News of the Weird

Week of May 13, 2001

LEAD STORIES

-- Police in West Vancouver, British Columbia, said in April that they had stopped a three-year petty-crime spree in a neighborhood of upscale homes when they arrested multimillionaire Eugene Mah, 64, and his son, Avery, 32. According to police, the two are responsible for stealing hundreds of minor and even tacky items, such as garbage cans, marginal lawn decorations, and even government recycling boxes, and keeping them at their own posh home. Mah's Vancouver real estate holdings are reported at about $13 million (U.S.), but among the items he allegedly stole were one family's doormat and, subsequently, each of the 14 doormats the family purchased as replacements.

-- In April, the Washington (D.C.) Humane Society pled guilty to a charge of illegally euthanizing three mockingbirds in violation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the prosecutor said the society actually illegally euthanized more than 800 protected birds during the previous four years. In the latest incident, the society (which claimed it never realized it needed a permit to treat protected birds) was trying to eliminate a threat of mockingbirds dive-bombing pedestrians near the State Department headquarters.

-- In a lawsuit deposition reported in April in the New York Daily News, the dismissed assistant to a prominent cancer surgeon charged that the doctor loaned out blood samples of the late New York City Catholic Cardinal Terrence Cooke long after his death so that parishioners could pray over them for good luck. The New York Archdiocese said it did not authorize the surgeon, Dr. Thomas Fahey, to safekeep or to lend the blood. (Catholic tradition says praying over the "relics" of "saints" brings good look, but the relic blood in this case was actually the cause of Cooke's death in 1983, of leukemia.)

People Different From Us

Scott Hanko was arrested in April in Central Islip, N.Y., and charged with making lingerie purchases by phone with other people's credit-card numbers, a practice he said he did (according to police) because he is "an introvert and very shy." Police said Hanko called to converse with female order-takers and that to legitimize the calls, he ordered merchandise, which would be sent to the homes of the credit-card holders. Sometimes, he said, he would have to call as many as 15 catalog operators before he found one whose voice was engaging enough to talk to.

Alcohol Was Involved

Recent Events, Inexplicable Except for Alcohol: Raymond Garbaldon, 19, was charged with breaking into a stranger's home, apparently for the sole purpose of turning on an outside light so he could see on the porch to shave his friend's head with electric clippers (Albuquerque, February). And Ms. Dale A. Sunday, 49, was discovered in her car on the right field warning track at the then-under-construction Pittsburgh Pirates' ballpark, which was accessible from the street only through a complicated-to-navigate construction tunnel (March). And Iris Martinez, 24, was found alive in her car at the bottom of the 200-foot Rio Grande Gorge in Taos, N.M., despite a large rock barrier that supposedly prevents cars from going into it (March).

Great Art!

-- In February, an exhibition opened in Berlin, featuring about 200 unatrophied body parts and skinless corpses, dismembered in various designs and gaudily displayed with super-preservatives to highlight what developer Gunther von Hagens says is every last sinew, cell and vein, and to show "the beautiful interior of the body." Among the most startling pieces from this "Body Worlds" "plastination"-process exhibit: a five-months-pregnant woman whose cross-sectioned abdomen reveals a curled-up fetus and dark, smoker's lungs.

-- Opening at the Custard Factory arts center in Birmingham, England, in March was an exhibit basically consisting of no exhibit at all: no paintings, no sculptures, only whitewashed walls in a 2,500-square-foot hall that is empty except for a few scattered captions and the sign "Exhibition to Be Constructed in Your Head." Said a co-organizer, "It's an experiment to see how people react to it."

-- Cincinnati photographer Thomas Condon, 29, was indicted in February (along with a deputy coroner) on corpse-abuse charges following the revelation by a film-processing firm that Condon had photographed morgue corpses oddly posed and holding such things as a syringe, sheet music and an apple. Said a man familiar with Condon's art, "(This work) is insensitive to the family members (b)ut from an art perspective, there is precedent for it."

The Continuing Crisis

-- In March, a California consumer group, analyzing information supplied to the Federal Trade Commission by auto manufacturers, reported that the companies buy back about 100,000 of their cars every year (95 percent with one or more safety defects) under federal "lemon" laws, but then resell all but a few thousand of them after supposedly "repairing" them, even though they could not successfully repair them when the original consumers owned the cars. According to Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, most of the repurchased cars are sold at auction in the states in which it is the easiest to hide the fact that the car was a "lemon law buyback."

-- In April, Ms. Annika Oestberg of Denmark successfully defended her international ice golf championship at the annual tournament before 35 challengers on Uummannaq Fjord, Greenland, beating American Tom Ferrel by 10 strokes. The temperature this year was a balmy 17 degrees (Fahrenheit), but the greens were still called "whites."

Least Competent People

Vandals active in March near Williamsburg, Va., have not yet been apprehended despite their lack of sophistication: They spray-painted eight cars with slogans such as "White Power," "KKK" and "High (sic) Hitler."

Undignified Deaths

A 21-year-old man lost control of his car and was killed while driving to court for his trial on previous reckless driving charges (Virginia Beach, Va., March). And three people were killed recently after confrontations as samaritans tried to prevent drunk friends from driving: A 46-year-old woman tried to keep an intoxicated friend from driving, but he drove off anyway and accidentally struck and killed her (Fairfax County, Va., January); and a Carrollton, Texas, man accidentally suffocated to death while being held down by seven friends to keep him from driving drunk (October); and an intoxicated 29-year-old man was struck and killed while walking across a busy highway after a friend had taken away his car keys (Morgan Hill, Calif., December).

Also, in the Last Month ...

Marlene Lincoln passed her driver's test, after 12 failures and 200 lessons, costing about $6,800 (Sprowston, England). A 54-year-old forgery suspect was released from jail after his wife presented a certificate showing that she had posted bail; however, the certificate turned out to be a forgery (Edwardsville, Ill.). A federal appeals court ruled that a state university in Pennsylvania had the right to fire a professor who refused to issue a passing grade to a student, even though the student skipped most assignments and 12 of 15 class sessions (Philadelphia). Christian Anders, 56, a semi-prominent German singer, said he and his girlfriend accepted an "indecent proposal" to lend her to millionaire Michael Leicher because Anders needs the money for a liver transplant (Berlin).

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

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