News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

Week of July 8, 2001


-- Recent Too-Cute Diagnoses: "Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome" (a strong urge to stay out late, followed by an inability to wake up on time, according to Dr. Michael Thorpy, a sleep-disorders specialist interviewed for an April New York Observer report) and "Pseudologia Fantastica" (a condition doctors offered up to a judicial disciplinary commission in May as a medical explanation for why Los Angeles Judge Patrick Couwenberg had padded his resume with tall tales).

-- A Tucson, Ariz., international big-game-hunting organization recently pressured the government of Botswana to lift its ban on shooting at the rapidly dwindling lion population, with help from three of the group's highest-profile members, former President George Bush, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and former Vice President Dan Quayle. According to a leading Botswana conservationist, rich hunters (safaris cost $20,000 to $35,000) create even further attrition by demanding to kill only mature males, because of their bushy manes, leaving lairs unprotected from other lions. Said the conservationist (to London's The Guardian): "There's no reason to shoot a lion other than ego. As a hunter you want to feel great so you can hang it on the wall and your mates say, 'Wow, what a man!'"

-- A steadily increasing number of Cambodians in the northern Dangrek Mountains are trekking to the gravesite of the heinous dictator Pol Pot (who presided over the murders of a million people during the 1970s) because they say that communing with his spirit brings them good luck and, in some cases, winning lottery numbers, according to a June New York Times dispatch.

Flatulence in the News

Scotland Yard was called to investigate a citizen complaint against a police officer who purposely broke wind while investigating a crime scene at her home (Chingford, Essex, England; June), but in Werribee, Australia, in June, a misdemeanor convict was fined about $100 (U.S.) for purposely breaking wind inside a police station. And Drew Shintani, 35, was charged with stabbing a 30-year-old co-worker because he was tired of the co-worker's laughing at Shintani's flatulence problem (Hilo, Hawaii; April). And two men (aged 49 and 64) were arrested at a ShopRite store for harassing customers with cans of an aerosol spray that sounded and smelled like someone breaking wind (Washington Township, N.J., May).

Courtroom Follies

-- A state judicial board's fact-finding panel concluded in April that Los Angeles County Judge Patrick Murphy was not entitled to the 400 days sick leave he has taken since 1996 and that he was merely malingering while being paid $130,000 a year to be a judge. Murphy said he was plagued with various maladies, including a phobia for the job of judging, and that's why he had left the country and enrolled as a full-time medical student in Dominica while still on the courthouse payroll.

-- New Mexico District Judge Stephen Bridgforth ruled in March against a new trial for Joseph Montoya, 22, leaving him to serve the 20-year sentence he was given in a 1999 shooting death, despite the subsequent confession (backed by a polygraph) by Montoya's twin brother, Jeremy, that it was he who committed the crime. The judge reasoned that, after all, several witnesses freely admitted they were confused about which one of the Montoya brothers fired the shots, but that the jury, in its wisdom, decided it was Joseph, and that was that.

Questionable Judgments

-- According to police in Wethersfield, Conn., Richard Levitt, 42, secretly videotaped himself having sex with a girlfriend and decided to post the video on the Internet, which caused problems when the girlfriend found out, and more problems when a second Levitt girlfriend found out, and even more problems when Mrs. Levitt found out. (The girlfriends met and together confronted Levitt and his wife at home at 2 a.m. on March 25.) Levitt was arrested for disseminating voyeuristic materials.

-- Prison officials in Australia told reporters in May that they would review their procedures after they found out that convicted mass murderer Julian Knight (who killed seven and wounded 17 in an incident in Melbourne in 1987) had earned a behind-bars college degree in military strategy and weapons systems. One official acknowledged that the curriculum Knight chose might conflict with the rehabilitation goals the prison had set out for him.

-- A mirrored dome used in playground equipment in 45 locations around the country, called a playscape, concentrates the sun's rays inside to a temperature of over 250 degrees, but before an incident in Bristol, Conn., playscapes were thought to be acceptable devices for small children to play in. (At a Bristol day-care center in April, the shirt of a 3-year-old boy burst into flames, and though the boy was not injured, the New York company that makes playscapes recalled them so that the mirrors could be replaced with safer material.) [Boston Globe-AP, 4-27-01]

-- In April in Chicago, IBM acknowledged it had authorized an on-the-street advertising campaign (for the Linux computer operating system) that involved the defacing of public sidewalks with graffiti at 100 locations around the city. The 20-year-old man hired to paint all the hearts and smiling penguins was arrested, and municipal officials said IBM would be liable for cleanup costs. An IBM spokeswoman admitted the campaign "got a little carried away."


News of the Weird reported in 1999 on the work of Reading University (England) Professor Kevin Warwick in the uses of surgically implanted microchips, which he then was offering as technology to track the whereabouts of employees, pets, and people licensed to carry firearms. Recently, Warwick announced that in September, he and his wife, Irena, will have transmitter/receiver microchips implanted in their arms, attached to nerve fibers, and that Warwick will attempt, by intentionally moving his fingers, to send a radio message from his arm to Irena's that will cause her fingers to move also. Researchers believe the technology could be used to allow spinal-injury patients to move paralyzed limbs by sending radio waves directly from the brain to the limb.

People Different From Us

Public works officials in Kannapolis, N.C. (population 30,000), were forced to issue a plea to residents in June that two recent sewer breakdowns (producing solid-waste flooding) were caused by flushing cloth underwear down toilets and that people should please stop that.

Also, in the Last Month ...

Two men were arrested for selling marijuana from a neighborhood ice-cream truck, after drawing the attention of police because the only customers in line were adults (Brooklyn, N.Y.). A judge ordered a 19-year-old man to abstain from sex until marriage (under potential penalty of decades in prison), after noting his penchant for impregnating young teen-age girls (Corpus Christi, Texas). A 73-year-old woman rescued her Scottish terrier from the jaws of a pit bull by biting the pit bull on the neck until it released her dog (Tallahassee, Fla.). A 17-year-old boy on a bicycle was arrested after robbing a Taco Bell via the drive-thru window, having been hampered in his getaway by his decision to wait around until an employee could fix him a hot chalupa and put it into the money bag (Fort Worth, Texas).

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