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News of the Weird 

The Eternal Temptation: The Roanoke (Va.) Times reported on Jan. 17 that a Wytheville police officer had to rescue a 9-year-old boy who, with time on his hands waiting for a school bus on a "bone-deep cold" morning, decided to find out what would happen if he licked a metal pole. While awaiting someone to bring warm water to free the boy, the officer and the kid had the following conversation: "Have you learned anything?" "Uh-huh." "Are you going to do this again?" "Uh-uh."

Mainstreaming Sex Workers: In 2002, Germany legalized prostitution, primarily for tax revenue and to make sex workers eligible for health care benefits, and at the same time, it specifically declined to exempt brothels from those places of employment at which the jobless might be required to work in order to maintain their benefits. In December, there was a press report of a 25-year-old unemployed waitress complaining that she had been called for an interview at a brothel and feared that if she declined the job, her benefits would be cut. Germany's Federal Labor Office said it would not do that, but a Hamburg lawyer said there have been cases of unemployed female call-center workers being offered telephone sex-line jobs via the government.

Recent Alarming Headlines: 1) "Fireworks Explode in Pants, Burn Boy" (a January story in New Orleans' Times-Picayune about an 11-year-old boy improvidently carrying bottle rockets in his pants while holding a sparkler). 2) "Cleric Suspect Misses Hearing Due to Long Toe Nails" (a January Reuters dispatch from London, reporting that radical Islamic rabble-rouser Abu Hamza al-Masri found it too painful to walk to court). 3) "Cops: Mom Used Hammer on Son Over Homework" (a January Associated Press report in which police charged a St. Louis woman with excessive supervision of homework, which allegedly also included pliers).

Our Awesome Animal Friends: In a tourist park next to the zoo in Chiang Mai, Thailand, handlers have toilet-trained seven elephants. In photos published in Bangkok's The Nation in January and now available on the Internet, a 5-year-old elephant is shown using a giant white, Western-style concrete toilet as if he were human, including using his trunk to pull a cord to flush.And Matthew Harper's hunting dog became the latest one to shoot someone, stepping on a shotgun's trigger and blasting Harper in the arm, near Upper Klamath Lake in Oregon in October. And Leana Beasley's Rottweiler assistance dog became one of the latest to save her client's life by (as per training) nose-punching a telephone's 911 button upon seeing Beasley suffer a grand mal seizure and then barking furiously into the receiver (Richland, Wash., October).

Creme de la Weird: Paul Kelvin Hardy, 40, was arrested in Martinsburg, W.Va., after he broke into a couple's home on New Year's Eve, robbed them of $540, held them at gunpoint for more than hour, and then, when he noticed a piano in the house, ordered the husband to play two songs while Hardy sang. After the song fest, Hardy suggested they order pizza and meanwhile began playing with his gun. The siege ended and police were called, then Hardy joined a long list of people chronicled in News of the Weird for accidentally shooting themselves.

Least Competent Criminals: 1) Earmon Wilson, 44, walked into police headquarters in Buffalo, N.Y., in January and confessed to two burglaries at his apartment house, even though he wasn't a suspect; he said his conscience was bothering him, which is also what he said in October 1994 when he unsolicitedly turned himself in for robbing a Buffalo bank. 2) In Cincinnati in December, Ronald Godfrey pleaded guilty to a burglary, which he was forced to attempt alone because, according to a prosecutor, his brother James (also a burglar) refused to work with him, saying Ronald was too dumb. In the December burglary, Ronald accidentally hit himself in the head with a crowbar, splattering the scene with blood, which police traced back to him.

Readers' Choice: In a widely publicized move in January, Oklahoma state Sen. Frank Shurden proposed legislation to bring back the "sport" of cockfighting, which the state outlawed in 2002. To appease critics, Shurden, apparently serious, suggested that the roosters wear tiny boxing gloves instead of the razor cleats on their legs and also wear electronic-sensitive vests in order to record hits so as to non-lethally determine the winner of a match.

©2005 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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