News of the Weird

Week of February 23, 2003

LEAD STORIES

-- Though state tax revenues are shrinking nationwide, Kansas reported in January that taxes paid on marijuana sales were up 5 percent and taxes paid on cocaine, methamphetamine and other hard drugs were up 20 percent. As other states do, Kansas sells revenue stamps (in denominations from $10 to $1,000) that dealers are supposed to affix to the drugs in order to sell them. Even though such sales themselves are illegal, law enforcement agencies are forbidden from accessing information on the sellers (and if they did, any conviction would probably be tossed out, as based on unconstitutional self-incrimination). A Revenue Department spokesman guessed that most people who buy the stamps are merely collectors.

-- A January Wall Street Journal report described "dB Drag Racing," a "sport" in which the winning car is not the fastest but the one with the loudest stereo system, but ordinary urban street cruisers are not in these drivers' league. In the "Extreme" category, cars are completely rebuilt and powered with enough juice to operate several private homes. Extra-thick glass and concrete poured into the floor and doors keep the sound inside, where the measurement takes place. Last year's winner, from Germany, registered 177.7 decibels.

War News

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote to Yasser Arafat deploring public bombings, at least when the bomb is delivered (as one was on Jan. 26 in Jerusalem) on a donkey. (Said a PETA official, "It's not my business to (comment on) human wars.") And to help the U.S. military, a Las Vegas porno distributor offered 500 videos free of charge (except for postage) to servicemen as thanks for their sacrifice. And in Cebu, Philippines, in February, a German man, Frank Oesterle, was detained by police after knifing an American tourist at a bar; they were arguing over their respective countries' views on imminent war in Iraq (i.e., U.S., fight; Germany, don't fight).

Can't Possibly Be True

-- Allison Adams, 23, a veterinary technician for Wildlife Rescue in Austin, Texas, warms up traumatized baby animals (squirrels, kittens, rabbits, etc.) by putting them in her bra (while she's wearing it), according to a profile in the Austin American-Statesman in January. Her report: Squirrels are the hardest; possums the easiest; she's done it about 75 times; no, they don't itch; her fiance is OK with it (even though he was deprived of a hug once because of "hissing possums").

-- Gloria DeFrancesco, 61, filed a lawsuit in Akron, Ohio, in December against TV evangelist Ernest Angley, alleging that the muscle men who surround the stage during his healing sessions roughed her up in August 2001 while she was accompanying her 94-year-old, wheelchair-using, generously tithing mother to be cured. DeFrancesco said she was struck, grabbed and pushed by six men, resulting in a detached retina and other head, nose and body injuries that required hospitalization and surgery.

-- According to trial coverage in the Omaha World-Herald in October, the prosecutor of accused Omaha sexual assaulter Akhiktemelo Braimah said that DNA evidence indicated that the probability of another "African-American" besides Braimah having committed the assault was "1 in 30.3 sextillion" ("303" followed by 20 zeros). (30.3 sextillion represents 5 trillion times the number of people of all nationalities on Earth right now and 303 billion times the likely number who have ever lived.) (Braimah pleaded no contest two days later.)

-- The BBC reported in January that Holger Voss has been ordered to court in Muenster, Germany, accused of breaking its law against "glorification of a criminal act." According to a complaint to police, Voss had written on an Internet message board, "Congratulations to the murderers of (Sept. 11)." Voss told a BBC reporter that he obviously meant to be sarcastic, but court spokesman Juergen Wrobel said that would be for the court to decide.

-- Freshman Missouri state Rep. Cynthia Davis, at a legislative orientation session in December in Jefferson City, took her turn at learning how to preside over debates and interrupted Rep. Chuck Graham, who had the floor. According to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Davis recited the rule that members must be standing in order to speak and that Graham was thus out of order, in that the veteran legislator Graham has been in a wheelchair for 21 years, the result of a car accident.

People With Issues

Retired pediatrician Alva J. Hartwright, 63, pleaded guilty in February to sexually assaulting two boys, age 11 and 14 at the time, by giving them enemas (part of a 30-year pattern, said prosecutors, of administering enemas to as many as 40 boys). When police arrested Hartwright at his home in June in Morrisville, Pa., they found "feces everywhere," with "so much feces in one room (that) it was impassable," said an officer. Also found were "thousands" of photographic images of boys receiving enemas, all of which, insisted Hartwright, were "medically necessary" and not sexually gratifying to him.

Least Competent Criminals

Tyrone Jermain Hogan, 20, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles in February to attempted carjacking, six months after trying to steal a van that unbeknownst to him at the time was carrying a martial arts team visiting from Florida International University; the students, said their instructor, held Hogan "like a pretzel on the ground" until police arrived. And Edgar A. Brown, 27, was arrested in Worthington, Ohio, in January and charged with robbing the First Merit Bank; police were tipped off after Brown paid his electric bill at a Columbus store using red-stained $50 bills.

Our Civilization in Decline

In a still largely underreported 1996 study by St. Louis University (revealed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in January), researchers concluded that at least 40 percent of Catholic nuns in the United States have suffered either sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or sexual harassment, with nearly half of the instances perpetrated by priests or other nuns. The results were published in two obscure journals in 1998, but the study's sponsors otherwise squelched the news out of a desire not to harm the church's then-still-virtuous reputation.

Updates on News of the Weird Stories

The late composer John Cage's "As Slow As Possible," now being played once, lasting 639 years, at a church in Halberstadt, Germany, has so far taken 17 months just to get the organ's bellows inflated and now will take 18 months more just to play the composition's first three notes, according to a February BBC report. And former stockbroker Warren D. Matthei, 51, who has sat in jail in Philadelphia since 1996 rather than pay his first wife child support that now amounts to about $350,000, declined federal judge Jerome Simandle's offer of release in January, claiming that he did not want to put pressure on his 82-year-old mother (who would have to sign over a security interest in her home as a condition of release); Matthei lived it up in Europe with his second wife but then inexplicably returned home in 1996.

Readers' Choice

The burglar who apparently broke in to the A Little Bit of Country western emporium in Mineral Wells, Texas, on Feb. 8 was arrested shortly after the store opened at 9 a.m., in one of the state's easiest collars: He had fallen asleep on a bed in a furniture showroom. It was an interesting caper: A few coins (the only money on the premises) were scattered on the floor; he had left his gun in the store's restroom; and anyway, of all the places in town, he had picked a store owned by the wife of the Palo Pinto County district attorney.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A disabled woman, noticing a fire in her apartment but having no telephone, alerted neighbors as best she could by firing several gunshots through a wall and out a window (Omaha, Neb.). State Sen. Ben Robinson introduced a bill to require restaurants serving barbecue meat to supply cloth napkins (which he said a campaign donor had asked him to do 15 years earlier) (Oklahoma City). The tourist director in the nation of Liechtenstein (60 square miles, population 33,000, between Switzerland and Austria) said corporations interested in holding conferences there would be allowed to rent the entire country, with the cooperation of all local officials.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)

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