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News of the Weird


"Hundreds" of young Chinese women and men have recently endured the painful-for-months "Ilizarov procedure" to gain a few inches in height to supposedly improve their social and professional status. According to a May New York Times dispatch, the $6,000 procedure involves breaking bones in the shins or thighs, then manually adjusting special leg braces four times a day that pull the bones slightly apart, then waiting until the bones grow back and fuse together (which usually takes about six months, plus a three-month recovery). Said one 33-year-old, 5-foot-tall woman (aiming for 5-foot-4): "I'll have a better job, a better boyfriend and eventually a better husband. It's a long-term investment."

Rent rant

In May, Great Britain's Home Office, deciding on the proper compensation for a man who served 11 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, ruled that he was entitled to about $1.1 million, but said he would have to reimburse the prison about $63,000 for 11 years' room and board. Said the outraged Michael O'Brien, 34, who had been freed by a Court of Appeal in 1999: "They don't charge guilty people for bed and board. They only charge innocent people."

Animal rights update

Germany's lower House of Parliament voted in May to add "and animals" to its constitution's guarantee of protection for the dignity of humans. On the other hand, the director of Washington, D.C.'s National Zoo denied The Washington Post a look at its animals' medical records in May, in part to protect the animals' right of "privacy," a claim which stunned at least one animal-rights advocate.

Policing by suggestion

In November, the District of Columbia Department of Corrections carelessly failed to release a homeless man after charges against him were dropped because, according to The Washington Post, computer records were not updated. (He stayed in jail for five months.) And the same department, also according to the Post, mistakenly released a bank robber in March, then tracked him down at his mother's home by telephone and told him to report back to jail, but the department did not bother to send anyone to the home to get him. (He eventually returned on his own.)

People with issues

James O. Riccardi III, 42, was charged with five misdemeanor counts by Higginsville, MO, police in May in connection with bizarre phone calls to high school athletes in which the caller pretends to be a University of Missouri coach offering scholarships but then turns the conversation to the students' spanking their bare buttocks to show their dedication to college sports. The university said it has received 86 complaints about similar calls to student athletes throughout Kansas and Missouri, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Least Competent Criminals

Justin Aragon, 19, was arrested in March in Albuquerque, NM, and charged with roughing up his girlfriend and threatening to kill members of her family. According to police, his reign of terror came to an end when he collapsed and hit his head on a coffee table after informing the victim that he had laced her drink with a toxic substance but then had accidentally drank it himself.

Recurring themes

News of the Weird has reported several times on antisocial and criminal, behavior in which the perpetrator commemorates his work in meticulous written detail. China News Service reported in May that Li Qingpu, 56, was sentenced to 20 years in prison following a trial in southern Hainan province for visiting prostitutes while he was supposed to be on duty as a government textile official. The evidence against him was from four file cabinets in his house, containing 95 diaries listing his sex partners by name, time and place, including lengthy descriptions of the women and what took place between them, plus fastidiously labeled pubic hair samples from 236 of them.

Also, in the last month

* An intoxicated 55-year-old man ran his car into a ditch, then climbed back to the highway, where he was accidentally hit by another car, driven by his intoxicated 43-year-old wife (Canaseraga, NY). Surgeons reported that a 7-year-old girl who had half of her brain removed in 1998 now speaks Dutch and Turkish fluently (Rotterdam, Netherlands). Minutes after allegedly robbing a bank, a 39-year-old man was captured when police spotted him holding forth at a bar a few blocks away (Winfield, IN).

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PO Box 18737, Tampa, FL 33679 or, or go to

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