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News of the Weird

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Heads up:
Marcos Martin Parra, 18, hit the basketball court again in January, only six months after having his head nearly severed from his body in a traffic collision caused by a drunken driver. Parra's skull had been ripped from the cervical spine and neck ligaments, leaving the head fragilely attached, only by the spinal cord. At St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, Dr. Curtis Dickman performed first-of-a-kind surgery, which worked so well that Parra lost only about 5 percent of his neck's range of motion.

Hanging in there:
Joe R. Thompson, 18, was thrown 25 feet into the air in a car crash near Highway 40 and Woods Chapel Road in Blue Springs, Mo., in January, but survived when he landed among, and held onto, live overhead power lines. Thompson remained conscious until rescuers arrived 20 minutes later and the electricity was shut off. He even made a cell phone call. (Fortunately for Thompson, the power lines were insulated.)

The prices of things:
1) Average fee per lawyer working on New York's portion of the 1998 multistate tobacco settlement (according to New York Supreme Court Justice Charles Ramos in October): $14,000 an hour. 2) For permanent loss of her marital sex life for a 31-year-old Chinese woman (when her husband became impotent after a car crash, according to a Chinese court in October): the equivalent of $2,210. 3) Amount Geneva Burger, 80, earned for uttering one question on an answering machine ("When people get hooked on pot, can they get sick if they don't get it?"): $515,000 (the amount awarded by a Pomona, Calif., court in December, and from prior settlements, as a result of rap producer Master P's using the recording without permission on an album).

Latest religious messages: Hemorrhoid -suffering pilgrims are trekking to the town of Murtosa, Portugal, to rub the affected body part against a statue of St. Goncalo, hoping for relief (since the 13th century the priest was known for curing acne), according to a January report in the country's largest daily newspaper, Jornal de Noticias.

Bum steer:
The Agri Gold Co. of Vijayawada, India, has begun marketing an instant, just-add-water version of the holy cow dung that many urban Hindus use in their purification rituals, according to a December dispatch from Kolkata, India, in the Sydney Morning Herald. (The dung sells for the equivalent of 25 cents to make about 2 pounds and is mixed with camphor, turmeric and sandalwood paste, which alleviates the foul smell, which is the main reason many Hindus had been leaving the dung part out of the ritual.)

Latest trend in burglary:
On Jan. 6, according to police in Prestonburg, Ky., Quinton G. Bailey, 20, was caught preparing to re-enter the apartment below his, by way of a hole in his floor (obscured by removable ceiling tile in that apartment); a box of that tenant's jewelry was found in Bailey's apartment. And on Jan. 27, according to police in Plainville, Conn., Jimmy Tran, 32, sawed through his own ceiling and the floor of the apartment above his and was caught by the female tenant after he had reached out and was dragging her purse along her floor toward the hole.

People different from us:
Robert Covey, 21, said he found a bullet at around 5:30 p.m. Jan. 11 and decided it would be cool to put it on the ground and shoot at it with his BB gun. He hit it on the third shot, causing the bullet to explode, sending fragments into his right forearm and left middle finger. He was treated at a Hot Springs, Ark., hospital and released.

Least competent criminals:
A January New York City indictment resulted in the arrest of alleged Colombo family mobster Joe Cacace as the central figure in a whacking gone bad. Imprisoned family head Carmine "the Snake" Persico had ordered Cacace to rub out former federal prosecutor William I. Aronwald, whom Persico said had 10 years earlier disrespected him (although Aronwald had actually lost the case he brought against Persico's brother). Cacace's hit men mistakenly whacked Aronwald's 78-year-old father, an error for which Cacace allegedly had them killed, along with the two men he had hired to kill those two men. Cacace then married Kim Kennaugh, the widow of one of the original hit men, and after Cacace and Kennaugh divorced, Kennaugh married an NYPD officer, who himself got whacked (on Cacace's orders, prosecutors suspect).

Also, in the last month ...
Authorities at Uplands Manor Primary School (Smethwick, England) ordered teachers to use green ink for correcting papers because red was too negative. And a 61-year-old female motorist, after causing a major collision with a senior citizens' medical transport van, first tried to flee the scene but then sat down on the curb and began to knit while rescue operations continued (Miami Beach, Fla.). Fairway Middle School (Norwich, England) barred students from throwing snowballs at anyone without permission of the target. State judge Dan Ballou, complaining that the recommended punishment for two teenage speeders was too lenient, ordered them to drop down and give him some pushups (about 40) before he issued the sentence (Lexington, Ky.)

2003 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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