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Lactating men, rotten cheese delacacies and more

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LEAD STORY: A male Swedish college student, Ragnar Bengtsson, 26, has begun pumping his breasts at three-hour intervals in a 90-day experiment to see if he can produce milk. If he succeeds, he said, it could prove "very important for men's ability to get much closer to their children at an early stage." A professor of endocrinology told the daily Aftonbladet that male lactation without hormone treatment might produce "a drop or two," but suggested that men instead consider offering their breasts to babies as a matter of comfort and warmth, rather than as food. Bengtsson, who will report regularly on his progress via Stockholm's TV8 channel and the station's website, acknowledged that his timetable would sometimes require that he pump during classes.

COMPELLING EXPLANATIONS: Improbably Successful Pick-up Line: In September, school officials in Australia's Queensland state said they were investigating an incident earlier in the year in which two teenagers had consensual sex that they recorded on a cell phone camera. The girl reportedly said she was convinced to lose her virginity out of fear that the world would soon end as a result of the scheduled restart of the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva later this year.
    Police in Deer Lake, Newfoundland, decided in August not to press charges against three boys whom they had previously believed had harassed a young moose so badly that it had to be put down. A final piece of evidence against prosecution came from the father of one of the boys, who vouched that the three could not have committed such a crime since they had been busy at the time, vandalizing a nearby church.
    Not My Fault: 1) A 60-year-old highway worker was injured when struck by motorist Catherine Stotts, 62, who was speeding down a blocked-off road construction lane near Willits, Calif., in July. The worker required hospitalization, but Stotts complained about receiving a traffic citation, telling officers that the man could have jumped out of the way faster. 2) Alexander Kabelis, 31, was arrested for slashing tires on almost 50 vehicles in Boulder, Colo., in May, but offered several explanations, including being overwhelmed by radiation from the nearby Rocky Flats nuclear facility and having been forced by his mother to wear braces on his teeth as a child.
    What Century Is This? During the recent influence-peddling trial against Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien, local politician Lisa MacLeod, 34, gave seemingly important evidence for the prosecution. However, it was ruled of minimal value by Ontario Superior Court Justice Douglas Cunningham. The judge, 69, reasoned that since MacLeod, as a working woman with a long commute that leaves a husband and 4-year-old daughter at home, has "a number of rather significant things going on in her life" and must therefore be "distract(ed)" and thus a less reliable witness. One member of Parliament called Cunningham's ruling "pathetic."

IRONIES: Undesirable Medical Specialty: Athena Sidlar, 28, was fired in August from her trainee job at the Allentown (Pa.) State Hospital after being accused of helping a mental patient swallow metal objects. Belatedly, hospital personnel discovered that Sidlar, herself, has a history of compulsive metal-swallowing.
    To Fight Sin, One Must Know Sin: In April, the Arizona State Parks Board unanimously chose Renee Bahl, thought to be a dynamic, experienced professional, to be director of state parks. However, her employment record while an assistant parks director in California in 2001 included an incident in which she was disciplined for etching "Renee 2001" into the wall of one of the parks' historic adobe barns.

THE CONTINUING CRISIS: Two motorists inadvertently wound up in backyard swimming pools recently: In July, flat-bed truck driver Nicholas Sparks, 25, hauling two motorcycles and towing two trucks, learned that he could not also handle talking on one cell phone while texting on another and accidentally crashed into a house in Lockport, N.Y., ending up with his truck and part of his cargo submerged. And in Mesa, Ariz., in June, a 27-year-old man who had rigged a short sword to his steering wheel (aimed at his chest) and driven into a brick wall in an effort to kill himself, failed in the attempt when an airbag inflated, causing him to lose control of the car, swerve into a nearby home and plunge into the pool.
    Things You Thought Didn't Happen: 1) Several state law enforcement agencies raided a home in Shelton, Conn., in July, breaking up an alleged canary-fighting operation. (A neighbor called the raid "crazy": "I can't picture little canaries with razor blades taped to their feet.") 2) Convenience-store developer Michael Sesera might have thought he was merely following New Jersey protocol when he offered Hanover Mayor Ronald Francioli $20,000 to intercede for him with zoning authorities (i.e., a bribe). However, Francioli actually called the police, and in August Sesera pleaded guilty.

PEOPLE WITH ISSUES: Three physicians, reporting in the Canadian Journal of Urology in July, described how they handled an emergency room patient who arrived with a ballpoint pen in his urethra. The man, 57, had assumed that the insertion would be pleasurable, and when it wasn't, thought initially that maybe the pen was not in far enough. After pushing farther, to even greater discomfort, he thought that if he pushed it all the way through, it would exit in his rectum, where he could remove it more easily. (Actually, they're not connected.) Doctors removed the pen with the same procedure used to remove kidney stones.

LEAST COMPETENT CRIMINALS: Kevin Ollie, 17, and Damien Cole, 19, completely failed in their attempted street robbery in Milwaukee, Wis., in August, when they accosted a young man and woman. The male "victim" drew his own gun, shot Ollie fatally and held Cole for the police. Later, Cole, though not the shooter, was charged with Ollie's death under the state's "felony murder" rule, which makes felons responsible if anyone at the scene should die as a result of the crime. Cole could get 55 years in prison.

UPDATES: Two longtime News of the Weird ongoing sagas came to an end this summer. In August, the annual Gotmar festival in India's Madhya Pradesh state was finally banned, after "centuries" of tradition. Residents of two neighboring villages would come together once a year to bombard each other all day long with rocks (resulting in dozens of bloody injuries and, most years, deaths), but at the sundown cease-fire, both sides would bandage their wounded and celebrate with each other (only to do it all over a year later). And in July, H. Beatty Chadwick, 73, was finally released from a Pennsylvania jail after serving more than 14 years behind bars because a series of judges believed they could thereby force him to admit that he was hiding marital assets from his 1995 divorce (which he always denied). Chadwick was the longest-serving incarcerated American who had not been charged with a crime.

A NEWS OF THE WEIRD CLASSIC (SEPTEMBER 2000): An August 2000 Wall Street Journal dispatch from Nuoro, Sardinia (Italy), described locals' love for "casu marzu" (rotten cheese), brown lumps of sheep dairy, crawling with maggots, a "viscous, pungent goo that burns the tongue" and whose "wiggling worms [often] jump straight toward the [diner's] eyes with ballistic precision." Though the cheese is banned by the government, a black market has pushed the price to double that for ordinary cheese. Some locals believe the live maggots provide authentication, in that only when the maggots die does the cheese become inedible.

© 2009 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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