News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF JULY 17, 2005


The Jordan River, considered by believers to have been the gateway to the Garden of Eden (and by Christians to have been where Jesus was baptized), is now more than 50 percent raw sewage and agricultural runoff, according to a Middle East conservation group spokesman interviewed by Reuters in June. Together, Israel, Jordan and Syria have diverted away from the river (and then treated) about 90 percent of the water flow over the years for their own uses, though part of Jordan's diversion was to create a clean-water baptismal site for pilgrims (some of whom, nonetheless, still bathe in the greenish, polluted part).

Police Blotter

-- In an early-morning shootout on June 4 in the Homewood housing complex in Pittsburgh, two undercover officers and suspect Keith Carter, 19, exchanged a total of at least 103 gunshots and missed every single time. (On the other hand, in March, Regina Jones-Peoples, 30, of Warren, Ohio, survived 18 gunshots, from her neck to her legs, allegedly by her estranged husband, Marcus Jones, 29, on whom police issued an arrest warrant.)

-- In the course of a traffic stop on Interstate 70 in Kingdom City, Mo., in June, Missouri Highway Patrol officers found a 3-foot-long rocket with an electric launcher, attached to an elaborate system of pulleys in the trunk of the car of two men, Michael Ray Sullivan, 41, and Joseph C. Seidl, 39. The rocket, which could probably be triggered from the driver's seat, was found stuffed with methamphetamine, with more (totaling about $145,000 worth) in pipes alongside. The patrolmen who arrested the pair believe the contraption was for quick disposal of their inventory if they got cornered.

Government in Action

-- Ireland's justice ministry proposed rules changes for its prison system in June, banning such "inhumane" treatments as restricted diets and corporal punishment. On the other hand, among the current practices that would soon be prohibited are inmates' bringing in their own furniture, hiring maids, and ordering food and alcoholic beverages, according to a dispatch from Dublin published in The Australian.

-- Officials in Montgomery County, Md., regard the feathery green plant called the mugwort as a weed, an "alien invasive plant," and periodically lament its presence in the county's parks, according to a June Washington Post report. However, local Koreans, who call the plant "souk," consider it a delicacy in seafood soup and rice cakes, and have eagerly been digging it out of the parks for free, except that it is illegal to remove anything, even weeds, from the parks. Consequently, according to the Post, county officials have simultaneously undertaken (a) a pilot program to see if goats could be trained to root out unwanted flora and (b) a stepped-up program to convince the Koreans to obey the law against removing mugwort.

-- In May, Councilman Manfred Juraczka in Vienna, Austria, proposed, in order to alleviate the city's growing problem with pet droppings, to collect DNA samples from all registered dogs so that the soilers can be identified and their owners fined. According to an Associated Press report, a similar proposal was made in Dresden, Germany, in March, and News of the Weird reported another, in 1996, in the English village of Bruntingthorpe, which at the time had a population of 200 people and 30 dogs. (Vienna has about 50,000 registered dogs.)

News That Sounds Like a Joke

(1) The support group for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Nelson, New Zealand, announced that it would support in principle the illness-publicizing International Awareness Day on May 12 even though its members would probably not participate in the commemorative activities because they are often too tired for such things. (2) The Rotary Club of Chatham, New Brunswick, announced in May that the grand prize in its raffle to help build a new environmental awareness center would be a Hummer. (3) Federal agents who were interviewing Gerald T. Williams, 34, about possible child pornography at his home in St. Louis, said that in the course of the interview, a screen saver featuring child-sex images happened to appear on Williams's computer. (Williams pleaded guilty in June.)

First Things First

Juan M. Puliddo-Castaneda, 24, was arrested just as he was preparing to play a round at the Anchorage (Alaska) Golf Course on June 11. Police said he had just moments before caused a two-car collision that sent five people to the hospital (but not Puliddo-Castaneda, who walked away). Puliddo-Castaneda's passengers said he was speeding because he said he had to make his tee time. And, in June, describing the moments immediately after a serious auto collision the month before on Interstate 4 near Plant City, Fla., victim Tracy Palmer (ankle shattered, lip impaled on her teeth, according to a Tampa Tribune story) said she could hear tires rolling inches from her head as other motorists crept through the four-car wreck in order to be on their way. "People were actually driving between us (victims)," she said.

Questionable Judgments

-- An 82-year-old man who had locked himself out of his still-running car in Glen Burnie, Md., in June, was hospitalized with first- and second-degree burns after attempting to siphon gasoline from the car using an electric vacuum cleaner (a spark from which ignited gasoline vapors). He told police that he wanted to force the engine to stop by removing the rest of the gasoline.

-- In June, community leaders in a largely gay neighborhood in Toronto unveiled a 13-foot-high statue of Alexander Wood, one of their historical heroes, who according to legend had been pressured out of town in the early 1800s over a sex scandal. As the story goes, magistrate Wood, investigating a heterosexual rape in which the victim claimed to have scratched her attacker's genitals, rounded up numerous suspects and zealously examined each for such a scratch. Hence, the statue features a 5-foot-tall image of Wood, seated, "inspecting" a standing man with his trousers down.

Names in the News

A Springfield, Ill., lawyer was unsuccessful in his petition to the judge to have his client tried for DUI-reckless homicide under a false name (in that the jury just could not be fair if it knew her real name, which is Doris Lush, and in fact, she was convicted) (May). Another woman who might have a similar problem: Denise Coke, 25, charged with possession of 33 pounds of cocaine (Roseville, Mich., May). Not so troubled: Mr. Emmanuel Innocent, charged with attempted murder in a bar fight (Ottawa, Ontario, May).

Recurring Themes

"Fool for a client" Timothy Daniel, 25, who had fired his lawyer and defended himself on a murder charge in Columbus, Ohio, was found not guilty by a jury in May (though the judge sentenced him to five years in prison for being a felon in possession of a gun). (News of the Weird reported in 2003 that Jonathan Harris, representing himself, not only beat a murder rap in Philadelphia, but also prevailed as his own counsel in two felony trials, and then taunted the prosecutor for threatening to bring additional charges.)

Fetishes on Parade

(1) In the course of accusing her estranged boyfriend of killing her miniature collie in New York City in March, according to the New York Post, a woman said the man was fond of having the dog watch while the couple had sex. (2) In the course of investigating sex-crime charges against former Citrus County, Fla., judge Gary Graham, investigators said a former girlfriend reported that Graham was fond of having her dress as a little girl, with hair in pigtails and freckles painted on her face, according to a May Tampa Tribune story.

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