News of the Weird

Week of June 13, 2004


Several George W. Bush-supporting punk rock bands have gained prominence in the United States recently to challenge the generally assumed dominance of rock music by political liberals, according to a May dispatch from New York by BBC News, which reported that bands such as Gotham Road and Bouncing Souls "are not raging against the machine, they are raging for it." A Rolling Stone writer attributed the upsurge to conservatives' general pugnaciousness, but one maven of "conservative punk" laid it to Republicans' and punk's joint "emphasis on personal responsibility."

Things That Are Not As They Seem

(1) After a 10-year study with a global positioning satellite system (reported in February), researchers at England's Oxford University concluded that homing pigeons do not get their bearings from the sun, as previously thought, but rather just follow roads and highways home. (2) Mr. Jian Feng, of Hegang in northern China, suspicious when his wife gave birth to a baby he regarded as seriously ugly, got her to admit that, though she was not adulterous, she had herself been seriously ugly before she met Jian, but had had major plastic surgery in South Korea and now did not much resemble her genetic look. (Even so, Jian divorced her and in May sued her for fraud.)


The Miami Herald reported in April that BellSouth called state Rep. Julio Robaina three times by cell phone on the floor of the Florida legislature during debate on a massive telephone rate increase and ordered him to abandon his Democratic Party cohorts and vote for it; BellSouth had influence with Robaina because for the nine months a year that the Florida legislature is not in session, Robaina is an installer for BellSouth, and he was described as close to tears at BellSouth's lobbying. And in Tennessee in January, state Sen. John Ford, faced with a claim for increased child support from the mother of his 9-year-old daughter, formally challenged the constitutionality of the state's child-support rules; however, among the rules challenged were those ushered through the state General Assembly last year by Sen. John Ford.

Unclear on the Concept

-- In March in Hartford, Conn., Rebecca Messier, who was convicted with her husband, Joseph, in 1998 of giving $8,500 to a prosecutor to get a lenient sentence, petitioned in Superior Court to get her $8,500 back. And Jeffrey Cameron Fitzhenry, 17, was arrested in Palm Desert, Calif., in May after walking into a clinic with a 9 mm handgun and shooting his girlfriend because she was about to abort his baby.

-- In February and May, respectively, Father Paul Shanley and Father Robert Meffan were finally defrocked by the Catholic Church for having had sexual relationships with boys (Shanley) and nun-recruits (Meffan), starting in the 1960s, according to church records. Included in the church's actions were notifications that the men are now officially "dismissed from the obligation of clerical celibacy." (Shanley is still scheduled to stand trial in Massachusetts, though most of his alleged activities are protected by the statute of limitations.)

Police Blotter

-- Robert Hesketh was acquitted of drunk-driving in Chilliwack, British Columbia, in March because police were actually too zealous in getting him a lawyer. After arresting Hesketh, Constable Rick Murray asked him several times if he wanted a lawyer, but Hesketh each time refused, until Murray himself called one on Hesketh's behalf. Only after the lawyer and Hesketh talked did police administer a breathalyzer test, and Judge John Lenaghan ruled that that was too much of a delay and tossed out the test's results.

-- From a police report quoted in Seattle's newsweekly The Stranger (April 29): "(A) witness stated that he and another witness watched the suspect walk up to several different men (at the University Book Store on the University of Washington campus), get on his knees, and sniff their anuses. He would then lean forward as though he was getting a book off the lower shelf. (One witness) also said that when one male got up from a bench and walked away, the suspect walked over and started smelling the area where the male had been sitting. When the witnesses confronted the suspect about the incidents, the suspect said, 'Sometimes I forget myself and get carried away.'"

-- The May robber of a Bank of America branch in St. Mary, Fla. (near Orlando) was still at large at press time, but police released the surveillance tape showing the man in a bright Hawaiian print shirt, holding his newly acquired stash to his lips and kissing it, before making his getaway.

Least Competent Criminals

Thinking Outside the Box: Teresa Jones Smith, 44, was arrested in Lexington, N.C., in January after trying to spring her incarcerated boyfriend, Roger Johnson, from jail. According to deputies, Smith, who had been seated across from Johnson at a visiting room bench, was found with a mini blowtorch and other tools trying to cut through the Plexiglas shield that separates prisoners from visitors, but more smoke was created than she was prepared for.


News of the Weird reported in 2002 and 2003 on ever-more-daring exploits of "extreme ironing" athletes, who set up boards and press creases under competitively difficult circumstances, such as while sailboarding or bouncing on a trampoline. Several British "ironists" made a publicity tour of the United States in May in their campaign to make their obsession an Olympic sport. (Events are now judged at 120 points each, half of which is based on the quality of the pressing.) Founder Phil Shaw said he got the idea one day in 1997 when he faced a load of wrinkled shirts and thought he would be less bored if he hooked up a long extension cord and ironed while he went rock-climbing.

Unsuccessful Darwin Award Attempts

An 18-year-old man survived (but was in critical condition) after losing at a variation of Russian roulette (six open cans of Mountain Dew, one spiked with antifreeze) at a party (Princeton, W.Va., May). A high school student survived (at one time in critical condition, bleeding from the mouth) after drinking an unidentified chemistry-lab substance in order to win a $2 bet (Odessa, Texas, May). And Fidel Cueva, 41, survived with only scrapes and bruises after he bailed out of an emergency window of a Greyhound bus, at 55 mph, in the fast lane of California's 101 freeway at rush hour because the bus, an "express," had just bypassed his stop. (Ventura, Calif., May).

More Things to Worry About

After an investigation, the FBI concluded that a motion sensor found on the tracks near Philadelphia's 30th Street rail station just after the Madrid train bombings was not related to terrorism but was put there by a employee trying to sleep on the job but worried about a supervisor catching him. And just as gasoline prices cleared $2 a gallon in May, Minnesota's Commerce Department levied a $70,000 fine against Murphy Oil Co.'s 10 stations for charging too low a price. (A 2001 state law requires that dealers make at least 8 cents a gallon profit.)

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

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