News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF JUNE 5, 2005


The agency that oversees Spain's stock market announced that it will implement a rule starting in July to require each director of an exchange-listed company to disclose not just names of family members but of any other "affectionate relationship," straight or gay, that the director may have. The purpose is to help monitor insider trading. (Also, in Nanjing, China, municipal officials were ordered in May to disclose any extramarital affairs, as a way of reducing officials' payoffs to mistresses, according to Xinhua news agency.)

Can't Possibly Be True

-- Aberdeen, Wash., fourth-grader Tyler Stoken was suspended in May for a week for balking, on a statewide test, at composing a short essay on what would happen if, one day at school, you "see your principal flying by a window." Tyler, reportedly a good student, said he thought any passage he wrote would be making fun of the principal, which he refused to do. The principal subsequently viewed that as insubordination (perhaps because it also lowered the school's overall score) and suspended Tyler, but the superintendent later apologized.

-- Official guidelines issued in May by Britain's Joint Council on Qualifications, directed to agencies that administer high school and junior-high standardized tests, call for students to receive extra points on the test if they have experienced pre-exam stress due to selected circumstances: death of a parent or close relative (up to 5 percent extra), death of other relative (up to 4 percent), death of pet (2 percent if on exam day, 1 percent if the day before), witnessing a distressing event on exam day (up to 3 percent), just-broken arm or leg (up to 3 percent), headache (1 percent).

-- Among the most striking federal government "pork" grants funded in November was $1.5 million for a new bus stop (several times more than the typical cost) in front of the Anchorage (Alaska) Museum of History and Art. To replace the current kiosk, the city's transportation director said he imagines a generous upgrade, including perhaps a heated sidewalk to deal with the snow: "We have a senator (Ted Stevens) who gave us that money, and I certainly won't want to appear ungrateful."


-- An undercover sheriff's deputy (whose name was not disclosed in a May news report) filed a lawsuit recently against the Florida Hospital in Orlando because, he said, when he went for a shot of pain medication in his hip in October 2000, he was injected instead with what appeared to be cosmetic makeup glitter. The deputy said a four-inch mass was removed and appeared to contain specks of green and red sparkle, and that pain at the site continues.

-- Police in Springfield, Ore., charged Pamela Ann Hemphill, 51, with theft in April after she allegedly snatched neighbor Walter Merritt's Charles Schulz-signed, original Peanuts cartoon strip, locked herself in a bathroom, removed her clothes, got under the shower, wet the cardboard thoroughly, and finally flushed the pieces down the toilet. Hemphill declined to explain; Merritt said he had no clue as to motive; and the Springfield News reporter has not yet followed up on the story.

Suspicions Confirmed

(1) The Florida Supreme Court in March disbarred attorney David A. Barrett for violating the state's professional conduct code, including paying for an assistant to attend a chaplain's course at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital in order to offer prayers in the rooms of accident victims and solicit business for Barrett. (2) In County Cork, Ireland, in December, Dane Ring, 13, was suspended from school for two days after he ignored what schoolboys know is the cardinal rule of bodily functions, which is to never admit that you're the person, in a crowded room, who just passed gas.

Unclear on the Concept

-- (1) A man identified as David Connor (by Boston police) or Timothy Connor (by Providence, R.I., police) was arrested after allegedly robbing the Beacon Hill Wine and Spirits in Boston in April of about $1,000, and according to the surveillance video, he appeared to ask for a head start of "60 seconds" before police were called and then to shake the clerk's hand as if cementing the agreement. (2) In May, Jim Stelling, the Republican Party chairman in Seminole County, Fla., won a lawsuit for defamation against an intraparty official who had accused him of being married six times, which Stelling said he found particularly insulting, since he "believe(s) in family values." Stelling said he has been married only five times. (The judge ruled that Stelling was not defamed enough for money damages.)

-- Among official job-title changes implemented by the Scottsdale, Ariz., school district this year, according to a February Arizona Republic report, were those for receptionist (now, "director of first impressions") and school bus driver (now, "transporter of learners"). Said Superintendent John Baracy, "This is to make a statement about what we value in the district. We value learning." Said the new first-impressions director, "I think it's classy. Everyone wants to be important."

News That Sounds Like A Joke

(1) In April, police in Buffalo, N.Y., said Thomas L. Hunter, 55, ran off with a case of brandy from the Eastside Liquor store, but during the getaway, he dropped the case, and bottles shattered. He was arrested when he returned to the scene of the spill and started sucking up brandy with a straw. (2) At a train station in Ogori, Japan, in May, a seeing-eye dog apparently misunderstood a spoken command and led a blind couple off of a platform and tumbling onto the tracks. The couple and the dog had been headed for a workshop for assistance dogs.

Creme de la Weird

Four former patients of clinical psychologist Letitia Libman sued Delnor-Community Hospital in Geneva, Ill., in March and April for malpractice, including claims that Libman's hospital treatments for neurological disorders included tarot cards, love potions, DNA-based hexes, and patient nudity and self-mutilation. Libman also allegedly bragged of her travels among space aliens. In May, the lawsuits were amended to include Libman herself as a defendant, a move that the plaintiffs initially resisted because they feared Libman's witchy retribution.

Recurring Themes

-- Former caddie Gary Robinson recently filed a lawsuit against pro golfer Ms. Jackie Gallagher-Smith, claiming he was made an "unwitting sperm donor" in their brief romance since he believes it was he who fathered her child born in March. His lawsuit is for intentional infliction of emotional distress, which is the same claim that has been successful in the early stages of another lawsuit, reported in News of the Weird in March, in which a male doctor in Chicago sued a female doctor who had his child during their affair. (Gallagher-Smith maintained that her husband is the father, and DNA tests cannot be forced on a married woman in Gallagher-Smith's home state of Florida.)

-- Most of the seemingly inexhaustible telephone harassers reported in News of the Weird through the years have been Japanese men and woman, scorned in love or business, but American Timothy John Campbell, 45, was arrested in Atlantic, Iowa, in May and charged with stalking a woman by, among other tactics, telephoning her as many as 3,000 times a month. The victim was a waitress at a bar patronized by Campbell but said she ignored his overtures.

Least Competent Criminals

Police in Hackettstown, N.J., charged Juan Vargas, 29, with public intoxication at a Dunkin Donuts shop after spotting him speaking into his wallet as if it were a cell phone (February). And in Danbury, N.H., in March, Steven Metallic, 39, was arrested after a two-hour standoff in which he filled his mother's home with propane gas and threatened to blow it up. Metallic finally fell for a police ruse when they pretended to leave; officers who remained behind captured Metallic tiptoeing out of the house.

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