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News of the Weird 

LEAD STORY: While Congress and the sports world are busy condemning the use of steroids as "cheating," golfer Tiger Woods and other athletes have already artificially enhanced their natural abilities with impunity through Lasik eye surgery (improving vision to 20/15 or 20/10). More ominously, according to a Wired magazine story in March, the time will soon come when perfectly healthy baseball pitchers and other athletes choose so-called "Tommy John surgery" (until now performed only to repair ruptured arm ligaments), which can make an elbow even stronger than it naturally was, allowing pitchers to achieve higher velocity than ever. Other predicted enhancements include the removal, re-engineering, and reinsertion of leg, arm and shoulder muscle cells to add strength.

Can't Possibly Be True: The Netherlands Healthcare Inspectorate issued a report in March accusing some dermatologists at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam of concealing the local outbreak of a sexually transmitted disease in 2003 just so they could publish a first-in-time article about it in the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases later that year. Infections of lymphogranuloma venereum went from 14 at the time of initial outbreak to more than 100 now. (The EMC doctors acknowledged not reporting the initial outbreak, but said the disease was not at that time on the list of diseases required to be reported.)

Least Competent People: A 24-year-old woman was hospitalized in April in Nassau County, N.Y., after her boyfriend, tossing sticks to his dog, decided to toss his knife, instead. But the knife's handle loop caught on a finger when he flung it, and it snapped back, lodging in the woman's neck. She corroborated the story, and the man was not criminally charged. (An officer asked him, "When you threw the knife, what did you expect the dog to do?") Steven Jakaitis, 42, was arrested in Quincy, Mass., in March outside a CVS pharmacy, where police said he fell asleep while preparing to rob the place. His car was idling; a stocking was on his head and a pistol in his pocket; and the piece of paper beside him read, "I have a Gun DO NOT Press any Alarms or let Custermors [sic] know Empty the All [sic] the register."

People With Issues: Gasoline-sniffer Brian Taylor, 36, was sentenced to three months in jail in March for violating a U.K. "anti-social behaviour order" by loitering around the pumps at a gas station in Middlesbrough, England. According to evidence of multiple such incidents, Taylor often dangerously reeks of gasoline fumes and is sometimes aggressive in his pursuit of a fix, including jostling gas-pumping customers. Once, he was filmed on a security camera doing an uninhibited dance after taking a huff. He apparently prefers unleaded but will settle for diesel, and denies that he drinks any of it: "I'm daft but not that daft."

Inexplicable: A British farm couple recently handed officials of the East Lindsey District Council a surveillance video of an elderly couple who they said have been driving by from time to time and leaving pairs of new shoes (with price tags still affixed) on their property, with no explanation. The farmers, Jason and Claire Foster, said more than 30 pairs have been dropped off since December, and the council's investigation was continuing, according to a March BBC News report.

Recurring Themes: One News of the Weird "No Longer Weird" category was apparently retired prematurely, in that there has rarely been a sighting of it for years now. However, on April 7, a 48-year-old man drove to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Anchorage, Alaska, failed to come to a complete stop, bumped into a wall of the building, backed up, parked, walked inside nonchalantly, and got his driver's license renewed. Although workers in the accounting offices of the building were shaken up (one thought an earthquake had hit), no one inside knew exactly what had happened until police arrived. The driver failed a coordination test and was charged with DUI based on a prescription medication he was taking.

Thinning the Herd: According to police in Lake City, Mich., the plan of the 19-year-old man in March was to stab himself lightly in the chest, call 911, and blame the "attack" on a neighbor with whom he had been feuding, but he handled it badly and bled to death. And police in Corpus Christi, Texas, said that the 42-year-old man who died of a brain hemorrhage in March was at the time trying to steal a concrete statue of the Virgin Mary from Turner's Gardenland nursery.

© 2005 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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