News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF APRIL 15, 2007


Doug Guetzloe, one of central Florida's most prominent political operatives (and a subject of investigations by the Florida Elections Commission and a highway agency in Orlando), had long eluded criminal charges by denying any knowledge of unethical activities that prosecutors were sure he was involved in. However, late last year, Guetzloe missed a payment on his rental storage locker, and 50 boxes of his personal and professional records were seized and auctioned for $10 to a curious citizen, who then gave them to Orlando's WKMG-TV, which had several earlier investigations of Guetzloe still pending. Based on early readings of the storage-locker papers, Guetzloe was indicted for felony perjury in March, and the case continues.

People With Issues

A federal appeals court in March turned down Ruth Parks' challenge to her re-election loss in 2001 as the recorder-treasurer of Horseshoe Bend, Ark., which she blamed on a conspiracy by the mayor and police chief. The court concluded that voters, not a conspiracy, had defeated her, perhaps because of the prominence of her belief in UFOs and the conflicting views of her and her husband as to whether she personally had ever been abducted by aliens: She said she hadn't, but her husband said she had, many times, and that the aliens had left scars.

Latest Rights

-- Di Yerbury, the retiring vice chancellor of Australia's Macquarie University, is embroiled in a dispute with her successor over her spending habits, leading the successor to seize 1,000 pieces of art that Yerbury tried to take with her as she left. She has asserted that many of the works she had on display are her personal property, including a painting of a woman's derriere that she said she posed for 31 years earlier, and she offered in February to have the then-wife of the painter testify that the posterior in the painting is indeed Yerbury's.

-- Former pastor and Southern Baptist leader Lonnie Latham, who had for years prominently preached against homosexuality, was arrested outside a hotel in Oklahoma City in 2006 and charged with soliciting a lewd encounter with a man. But rather than tearfully apologize and enter rehab, Latham demanded a trial to proclaim his constitutional right to engage in consensual sex with an adult male, and in March 2007, he was acquitted.


-- (1) In January, a news crew for the Milwaukee station WDJT-TV, which was reporting a story on the danger of thin ice covering Big Muskego Lake, watched as their high-tech van's driver mistakenly drove onto the lake and broke through the ice, ruining the expensive vehicle. (2) At a fancy, catered-food affair for the World Social Forum meeting at the five-star Windsor Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, in January (where participants munched between discussion sessions on, among other topics, world hunger), street kids who normally beg for food money downtown raided the facility and picked the tables clean.

-- Mario Sims, 21, had his bail revoked, for a second time, by a judge in Racine, Wis., in March, after he cut off his electronic monitoring device and hopped into a limousine to be driven to Chicago in order to be a guest on "The Jerry Springer Show," where he announced that he will marry his soon-to-arrive baby's mother, who is Sims' half-sister. Sims was also a guest on the show last year, defending his affair with the woman.

News That Sounds Like a Joke

(1) Students from rival campus organizations at the Dawood Engineering College in Karachi, Pakistan, had fistfights and threw furniture at each other in a January confrontation over which group should get credit for putting up posters urging students not to fight on campus. (2) A condominium on New York City's Upper East Side filed a $500,000 lawsuit in February against a Subway sandwich shop on the building's first floor, complaining about "nauseating" food odors, but according to a New York Sun reporter, the dominant "smell" involved is a scent highly valued by many clear-nosed, non-New Yorkers: fresh-baked bread.

Are We Safe?

-- (1) The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general revealed in March that, although 52 teams are at work tracking down foreigners who remain in the country even after being ordered out, the agency still has a backlog of 620,000 of these fugitive aliens. (However, the inspector general also admitted that there are not enough cells to detain that many fugitives, anyway.) (2) In February, after a three-month court battle, Indian national Mohammed Yousuf Mullawala, 28, was ordered deported for submitting false documents to authorities after his visa expired. He originally attracted attention at a truck-driving school in Smithfield, R.I., where he was allegedly curious about buying dangerous chemicals. Also, while seemingly intent on learning to drive a big rig, he was reportedly uninterested in learning how to back one up.

-- In March, a 35-year-old Iraqi national was detained at Los Angeles International Airport after security workers discovered a half-inch magnet, wrapped in gum and inside a napkin, tied by a coiled wire and housed in his rectum. He was released after he convinced investigators that he is merely a practitioner of therapeutic uses of magnets. (Earlier in 2007, the medical journal The Lancet published a doctor's letter to inform security officials that patients with perianal sepsis are typically treated by inserting suture material, knotted on one end but with the other extending outside the anus, a sight that might suggest to security monitors that drugs, or explosives, were at the other end of the string.)

Least Competent Criminals

(1) Two Bulgarian nationals were arrested in San Marcos, Texas, in January after being caught allegedly robbing coin-change machines at an apartment complex, and police subsequently found apartment guides for several cities in their van, along with a half-ton of quarters ($18,700). (2) Kevin Russell, 21, was arrested in Hobart, Ind., in February when he went to a Chase Bank and tried to cash a Bank One check for $50,000. The check was signed, "King Savior, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Servant."

Recurring Themes

Traditional Chinese celebrations have been mentioned several times in News of the Weird, including the annual Tombsweeping Festival in April, which calls on people to visit relatives' graves and leave offerings that will improve the afterlives of the deceased. Actual objects (such as jewelry and money) are no longer required, as paper representations are considered just as effective. This year, according to an Agence France-Presse dispatch, paper illustrations of dancing girls will adorn many graves, along with paper "Viagra" pills (and even more questionably, paper renditions of condoms).

Compelling Explanations

-- "(Death row) is the calmest place I've ever been in," said convicted murderer Paul John Fitzpatrick in March to a judge in Largo, Fla., hoping to avoid a mere life sentence, which would place him in the general prison population. "I probably found the most peace I've ever had in my whole life (in his previous experience) on death row," he said. "It's just a hell of a lot easier ... doing time with murderers than it is with fools." (A decision was still pending at press time.)

-- In January, Georgia's devout governor, Sonny Perdue, ignored religion as the reason he supports the state's Sunday no-beer-sales law (and religion would be a constitutionally impermissible basis for the law, anyway). Rather, Perdue said, the real beauty of the Sunday law is merely to force Georgians to manage their time better, by getting everyone to finish their shopping for spirits by Saturday.

(Visit Chuck Shepherd daily at or Send your Weird News to or P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, FL 33679.)

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