News of the Weird

* The Times of London reported in March that a convicted rapist in his 30s has been recommended for British-government-provided Viagra to treat a depression he has been suffering since his release from prison a year ago. Doctors at St. George's hospital in Tooting, South London, say his main problem now is the lack of a girlfriend.

* According to a recent issue of the Indian Journal of Ortho-paedics, a majority of arthritis patients in a study showed a reduction in pain and an increase in hand-grip strength after a regimen of "autohemotherapy." About three-fourths of a cup of blood was withdrawn from patients' veins, mixed in a copper bowl with a quarter cup each of honey and lemon juice, stirred for several minutes and then taken orally.

* In January, a Chicago company, Baxter International, defended a patient study conducted in 1998 in which nearly half of the patients receiving its artificial blood died after treatment. Although a relatively high death rate was expected (because artificial blood was only to be given to patients in critical condition), Baxter revealed that no patient had given consent to the treatment and that instead the company had relied on a not previously used Food and Drug Administration rule that required "community notification" rather than individual patient consent.

* Clergyman James Elrod Ogle, 46, was indicted in March for the counseling he provided a parishioner at his Bull Run Bible Fellowship in Manassas, Va. According to prosecutors, after the parishioner confided his marital difficulties, Pastor Ogle offered to kill the man's wife if the man would help him out by killing Mrs. Ogle. The parishioner reported the conversation to police and wore a wire for several meetings with Ogle before the indictment was obtained.

* Authorities at National Women's Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand, opened an inquiry in February into an unusual treatment of premature babies during 1993 and 1994 that may have been the cause of five deaths and eight cases of brain damage. The practice involved removing congestion from the lungs by striking the babies on the chest for hours at a time, up to 200 blows per treatment; objecting parents were told it was harmless and that in fact most babies enjoyed it.

* In November, Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City was fined $30,000 for permitting a medical-equipment salesman, dressed in scrubs, to assist in a 1997 surgery by operating a new machine in the OR. The patient had entered the hospital for a common, uncomplicated operation (removal of a benign tumor in her uterus) but died when a surgeon was unable to detect that she had retained too much saline solution.

* According to a January Chicago Sun-Times report, a 1998 National Institutes of Health surgery trial at the University of Colorado experimented with 40 Parkinson's disease patients, 20 of whom had fetal tissue implanted in their brains and 20 of whom had four holes drilled in their heads as placebos but had nothing implanted. Some medical ethicists draw a distinction between giving patients placebo sugar pills and drilling holes in their heads, but apparently none of the 20 was adversely affected. However, the trial was delayed when a couple of the real-implant patients died.

* World women's chess champion Zsuzsa Polgar, 29, was scheduled to give birth this month in New York City and so had been permitted to reschedule her required title defense from April to June. However, Polgar said that meant she might have to breastfeed her baby during the match, though she thought it would be more of a distraction to her than to her opponent. And a Hamilton, Ontario, lifeguard ordered Shannon Wray, 25, out of a municipal pool in February when she began to breastfeed her 9-month-old daughter. Wray assumed it was because she was offending swimmers, but the lifeguard pointed to the "no food in the pool" rule.

* In February, an upscale housing development north of West Palm Beach, Fla., was denied a restraining order against pig farmer Paul Thompson, who blares country & western music from loudspeakers to soothe his hogs and improve their appetites. And an Associated Press report from Fort Lupton, Colo., in March detailed Municipal Judge Paul Sacco's punishments for violators of the town's boom-box-noise ordinance: They must report to court weekly to listen to selections ranging from Roger Whittaker standards to bagpipes to Navajo flute music to Judge Sacco's own guitar compositions. (Several violators interviewed by the AP admitted that they were scared straight by the music.)

* Deputy Sheriff Elbert Fuller of Sand Springs, Okla., shot and killed prisoner Clyde McShan in February after McShan pulled a knife on him in a squad car, causing Fuller to lose control of his car, which ran up an embankment and flipped over. Fuller, who was hanging upside down in the car and seatbelted in, managed to reach his gun and shoot McShan before McShan could stab him, which Fuller was able to do only because the car's airbag failed to inflate.

* At a routine traffic stop in Horseshoe Bend, Ark., in January, Donnie Todd, 17, presented a driver's license on which Arkansas was spelled "Arkansa" and slightly misprinted, and he was cited for suspicion of forgery. However, after investigating, officials said the license was real, issued by a Sharp County office whose computer was malfunctioning. The big loser was Francis McCabe, 19, who pleaded guilty in February to forging drivers' licenses, a crime detected because he had inadvertently used a Sharp County-issued license as a model for his own bogus licenses.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, FL 33738, or Weird@

 
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