News of the Weird

Under a bill expected to become law next year, the government of the Netherlands recently proposed to loosen restrictions on euthanasia for pain-wracked, incurably ill people, even extending the right to children as young as 12. In principle, those age 12 to 15 would also need parental permission to choose death, but doctors in some circumstances could honor a kid's wishes even without it. (Euthanasia would still be illegal under the bill, but doctors adhering to the new guidelines would be immune from prosecution.)

Nuclear scientist Eric Voice, 73, told England's The Guardian in August that, as far as he knows, inhaling plutonium (as from the effects of a nuclear war) is not dangerous, citing his own successful test 18 months ago in which he sniffed some to try to allay the public's fears. Voice said nothing bad has happened to him so far and that, in fact, plutonium has never harmed anyone, except for those two bombs on Japan.

John Glover, 74, explaining why his car was in the middle of Deal Lake (New Jersey), June: gas pedal got stuck. Billy W. Parkham, 68, on why his minivan smashed into a dress shop, Seekonk, Massachusetts, August: gas pedal got stuck. Eleanor Soltis, 76, on why her car ran out of control in downtown Chicago, killing three people (and who agreed to pay a $1.5 million settlement in August): gas pedal got stuck. Latest holy icons: crocodiles, in a lake near Karachi, Pakistan, where thousands brought fresh-meat offerings in March to secure blessings for their babies; two frogs, joined in Hindu matrimony in Gauhati, India, in March to please rain gods and end a four-month drought; and six Franciscan priests, in remote Copacabana, Bolivia, who specialize in blessing motorists against drunk drivers, bad brakes and gasoline shortages, based on a mixture of Catholicism and Andean Indian beliefs.

Zimbabwe, which seemed on the verge of a breakthrough on rights for women just 15 years ago, was set back by an April unanimous decision of its Supreme Court that adult females are inherently inferior to males. The court cited "the nature of African society" as its basis.

An April Chronicle of Higher Education report reviewed research showing that in over a dozen South American societies, all men who have sex with a pregnant woman are considered joint biological fathers. In this "partible paternity," the fetus is considered fertilized by repeated contributions of sperm, and the Canela of Brazil believes the baby will most resemble the man who contributes the most sperm at any time during the nine months. In Calgary, Alberta, in June, David Thomas Poole, 49, was sent to jail for one year for perjury committed while challenging a routine traffic ticket. Poole submitted a photograph of the intersection at which he was ticketed showing there was no left-turn-only lane, as the ticket stated. Actually, the left-turn lane had been reconfigured recently, and though Poole swore that he had taken the photo at the time of the incident in January, the judge was struck by the scene's green grass and trees in full flower.


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