The rising cost of education 


In December, education officials in the borough of Islington in London, England, announced that they would begin to pay 30 14-year-old students to attend classes on Saturday mornings to improve their chances of graduation. The academically borderline students would sign a four-year contract for the extra sessions at a wage of almost $6 an hour (nearly $1 more than the minimum wage for teen-agers).

Fixed race

Mr. Kamla Jaan, 50, was elected mayor of Katni in central India in December, and Mr. Shabnam Mausi was elected to the legislature in the state of Madhya Pradesh in February. The victories are considered political breakthroughs, as the two men are among the many eunuchs who have recently run for office in reaction to the perceived widespread corruption of India's traditional politicians. Until now, the genital-deprived "hijras" have been relegated to working as prostitutes or becoming professional pests who trespass and then demand fees to leave the invaded premises.

Pall over Jersey

In October, high-school teacher Edward R. Kotwica committed suicide by walking in front of a train in Bergen County, N.J., hours after he was charged with fondling a 17-year-old female student. Two weeks later, piano teacher Samuel S. Aster, 59, hanged himself in Teaneck; he had been charged with molesting seven of his young students. Less than a month later, Adam Victor Reed, 53, a former member of the Monmouth County board of education, was arrested and charged with the possession of 12 boxes of child pornography.

Character assassination

In December, the Education Ministry in Turkey asked a publisher of math textbooks not to use the letters "p" and "k" in algebraic equations because they could form the acronym for the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party ("PKK" ). The ministry suggested substituting the letters e, f, g and h.

His excuse doesn't hold water

A 45-year-old man was identified by police in February as the one who had recently taped as many as 100 vials of water to trees in Milwaukee and its suburbs (though at press time, he had not been charged with a crime). He told police that he was testing the frequencies of radio stations because one of them had been bombarding him with signals. Though he did not explain the role of the vials, he vowed to send the test results to the FCC. The man's son, 17, called him a good father who sometimes neglects his medication.

Playing doctor

Joseph Sherer, 41, was arraigned in Bozeman, Mont., in January on 11 felony charges, including aggravated assault and impersonating a physician. The charges stem from the 40 to 200 phone calls police believe Sherer made from his Sunrise, Fla., home to women in Montana, in which he advised them to perform harmful procedures on themselves (such as persuading one woman to cut off a nipple and flush it down the toilet). According to police, Sherer had made similar but less dangerous phone calls in other cities in the 1980s.

Short fuse

E.H. Dennis, 77, was convicted in Greensboro, N.C., in January of scaring the attendees of a 1998 Guilford County Commission meeting by making an explicit bomb threat against commissioners as part of a land-use dispute. According to a videotape of the meeting, Dennis calmly described how commissioners' body parts would be strewn around the area after the bomb went off if he didn't get his way. During a break in testimony at his trial, Dennis left the courtroom and stepped over to the elections office, where he left a $147 cashier's check as filing fee to run for a seat on the commission.

Brazen cheek

New York City firefighter Albert Hohmann was arrested in February after being identified by police as the man who sneaked into a restaurant at night and snacked on expensive food and wine, all while naked. Hohmann's lawyer denied the charge, though a surveillance camera had captured an easily identifiable tattoo of Mr. Peanut on the intruder's derriere.

The downward spiral

Karen Frogley, a trauma therapist in Wellington, New Zealand, complained in January to the Reverse Bungy New Zealand company about its installation of a 130-foot bungee tower outside Frogley's downtown office building. Frogley says the jumpers' blood-curdling screams make her rape and car-crash patients anxious.

Hope is a thing with feathers

As part of its campaign to save fowl, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in December offered 350 homeless shelters in the U.S. (and 34 more in Canada) holiday "tofurkeys" -- tofu shaped to resemble turkey parts. "Homeless people especially can empathize with those who are oppressed," a coordinator noted.

Rash decisions

After an inexplicable mid-year upsurge in the number of newborn babies who are abandoned on the streets of Houston, Texas, the city's Child Protective Services in December bought 75 billboard ads that beg reluctant mothers to take their unwanted offspring to hospitals or social-services agencies. And at the Berea Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa, at least four newborns have recently been deposited in an oversized mail drop that was installed as a receptacle for jettisoned infants. South African authorities are equally baffled by the phenomenon.


Speaking of News Of The Weird

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