News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*Several news services reported in October on the growing number of "telephone clubs" in Tokyo in which men (mostly middle-age and older) talk sex with junior high and high school girls. According to the Wall Street Journal, perhaps eight percent of schoolgirls participate at least occasionally. Many of the calls lead to dates and actual sex because of the serious money the girls can make, which they use to feed their habits of expensive designer clothing and accessories. The age of consent in the city of Tokyo is twelve, and prostitution is illegal only if conducted through a pimp.

*Hiding place of choice: In September in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, Robert L. Johnson, age 42, was captured after a three-hour foot chase, during which he managed to elude police while also rolling a tire containing about six pounds of marijuana. Said Police Chief Richard Crowe: "That's the fastest runner I've ever seen, of somebody rolling a tire." And back in February, in Kanab, Utah, Germain Berrelleza, age 18, was arrested for marijuana possession hours after his car broke down. He aroused the suspicion of the tow-truck operator when he insisted on taking the spare tire out of the car and carrying it with him to a nearby motel before the car was towed.

The Continuing Crisis
*In August Brian Howson, age 51, of Perth, Australia, repaired his single-engine plane's landing gear -- in flight -- while dangling out the door at 4000 feet with three passengers holding his legs.

*In September Michael Potkul, age 33, won a $400,000 malpractice award against surgeon Dominic A. Brandy in Pittsburgh. Brandy had convinced Potkul that he could give him a nearly full head of hair by surgically (in six operations) grabbing the hairy back of his scalp and stretching it over the thin-haired top of his head. Potkul suffered such pain and depression by the fifth operation that he attempted suicide.

*In September in Los Angeles, police said that four of six recently missing boarding-house residents had actually been kidnapped by a rival boarding house; stealing boarders is apparently an increasingly common tactic used by owners to get access to government checks.

*In July in Japan, a four-year-old boy drowned while frolicking unattended as his mother played pachinko, a pinball/slot-machine craze sweeping the country. More than two dozen toddler deaths have been attributed to parents' obsession with the game.

Family Values
*The parents of four-year-old Sarah Engstrand filed a $1.2 million lawsuit in New York City in September against the girl's grandparents because the elder couple's Akita dog Becky Bear bit and deeply scarred Sarah's nose and cheek during the girl's birthday party in 1994. The grandparents are reportedly heartsick at being sued by their own son, who is, not surprisingly, a lawyer, as is his wife.

*Quality time: In July a 33-year-old woman in Stone Mountain, Georgia, was arrested and charged with hitting her fifteen-year-old son on the wrists with a meat cleaver after he broke the TV remote control. And in July police in Newark, New Jersey, said a woman pushed her nine-year-old daughter through a department store window after learning that the girl had left the family's $900 on a city bus. And in July police in Tunbridge Wells, England, arrested a couple in their twenties who were lying on the ground outside a sports shop having sex in the middle of the day; the woman was using one of their two kids as a pillow for her head.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd