Lead Stories

Last month in Rotherham, England, a robot left unattended at the Magna science center forced its way out of its small pen, escaped from its lab, and traveled as far as the parking lot before it was stopped by a visitor’s car. The robot, known as Gaak, is part of a research project to help robots think for themselves; professor Noel Sharkey says the robots “have all learned a significant amount and are becoming more intelligent by the day.”

According to reports in the New York Times, the Times of London, and the Scotsman, numerous gay farmers in Afghanistan have been hitting on British and U.S. soldiers. Press reports say that the practice of men taking boy lovers, a major impetus for the Taliban’s rise to power in 1994, is beginning to reemerge in Afghanistan.

The Only Clever Criminals

In February airport customs officials in Glasgow confiscated a woman’s snakeskin belt when they realized it was an actual snake (exotic and endangered, yet harmless)….Authorities in Orlando and here in Chicago recently confiscated shirts from Colombia and Thailand respectively that had been “starched” with heroin….And customs officials say that, because of the stricter security following the September 11 attacks, Mexican drug cartels have stepped up their efforts to tunnel beneath the U.S. border. Five new tunnels have been raided recently, including one that ended near the parking lot of the customs office in Nogales, Arizona.

Can’t Possibly Be True

In May a Miami woman who’d been hospitalized three days earlier after overdosing on pills fell from an open window at the Four Ambassadors condominium, plunging 14 stories, but landed on the roof of a late-model Honda and suffered no more than a broken arm.

In April the news service Agence France-Presse reported that six years earlier a children’s home in Kano, Nigeria, had taken in a severely disabled boy who’d been abandoned by his nomadic parents and raised by chimpanzees for 18 months. The nursing staff at the Tudun Maliki Torrey home say that the child, now believed to be seven years old, no longer drags his hands on the ground as he walks but still springs at people and makes chimplike noises.

People Different From Us

Two months ago police in Belleville, Ontario, arrested 40-year-old Shawn Eric Bird, who allegedly sent medical offices and other establishments more than 100 insulting notes that were stained with urine and smeared with cat feces. Police finally caught Bird after he called a station house to chide officers for their incompetence (referring to himself as “the Green Goblin,” a villain from the Spider-Man comic books) and they surmised his location from the background noise over the phone.

Three years ago Edward Brewer of Sandusky, Ohio, was charged with raping a woman as she lay in her hospital bed. Brewer’s attorney negotiated a plea bargain that reduced his charge from rape to sexual battery and included a five-year prison term; an angry Brewer appealed that plea bargain, was retried, and wound up with a ten-year prison term. Now Brewer has filed a $2 million suit against the hospital, claiming it “negatively affected his criminal case” by failing to protect its patients well enough.


Last year News of the Weird reported that Richard R. Espinosa was suing the city of Escondido, California, for $1.5 million because of the “terror, humiliation, shame, embarrassment, mortification, chagrin, depression, panic, anxiety, flashbacks, [and] nightmares” he suffered after the public library’s resident cat attacked his assistance dog. Espinosa, who suffers from panic attacks, amended his complaint in April, arguing that his disability makes the cat’s actions a “hate crime” perpetrated by the library.

Our Civilization in Decline

Last month in Shandong, China, at least ten people were killed after a huge mountain of garbage, waterlogged by heavy rains, toppled onto a workers’ dormitory….And in Junin, Argentina, budget cuts caused by the country’s economic recession have forced police to borrow citizens’ cars to patrol the streets.

In the Last Month

In Bradenton, Florida, a jury concluded that Suzanne Vasquez’s epilepsy was not caused by the 13-pound ham that allegedly fell on her head at a Wal-Mart store when she looked up to check its price….In Canberra, Australia, a research team at the Australian National University succeeded in “teleporting” a laser beam, disassembling its several billion protons and then reassembling them a distance of one meter away….And in Sakkayanayakanur, India, villagers desperate after a prolonged drought and heat wave tried to appease the Hindu god of rain by performing an ancient ritual marriage of two donkeys.

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