News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF MAY 19, 2002


(NOTE: In a November 1999 column, I noted that Jerry Wayne Walker had been charged with murder in Murray, Ky. Mr. Walker's trial in July 2001 resulted in a hung jury, and I recently learned that in October 2001, the prosecutor dismissed the charges. -- Chuck Shepherd)

-- Because of what they called a "history of unacceptable professional conduct," administrators at Lawrence Technological University (Southfield, Mich.) have ordered tenured engineering professor Sayed A. Nassar to remain inside his faculty office from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. weekdays (so that they can "monitor" him), except when he goes to class or has specific permission to leave, and not to go off campus during that time unless actually accompanied by the dean or his representative. According to faculty members interviewed for a May Chronicle of Higher Education story, the charges against Nassar boil down to the fact that he argues with the administration a lot.

-- The head of a Dutch hospital's department of psychiatry and neurosexology told reporters in April that he has found a "post-orgasmic illness syndrome" after having had five patients who suffered flu-like symptoms (sweating, extreme fatigue, eye-irritation) for several days after sex. Dr. Marcel Waldinger of Leyenburg Hospital in The Hague guessed that the cause might have been an allergic reaction to the hormones released with orgasm and said his write-up would appear in an upcoming issue of the U.S. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy.

The Bobbittizations Continue

Hassan Latief, 42, Hillsborough, N.J. (penis cut off by wife, Nelly, over alleged infidelity, January); Edward L. Praskovich, 31, Ambridge, Pa. (used a box cutter on his own penis in an unsuccessful suicide attempt, February); Raphael R. Scott, 20, St. Petersburg, Fla. (a robbery suspect who had his penis partially severed by a pursuing police dog, April); John Ndekeezi, Kampala, Uganda (genitals bitten off by wife, over alleged infidelity, March); Jose de Lima, 25, Brazil (cut off by wife, over alleged infidelity, January).


-- The London yoga center Triyoga came under strenuous neighborhood protest in March over the increasing noise level at its relaxation institute, according to a Reuters report; mellow music played at high volume, clients' chanting, and group-breathing exercises (guttural sounds) were named as the major nuisances. And three surfer dudes were arrested in a federal park in San Francisco in March after allegedly attempting to kill another surfer who might have intruded onto "their" wave. And a 54-year-old windsurfer dude was arrested at Kahana Beach Park in Hawaii in December after he allegedly sailed directly into a kite surfer who had stolen his wave.

-- Two 16-year-old girls who won prizes at a Paterson, N.J., teen fair for their essays touting abstinence over condom use in sex education were revealed in May to be pregnant. One's essay described having sex even with a condom as "like playing Russian roulette with your life."

-- In January, environmental officials in Denver, denied Bromwell Elementary School a permit to burn its homemade prairie grass garden, which was planned as a demonstration of the cycle of nature, citing the air pollution the fire would cause. The officials suggested, instead, that the 300 students take a field trip to the prairie-grass exhibit at the Denver Botanical Garden. However, according to Colorado Air Pollution Control Division estimates, one fume-spewing school bus on a field trip produces more pollution by itself than would the entire controlled burn.

-- An arbitrator ruled in March that Pensacola, Fla., middle school teacher Robert K. Sites III, 37, was wrongly fired for showing up at work in a cocaine-distracted state (later measured at 50 times the level regarded as a "positive" test). The school has a "zero tolerance" policy on drugs, but it applies only to students. The arbitrator ruled that Sites is entitled to back pay and benefits and must be given drug counseling and a chance to get clean.

-- At a training seminar in January sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health (which is the agency responsible for enforcing food-handling rules), at least 15 of the 150 participants came down with food poisoning, most likely from the catered box lunches or in-class treats.

People Different From Us

Pharmacist Corey Penner, 29, pleaded guilty in March in Newton, Kan., to 16 counts of misdemeanor battery for his compulsion to trick strangers on the street into letting him draw their blood. Penner's lawyer told the court that Penner had no explanation for his behavior but that he had engaged in it for 11 years, telling people falsely that he was doing research and in some cases giving people up to $20 to let him take the blood.

Least Competent People

In preparation for the founding meeting of a new political group (the Anambra Peoples' Forum) in Lagos, Nigeria, in March, officials concerned about being rained out hired a professional rain doctor, Mr. Chief Nothing Pass God, for about $47 (and a bottle of gin) to keep the skies clear. Before the doctor was finished with his incantations, a rare March downpour completely washed out the event. Said the Chief, "I have not failed. What caused the disappointment was that (this job) came unexpected(ly)" and that he had not had sufficient time to prepare.

Recurring Themes

In 1991, News of the Weird reported on the mysterious low-level vibration that some residents of Taos, N.M., were hearing, and being severely disturbed by. The "Taos Hum" was never fully explained, and its legend has grown among conspiracy theorists, although some people actually suffered otherwise-unexplained illnesses in the presence of the hum. In February 2002, Kokomo, Ind., mayor James Trobaugh asked the city council for $100,000 to study a similar hum that has supposedly caused medical problems for at least 40 Kokomo residents in the last three years. Symptoms in both cases include not only severe headaches and lack of sleep but dizziness, chronic fatigue, joint and muscle pain, nosebleeds and diarrhea.

Our Civilization in Decline

In a 12-month pilot project, criminals were spared jail terms if they agreed to a program of Transcendental Meditation as practiced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Geraldton, Western Australia, February). September 11 notwithstanding, Canada Customs reaffirmed its longstanding policy of instructing officers not to stop armed-and-dangerous criminals attempting to enter the country, but rather to notify the police after they are already in (March). Amnesty International USA reported that at least 150 people accused of torture in their homelands have been granted residence in the U.S., including a Haitian colonel convicted of homicide, who, while living in Florida in 1997, won $3.2 million in the state lottery (April).

Also, in the Last Month ...

Linda Lay (wife of Enron's former chairman Kenneth), who virtually pleaded poverty in January despite owning property worth at least $15 million, prepared to open (in May) the Jus' Stuff antique shop, which would be stocked with her cast-offs (Houston). A snake-charmer, called to a home to dispatch two cobras, found 3,500 more underneath it, plus hundreds of eggs (Dhaka, Bangladesh). A frail, but gun-toting 70-year-old man (described by witnesses as looking "much older") failed in his attempt to rob the Foothills Bank, after he got confused once inside the door (Wheatridge, Colo.). A snowplow was called to clean up Interstate 80 after a collision caused a Hormel truck to break open and coat the highway with chili and beans (Green River, Wyo.).

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