Lead Story

Mozart, an iguana at an aquarium in Antwerp, Belgium, developed a persistent erection following a January mating session, and after a week of unsuccessful remedy attempts (cold water, additional mating opportunities), Reuters reported, veterinarians decided to amputate in order to reduce the risk of infection. Fortunately for Mozart, male iguanas have two penises–or, technically, a pair of independently operating organs called hemipenes–and according to post-op updates the next week, his other one was doing just fine.

Animals Being Impressive

A female ring-necked duck shot and brought home by a hunter in Tallahassee, Florida, in January was rushed to medical attention after the hunter’s wife discovered it alive in their refrigerator a day and a half later. While undergoing surgery at a local wildlife sanctuary, the duck stopped breathing twice but both times was revived, via an oxygen mask and thumps on the chest. A witness told BBC News that after the second recovery–the duck had just been declared dead by the surgeon when it lifted its head and flapped its wings–the emotionally drained personnel in the operating room burst into tears.

In just over two weeks in March a pair of Labrador retrievers sent to Malaysia by the Motion Picture Association of America helped authorities there recover nearly $3.5 million worth of pirated DVDs, CDs, and video games. Lucky and Flo are believed to be the only dogs in the world trained to sniff out the materials in optical discs; following their first successful bust extra security measures were taken to protect them, as according to a Malaysian official local piracy syndicates had placed a bounty on their heads.

Can’t Stop the Greed

Three Kentucky lawyers won a $200 million settlement in 2001 from manufacturers of the diet drug phen-fen. Their 440 clients had agreed to pay them 30 to 33 percent of any money recovered; when the money was actually divided up, though, the lawyers took $106 million for themselves and used another $20 million to set up what a March New York Times report called a “questionable” charity fund. Clients said the lawyers threatened them with fines and jail if they ever talked about the settlement and bullied them into allocating money to the charity. The lawyers, since suspended pending a fraud investigation, have argued that their increased compensation was reasonable and had been approved by the court. The Times pointed out that the judge who approved the compensation–saying the lawyers deserved higher fees because of the risky and time-consuming work they’d done–later retired and became a director of the charity, for which he was paid $5,000 a month.

Life Imitates Zelig

Scientists in Caserta, Italy, recently reported on a 65-year-old male patient who, following damage to the frontotemporal region of his brain, appears to involuntarily adopt new identities, complete with plausible back stories, depending on his surroundings. According to a March synopsis by the British Psychological Society, when the researchers took the man (whose actual career, perhaps unsurprisingly, had been in politics) to a bar and had an accomplice ask him for a drink, he immediately assumed the role of bartender and explained that he was working on a two-week trial basis in hopes of getting a regular job there; when brought to the hospital kitchen, he identified himself as the head chef and claimed particular expertise in preparing diabetic-friendly menus.

People With Issues

Army drill sergeant Edmundo Estrada, 35, was arraigned on sex charges in January in Hampton, Virginia, following a report from a trainee who said he went to Estrada for advice on dealing with depression. According to an affidavit, Estrada used a technique he said had worked for others with similar issues: he described scenes of Kryptonite-based sexual torture from a porn movie about Superman and instructed the trainee to moan in response; later the trainee was allegedly directed to wear a superhero outfit while Estrada performed sexual acts on him. Soldiers from Estrada’s previous unit reportedly also told investigators they’d been ordered to “dress up and pose in spandex” and “not to mention it to anyone.”

Least Competent Criminals vs. Slowest-Responding Restaurant Management

For four weeks starting in February, every Wednesday night a man (unidentified in an Associated Press account) went to the same O’Charley’s restaurant in Bloomington, Indiana, had a rib eye steak and two gin and tonics, then left without paying the $25.96 tab. Only on the fifth Wednesday was staff waiting to confront him outside the building; allegedly he ran away but was wrestled to the ground by police before he could get into his car.

No Longer Weird

To the list of stories that were formerly weird but now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation we must add: (83) The very young child who brings a parent’s illegal drugs to school for viewing by classmates (in March a first grader in Shreveport, Louisiana, told police he’d found his show-and-tell item, a rock of crack cocaine, in the cup holder of his mom’s car). (84) The person who phones in a fake bomb threat for self-serving reasons having nothing to do with terrorism or other crime (as 26-year-old Brandy Killin, of Kearney, Nebraska, allegedly did in March; police said that to get out of working a 10 AM Saturday shift at a credit card service center, she made a threatening call at 9:52).

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belshwender.