News of the Weird

Week of September 9, 2001

-- In July, an otherwise-successful Hooters restaurant in Augusta, Ga., was forced to file for bankruptcy protection from creditors as an effect of the jury verdict earlier in the year penalizing it $11.9 million for an unsolicited-fax advertising campaign it had conducted to about 1,300 potential customers. A previously obscure 1991 federal law bans such faxes and sets a penalty of up to $500 per transmission, but such fax advertising was fairly widespread until the Hooters verdict (and continues even today by firms apparently unaware of the court decision). A Hooters executive said Congress could not possibly have intended a $12 million penalty for "a few pieces of paper out of a fax machine."

-- Life Imitates the Three Stooges: According to a complaint filed with police, at a Lincoln, R.I., School Committee meeting in August concerning the hiring of two assistant principals, member Lucille J. Mandeville, 45, grabbed the nose of colleague Patricia A. Iannelli, 51, and "proceeded to twist" it, saying, "What's the matter? Did you get your little nose twisted out of joint?" Observers said the rancor between the two had been building for a while.

-- The British magazine New Scientist reported in August that researchers at Japan's Central Research Institute of Electrical Power Industry were actively studying whether compact nuclear reactors (of the size of a broom closet and to be housed in a building's basement) could be used to provide electricity for population-intensive downtown-Tokyo blocks of office and apartment buildings. The Rapid-L reactor was originally designed to produce electricity for moon stations.

Last Words

Mark Harter got only probation for killing a 31-year-old man who had come onto his property, got into an argument, and demanded that Harter either put his gun down or shoot him (Mt. Vernon, Mo., March). The Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new murder trial for Rejean Parent in May because the trial court had been too lenient with him; he had shot his estranged wife during an argument about their divorce terms, immediately after she said, "I told you I would take you to the cleaners" (Quebec City). Casimiro Ovalle, 59, survived a gunshot administered by his wife during a quarrel; he had handed her a rifle and dared her to shoot him (Brownsville, Texas, May).

Government in Action

-- The Northampton (England) Borough Council recently ordered Ruby Barber to remove the 2-year-old barbed-wire fence around her home because it might possibly injure someone who "foolishly" tried to climb it to come onto her property. Just before she put it up, she had been burglarized three times; since then, none.

-- In July, Colorado House Bill 01-1221 became law, banning aluminum underpants. Its purpose is to discourage shoplifters' using them to get past electronic detectors, but the law does provide an exception that allows people to wear them if they can prove it's for a "personal" reason.

-- Texas has created "tax districts" in nonresidential but business-rich areas, thus allowing developers to move a single "voter" into the district, approve some public-works projects, and move out. In a June series, The Dallas Morning News reported that businesses in a nonresidential tax district in Denton, Texas, needed a voter and that Dell Computer, located in the district, promised a laptop computer to anyone who would relocate and become the voter. Jerry Drake, an assistant city attorney in Denton, accepted the offer, moved into a trailer in the tiny district to establish residency, voted on the pro-development agenda (which carried, 1-0), and then moved back to his home in town. Drake insisted that he accepted the computer only for enduring the inconvenience of relocation and not as a bribe on how to vote.

-- Government Policy on Copulation: In July, Kenya's president Daniel arap Moi urged his countrymen (because of the ravages of AIDS) to refrain from sex altogether for the next two years. However, the government of population-dwindling Singapore has instituted subsidies, paid vacations, and education opportunities in order to increase procreation (with Singapore's establishmentarian Straits Times newspaper publishing a "Make-Out Guide" on how to have semi-public sex and what supplies were needed, e.g., lubricants, music, towelettes). And Malaysian Senator Jamilah Ibrahim (a woman) introduced legislation in August to limit nighttime work by women so they will be available for conjugal duty.

-- Antonio (no middle name) Vargas of Windsor, Calif., told the San Francisco Examiner in August that he's optimistic the San Bernardino County (Calif.) District Attorney's office has finally gotten straight after more than 20 years that he is not one of the eight Antonio Vargases they want for such things as missing child-support payments. Vargas said he has received various summonses and orders over the years aimed at other Antonio Vargases but that even as he gets things straight with one prosecutor, another mistakes him all over again, and the office only recently revamped its tracking system.

People Different From Us

Michael Dean Messer of Waynesville, N.C., was bitten in August by his pet 4-foot-long timber rattlesnake, which he had taken outside "for some exercise" after coaxing it to swallow a hen's egg because he was so "worried about him (not) eating (lately)." Said Messer, "(M)y dog got him upset." And two days later, in Fayette County, Va., Alfred "Pooch" Preast was hospitalized after taking a bite on the hand from a timber rattler, but Preast was bitten in the middle of worshiping at the Pentecostal House of Prayer. (Preast's uncle was a snake-handling legend in the area, and his brother said Pooch was showing off for his new girlfriend, who herself had been raised in a snake-handling family but had dropped out years ago.)

Least Competent Criminals

-- The acrobatic New York City crook called Spiderman, Omar Waftalim Triplett, 23, was convicted in June of several muggings, but his behavior in front of the jury might have sealed the verdict. He shouted to the jury during opening arguments that he was really Mike Tyson and said, "I'll eat your children." Then, he announced he was partial to the name "Ali Hitler." Then, he testified that he couldn't have committed one of the crimes because he was spending the night with a "good friend" (whose name and address had slipped his mind). Then, he quickly retestified that he perhaps did have an altercation with police on the night in question, with them "trying to shoot me" but that he escaped; after all, he asked, "Is it illegal to run? Is it wrong to disguise myself?"

The Classic Middle Name (all-new)

Arrested and charged with murder: Kevin Wayne Coffey (Port Arthur, Texas, July); Terry Wayne Freeman (Peoria, Ill., August); Michael Wayne Farmer (arrested in Wamego, Kan., and charged with a Baltimore murder, August); Dallas Wayne Shults (Sevier County, Tenn., August); Donald Wayne Darling II (Florence, Ala., July). Being sought as a murder suspect: Lewis Wayne Seay (Moreland, Ga., August). Committed suicide while on the lam as a murder suspect: David Wayne Outlaw Sr. (Dallas, August). Executed for murder: Jerald Wayne Harjo (Macalester, Okla., July).

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 28-year-old woman was arrested and accused of stealing software and videotapes from a neighbor by patiently, over a two-week period, carving a 16-inch hole in their apartments' common wall and squeezing through (Yorii, Japan). Several cow carcasses were exposed by residents digging in yards in their brand-new subdivision's homes, which used to be a dairy farm (Ontario, Calif.). Lawyer Christina Gulotta was fined $13,000 and suffered a mistrial ruling in a medical malpractice case because she refused to stop dramatically frowning at nearly every adverse ruling by the judge (Suffolk County, N.Y.). Police in Calgary, Alberta, asked the public not to bring suspected bombs down to the station after one such helpful citizen did, which sent officers scurrying and resulted in a blast that put holes in the wall of the station.

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

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

More like News of the Weird