* In January, North Dakota legislators decided against a proposal to crack down on impatient motorists who relieve themselves while driving and then toss their urine- (and even feces-) filled plastic containers to the side of the road. The containers create hazards when cleanup crews accidentally smash them with vehicles and mowers. Said Rep. John Mahoney, "(W)e want to promote tourism, and (such a new law) might be offensive."
* A French study, appearing as a February Archives of Internal Medicine article, reported that one of every nine persons admitted to intensive-care units is there because of illnesses caused elsewhere in the hospital (including infections or inappropriate drugs or excessive doses). Also in February, Claudia Archer, 52, settled her malpractice lawsuit against Walter Reed Army Medical Center for about $4 million. Archer entered the hospital to have a benign tumor removed from her neck, but over the next four months, allegedly because of errors and infections, both her legs had to be amputated below the knee and tubes inserted in her body to help her eat and breathe.
* Installation of the first escalators ever in Nicaragua, in a shopping mall in Managua in December, has terrorized many shoppers who have encountered them, according to a February Miami Herald report. Among the incidents: A frightened middle-aged woman who, fearing her departure at a second-floor landing, leaped from the escalator onto the floor, lost her balance and staggered through the food court, knocking over tables and landing against a wall.
* In December, Chung Kyu-chil, 52, reportedly confessed to a scheme to collect on his disability-insurance policy by having both feet severed at the ankles byan acquaintance to whom he promised about $40,000. And in September, Mr. Kang Chong-ryol, 42, was arrested and charged with trying to cheat an insurance company out of about $7,500 by cutting off his 10-year-old son's finger and claiming that a robber did it.
* Ryan Goodhart, 16, was arrested and charged with roughing up his mother in January in Sarasota, Fla., because she and her boyfriend refused to share their marijuana stash with him. And Nathan Ricketts, 26, was arrested and charged with choking his mother almost into unconsciousness in December in Glendora, Calif., because she had failed to remember to buy food for his two 7-inch-long piranha fish (which are illegal to own, anyway).
* After a report of her lifestyle was shown on MTV in November, April Divilbiss, 21, of Memphis, Tenn., found herself in a custody fight over her 3-year-old daughter. She is married to Shane Divilbiss, 24, but the couple shares a sex life with Mr. Chris Littrell, 22, and April spoke on MTV of bringing another female into the home because having sex with two men was tiring her out. Her daughter was fathered by yet another man, whose parents filed the custody petition against April, who also argued that her freedom of religion (as a self-described pagan) was being abridged.
* According to a December Denver Post story, Katy Emery, 27, agreed to a second straight pregnancy for her sister, Judi Conaghan of Chicago, who has been advised against carrying a fetus because of a heart condition. Previously, family black sheep Katy and super-responsible Judi had been estranged, but Katy, trying to shed the image of "the bad kid I'd been through my teen years," agreed to carry Judi's twins to term and enjoyed the experience of pregnancy so much that she signed on again.
* In October in the Dent de Crolles region in France, sheepherder Christian Raymond, 23, was rescued from a cliff from which he had been hanging by his fingers for about 20 minutes. He had called the emergency-rescue operator on his cell phone earlier in the day and managed to make another call from the cliff by pressing "redial" with his nose against the phone, which had fallen down the mountain with him but had landed right beside him.
* Shirley Lawson, 59, of Marysville, Tenn., survived her Jeep's overturning in Whitley County, Ky., in September, even though the vehicle came to rest on top of her with the 3-inch-diameter drive shaft sticking through her abdomen and both legs.
* Steve and Michelle Chambers pled guilty in August in Charlotte, N.C., to stealing $17 million from the Loomis, Fargo & Co. armored-car firm in 1997, a caper that hit the headlines again in February 1999 when the Chambers' post-theft purchases were auctioned off to help Loomis recover its money. While on the lam from the heist, the couple called attention to themselves when Michelle walked into a Belmont, N.C., bank with a suitcase containing $200,000 in Loomis, Fargo currency wrappers and asked the manager, "How much can I deposit without the bank reporting the transaction?" The couple had also moved directly from a rural mobile home into a $600,000 mansion and made many other equally exhibitionistic purchases. Said one federal marshal, "It was very much The Beverly Hillbillies."
* Continuing an occasional reader-advisory series of recent stories that were reported elsewhere as real news but that were probably just made up: A late-1998 story in the Internet pipeline, attributed to the "Associated Press," described a current craze in Japan of breweries' replacing carbon dioxide in beer with hydrogen, which leads to such side effects as being able to sing soprano parts in karaoke bars and (with a cigarette) being able to blow flames from one's mouth. As the story goes, stockbroker Toshira Otoma lost a barroom fireball-blowing contest and retaliated by fireballing one of the judges, singeing her hair. Apparently the episode got Otoma fired, and he reportedly is suing the Asaka Beer Co. and the Tike-Take bar. Weird, but not true.
Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, FL 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com.