News of the Weird

Week of April 26, 1998

-- Former Maryland accountant Scott Lewis Rendelman, 42, who was convicted of embezzling clients' money in 1986 and sentenced to four months in prison, has managed to parlay that sentence into 11 years and counting, because he will not stop sending threatening and sexually offensive letters to U.S. presidents, judges, prosecutors and prison officials. In April, he was convicted in Sacramento, Calif., where he is currently housed, of sending death threats to Gov. Pete Wilson and his wife. A longtime friend says Rendelman's big mistake is he always acts as his own attorney at his trials.

-- The New York Times reported in March on the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to set pollution-discharge limits on livestock farms within seven years. U.S. farm animals produce 130 times the manure that U.S. humans do, and one farm now under construction in Utah will produce more than all of Los Angeles. Also, unlike cities, farms do not have treatment plants. "Sometimes in the night, in the summer, when they start pumping effluent, it wakes you up," said one Missouri farm neighbor. "You are gagging."

-- In March, the Oregon Lottery Commission awarded a $124,000 contract to a company to advise it on how best to restore its gambling games to operating status in case of a catastrophic earthquake or asteroid collision, with a goal of having video poker back up within two hours of a disaster. Several critics suggested there might be more pressing problems after an earthquake, but the commission pointed out that gambling generates $1 million a day for the state.

Jail Is a High-Crime Area

According to authorities at the Hampton, Va., jail in March, a civilian attendant from the jail's canteen was pushing a cart full of snacks past the locked cell of Anthony Tyrone Darden, 21, when Darden reached through the bars, hit the man on the head with a broom handle, and took two packs of peanut butter crackers. Darden was apprehended pretty quickly, and the Nabs were confiscated.

Organ of the Week: The Ear

In February, according to Kenya's largest newspaper, The Nation, a Nairobi physician who had just removed a bean from a young girl's ear jammed it back in when her parents came up short on cash for the $6 procedure. And in March, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin announced they had found physical differences in the inner ears of lesbians and straight women (perhaps the first evidence of a pre-birth determination of female homosexuality). And in February, burglar Calvin Sewell became the first person in Britain to be convicted with the help of his earprint. He had claimed an extraordinary ability to detect whether a house was empty just by pressing his ear to a door for a few minutes.

Further Evidence Why Women Are Better Nurturers

In March, near Canyon, Texas, Justice of the Peace E. Jay Hall said he found what "did appear to be a (human) fetus," five to six months post-conception, with a severed umbilical cord, floating in a pool of standing water. He ordered it put into a plastic bag, placed in a Styrofoam container, and taken to Lubbock for an autopsy. Lubbock pathologists called Hall about an hour later and reported it was a doll.

March Cultmania

-- At the Exploratorium in San Francisco, mathematicians assembled as usual on March 14 to celebrate pi (3.14159 etc.), one of probably dozens or maybe hundreds of such assemblies worldwide at which people sing songs and recite poetry about pi, have pi trivia quizzes, and eat pie. (Pi, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, is a mathematically irrational number, and is thus considered to be a symbol for the mystery of the universe.)

-- According to a March report in The New Republic, some Wall Street investment houses celebrate the incredible bull market by engaging in ritual worship of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. One firm holds a cake party and songfest on Greenspan's March 6 birthday, and another has outfitted a special office with Greenspan memorabilia and a red leather chair in which bond traders can sit and meditate on the great man.

Performance-Enhancing Substances

In March in Chicago, Bears' 290-pound defensive lineman Alonzo Spellman barricaded himself in the home of his publicist for eight hours until he told police he would agree to hospitalization. Police said Spellman was distraught at having to take an NFL-mandated steroid test. And in October, an Indonesian runner named Ruwiyati won the women's marathon in the Southeast Asia Games and promptly told reporters in Jakarta that the secret to her success is that she drinks blood from her coach's finger before each race. Said coach Alwi Mugiyanto, "I don't know why, but she just insists on doing it."

Oops!

-- In March, Don Graham asked a technician-friend to have a look at the stereo cassette recorder he said he paid $60 for at a Bountiful, Utah, store but whose buttons wouldn't stay down when Graham pressed them. Problem: Four pounds of cocaine (value $200,000) had been wrapped in a 2-year-old Miami area newspaper and duct-taped to the inside, jamming the buttons. Police are investigating.

-- Lucy Ricardo Lives: In November, it took rescuers an hour to cut through the fangs in the statue of the Jaguar at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., to free Andy Wilkinson, 9, who had stuck his head in the statue's mouth and couldn't get it out.

-- Latest Wrong Addresses With Severe Consequences: Drug-raiding police used a battering ram on the wrong Bronx, N.Y., apartment in March, horribly frightening a grandmother and grandchild. The real target was the "furthest (apartment) on the left," not the "first on the left." And a March roof replacement job scheduled for 948 Pons Court, Newbury Park, Calif., was commenced on 949 Pons Court. The drug-raid error will probably result in a $30 million lawsuit, and the family at 949 Pons Court is still mulling its options.

-- When Virginia Broache got home from the Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital in Richmond, Va., in January, just after having had her cancerous bladder removed, her nurse was unpacking for her and discovered that among the "personal effects" the hospital had sent home with her was the actual bag-encased, just-removed bladder. Said a hospital staffer, "We apologize."

Another Recurring Theme

In 1993, News of the Weird reported that the Pasadena, Calif., Humane Society had built a $4.3 million dog-and-cat shelter, with towel-lined cages, skylights, an aviary, sculptured shrubbery, "adoption counseling pavilions" for pet-client meetings, and, according to the architect, "a very subdued classical painting scheme" (all this amid criticism that it was better to be a homeless pet in Pasadena than a homeless person). In March 1998, a similar, $7 million SPCA shelter opened in San Francisco but deflected criticism by almost immediately proposing to allow some sleepovers by homeless people as companions for dogs.

No Consensus on the Key Ingredient

Among the variety of substances used in recent spousal poisonings (all successful): cyanamide (an alcoholism-treatment drug), Madrid, Spain, February; antifreeze, Perry, Okla., October; thallium (heart-test chemical), Wilkes-Barre, Pa., July; liquid flea killer, Bangkok, Thailand, July; and pond water in the wife's IV tube, Darlington, Wis., September.

(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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