News of the Weird

Week of October 3, 1999

-- Israel rolled back its clocks one hour in September to support Orthodox Jewish prayer schedules, but the Palestinian West Bank remained on summer time, and Israeli security sources told reporters that the time change resulted in the deaths of three Palestinian terrorist bombers. At 5 p.m. on Sept. 5, as terrorists were en route to targets in Haifa and Tiberius, their bombs exploded in their cars, killing three of the men. The security sources said bomb-makers in the West Bank had set the timers for 6 p.m. but that the bomb-carriers incorrectly assumed that the hour's difference had been factored in.

-- In September, just after fighting broke out in East Timor, Indonesia's strongman defense minister, General Wiranto, dropped by a large party in Jakarta hosting retired military people, gave a moving speech defending the government's stand against East Timorese independence, and, to dramatize his patriotic emotions, sang the song "Feelings." According to an Associated Press reporter in attendance, Wiranto nailed the high notes.

Child Porn as White Collar Crime

Among those charged recently with possession of child pornography, and now awaiting trial: Gerald Ackerman, former mayor of Port Huron, Mich. (April); Warren Ernest Campbell, a chief of the Cannington, Ontario, fire department (August); Jeremy Lacey, president of the University of Vermont's only alcohol-free fraternity (August); George Edward Davis, former Lonoke, Ark., high school principal (August); Joe Dan Dwyer, mayor of Reeds Spring, Mo. (January); Jonathan I. Weinstein, Herndon, Va., pediatrician (May).

Great Art!

-- Berlin artist Anton Henning, 35, unveiled his brown-splotched work, whose title translates to "Meatballs, Gherkins, Beetroot, Potatoes, Watermelon, Lemon Juice and a Large Brownie," which will run through January 2000 at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt. The title signifies what Henning ate to produce the splotches, which are sealed with resin so as not to smell.

-- At a motorcycle exhibit in Stockholm in May, orchestra conductor Petter Sundkvist waved racetrack flags instead of a baton to guide 100 bikers revving their engines at different intensities to perform a five-minute piece called "Wrooom" by Swedish composer Staffan Mossenmark. (One critic said the piece had a range from "ominous-and-loud to ominous-and-deafening.")

-- According to a June Agence France Presse report, the second annual Fair of Edible Contemporary Art in Seville, Spain, was a success. The report was accompanied by a photo of a model in a traditional Andalusian dress made entirely of raw ham.

-- Artistic human skin-branding has picked up devotees recently, according to reports in Time magazine and the Tampa Tribune, but only, said one technician, for people "intensely into their spirituality who are wishing to release some power." Branding guru Fakir Musafar teaches two techniques at his San Francisco school: the strike method (a design plate is heated and applied to the skin), and sketching by a 2,200-degree cauterized scalpel. Branding produces a third-degree burn, takes at least three weeks to heal, and, in addition to the pain, increases the risk of the most aggressive form of skin cancer.

-- In June German film director Christoph Schlingensief disclosed his plan to pay tribute to capitalism by tossing 100,000 marks (about $53,000) off the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin as part of a cultural show sponsored by Deutsche Bank. (Two days later, when Deutsche Bank got wind of the plan, it canceled the contract.)

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

-- A man was arrested at the airport in Seville, Spain, in August after snatching a tourist's bag and attempting to flee; standing nearby were members of a U.S. track and field delegation, including Maurice Green (current world record-holder in the 100-meter run), who ran down the perp without much effort. And a month earlier in Huddersfield, West Yorks, England, two men tried to steal a car from a driveway, but the car owner's father, Derek Ibbotson, who is 67 but a former world record-holder in the mile run, caught one of the men and grabbed the keys.

-- In March in Knoxville, Tenn., hobo Lester Hurley, 51, was arrested when he happened to emerge from a night's sleep in a boxcar at just the time that a police press conference was breaking up a few yards away on how police plan to crack down on boxcar trespassing. And in August, Ricky Lynn Caudill, 43, was arrested when he happened to attempt a robbery of a Bank One in Columbus, Ohio, at just the time that police officer Duane Ward was in the lobby briefing employees on what to do in case of a bank robbery.

A Resurgence of Interest in Farming

In August, Richard James McClean, 21, and David Delasantos, 22, were arrested in Petaluma, Calif., and charged with breaking into a home at gunpoint and uprooting and stealing about a dozen marijuana plants. And two weeks earlier, in Kelowna, British Columbia, a gang of thieves broke into a police compound and stole about 250 freshly seized marijuana plants.

Update

A year ago, News of the Weird reported that a jury in Westminster, Calif., had convicted Cal State-Long Beach engineering professor Elena Zagustin, 61, of massive health violations at her exceptionally odoriferous and messy home, which included many buckets substituting for broken toilets. By September 1999, Zagustin had sold the house (at a discount for its condition, but still, because of the California real estate market, $301,500), and when the buyers pried the door open, according to the Los Angeles Times, they found trash two feet high in every room, rotting vegetables, maggots, beds topped with garbage, flies everywhere, and still-broken toilets.

Least Competent Criminals

People Who Should Have Kept a Lower Profile: In July in Gifford, Fla., Brizella Mortimer, 29, was charged with burglary after a neighbor, who had been missing several items from her home, looked out her window and saw her favorite motorcycle-themed towel hanging from Mortimer's clothesline; a search of Mortimer's home turned up more of the woman's stuff. And in July, a thief in Salta, northern Argentina, gave himself away by showing up at a Catholic mass wearing the clothes he had recently stolen from the Franciscan priest officiating at the mass.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 38-year-old transsexual woman climbed a downtown electrical tower during rush hour, danced topless, and spit fire in a protest of female-shirtlessness laws (Seattle). A biologist told an academic conference that it was an accident of nature that there are only two human genders, probably due to a bacterial infection 2 billion years ago (Sheffield, England). To beat the statute of limitations, police filed an arrest warrant for an unknown rapist, ID'd only by five DNA markings (Milwaukee). A bank robber was caught as he raced his getaway truck back into the car lot where he had taken it from, supposedly for a test drive (Round Rock, Texas). A graduate sued his high school for suspending him last year after he photographed his principal's car at the home of a teacher who was suspected of having an affair with the principal (Midland, Texas).

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679, or Weird@compuserve.com.)

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