News of the Weird

Week of May 20, 2001


-- In April, the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., surgically removed a dead worm from the brain of a woman because, having entered the woman's body via pork she ate in Mexico and then having died, its carcass was causing her periodic seizures. The operation took six hours and required that the patient be only mildly sedated, in that she needed to keep talking to surgeons to help guide them from point to point in her brain.

-- Accused Providence, R.I., drug-trafficker Pablo Alberto Manjarres-Riend decided in February to use as his primary defense the "redemption" theory (the fifth time it has been used recently in that court) that federal laws don't apply to most people, including him. According to the theory, the federal government, to escape bankruptcy in the 1930s, "converted" its flesh-and-blood citizens into paper "assets" (an event completely missed by historians), thus removing those flesh-and-blood's from the rule of U.S. statutes and allowing people wise to the conversion to set off their worth in "assets" against their ordinary obligations, such as mortgages. According to an April Providence Journal story, prosecutors are amazed at how earnestly defendants use the theory in court, as if its widespread acceptance is near.

-- In April, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that high school students can sue their guidance counselors for steering them wrong. (A high school athlete had taken a recommended course on the belief that it would help his college athletic eligibility, but it did not.) And in May, a former Levittown, Pa., high school student sued her softball coach because he taught her a pitching motion that she later learned umpires would rule illegal, which she says impeded her budding career.

Teachers Who Never Heard of Columbine

Teachers were suspended at a middle school in Findlay, Ohio (April), and a high school in Paloma Valley, Calif. (March), and teachers were recently under investigation at high schools in Riverside, Calif., and National City, Calif., all for incidents in which they threatened "to shoot" misbehaving students. And an English teacher at Homedale (Idaho) High School resigned in March after warning his class, "(I)f you don't behave for (tomorrow's substitute teacher), I'll make Columbine look like a Sunday picnic." And in February, the school board president in Upper Moreland, near Philadelphia, criticized the teacher rating system by saying that system supporters should be "dragged out to the parking lot and shot."


-- In March, a homeowners' association in Boynton Beach, Fla., summoned six of its 83 members to a disciplinary meeting for violating the association's green-lawns requirement, even though south Florida is enduring a two-year-long drought (the most severe on record) with no end in sight and tight watering restrictions. According to the association president, the other 77 homeowners maintain green lawns even though they swear they obey the restrictions.

-- In January, sponsors of a Bangkok "beauty" pageant selected 40 contestants out of about 200 semi-finalists on the runway to vie later in the year for the title of Miss Acne-Free 2001, but the 40 were selected actually on the basis of how severely pimpled and pock-marked their faces were, with the eventual winner to be the woman who, with treatment, clears up the most. Said one eager contestant, "It is not often that I can step into the limelight because of my acne."

In Their Own Words

-- Environmentalist Briony Penn, 40, addressing reporters after riding a horse nude, Lady Godiva-like, through downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, in January to protest logging on Saltspring Island: "I've got a Ph.D. (in geography), and no one listens. I take my clothes off, and here you all are. So thank you."

-- Thailand's most prominent madame, Ms. "Oy BM," speaking to an International Sex Workers' seminar in Bangkok in November on why she believes the government's safe-sex guidelines are overprotective: "I don't think condoms are necessary because if you receive many customers a day, all the (infected) sperm fights each other and dies."

-- Matt Hely, a performer in the cutting-edge Bobby Reynolds Circus Sideshow (stunts such as nails hammered into heads and an animal trap closing on a hand), in a December profile in St. Louis' Riverfront Times: "When you find yourself eating light bulbs for a living, you know you've made some bad career moves."

-- Retired porno actress Sharon Mitchell (who now runs a medical clinic near Los Angeles for adult film performers), reminiscing about the early days of her career to a Reuters reporter in February: "I remember seeing (for the first time) my genitalia 16 feet high on the silver screen and thinking, 'Wow, this is great!'"

-- In March, a federal judge in San Francisco rejected the California prison system's attempt to deny public presence at executions. The state had argued that secrecy was necessary in order to protect the identities of the execution staff, but open-execution advocates had suggested that the staff could wear hoods for privacy. The state attorney general then told the judge that wearing hoods was impractical because concealing guards' identity would "disrupt the human bond ... that the (execution) team has tried to establish with the inmate."

Least Competent People

In a Vancouver, Wash., courtroom in April, John K. Flora, defending himself against charges that he has for years stalked a woman whom he had dated briefly 25 years ago, asked the woman a series of questions on the witness stand to entice her to reveal that she really does love him, but she remained astonished at his cluelessness, and the longer the questioning continued, the more hostile and horrified she became, until Flora, mistaking her revulsion for encouragement, suddenly whipped out a $5,000 engagement ring and thrust it at her, imploring, "Marry me! You mean everything to me! Please!" The woman was aghast; the judge ordered Flora chained to his chair; and Flora later promised the judge the proposal was his "last hurrah."

Undignified Deaths

Mr. War N. Marion, 26, was charged with murder in Milwaukee in February after one of his roommates was stabbed to death; Marion said he couldn't understand the death because he had purposely avoided the man's heart and stabbed him on the other side of the chest "to slow him down and calm him down." And in Columbus, Ohio, in February, DUI and vehicular homicide charges were filed in the July 2000 death of a 63-year-old woman who was accidentally run over by a careening car in the middle of the night while she was asleep in her bed.

Also, in the Last Month ...

-- A convicted armed robber, allowed out of prison twice a week on work detail, was charged with a bank robbery (and suspected of four others) committed during his forays (Atlanta). An unapologetic traffic cop wrote 15 $150 tickets to bicyclists who rode through a stop sign, even though they were merely part of 2,000 bikers participating in a multiple-sclerosis bike-a-thon (Antioch, Calif.). Golf driving-range owner John Thoburn, 43, has sat in jail since February because he declines to add neighbor-friendly trees to his landscaping, as ordered by a judge (whose name is Michael McWeeny) (Reston, Va.). Florida state Rep. Nancy Argenziano, upset that inadequate nursing-home protection was being passed and that an antagonistic industry lobbyist had barged in to watch the vote on her office TV, sent the lobbyist a gift-wrapped, 25-pound box of cow manure.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or, or go to

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