News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



-- A Fortune magazine-commissioned study reported in August that officers and directors of the 1,035 companies that have fallen the most from their recent bull-market peaks cashed in $66 billion worth of stock before the crash, at a time when those companies' non-insiders (and in many cases, employees) were suffering devastating investment losses. Among the "shrewdest" executives were those from AOL-Time Warner ($1.79 billion), Enron ($994 million) and Charles Schwab ($951 million).

-- One proposed remedy for the sexual frustration of Iranian men who avoid marriage because of financial cost is to permit temporary, Islam-endorsed "marriages" with prostitutes inside designated brothels. About 300,000 prostitutes are active in Iran, and the number is rising, as is the typical cost of marriage and the "corrupt" influence of Western society on Muslim youth. Those circumstances have caused at least one prominent cleric to back the idea, according to an August Reuters dispatch.

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (55) The robber who carefully, purposefully smashes a store's security camera (while looking directly at it), oblivious to the fact that destroying the camera does not affect the remote video recorder that it's hooked up to, capturing his face on tape, as with the 5-foot-9 man whose picture has been circulating in Edmonton, Alberta, since July. (56) And the hard-luck checkbook thief whose victim, by chance, is an employee of the very store or bank in which the thief later tries to cash one of the checks, as happened at the Farmers State Bank, Stockbridge, Mich., in June, resulting in the arrest of a 20-year-old man.


-- Responding to his latest call-up for jury duty, habitual San Antonio jury-slacker David Williamson sent the federal judge a serious bill for $16,800 because the court had advised Williamson to be ready to serve at any time during August (21 business days, 8 hours a day, at Williamson's consultant's rate of $100 an hour). Williamson also wrote that if the judge did not pay by Aug. 31, interest would accrue at 2 percent a month, and that if the judge would like to discuss the matter, he should call Williamson for an appointment. (A few days later, Judge John H. Wood Jr. ordered Williamson to his courtroom for a contempt hearing, the result of which was pending at press time.)

-- Child-sex-assaulter Kevin R. Hill, 36, filed a lawsuit from prison against St. Clair County, Ill., in July, demanding $100,000 because county officials caused him and his family "grave personal and professional financial devastation" when they charged him with the crime (even though he ultimately pleaded guilty). And in June, inmate Kenneth Bianchi (the "Hillside Strangler" serial-killer in California and Washington in the 1970s), filed a lawsuit against Whatcom County, Wash., demanding up to $100 a day for the 23 years he has been imprisoned (for lost wages and emotional distress); Bianchi said prosecutors caused him to misjudge the strength of the case against him at trial, and that's why he pleaded guilty to the murders of seven women.

-- Matthew E. Hooker, 30, filed a $200 million defamation lawsuit in May in Los Angeles against actor Nicole Kidman because she (and many other persons and media outlets named in the lawsuit) refer to Hooker as Kidman's "stalker" (even though a judge has entered a three-year stay-away order against Hooker because of numerous past harassments of Kidman). Hooker told reporters that the "stalker" label was likely to hurt his 2004 presidential campaign.


-- In Winnipeg, Manitoba, in July, David Dauphinee, 52, and his brother Daniel, 51, both retired senior members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, were convicted of bombarding local police officers with oranges and onions while standing on a 19th-floor balcony, while the local officers were investigating a break-in on a ground floor nearby. The brothers have had other recent confrontations with law-enforcement officers, and David's ex-wife Debbie described the men as "dumb and dumber."

-- Ex-lawyer Mitchell Rothken, 44, is serving a three-to-nine-year prison sentence in New York in connection with an embezzlement scheme, which he told a judge in February he concocted to win the favor of stripper Kimberly Barbieri, with whom he was utterly obsessed. In an August interview in New York magazine, Rothken said that although his secret, four-year bond with the dancer ultimately cost him his 21-year marriage, his three sons, his real-estate law practice, and more than $1 million in gifts, Barbieri and he never actually consummated the relationship.

People Different From Us

In May in Brisbane, Australia, suspended police officer James Arthur Mariner, 42, was set for trial on charges that over a seven-year period, under the guise of helping people qualify for the police force, he solicited pubic hair, blood and urine samples and mouth swabs from people for his own gratification. Other victims claimed that Mariner got them to make a sex video (allegedly for police training), and another said Mariner put a wrestler's "headlock" on her.

Least Competent Criminals

Unfamiliar With the System: Andrew Cameron was arrested in August and charged with stealing Jacqueline Boanson's debit card in Cheltenham, England. Cameron had used the card to place a horse-racing bet, and the horse won, but since he could not collect without a photo ID that matched the debit card name, the winnings (about $495) were automatically transferred to Boanson's account.

Thinning the Herd

A 40-year-old man, finishing off the last of his champagne on an apartment-house rooftop, climbed down a ledge as a shortcut to go get another bottle but fell and was fatally impaled on a fence (Chicago, June). And an 18-year-old high school student, attempting to prove that heroin is not addictive, overdosed and died on his first-ever experience (his impressions of which he had just begun to chronicle on his computer before he passed out) (Fort Worth, Texas, May).

Our Civilization in Decline

In 1999, police in Tulia, Texas (pop. 5,100), arrested 40 blacks (more than 10 percent of the black population) for alleged drug trafficking and somehow obtained convictions, with no physical evidence and no corroboration, based on the testimony of one N-word-using officer, Tom Coleman, who kept almost no records (except that he sometimes wrote notes on his leg) and who swore that he had bought drugs from several people who later proved they weren't even in town. The "ringleader" (now serving 90 years) was an impoverished farmer who lived in a dilapidated shack; a few local whites with connections to the black community were convicted as well, with one receiving a 300-year sentence. The latest coverage of the convictions (now being appealed) was by a New York Times columnist who visited the town in July.

Also, in the Last Month ...

A female suspect being questioned by police managed to fatally shoot an officer who had permitted her a bathroom break, using a gun the woman had probably concealed between her buttocks (Minneapolis). An orthopedic surgeon's license was suspended after he, in mid-operation, allegedly left the OR for 35 minutes to run to his bank and deposit a check before returning to finish up (successfully) (Cambridge, Mass.). An ex-cop awaiting trial for molesting one stepdaughter dropped dead of an aneurysm in an X-rated peep-show booth while in a compromising position with his other stepdaughter (El Paso, Texas). A woman who two years earlier had a house built on the edge of a golf course fairway filed a lawsuit against the course because balls keep landing in her yard (Ossipee, N.H.).

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