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News of the Weird 

Lead story: New Scientist magazine reported in October that psychologists seem to be reclassifying people who are permanently uninterested in sex, from the old notion that such behavior was a disorder to the emerging position that it is merely a sexual preference of "none of the above." (Asexuals profess no sexual attraction at all, encompassing loners reluctant to associate with people and gregarious, caring people whose natural inclination is to relate to others nonsexually.) An asexuality support group, AVEN, touts its best-selling T-shirt, "Asexuality: It's not just for amoebas anymore."

People different from us: Jackie Lee Shrader, 49, and his son, Harley Lee, 24, had a brief shootout with .22-caliber handguns, provoked when the pair confronted each other over how to cook skinless chicken for dinner (Bluewell, W.Va., September). And Niccolo Rossodivita, 62, shot Billy Cordova, 40, twice in the chest after Cordova followed him around their house prolonging their argument over Jesus Christ's correct name (Wasilla, Alaska, September). And Angela Morris, 19, was charged with assaulting her boyfriend by pouring boiling oil on him during an argument over a Bible verse the two had been reading together (Eugene, Ore., May).

Scenes of the surreal: Thomas Patrick Remo, 50, was arrested in September in Dallas and charged with practicing medicine (gynecology) without a license; Remo had a stream of female customers who apparently did not think it odd that the exams were free and that he ran his office out of a self-storage locker.

Our litigious society: Patricia Frankhouser filed a lawsuit in Jeannette, Pa., in November against the Norfolk Southern railway as a result of being hit by a train in January as she walked on railroad tracks. Frankhouser, who suffered various cuts and a broken finger, claimed in the lawsuit that Norfolk Southern should have posted signs alongside the tracks warning people not to walk on them, that trains might be coming.Frederick Puglisi, 23, was awarded $850,000 by a jury in Ramsey, N.J., in September, for injuries, including a disfigured hand caused by frostbite, suffered when he got drunk at a party, set out on foot, and passed out in a snow bank. The jury determined that his injuries were worth $1 million in damages and that Puglisi was only 15 percent responsible. (Ramsey police and Bergen County police bore greater fault because they had failed to respond quickly enough to a 911 call about a man passed out in a snow bank.)

Police blotter: When the police chief in Springdale, Pa., allegedly used the N-word while detaining two black teenagers, the boys' parents charged racism, but the chief's brother, police officer Mike Naviglia, came to his rescue. Officer Naviglia suddenly grabbed one of the boys, in front of their mother, and kissed him flush on the mouth. Said Naviglia, "Does that taste like racism?" (According to the mother, Naviglia said, "I kissed him to show him that I wasn't prejudiced." The mother was undaunted and said she would proceed with her complaint.)

Creme de la weird: Australian sleep-disorder expert Dr. Peter Buchanan caused a stir in October when he told reporters that the odd behavior of "sleep sex" (leaving home at night in a deep sleep and seeking random sex with strangers) would soon be regarded as an official sleep disorder and be included in the next version of the sleep disorder manual.

Least competent criminals: Paul Michael Callahan, 32, was arrested in Boston in August after, according to police, a short career as a bank robber, which started badly when Callahan tried to hold up the copy shop at Boston University, believing it was a bank. (The clerk asked, "Do you know you're in a copy store and all we can give you is copies?") Callahan fled but allegedly robbed a Fleet Bank branch a few minutes later (getting less than $200) and then a Citizen's Bank branch, clearing about $2,500. The red-dye pack from Citizen's exploded, however, distracting him, and then his getaway car got a flat tire, and police found him hiding in a gas station.

Update: Among the recent idiosyncratic decrees by Turkmenistan's megalomaniacal President-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov: No publicly chewing "nas" (the country's popular drug, partly tobacco, slacked lime and chicken droppings); television show hosts cannot wear makeup (because the president said he has difficulty distinguishing heavily made-up males from females); and an ice palace will be built in the heart of the country's extremely hot desert so that children can learn to ski.

Readers' choice: Initially, Florida artist Maria Alquilar refused to correct a series of misspelled names in a $40,000 historical mural she did for the city of Livermore, Calif., claiming that "words" were not important to her art, comparing her errors to Michelangelo's "David" (imperfect in the sense that one of the testicles is lower than the other). After receiving much hate mail from Livermore taxpayers, suggesting that she must have a learning disability for not detecting "[Albert] Eistein," "[William] Shakespere," "[Paul] Gaugan," "[Vincent] Van Gough," and seven other misspellings, Alquilar agreed to fix her mural in early 2005 (but wants an additional $6,000 for her trouble).


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