News of the Weird

Week of December 28, 1997

-- The Court of Appeal in London ruled in November that a convicted rapist who continued to call and write his victim and her husband from prison could sue the victim for libel because of what she wrote to the police when she reported the harassment. The rapist, David Daniels, 43, is upset that the victim's characterization of him led his parole board to turn him down for early release.

-- Tough Times for Nike: The winner of November's New York City Marathon, John Kagawe, said he might have broken the race record except that his Nike shoes kept coming untied. And two weeks earlier, Nike cooperated with authorities in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in the arrest of five employees at a Nike-contracted factory; the five manufactured 51 rubber dildos on the premises and then allegedly tried to extort about $30,000 from Nike in exchange for not revealing that embarrassing information.

-- People Who Don't Keep Up With the News Very Much: In July, four adult employees of a Chicago day-care center decided to make a video of themselves that contained some nudity and sexual horseplay, and of all the places at which they could have shot it, they chose a room at the center where 20 kids were taking naps. (The four were fired.) And in November in Columbus, Wis., four adults were arrested and charged with dealing drugs over a several-year period out of a day-care center.

SEEDS OF OUR DESTRUCTION

-- Tickets to Prosperity: According to the Malaysian minister for culture and tourism, speaking to a reporter in December, the country should exploit as a tourist attraction its frequent, potentially lucrative mass-circumcision events. And in October, a prominent Thai surgeon told a Bangkok seminar that his country could become the sex-change-operation capital of the world and boost the country's ailing economy. (He pointed to Thailand's price-friendliness: about $5,000 to change biological males and $10,000 to change biological females.)

-- In August, The New York Times reported on a movement in Montana to declare as a national historical park the decaying city of Butte (described as "one of the worst industrial crimes against nature" in history). In the center of Butte is the Berkeley Pit, "a Grand Canyon of open-pit mining," wrote the Times, "an 874-foot-deep chasm filled with 26 billion gallons" of "toxic stew" that grows by 3 million gallons a day. In 1995, 300 snow geese landed by mistake in The Pit, believing at night that it was a normal lake, and were killed when their stomachs corroded. On the plus side, the surrounding area is picturesque, and the city has some of the oldest brothel edifices in the West.

-- According to the Times of London in a July report, 85-year-old Giovanni Beghini is organizing Italy's elderly who want to avoid the country's often-frightening old-folks' homes by allowing themselves to be adopted by strangers. In exchange for part of their pensions and for mentions in their wills, families will care for seniors as honorary grandparents.

-- New York City's Village Voice reported in June that, based on United Nations internal investigations, recent UN peacekeeping missions in several countries have allowed their soldiers to commit atrocities against the host country with little or no subsequent punishment. The Voice published photos of Belgian UN troops "roasting" one live Somalian child over an open fire in 1993 and force-feeding vomit and worms to another. Soldiers from Canada and Italy were also accused, and incidents were reported in Mozambique, Cambodia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

-- The government of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu announced in August that it would offer stepped-up welfare benefits to poor women who give birth to female babies, in exchange for the mother's promise not to kill the baby, which is an increasing problem as males are more economically valuable. Also, the government will require 30-day hospital stays for mothers with baby girls, to increase the bonding, which it believes will decrease the murders.

CREME DE LA WEIRD

-- According to a 1996 FBI surveillance tape of suspected U.S. spy James M. Clark, 49, who was arrested in October 1997 with two other 1970s radical leftists, Clark says, while alone in his apartment, "Oh, yes, I think we should. Let's have another"; "I was an agent for a long time for the communists"; and "FBI! You're under arrest."

-- In July, Roy Bruce Smith, 50, was executed in Virginia for killing a police officer in 1988, but he was a busy man in the years before his death, promoting the obsession that he acquired behind bars: that, in the words of his lawyer, "the whole world is being poisoned" by soy products (which cause, for example, diabetes and Parkinson's disease) and that magnesium is the remedy. Accordingly, he ate Rolaids incessantly and requested Epsom salts with his last meal. His lawyer said Smith would also have liked to "disseminate his ideas on cold fusion" for nuclear energy because "he (thought) he (had) found a way to make it happen."

-- Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi celebrated his 28th year of power in September by once again warning his subjects that Western nations would soon invade their country because of those nations' acute need for Libya's sunshine (for Western solar-energy products), watermelons, camels and camels' milk.

-- In August, beleaguered Thai prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, acting on advice from his new fortune-teller, shuffled his cabinet to make it more "5"-friendly. According to Bangkok's The Nation newspaper, Chavalit began to schedule events at 15 minutes past the hour, changed to jersey number 45 on his soccer team, and moved into a new house whose street address is 555. (Also during the summer, the leading drafter of Thailand's new constitution announced himself to be a "6" man who artificially split one of the 335 proposed articles so there would be 336, and who formerly said he was a "9" man, having set up the drafting committee with 99 members.) Chavalit resigned in November.

UPDATES

-- Last week, News of the Weird reported that in October an Australian judge had decided to impose national law instead of tribal punishment for an Aborigine who had killed a nephew. In November, the judge changed his mind, let the man off with time already served, and released him to his community, where he was immediately taken and speared nine times in the left thigh and six in the right by various family members, and hit three times in the head with a club by his sisters. From his hospital bed in the town of Katherine, where he was recovering from the spear wounds, Stephen Barnes said he was "really happy" to have been let back into the community.

-- Junius Wilson, written up in News of the Weird in 1993 as the state of North Carolina was apologizing for having wrongly accused him of rape, wrongly castrated him, and then institutionalized him for 67 years as incompetent when the only thing amiss was his inability to speak and hear, reached a settlement with the state in November. Wilson, whose age is somewhere between 89 and 100, will get free medical care, free housing in a cottage and $114,000.

-- In September, renowned diet doctor Walter Kempner died at age 94. He made News of the Weird in 1993 when a former patient and employee, Sharon Ryan, filed a lawsuit against him in Durham, N.C., charging that the two had a long-time affair during which he abused her, including hitting her bare buttocks with a riding crop because she would not stay on her diet. Kempner had admitted to relationships with assistants and patients that Ryan called a sex cult and to incidents of spanking patients who strayed from his unique rice-and-fruit diet.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com. Chuck Shepherd's latest paperback, "The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics," is now available at bookstores everywhere. To order it direct, call 1-800-642-6480 and mention this newspaper. The price is $6.95 plus $2 shipping.)

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