News of the Weird

Week of August 24, 2003


-- Wired magazine reported in August that an order screen at the big e-mail spammer, Amazing Internet Products, was left unsecured and was hacked into recently, revealing not only an inexplicably large sales volume (6,000 orders in four weeks for $50 Pinacle cream that promised to increase penis size by up to 3 inches) but some prominent, should-know-better customers, such as the manager of a $6 billion mutual fund in New York City. Wired (and earlier, Salon magazine) reported that AIP's two principals are a 19-year-old high-school dropout and chess vagabond and a 20-something former head of a neo-Nazi outfit.

-- The Lawrence (Mass.) Eagle-Tribune reported in August that the local superintendent of schools, Wilfredo T. Laboy, had recently failed (for the third time) the basic English proficiency test required of all teachers in the state. (English is Laboy's second language.) The state education commissioner said that Laboy was doing "an excellent job" but that he was still going to have to pass the test (a test which Laboy called "stupid").

People Different From Us

Reuters reported in June that would-be painter Rainer Herpel, 51, of Bad Ems, Germany, was finally speaking again, after having remained silent for the last 29 years as a reaction to his father's disapproval of art as a career. Herpel lived with his mother, spent most of the time alone in his room concentrating on his paintings, only occasionally ventured outdoors, and came out of his shell only when his father passed away. Said Herpel, "All great artists were outsiders (probably meaning "different from us") before they had success."

Our Civilization in Decline

CBS News reported in June that few states have complied with the Brady Bill requirement to list all people involuntarily hospitalized for mental illness on the FBI computer database used for gun purchases, with the result that 2.7 million people should be barred from buying guns for that reason but only 90,000 are. And in Hawera, New Zealand, a 25-year-old sex worker ("Brooke") at a massage parlor set the town abuzz in July by advertising that she (who recently gave birth) would (presumably for an additional fee) allow her customers to consume her nutritious breast milk; the director of the local breastfeeding advocates, La Leche League, said she was concerned that Brooke's baby was getting short-changed.

The Litigious Society

-- Omorotu Francis Ayovuare, 55, a professional surveyor from Nigeria, has filed 72 employment discrimination complaints against British companies in the last five years, with only two minor victories to show. According to a report in London's Daily Telegraph in June, Ayovuare has cost responding employers and the government the equivalent of nearly US$1 million to deal with him before employment tribunals. One panel ruled in 2001 that Ayovuare, who is "impressive on paper," keeps applying for jobs beyond his level of practical experience.

-- A longstanding rumor on the inner-city "street" held that the federal government actually created AIDS for the purpose of keeping African-Americans' population down and the community weak, but now a man of impressive credentials has made the accusation in court. Boyd Graves, 50, a black AIDS activist who is also a Naval Academy and law school graduate, filed the lawsuit in San Diego in July, accusing the government of illegally withholding the documents that Graves is certain will prove the government engineered the whole thing and is suppressing the cure.

-- The family of teenager Amy Woods, who was left brain-damaged when hit by a car seven years ago in Springfield, Mass., will finally get to trial in their lawsuit, which names not only the driver who hit her but also a driver who didn't. Roger O'Neil, a repairman for the NYNEX telephone company, had just stopped on a residential street and courteously motioned Woods and a friend to cross in front of him, but as soon as Woods cleared O'Neil's van, a less courteous driver smashed into her. Woods' family said that if a driver wants to be courteous, he must be responsible for knowing that crossing the street would be safe.

Courtroom Follies

-- Juries of Their Peers: In June, a judge in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, rejected the request of a 15-year-old boy, on trial for beating another teenager to death, for a jury composed entirely of teenagers. At the other end of the spectrum, a 13-year-old boy, on trial in April in Inverness, Fla., for fondling a classmate, demanded that he be tried as an adult in front of an adult jury. (He was quickly convicted). And in Santa Ana, Calif., in June, Antonio Nunez, 16, convicted for violent crimes (kidnapping, shooting at police) that he committed at age 14, was sentenced as an adult to five life terms (one of them without possibility of parole) plus 121 years.

-- Rap as a Second Language: In a June copyright infringement case, British High Court judge Kim Lewison ruled against the composer of the 2001 song "Burnin'," explaining that he could not help Lewison because he did not know what certain lyrics meant (such as "shizzle my nizzle"). The lyrics, said the judge, although written in a form of English, were "for practical purposes a foreign language" and therefore, he could not be sure whether the borrowed use of the lyrics impugned them.


Several times since 1999 News of the Weird has run stories of incidents in which someone telephones the manager of a fast-food restaurant claiming to be a police officer and asks the manager to strip-search one of the employees while the caller listens to the episode on the phone. (Police later concluded that the calls were hoaxes for sexual gratification.) In July, police in Panama City, Fla., arrested supermarket supervisor James Marvin Pate, 36, on the complaint of a local woman who reported a similar situation. At least one of the calls in the previous incidents (in Wisconsin, North Dakota, Montana, Indiana and West Virginia) had been traced to a telephone in Panama City, but there were no suspects in those cases until Pate's arrest.

The District of Calamity (continued)

The District of Columbia government's inspector general reported in April that D.C.'s child-support office had been sitting on nearly $3 million in long-overdue, already-collected distributions to custodial parents and that several ranking officials in the office had long known about the delay (a problem apparently caused by incomplete records in "thousands" of cases). (Roscoe Grant, the deputy director of child-support enforcement in the District, himself resisted supporting two out-of-wedlock children until ordered by courts in 1998 and, regarding a 20-year-old son, 2002.)

Bad Boys! Bad Boys!

In June, a federal judge unsealed the results of an investigation into Pennsylvania State Police misconduct, listing 89 incidents, including one involving a trooper in Rockview, Pa., who was accused of defecating on another trooper at a party, of inserting a carrot into his rear end and eating part of it, then passing gas and shooting the carrot out. And in July, New York City's deputy police commissioner, Frederick J. Patrick, was arrested and charged with taking $113,000 from an office charity fund and using it to pay jailed inmates to make calls to sex hotlines, which Patrick then allegedly listened in on for his own gratification.

Least Justifiable Homicides

Recent Provocations Leading to Murder: (1) Wouldn't give him back his New York Yankees cap (Kenneth Ware, 45, allegedly stabbed his brother to death, Brooklyn, N.Y., July). (2) Parked his truck on top of a man's septic tank and wouldn't move it (Chad Landreth, allegedly shot the driver to death, Samsula, Fla., June). (3) Argued over who should feed the couple's goats (Pearl Lynne Smith, 47, allegedly shot her husband to death, Eldon, Okla., June).

Also, in the Last Month ...

Norway repealed its law that barred intoxicated persons from voting in elections. And Justice Barrington Black had to recuse himself from a "dangerous dog" case when he learned that his own dog appears in the background in a video for the defense, frolicking in a park with the defendant-dog (London, England). And Cambodian police detained (on a charge unrelated to hygiene) a prominent, 81-year-old Buddhist guru who has preached for 60 years that religious purity requires that no water ever touch his skin or hair (Phnom Penh).

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or or go to

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

More like News of the Weird