News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- At a Sept. 15 Pop Warner football league game (kids age 13 and 14) in Milford, Mass., after the home team had conducted a brief, pre-arranged memorial observance (with both teams' players and cheerleaders) for the victims of Sept. 11, the referee nonetheless tossed his yellow penalty flag, assessed the home team a 15-yard penalty for delaying the start of game, and refused to change the call despite outraged protests.

-- An October issue of Moscow Times profiled Ms. Galine Sinitsyna, 40, who is unemployed (formerly, a firing-range instructor), supports a teen-age son, and feels her job prospects are dim. She is a few months too old for the military but would really like to become a government sniper in Chechnya, which she has heard pays about $60 a day plus a per-kill commission. She said she has tried to take the high moral ground in her job search, turning down a very lucrative position as a contract killer for the mob. She said she was inspired by tales of a unit called the White Stockings, female snipers who fought for Chechnya in 1994-'96.

-- According to a September report in the London Daily Telegraph, former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (who occasionally ate his enemies until he was deposed in 1979, after a career of reportedly ordering about 100,000 murders) is said to be encouraging his 48 children around the world to go restore the family home in the village of Aura as a monument, although he himself is not expected to leave his exile in Saudi Arabia. A few weeks earlier, according to a San Francisco Chronicle dispatch, the 62 now-impoverished children of the late Central African Republic emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa (who had similar proclivities for murder and cannibalism), are seeking permission of the government to turn the former family home into a tourist attraction.

Your One-Stop Litigation Superstore

Wal-Mart reported that nearly 5,000 lawsuits were filed against it last year (a rate of about one every two hours, with jury verdicts coming in at a rate of six a day), making it the second most-sued entity in the country after the federal government, according to an August USA Today story. Suing the 4,300-store company is so lucrative for lawyers that the American Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA) sponsors a seminar exclusively on Wal-Mart issues, and private attorneys sponsor the Wal-Mart Litigation Project to trade trial techniques and information about the company. (Demonstrating that it does not long hold a grudge, Wal-Mart pharmacies continue to participate in the ATLA members' health-insurance prescription plan.)

Police Blotter

-- Jeffrey Jacobitti, 49, was arrested by police in Keansburg, N.J., on July 5 after he drove up to two women and a 12-year-old girl and apparently illegally wiggled his tongue at them. The deputy police chief said the wiggling, in his opinion, was harassment that conveyed a threat: "(The wiggling) crossed the line, especially with the juvenile."

-- Canadian authorities, working with New York City police, arrested Patrick Critton, 54, in September and said he is the man who skyjacked an Air Canada plane to Cuba in 1971 and has been on the run ever since. Critton's whereabouts (in Mount Vernon, N.Y., where he was working as a schoolteacher) were discovered when a law enforcement official had the bright idea to enter "Patrick Critton" into an Internet search engine.

-- In August, a sheriff's lab crew in West Bridgewater, Mass., managed to get a record of the fingerprints of suspected drug-dealer Francisco Sanchez, 21, despite the man's having strategically bitten his fingertips bloody while waiting for the crew to arrive; a person's prints go "pretty deep," said an officer. And the month before, in Lewiston, Maine, a 17-year-old boy, who had been arrested earlier in the evening for assault at a convenience store, escaped briefly by chewing through the metal chain of his handcuffs.

Adventures in Bad Parenting

-- A mom (school principal) and dad (sheriff's sergeant) were charged with making their son sleep outside and dumping dog feces in his knapsack for his failure to do errands (Los Angeles, September). A mom and dad were charged with tying their son down at night, with a hog ring on his penis, to curb his masturbation habit (Pryor, Okla., September). A former British army sergeant was charged with repeatedly punching and kneeing his son after the kid, as is his regular pattern, once again beat Dad at Monopoly (London, September).

-- Police in Casselberry, Fla., arrested a 29-year-old woman in August and charged her with leaving her kids, age 12 and 8, locked inside her storage locker all day while she was at work; she pointed out that it was one of the larger lockers on the lot (at 12 feet by 20 feet), but still had no plumbing or ventilation, and the temperature was more than 100 degrees inside. Then, less than three weeks later and 130 miles away in Stuart, Fla., a 30-year-old woman was arrested for doing the same thing, except that her reason was merely so she could buy liquor and go bowling.

People Different From Us

Jerold West, 65, was arrested in August in Newark, Ohio, after a nighttime stakeout, and charged with littering a downtown alley off and on for the last four years. His craft consisted of clipping pieces of magazines, newspapers and junk mail and dumping mounds of the confetti around Third Street. By a merchant's count, it required "thousands" of hours over the years to sweep up the messes. West, trying to explain himself to the arresting officer, said, "I guess it's just a thrill. (I)n the evenings (since my wife died), I get bored."

Least Competent Criminals

Terry Bennett failed to show up for his trial in Edwardsville, Ill., on Sept. 17 (for home-repair fraud) but called the courthouse with a good reason: that he was helping out at the World Trade Center rescue site and could not get back to Illinois. However, a court employee found problems with his story: (1) Caller-ID fixed Bennett's call as local (he said it had been "forwarded" by his wife, despite the fact that the court employee heard, "Terry! Telephone!"); (2) Bennett first said he flew to New York (but all planes had been grounded at that time); (3) then he said he rode in a van with some local people whose names he did not know; (4) no background noise was heard from the "rescue site" (because, Bennett said, all the workers were asleep); (5) he didn't know where at the site he was working (except that it was "down off the main drag"); (6) Bennett was sighted at home by the Belleville News-Democrat during that time (except that Bennett said he was merely Bennett's identical-looking cousin).

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in July that the Washington state board charged with evaluating college-degree programs had approved bachelor's and master's degree curricula in "astrological studies" for the Kepler College in Seattle. Then, in August, the Astrological Institute (Scottsdale, Ariz.) became what is believed to be the first astrology school to be approved by the vocational schools' national accrediting board, paving the way for its students to receive loans and grants from the U.S. Department of Education. (The latter accreditation means that a school's teachers are "qualified" and that students can generally get the jobs that the school says they can get.)

Also, in the Last Month ...

Rita Ohlsen, 77, completed her 12,000th consecutive workday for packaging manufacturer Pactiv Corp. having never called in sick, a streak more than four times longer than Cal Ripken's baseball record (Belvidere, Ill.). A Wisconsin Ethics Board representative publicly frowned on state Rep. Tim Hoven's setup to sell shirts out of his office, embroidered with the logo of a pro-liquor lobby group. Two weeks after the World Trade Center attack, and as U.S. military forces were amassing in the area, Afghanistan officials formally asked Pakistan if its teams could compete in October's big Quaid-e-Azam cricket tournament. John Yount was hauled off to jail in the middle of his wedding ceremony when police realized that a recent judicial domestic-abuse stayaway order, petitioned for by his bride, was still in force (Meadville, Pa.).

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