News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF APRIL 24, 2005

LEAD STORY

Ivy League Blues: In March, a Princeton University graduate student in applied mathematics, Michael Lohman, was arrested, suspected by police of being the guy who has been assaulting Asian women on campus for weeks by snipping locks of their hair or by furtively doctoring their drinks with unspecified "bodily fluids" in the dining hall. And a week after that, in Rockport, Mass., a chaired professor of economics at Harvard, Martin Weitzman, was charged with larceny after a farmer said Weitzman has long been trespassing and hauling away manure for his own nearby farm, thus denying the farmer his market price of $35 per truckload.

Things People Believe

-- (1) Mr. Mamadou Obotimbe Diabikile was shot by police and arrested after his unsuccessful attempt to rob the Mali Development Bank in Bamako, Mali, in March, in part hindered by the nearly seven pounds of magic charms he was wearing to make himself invisible. (2) Musician Edna Chizema went on trial in March in Harare, Zimbabwe, for allegedly defrauding Ms. Magrate Mapfumo by convincing her to pay the equivalent of US$5,000 for Chizema to fly in four invisible mermaids (folkloric goddesses of revenge, according to the Shona people) from London to help recover Mapfumo's stolen car.

-- Kim Chan, 40, of a village in the Cambodian province of Kampot, announced in March that he had a cow that was heavenly possessed and could cure illnesses by exposure to its bodily fluids, but local official Khun Somnang immediately discounted the claim, saying, "We had a holy cow here a year and a half ago (and you) don't get two that close together."

Life Imitates Art

-- According to a February report in the Israeli daily Ma'ariv, Itzik Simkowitz is suing a pet shop owner in Beersheeba for selling him a sickly Galerita-type cockatoo (price: the equivalent of about US$2,000) that died shortly after Simkowitz got him home. As in a classic Monty Python sketch, the shop owner initially insisted that the parrot was merely lethargic and needed time to adjust to his new surroundings, but when the parrot (to use the Python dialogue) was shown to be "a late parrot," "an ex-parrot," "a stiff," and to have "joined the choir invisible," the shop owner still refused to return the money.

-- In the Stephen King novel, "Christine" was the name of the demonic car, but Christine Djordjevic of South Haven, Ind., is the owner of a car that started and drove off, unattended, in March and crashed into her neighbor's home. Police concluded that the culprit was Djordjevic's remote starter, which had been installed by the previous owner imprudently, in that, on stick-shift cars, it can work in gear.

Police Blotter

-- Fred Simunovic was charged with armed robbery of a Key West, Fla., credit union, with "armed" referring to the pitchfork he was waving (March). And a man fled after attempting to rob a shopkeeper in Central Park Plaza in Jacksonville, Ill., in January by first threatening her and then slapping her several times with a fly swatter (January).

-- William Woodard, 39, suspected by police in the Trenton, N.J., area of more than 50 burglaries, was arrested in March, and authorities said they were confident they could match him to what had become one of the "signatures" of the crime spree: random splotches of excrement at several crime scenes. In the course of the arrest, a highly nervous Woodard failed to control his bowels, and police have submitted samples for DNA testing.

Adventures in Obnoxiousness

Christopher Garcia, 46, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was turned down for unemployment benefits in March because an administrative judge found that he was properly fired by a convenience store for misconduct in that he would not stop "air drumming" on duty (using real drumsticks), causing some customers to complain of feeling threatened. And in March in Rajahmundry, India (about 300 miles south of Hyderabad), officials termed "resounding(ly) success(ful)" their tax-collection tactic of sending several teams of two drummers to stand outside the defaulters' homes and pound their instruments until the debtors paid up.

The Important Things in Life

Tony Young, 35, made the news in January in Flint, Mich., when he tried to stop the theft of his Mustang ("my pride and joy") by grabbing the spoiler and hanging on for 20 minutes as the thief drove through Flint and on two interstate highways at speeds up to 80 mph, trying to shake him off. Young still managed to call 911 on his cell phone and describe his route until police could join the chase, which ended when the driver fled on foot and was captured. (Two weeks later, "Young" was arrested and charged with breaking into a home, and police discovered that his real name is Anthony Barry and that he has served two stretches in prison.)

Creme de la Weird

Two groups of Aryan supremacists who fled Germany to establish utopias in South America were in the news recently, regarding their descendants' colonies in southern Chile ("Colonia Dignidad") and in Paraguay ("Nueva Germania"). Colonia leader Paul Schafer, 83, who reportedly commanded total obedience from his sect of 300 farmers (who remain, culturally and technologically, in the 1940s), was arrested in Argentina as a fugitive from charges of having sex with his camp's children. And prominent California musician-composer David Woodard was reported by the San Francisco Chronicle in March to be carrying musical and electronic equipment to Paraguay to reinvigorate Nueva Germania as an "Aryan vacuum in the middle of the jungle" as per composer Richard Wagner's vision of an aesthetic outpost of Germanic culture.

Least Competent People

According to police in New York City, schoolteacher Wayne Brightly, 38, who was having trouble passing the state's modest certification exam, paid a former mentor, Rubin Leitner, to take the test for him. Though Leitner is a learned man, he is also age 58, white, chubby and afflicted with the autism-like Asperger's syndrome, while Brightly is 38, black and thin. When Leitner (using the fake ID Brightly had supplied) scored high on the test, officials naturally wanted to interview Brightly to ask about his sudden brilliance, but Brightly decided to send Leitner to the meeting, instead, virtually assuring that the ruse would collapse.

Update

In March 2003, as an edgy Washington, D.C., prepared for possible domestic terrorist reactions to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, David Olaniyi and wife Reena Patel were arrested at the Capitol, where they had embarked on an "art" project consisting of Olaniyi wearing a mask and objects duct-taped to his body, resembling the appearance of a suicide bomber. (Said Olaniyi at the time, "Duct tape is a hot item in D.C. I wanted my art to reflect what was hot here.") Apparently, Olaniyi continues to believe the Capitol police had no cause to be fearful of suicide bombers, for he filed a lawsuit in March 2005 against police and FBI agents for violating his first-amendment rights by arresting him.

Unclear on the Concept

(1) A pregnant woman named Akono was quoted in a March Agence France-Presse dispatch from London during demonstrations against U.S. policy in Iraq as saying she planned to intensify her own protest by soon going on a hunger strike, reasoning that she wants "to do everything I can to make sure my child has a secure future." (2) Montana State University student Jeffrey Pumo, 21, arrested in connection with some shootings of marbles at people in February, was quoted in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle as saying, "I'm looking forward to proving my innocence on the majority of these counts."

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