The law puts its foot down 

News of the Weird first reported on "crush videos" in February 1999, alerting readers that scantily clad women in stiletto heels were being photographed stomping insects and tiny animals to death for the viewing pleasure of foot fetishists. Two producers were arrested for animal cruelty in May in Los Angeles, another company is under investigation and federal legislation has been introduced. Jeff Vilencia, whose Squish Productions is out of business, told USA Today in August that while he agrees to the immorality of squishing pets, "mice and rats might be a gray area."

If it ain't broke, don't fixate

In September, Italy's highest appeals court ruled that a spouse's obsession with another person was grounds for divorce, even though she never had a relationship -- sexual or otherwise -- with the other man. A lower court had ruled that the wife, identified publicly only as Anna, was not at fault because there was no "carnal betrayal." However, the Court of Cassation wrote that her constant thoughts about a bus driver she knew had violated her marriage's "trust and intimacy" just as surely as if the two had had sex.

Finance reform

Earlier this year, Mayor Dan Gibson of Crystal Springs, Miss., decided to run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. With the support of his wife and son, Gibson resigned and liquidated his assets to finance the campaign, divesting himself of the couple's five-bedroom antebellum home, antique furniture and two Cadillacs. He finished fourth in the race, and the Gibsons now live in a cramped one-bedroom apartment, relying on one used car for transportation. Gibson told the Associated Press in August that he has no regrets and agrees with the voters: "I need more maturity [before holding office]."

The typo is out there

Two Canadian astronomers admitted in June that they made a serious error the previous month in a 23-page message they had beamed into outer space to inform extraterrestrials that there is intelligent life on Earth. One section was intended to show, via symbols, that Earthlings have mastered mathematics, but two different "equals to" symbols were used. The Dutch researcher who found the error was chagrined that aliens will now consider Earthlings "a sloppy species."

Carpe per diem

In August, Independence County (Ark.) Sheriff Ron Webb, freshly convicted on a federal charge of sexually assaulting a female prisoner, billed the county about $140 for car mileage and meal costs during his two-day trial in Little Rock, claiming the trial was official business. (A few days later, he withdrew some of the claims.)

Routine maneuver

In June, during a British Airways flight from London to Los Angeles, a pre-recorded emergency-warning message was accidentally transmitted to the cabin, horrifying the 400 passengers. It was quickly turned off by the captain, who knew to act quickly: It was the third straight month in which just such an emergency tape had come on during a British Airways flight. In the first glitch, in April, a voice on the tape actually told passengers that the plane was about to ditch into the Atlantic Ocean.

The incisors inside ya

In April, a 34-year-old Filipino seaman had to be air-evacuated to a Port Lincoln, Australia, hospital after he accidentally swallowed his four-tooth dental plate. In June, during an operation for bowel obstruction, surgeons recovered a set of false teeth that David Flanders of Mopeth, England, had accidentally ingested when he was a teen-ager. And in July, a bronchoscopy revealed that the asthma-like condition of Mike Russell, 60, of Bath, England, was caused by his four-tooth dental plate, which had been missing since a highway collision eight years ago but which was lodged just above his right lung.

Parole reversal

In Warminster, Pa., in September, prison inmate David Marshall Brown, 54, was freed after serving 34 years for felony murder. He was to have been released in 1980 on a plea bargain, but no one could find the paperwork, and Brown remained long after his co-pleader (who had his paperwork) was released. Brown's paperwork had been misfiled by his then-lawyer in his co-pleader's records.

Killing the messenger

In June in North Knoxville, Tenn., just as Sharon Gilbert was delivering an order from Glenwood Sandwich Shop to Pardon's Jewelers, a well-dressed man snatched her money bag and knocked her down. The 5-foot-3-inch Gilbert jumped on the man, pried the money bag loose, and chased him until he got in a car and drove away. Minutes later, according to a manager of Pardon's, the still-unidentified man called to angrily complain about how Gilbert had roughed him up.

Voodoo economics

According to a July San Jose Mercury News report from Zimbabwe, claims of demons and tiny "tokoloshi" gremlins have proliferated as the country reels into its third year of economic downturn. While ordinary criminals and mentally ill people are arrested or beaten up as witches, other parts of Zimbabwe society are thriving: The black-market demand for human body parts (used in the making of evil potions) is up, and practitioners of "traditional medicine" say business is good, with the country's down-and-outs purchasing evil spirits to humble their enemies.

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