News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF MARCH 17, 2002


-- After sheriff's deputies in Kalispell, Mont., arrested militia leader David Earl Burgert, 38, in February, they uncovered his group's "Project 7" plot, allegedly to assassinate several county officials (including the local dogcatcher) in a fanciful plan that Burgert is said to believe would eventually create enough local chaos to start a national revolution. Burgert (whose last job was as a snowmobile rental agent) had amassed a huge arsenal of machine guns and heavy weapons in order to carry out the assassinations, defeat the National Guard, and stanch the probable waves of what Project 7 called "Red Chinese" from Canada. According to Project 7 thinking, NATO would somehow then be called on to send troops to Kalispell. Law enforcement officials said Burgert was just a local loudmouth who this time had gotten in way over his head.

-- In March, the manager of a Hartford, Conn., senior citizens' home told residents in the monthly newsletter to "please stop throwing rice in the garbage disposals" and that repairs for such "negligence and carelessness" would be billed to the tenant, but the Spanish-language version of the same newsletter was different (as translated): "You have to get used to the fact that you do not live in Puerto Rico, where leftovers were given to the pigs. We do not have pigsties, but we do have garbage cans." "If (using the garbage can) is too hard for you to do, move and continue with the customs of Puerto Rico." The manager, Carmen Aponte, who is of Puerto Rican ancestry, later apologized.

The March of Intellectual Progress

An editor of a major Sri Lanka astrology magazine resigned in November, concerned that his boss was using planet-alignment readings to make political commentary, thus undermining readers' faith in astrology. And a Nigerian transportation official urged in November that citizens de-emphasize their heavy reliance on automobile icon charms to keep them safe, urging instead that they concentrate on the rules of the road (as similarly urged by the governor of Trang, Thailand, when informed in February of the heavy use of auto charms to overcome evil ghosts at the town's major traffic intersections). And in January, the Kanda Myojin Shinto shrine in Tokyo began selling its own information-technology-prayer charms to ward off computer viruses.

Can't Possibly Be True

-- A 50-year-old construction worker in Knoxville, Tenn., survived his Jan. 14 impalement by a 3-foot-long, 3-inch-thick metal rod that fell off of a bridge and which went point-first through the man's skull and neck, coursed down his trunk, and stopped only when completely embedded in his body. He was semiconscious at the scene but talkative later at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. The man was not wearing the required hard hat.

-- Canada's British Columbia Court of Appeal reversed the child sexual assault conviction against Hugo Oswald Castaneda in October, even though he had admitted having sex with a 12-year-old girl, because the prosecutor had gone too far in attempting to persuade the jury that Castaneda was a bad person. According to Justice John Hall, the government delved too deeply into Castaneda's admitted drug-dealing and other unrelated criminal activities when, according to Castaneda's lawyer, his general "character" was not at issue in the trial.

-- Rod Yellon, a political science professor at the University of Manitoba, was fined in February for protesting a postponement of the trial in his four-year-long constitutional challenge over a $25 (U.S.) traffic ticket he had been issued in Winnipeg for rolling through a stop sign. Yellon had challenged the law as too vague, in that a "stop" sign did not "specify sufficiently" what drivers were supposed to do when they encountered one.

-- Lithuania's gender-equality ombudsman, Ms. Ausrine Burneikiene, announced in January that she would fight to end the country's requirement that women need a gynecological exam to get a driver's license. The exams apparently are based on the belief that some gynecological illnesses manifest themselves suddenly or cause unconsciousness and therefore would be dangerous to other motorists. (And a study reported in November in Saudi Arabia's Riyadh Daily, from a professor at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah, concluded that women are responsible for about 50 percent of Saudi traffic accidents, even though they cannot legally drive cars; the professor was referring only to women as distractions and backseat drivers.)

-- H. Beatty Chadwick, 65, has served more than 6 1/2 years in jail in suburban Philadelphia for contempt of court for not being able to produce $2.5 million that he was supposed to split with his divorced wife. He was scheduled to be released in February, but a federal appeals court blocked that order. (The U.S. record for contempt is believed to be held by a Chicago man who was released in 1997 after staying in jail for 10 years in order not to reveal the whereabouts of his daughter.) Chadwick said he lost the money in a bad investment, but his ex-wife believes that the money was not lost and that Chadwick is willingly sitting in jail in order to protect its now-multiplied value.

People Different From Us

Sheriff's deputies in Glades County, Fla., on the edge of Lake Okeechobee, arrested a 53-year-old farm laborer in February on a single count of incest after discovering that he and his sister had established a 25-year family unit that had produced nine kids and four grandchildren. The family lived in a rural work camp run by his employer and first drew the attention of deputies when a neighbor reported that the couple kept a casket in their living room, containing the remains of an infant son who had died 12 years earlier.

Least Competent People

Chaddrick Dickson, 25, was hospitalized briefly in Monroe, La., in December, after being wounded by the .22-caliber bullet he was fooling around with. Dickson said he was trying to remove the gunpowder by smashing the bullet's casing against the floor. He said he needed the gunpowder because he wanted to mix it into his dog's food to make the dog meaner.


In November 2000, News of the Weird reported the startling news that, at a public demonstration in Taipei, three martial-arts masters, without using their hands, had pulled a truck holding 80 people 12 inches with ropes attached only to their penises. In January 2002, the Federal Communications Commission fined Seattle radio station KNDD-FM $14,000 because its morning show personalities had made an on-air offer last year to give free concert tickets to any man who would come to the studio and pull certain heavy objects around with his penis (discussions which the FCC said constituted "indecent language").

Our Civilization in Decline

A Saudi Arabian woman who was found by a court to have been raped by her sister's husband was sentenced to six months in jail and 65 lashes because she had thus had sex (Jeddah, February). A Mexican immigrant in his 20s, who was returning a purse and cell phone he found to their owner, was shot to death, allegedly by the owner's brother-in-law, who thought the Samaritan's $50 reward request was too high (Whittier, Calif.). A Dallas-area public school system announced it would sell permanent naming rights to dozens of its buildings and facilities (e.g., $1 million for a soccer field), but at least would not sell to corporations (Highland Park, Texas).

And, in the Last Month ...

A fired health-care association manager filed a lawsuit alleging that his female boss kept a "man sack rack" display (device for hanging male genitals) in her office, supposedly symptomatic of her sexually harassing attitudes (Woodbury, N.J.). A 33-year-old juror, right in the middle of deliberations in a murder case, abruptly took off on an already scheduled Mexican vacation (but the judge jailed her upon her return to town) (Cincinnati). The Georgia parole board issued a rare reprieve, moving a death-row inmate to life in prison because he is so delusional that he sometimes believes that the actress Sigourney Weaver is God. A 47-year-old woman was convicted of animal cruelty for throwing her 3-foot-long pet iguana at a tavern's bouncer, though she argued that the iguana leapt on his own to defend her honor (Isle of Wight, England).

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