News of the Weird October 29 2008

LEAD STORY: The world's most extensive array of animal "rights" took effect in Switzerland in September. Dog owners must take, at their own expense, classes in pet care (and anglers must take a class in humane treatment of fish). Animals listed as "social" (including goldfish, hamsters, sheep, goats, yaks) must be kept with or near another of their species. Goldfish must have some "privacy," e.g., no completely transparent tanks, and can only be killed humanely (never flushed alive). Even mud-loving pigs are entitled to showers. Yet, Swiss animal rights activists complained that the country still permits trading in cat fur (supposedly a pain-reliever for rheumatism), and that some new protections (for example, for rhinoceroses) are still inadequate.

Better Sex Lives Than Yours: In August two British couples were given sanctions by local councils because their loud, long sex sessions disturbed neighbors. Steve and Caroline Cartwright were issued a noise abatement order by the Sunderland City Council (Caroline: "I do admit I scream and make lots of noise"), and Kerry Norris was fined by the Brighton and Hove City Council for violating a previous sex-noise order with her boyfriend, Adam Hinton (a neighbor said their headboard bangs against the wall until 6 a.m.). (Also in August, a neighbor of a swingers' party house in Des Moines, Wash., told a Seattle Times reporter that cries of ecstasy from the house sometimes sound "like a raccoon dying.")

Also, Some Animals Have Good Sex Lives: Officers responding to a neighbor's report of domestic violence in a subdivision near Payson, Ariz., in September decided that the "fight" the neighbor heard was the high-pitched mating scream of a male elk. And an August police search near Linz, Germany, was called off after the "bloodcurdling" screams reported as a woman in distress were actually the mating cries of a badger. And officials at the Bristol Zoo in England promised neighbors they would temporarily house gibbons inside during the night because of their loud mating duets.

Family Values: Wealthy advertising executive Robert Schwartz died in 1997 and left a sizable estate, including a special "Party Trust" for his relatives, but with one condition: They must all celebrate Schwartz's birthday every August for at least 10 years at a posh party in Naples, Fla., with all expenses paid, and people missing two straight, or two in five years, would forfeit their inheritances. The Naples Daily News reported in September that each adult relative would receive up to $2,500 per party attended, and a final Party Trust accounting is now in the hands of a judge.

David Norris never knew his father, who left home when Norris was 5 months old. Now 22, Norris is serving a minimum 12-year sentence for killing a man after an earlier rape conviction and is housed in Peterhead Prison, which is the primary lockup for Scotland's sex criminals. Soon after arrival, according to a Daily Record report, Norris ran into David Gilles, 39, serving life for the kidnapping and sexual torture of a young woman, and realized that Gilles is his dad.

Michelle Cossey pleaded guilty to one count of child endangerment in September in Norristown, Pa., admitting that she had bought her son Dillon, 14, a rifle and gunpowder (which prosecutors say Dillon was planning to use in a Columbine-style attack on former classmates at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School). Michelle said she had no idea of his plans, but only wanted to help boost Dillon's "self-esteem," since he is severely overweight and had left school after the seventh-grade because of bullying.

Bright Ideas: Wendy Brown, 33, was charged with identity theft in Green Bay, Wis., in September after she enrolled at Ashwaubenon High School pretending to be her 15-year-old daughter (who actually lives in Nevada). Though Brown has a "history" of identify-theft issues (according to a school official who spoke with Brown's mother), one motive in this case was to fulfill a longtime dream of becoming a cheerleader, and she had been attending practices and had made the squad, according to school officials, even though some people had noticed that she looked a little older than the other girls.

Entrepreneurs: 1) Sarah Lavely opened Sarah's Smash Shack in downtown San Diego this summer, inviting people who are angry at someone or something to slam ceramic plates, vases and glass pieces (such as framed photographs of an ex) against walls in special rooms (15 minutes, 15 plates, $45). 2) Australian Wool Innovation recently introduced, for the Japanese executives' market, a washable business suit that can be cleaned in an ordinary shower and will dry overnight, virtually wrinkle-free (and, in a pinch, can even be worn in the shower).

The Classic Middle Name (all new!): Arrested recently and awaiting trial for murder: Nathaniel Wayne Lee, Attalla, Ala. (September); Michael Wayne Wood Sr. (arrested in Michigan in August as a fugitive from a 2005 Oklahoma murder warrant); Jeffrey Wayne Riebe, Myrtle Beach, S.C. (August); Barry Wayne Kaalund, Durham, N.C. (August); Joseph Wayne Keeler, Largo, Fla. (August). Fugitive warrant issued: suspected murderer Larry Wayne Brucke Jr., Lenoir, N.C. (September).

Least Competent Criminals: Not Ready for Thugdom: 1) Police in Wilmington, N.C., arrested Anthony Mallette, 30, and Capria Rouser, 28, in September, driving a stolen car, after they had allegedly tried to extort money from the owner for its return. They wanted $40. 2) Two men attempted an armed robbery of the Brighton Mini Mart in Chicago in August, and when it was over, the man with the gun accidentally shot himself in the foot and had been stabbed in the back by the 61-year-old store owner. The pair fled, but the wounded man was arrested in a hospital waiting room.