You Might Want to Do Your Shoplifting Elsewhere: Increasingly, police departments and government offices (customs agencies, NASA, even the FBI) rely on state-of-the-art investigation support from the Target Corp. (as in Target department stores), according to a January Washington Post report. Target's world-class forensics lab in Minneapolis is the first choice by many departments for examination of surveillance tapes and other evidence, and it was Target in the mid-1990s that finally moved agencies to coordinate previously incompatible databases of criminals (treating the felon population as a nationwide "inventory control" problem). A Target executive said he works for "a high-tech company masquerading as a retailer."
Government in Action
-- During President Bush's recent trip to India, 17 Secret Service Labradors and German shepherds accompanying him (each with its own police "rank," such as "lieutenant") were housed in five-star hotels in Delhi, according to local press stories (but Delhi police dogs, assisting in the same missions, went home to kennels). Faring less well was one of the three teams of search-and-rescue dogs assigned to find Hurricane Katrina victims, which had to be sent home in March because of a hotel-booking snafu, for which FEMA and Louisiana officials blamed each other.
-- How to Be a Police Department: In California, a police department can be created if a local government gives a transportation contract to a private company, automatically empowering that company to hire its own cops, who, though not allowed to make arrests, can carry guns, access police databases, and receive government anti-terrorist grants. The law achieved notoriety in February when Internet millionaire Stefan Eriksson's Ferrari crashed in Malibu, and he later made confusing statements, including the revelation that he is the "deputy commissioner" of the "San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority" police, a post he acquired by starting a modest bus service for the elderly.
-- Questionable Policies: (1) The Wood Methodist Church was informed in March by the town council in Dudley, England, that it owed an "advertising fee" of the equivalent of about $130 to put up a cross. (Town regulations specify that a "cross" is an ad for Christianity.) (2) In March, Apache County, N.M., contracted to pay up to $100,000 to a former Arizona attorney general to investigate Apache's sheriff, Brian Hounshell, who, after an exhaustive previous investigation (whose cost was not revealed), was accused of misspending $8,000 of taxpayer money.
The publisher Powerhouse Books (and its imprint Rosen Editions) is preparing for the imminent release of photographer Ellen Jong's "Pees on Earth," a series of shots of Jong urinating in prominent public spots around the world. Jong is a mainstream professional whose non-urinary work has appeared in Vogue and other publications.
Signs of the Times
-- Cheaters on the Rise: (1) In March, students at Mount Saint Vincent University in Bedford, Nova Scotia, persuaded the administration to prohibit professors from using any plagiarism-detecting aid, to avoid (said the student union president) a "culture of mistrust." (2) Students at Banja Luka University in Bosnia-Herzogovina protested in February the economics faculty's decision to install surveillance cameras during exams. "Cheating in exams," said one student, "is a part of our Balkan mentality, and it will take years to change students' (attitudes)."
-- In March, New York Times fashion writers noted that the decision of several designers to shroud runway models' faces in various ways during the annual Paris Fashion Week in February and March surely must be sending some message. Among the devices designers used: masks (making some models resemble "Hannibal Lecter in drag," according to one critic), woven basket-like coverings and burqa-type swaddling. Guesses on designers' motives included a reflection of general world gloom; tributes to the plight of Muslim women; and designers' fear of beautiful faces' distracting from their designs.
Fine Points of the Law
(1) In February, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that the neck is a "sexual or intimate (part)" and thus that a forcible kiss there is a felonious touching that allows sentencing the offender to life in prison under the state's "three strikes" rule. (2) Also in February, a Florida appeals court upheld a jury's simultaneous findings that Nicholas Cappalo was not guilty by reason of insanity in the burglary of a home in May 2002, but guilty and sane during the ensuing getaway, in which he led sheriff's deputies on a 15-mile, high-speed chase.
People Different From Us
Former major league baseball all-star Darren Daulton, 44, told the Philadelphia Daily News in February that in retirement, he understands dimensions of reality that few of his fellow Earthlings know. He first experienced his extraordinary power after delivering a game-winning hit in the 1990s and breaking into tears after the game, discovering that "I didn't hit that ball. Something happened, but it wasn't me." Later, Daulton said, he was "awakened" to realms beyond those covered by the five senses. Things will become clearer on Dec. 12, 2012, at 11:11 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, he said, because that's when the world will end.
Least Competent People
(1) A 27-year-old woman was arrested in League City, Texas, in February after police discovered her 6-year-old daughter wandering around her empty school yard on a Saturday morning. The woman said she dropped the kid off, as usual, but that she was distracted and didn't realize it was Saturday. (2) Prominent neuroscientist Louis A. Gottschalk, still professionally active at age 89, lost about $3 million of his family trust over a 10-year period to Nigerian e-mail scammers, according to his son, who wants an Orange County, Calif., judge to remove his father as the estate's administrator. In fact, Dr. Gottschalk has continued to pay money on another scam because the new recipients are "different Nigerians," according to the son's description of a conversation with his father.
In 2003, News of the Weird told the inspirational story of "Star Trek" fanatic Tony Alleyne, who was trying to sell his small apartment in Leistershire, England, for the equivalent of about $1.7 million, after having converted it to a finely detailed model of the starship Enterprise (with transporter control, warp core drive, voice-activated lighting and security, infinity mirror, etc.). In February 2006, Alleyne, weary of the lack of buyer interest, filed for bankruptcy and moved to his Plan B: to gut his "Enterprise" and redesign the place as the bridge of the Voyager (from the later Star Trek series), which he will offer at a lower price.
On Feb. 23, a woman asked a clerk at the Get Go! convenience store in McKeesport, Pa., to "microwave something for me. It's a life-or-death situation." The clerk complied, but when she realized that the item might be a severed penis, she called police. The woman later explained that it was a dildo-shaped container of urine because she had to be drug-tested for a job afterward and needed urine heated to "body temperature." Unexplained still in subsequent press accounts was why she stored the urine in that type of device. She was charged with criminal mischief (for contaminating a microwave food oven).
Twice in a two-week period, couples were found asphyxiated and enjoined in sexual positions in cars whose engines had been running in closed garages. A New York City couple, ages 28 and 21, who had been dating about a month, died in March, and a Milwaukee, Wis., couple, ages 23 and 17, died in February in a car whose engine had quit (though still with plenty of gas) because the concentration of carbon monoxide had prevented oxygen intake to the engine.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600