontario, inmate Patrick McGuire, age 58, won about $52,000 from a prison for a 1988 injury he suffered when a bale of hay fell on him during a work detail. He was in prison for murdering his wife.

*A Hindu man, Mukesh K. Rai, filed a lawsuit in Ventura, California in January against Taco Bell for causing him to do "the equivalent of eating his ancestors" by negligently substituting a beef burrito for a bean burrito. Rai said he required medical attention, was forced to miss work, and will have to travel to India for "purification." Taco Bell offered to calm Rai by exchanging the beef burrito for bean but, according to Rai, refused to refund the price difference between the two.

Weird Science
* In a September issue of New Scientist magazine, researchers in Germany wrote that a type of hermaphroditic flatworm mates through what they call "penis fencing." A worm lashes out with its penis in an attempt to inject sperm, but the potential mate might have similar ideas itself. In bouts that last up to an hour, each attempts to inseminate the other; often both worms are left severely punctured.

*University of Texas sociologist David Buss told reporters in September that his interviews of 107 couples revealed certain behaviors that are highly correlated with a tendency toward infidelity. Among them: arriving late for dinners or meetings, spending much time looking in the mirror, forgetting to thank friends for favors, laughing at injured animals, running up debts, and walking out of a room without turning off the light.

*A British research team, writing in the December issue of Nature's Genetics, identified a gene disorder that makes some people smell like rotting fish, almost without regard to their eating or hygiene habits. Most people produce an enzyme that breaks down a particularly smelly protein made by bacteria in the stomach; the protein is expelled through the breath or perspiration of those who can't produce the enzyme. Said a researcher on a Canadian team also studying the problem: "These are severely isolated, depressed, and lonely people."

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd