Trying to make it explicit 

In January, Nicholas Griffin, owner of video stores in York and Grimsby, England, was fined about $9,900 by a magistrates' court under the Trade Descriptions Act for marketing ordinary feature films (such as the 1973 Jack Palance comedy "Secrets of a Sensuous Nurse") as "hard-core" sex videos. Said Griffin, "I am amazed people have the audacity to complain about things like that."

Rich man, poor man

Former pro-football player Rae Carruth's elaborate defense to the charge of ordering his pregnant girlfriend's murder (semisuccessful, in that he was convicted in January only of conspiracy) was financed by the state of North Carolina because the well-paid Carruth convinced Judge Charles Lamm that he was "indigent," according to court documents that Lamm had kept sealed for six months but which were discovered in January by the Charlotte Observer. Carruth earned about $38,000 a week during the 1999 season, and when the prosecutor suggested the motive for the killing was to spare Carruth child-support payments, Carruth countered by pointing out that he made enough money (net worth: $360,000) to easily support a child.

A balanced perspective

British Antarctic Survey personnel (and helicopters) are now in the Falkland Islands specifically to learn whether penguins do, indeed, topple over when following the path of an aircraft overhead. Also, a team of researchers, using "arousal monitors," found that 20 of the 25 surveyed members of British Parliament appear more emotionally aroused by the sight of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher than by the sight of local glamour personality Denise Van Outen in a skimpy dress. And, commenting on a Bremen University (Germany) study on gambling as an addiction, British psychologist Mark Griffiths and British gardening expert Alan Titchmarsh said in November that the findings should apply, as well, to the activity of gardening; said Titchmarsh, "Once you've discovered the thrill of making things grow, you can't stop."

Stanislavsky would approve

Former police officer Edward Lud-aescher and a partner were charged in November after allegedly attempting to rob an Oxnard, Calif., bank, but Ludaescher said it was all a misunderstanding, that he really was only studying up on the mind of the bank robber for a police training video he and the partner were planning to make. (However, prosecutors said that the two men badly needed money, having recently defaulted on a $200,000 loan for developing a pepper-spray gun.)

Arrested development

John Bradley Park's defense at his drunk-driving trial in Llano, Texas, in October was that he was perfectly sober while driving on the night of July 4, 1999, even though his car might have been swerving on the road, but that while sitting in the driver's seat after police officer Jody Deatherage pulled him over, he quickly began drinking, and that by the time he reached the medical facility to test his blood-alcohol content, he was drunk. (He was nevertheless convicted.)

The young and the resentful

Twenty-six years after Mel Lastman (who is now mayor of Toronto) paid off a former longtime, married girlfriend, with whom he had had two sons, in a private settlement, the sons (now age 41 and 38) filed a lawsuit against Lastman, complaining of low self-esteem, anxiety, humiliation and delay in their personal development, for which they want Lastman to pay them $4 million (U.S.) more. Nevertheless, said the 19-year-old son of one of the plaintiffs, the lawsuit is "not about the money."

And the dog ate his homework

According to his campaign manager Jose A. Riesco, U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida did not retain illegal campaign contributions in the bank for eight months rather than issue immediate refunds as legally required and as he promised to do. Rather, Riesco told the Miami Business Review in December, all 45 refund checks (totaling nearly $30,000) were mailed out on time in February 2000. The reason none of the 45 recipients ever cashed their checks over the next eight months, said Riesco, was that somehow every single one of the 45 checks was lost in the mail, "poorly addressed, things like that," thus allowing Diaz-Balart full use of the illegal money for the recent campaign. Riesco denied any wrongdoing.

Shooting pain

Accidentally shooting yourself in the head with a nail gun is rarely fatal, as readers of News of the Weird know from several stories in which construction workers have inadvertently plugged themselves and earned little more than a terrific souvenir X-ray. In January 2001, a 25-year-old construction worker in Bethlehem, Pa., apparently tried to kill himself with a nail gun because of the intense pain from having just accidentally severed his hand in a mitre-saw mishap. At press time, he was hospitalized in stable condition after surgery to reattach the hand (and to remove the 12 nails in his skull).

Well, if you insist ...

In November, Mr. Auburn Mason, 62, was sentenced to four years in prison in England for a 1999 British Airways hijacking. He had grabbed a flight attendant, held scissors to her neck and threatened to blow up the plane, yelling, "Take me to Gatwick (airport, in London)!" At that point, the flight was 15 minutes away from its scheduled destination, which was Gatwick airport. Mason was disarmed after observers realized the "bomb" was a pocket dictating machine.

Speaking of News Of The Weird

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