News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



In July, film director David Lynch announced that he had formed a foundation to raise $7 billion to fund 8,000 Transcendental Meditation practitioners to bring world peace by creating a "unified field" of stress-free brain waves over the Earth (which TM'ers accomplish, as they unironically describe it, by detaching their minds from the "thinking process"). Training expenses have increased dramatically in 12 years, for TM maven Dr. John Hagelin needed only $4.2 million in 1993 to bring 4,000 TM'ers to Washington, D.C., to reduce crime for eight weeks, and TM founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi asked for only $1 billion in 2002 to train 40,000 meditators to calm the world after Sept. 11.


-- In separate incidents on Tuesday, July 26, mothers in Falls Church, Va., and Zephyrhills, Fla., kicked their young sons (ages 4 and 7, respectively) out of their cars on busy highways and abandoned them as punishment for backtalk. Channoah Alece Green, 22, in Virginia even knocked her son down driving off on Interstate 495 as he tried to climb back in. The problem addressed by Lori Heine, 46, in Florida was that her son wanted a McDonald's Cheeseburger Happy Meal when she had already bought him a McNuggets Happy Meal.

-- In incidents two weeks apart in July, men in New York City and Trenton, Ohio, arrived for Internet-chat-room-arranged trysts with "teenage girls" (who were, of course, police officers operating stings), even though they apparently could not find baby sitters. Alan Schaefer, 43, was arrested in Greenwich Village while walking down a street with his 14-month-old son in one arm and holding the hand of a very young-looking policewoman. Would-be Clinton Township, Ohio, politician Hank Hill was arrested when he showed up to meet a "14-year-old girl," and according to WEWS-TV, in his truck were Viagra, condoms, lubricant and his 22-month-old son.

-- In Brentwood, N.H., on July 30, police responded to an emergency call to find an intoxicated man with a padlock around his scrotum. He was taken to Exeter Hospital, and a locksmith freed him. And the day before that, in Worcester, England, Geoffrey Hughes, 51, was given a two-year "anti-social behavior order" in Magistrates Court for a series of incidents, one of which was appearing in public wearing only a hat and, on his scrotum, a padlock.

Government in Action

-- For a six-month period four years ago, government scientists in Florida studied a "miracle" liquid called "Celestial Drops" as a cure for the canker menace that ravages the state's citrus crops. According to a July report by the Orlando Sentinel, the research was recommended by then-secretary of state Katherine Harris, who later said she had learned of Celestial Drops from New York rabbi Abe Hardoon, who is associated with the popularized version of Kabbalah, whose organizers sell its followers ordinary water that is supposedly "blessed" by being stored in a room with sacred texts. Celestial Drops, which was promoted as having "improved fractal design," "infinite levels of order" and "high energy and low entropy," was ultimately revealed by the scientists to also be water.

-- In May, a Philadelphia Daily News columnist described a cattle-call-type ritual at the local airport Sheraton hotel, by which most of the candidates for the city's judgeships in that month's Democratic primary shuffled into a room and offered checks of $1,000 or $2,000 to each of the city's ward leaders for "election day expenses," with each leader accepting the checks of those he would support. At a similar gathering at the Ritz-Carlton, one candidate said, "I thought to myself, 'What if we all just walked out. Refused to pay.' But none of us had the courage."

Artists Who Actually Went Too Far

The Thames Water company succeeded in pressuring artist Mark McGowan to abandon his project at the House Gallery in south London in July in which, to protest society's profligate use of water, he turned on House's faucet and planned not to turn it off for a year (wasting an estimated 3.9 million gallons). And in Chicago, it was only a couple of days after photographer Kerry Skarbakka announced his "Falling" project that he was pressured into abandoning it. Skarbakka said he was awed by the sight of people falling or jumping from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and said he would, in tribute, repeatedly plunge four stories from Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art (but was quickly excoriated for poor taste).


-- Reuters reported in July that a court in Macerata, Italy, had scheduled Amelia Cuccioletti's property-rights case for further proceedings at 9:30 a.m. on March 25, 2010. Cuccioletti is 98 years old. (The average civil case runs about eight years in Italy.) And in London in May, lawyer Nicholas Stadlen finally came to the end of his opening remarks for the defense in a creditors' lawsuit against the failed BCCI bank. He spoke for 119 days and referred to files stacked so high that neither side's lawyers could see each other. The plaintiff's lawyer had taken only 73 days.

-- In July, a jury in Los Angeles awarded Robert Johnson, the former "chief physician and surgeon" at California State Prison at Lancaster, $1.6 million in compensatory damages for age discrimination after he had been forced to retire in 2001 at age 80. Most of that award represents future salary for Johnson, signifying that the jury perhaps accepted trial testimony that Johnson was fit to continue in his job until the age of 96.

Least Competent People

Adam Tyson, 18, Jason Krueger, 20, and two pals were hospitalized in Clermont, Fla., in July with severe bee stings after imprudently deciding to vandalize a beehive colony in an orange grove; their truck got stuck in the sand just after they had set 50,000 bees swarming. And in July in Sparta, Wis., Darkalena Large, 43, insisted that she and her car were fine, but police arrested her anyway on suspicion of drunk driving after finding her in the car, which was stuck on a curb with one tire missing and the wheel's rim badly mangled (and recently on fire, according to a witness). Also, a nearby resident brought over part of the rim, which had been broken off and propelled into the air and through his second-floor window.

Recurring Themes

Among the more astonishing repeat stories in News of the Weird are reports of people who had somehow managed to swallow their toothbrushes. The Saudi Press Association reported in January that doctors at King Abdul Aziz Hospital in Taif had removed a toothbrush from the stomach of a 70-year-old man (who claimed to have accidentally swallowed it 22 years ago). And in July, the Associated Press reported that a Taiwan surgeon had removed an eight-tooth, accidentally swallowed lower denture from the bronchial tube of a 45-year-old man. The man said he had misplaced the denture three years ago and had been looking everywhere for it.

Least Justifiable Homicides

Erik K. Low, 37, was convicted of manslaughter in Salt Lake City in June for fatally shooting a friend who had just moments before given him a "wedgie." And Judy Castillo-Thomas, 29, was actually acquitted of manslaughter in July in Brooklyn, N.Y., even though she admitted accidentally stabbing her husband to death after he had beat her and taunted her for having buttocks that were "too small."

The Continuing Crisis

-- London's Sunday Times reported in July that Prime Minister Blair had spent the equivalent of about $3,300 on makeup and makeup artists over the last six years, and according to campaign disclosure statements reported by the Boston Globe in May, U.S. Rep. Steve Lynch of Massachusetts spent $2,506 on makeup services only in the previous eight months.

CORRECTION: In a story two weeks ago, I mistakenly attributed to "a Toyota spokesman" the recognition of lower-quality workforce experiences of Honda and Nissan in the U.S. South (compared to Ontario, where Toyota had chosen to open its new plant despite having been offered higher subsidies by Alabama and Mississippi). Actually, the comment was made by an executive of an automobile trade association, and I apologize to readers for the error.

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