News of the Weird

Week of April 7, 2002

LEAD STORIES

-- Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, accepting an award in March in Coolum, Australia, for lowering his country's AIDS infection rate from 28 percent to 6 percent, implied that the task was made easier because, he said, no gays live in Uganda (despite a 2001 Amnesty International report condemning the torture of gays in that country). And officials of South Africa's ruling African National Congress issued a report in March questioning the existence of HIV (though 4.7 million of its citizens have AIDS) and attributing the pandemic to Western drug companies' anti-AIDS drugs.

-- A Stanford University School of Medicine report in March identified a physiological disorder that causes sound-asleep people to act out rough sex, including rape. Professor Christian Guilleminault said that although the problem appears psychological on the surface, he found telltale glitches in brain waves during sleep in all of his test subjects.

Jokes Fallen Flat

Ted Hudson was arrested in Casper, Wyo., in January for allegedly setting up a secret video camera in his boss's bathroom and catching the boss's wife showering (which he tried to tell the boss was just a practical joke). And deputy sheriff Gabriel Bruno was arrested in January and charged with placing feces in the sinks of two Rhode Island Superior Court judges (which he told authorities was just a practical joke). And in March, Idaho state Rep. Kent Higgins presented two colleagues who are early-childhood-education advocates with an "award": an old, swastika-adorned photograph of an Aryan child from the Nazi Germany breeding-scheme collection (which, he later told his stunned colleagues, was all a joke).

The Continuing Crisis

-- Among the absurdities touching Enron Corp. was the report in February by a former employee, broadcast by NBC News, that the company ran a mock trading floor in its Houston headquarters, furnished with desks, large flat-panel computer screens and teleconference rooms, for the sole purpose of making visitors believe the company furiously traded commodities full-time. In reality, revealed the employee, the equipment was only hooked up internally, and the employee-"traders," who appeared to be frantically placing orders, were merely talking to each other.

-- In February, a workplace-dispute murder in Menlo Park, Calif., was facilitated by the killer's phoning in a pizza order to Domino's and waiting until the delivery man innocently got the victim to open the door and present himself as a gunshot target. After the shots were fired, according to a neighbor (interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle), the Domino's deliverer fled in fear but a few minutes later, another Domino's man arrived, gathered up the left-behind pizzas, and resumed the delivery route.

-- Arson defendant Steven McDonald, 47, was acting as his own lawyer at his trial in Mount Vernon, Wash., in February, and when he took the witness stand, he used the simplistic tactic of posing his questions, as the lawyer, to "Mr. McDonald," the accused perpetrator. However, since a key police witness had testified earlier that he saw the arsonist "arguing with himself" at the crime scene, McDonald the "lawyer" sought to get his "client" to say the perpetrator could not have been him and must have been someone else: "Mr. McDonald," he asked, "have you ever talked to yourself?"

Florida's Handicapped Parking Crisis

In Ocala, Fla., in December, motorist Richard Stengel, 57, was charged with aggravated battery after he won a handicapped parking space from a 77-year-old woman who was standing in it, trying to reserve it for her motorist-husband; "Lady," Stengel allegedly said, "if you don't move, I'm going to run you over," and he did, knocking her down (even though a St. Petersburg Times report said Stengel's car did not appear to display a handicapped parking permit). And in March, Lee Damron, 48, and Richard Cavalier, 59, dueled over a handicapped parking space in front of Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill, Fla., Damron with a sword which he carried with him and Cavalier with a registered 9mm handgun; the wheelchair-using Cavalier prevailed.

Smooth Reactions

Leon Watson, 22, of Albuquerque, N.M., was arrested for allegedly severely beating his 2-year-old son in February; he said the kid had given him a "mad dog" look reminiscent of gang members staring down rivals. And Thomas Mitchell was convicted of shooting his girlfriend in Galveston, Texas, in February; she had uttered the name "New Jersey" to him, which he said was one of four names that enrage him (the others: Wisconsin, Snickers, Mars bar). And Lee Barter, 39, was sentenced in January in Portsmouth, England, for stabbing a friend twice for cheating at Trivial Pursuit (adding extra "cheeses" to his counter).

People Different From Us

Police Chief Pete Bradley was fired by the city of Woodfin, N.C., in February following a dispute with Mayor Homer Honeycutt, who had been captured on audio tape bragging about how he could fix traffic tickets (though there was no evidence that he actually fixed any), and as part of the mutual mudslinging, a State Bureau of Investigation report from 2000 was leaked, disclosing that Bradley had "engaged in parties where men wore diapers as part of their sexual behavior," according to an Asheville Citizen-Times report.

Unclear on the Concept

The Federal Court of Canada decided in February that Hugh Trainor was entitled to veterans' benefits for service during World War II despite the fact that he had been ruled medically unfit before becoming a member of the armed forces. The court ruled that Trainor's boat ride from Prince Edward Island to his recruiting-station physical exam in Nova Scotia qualified as service because it was dangerous, in that German submarines were thought to be operating in the Atlantic Ocean at the time.

Update

Charity cow-patty bingo games at state fairs continue, such as those in Connellsville, Pa., in April and Calgary, Alberta, in June (in which a field is divided into squares, money bet on the squares, and a winner declared by which square receives the first cow deposit). But in February, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protested the cow-patty bingo fund-raiser at Florida Southern College (Lakeland, Fla.), accusing the organizers of both physical abuse (feeding the cow laxatives, which the organizers denied) and emotional abuse (because it is such a "demeaning" and "silly" game).

Our Civilization in Decline

Iraq appears to be preparing construction contracts in a serious bid to host the 2012 Olympics, according to a Washington Times report (March). Canada's Federal Court ruled that inmate Jack Maurice has a constitutional right to vegetarian meals; the convicted sex offender had charged that eating meat is morally reprehensible (January). The Washington Department of Corrections admitted that a shortage of state facilities has forced it to house post-release sex offenders (those who have served their sentences but are at a high risk of recidivism) at hotels and motels around the state, without informing guests in adjacent rooms (February).

And, in the Last Month ...

A 23-year-old man who was shot in the leg cut the bullet out himself with an X-acto knife and sold it back to the shooter for $200 to hinder the prosecution's case against him (Bend, Ore.). A protesting man shot himself to death after an 18-hostage standoff in the former world headquarters of Philips Electronics because he was upset at misrepresentations about the quality on 16-by-9-inch television screens (Amsterdam). A 73-year-old woman was trapped by a spring-loaded newspaper vending machine in a Wal-Mart for 20 minutes until an employee volunteered to put another 50 cents in the machine to free her (Geneseo, Ill.) The AT&T Universal credit card company turned down applicant Dallas Hill Jr., accidentally sending him 2,986 rejections by U.S. Mail (Telford, Tenn.)

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

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