News of the Weird

Week of November 29, 2009

LEAD STORY

Their Health Care Is Just Fine Without "Reform": (1) In September, the Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, along with four physicians and three surgical nurses, donated their services for delicate brain surgery on a 25-year-old silverback lowland gorilla at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. (2) Among the health-insurance upgrades demanded by Philadelphia-area transit workers and agreed to by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in November was removal of the 10-tablet-per-month rationing of Viagra and similar medications, to allow as many as 30 per month (according to a Philadelphia Daily News report). (The final contract, reportedly even more beneficial to the union, was being voted on by union members at press time.)

Inexplicable

-- For its Halloween gala, the Kings Island amusement park near Cincinnati had set up an exhibit featuring skeletons dressed to resemble, among other deceased celebrities, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ted Kennedy, Ed McMahon, TV salesman Billy Mays, Sonny Bono (his skeleton in front of a tree) and Ted Williams (his skeleton in front of a freezer). Alongside was a marker board labeled "agenda," with those names crossed off but others still listed, including Bernard Madoff and the comedian Carrot Top. (Following a WLWT-TV preview of the exhibit in September, the park quickly canceled it, with a spokesman declaring, "We were not intending to be distasteful.")

-- Robert and Roberta Masters of Prior Lake, Minn., were arrested in October and charged in connection with a series of mailbox explosions over the summer, which police say were carried out by seven teenagers who had been supplied by the couple. Police said Robert Masters bought black powder for the kids and had said it "would be a good educational tool for the kids to build pipe bombs." Roberta Masters allegedly encouraged the teens to learn on the Internet how to make pipe bombs because it would be "constructive" (but she said she had told them to be careful).

Can't Possibly Be True

-- In April, Richard Huether, the manager of the HoneyBaked Ham outlet in Cary, N.C., was shot in the stomach during a robbery of the store and hospitalized, with medical bills paid through worker compensation and his employee health benefits. In September, when his worker compensation expired (and though still at least three months away from returning to work), HoneyBaked fired him (forcing him to begin paying 100 percent of his insurance premiums and making subsequent insurance prohibitively expensive because of his new "pre-existing condition"). However, HoneyBaked human resources executive Maggie DeCan told WRAL-TV that the firing was for Huether's own good, in that it would clear the way for him to receive Social Security disability payments. Said DeCan, "We couldn't feel any worse for Rich, and we would do anything we could for him (except keep him on the payroll)."

-- Those Overhead Costs! (1) The price of gasoline for U.S. troops in Afghanistan is about $400 per gallon, according to a U.S. House subcommittee in October, citing Pentagon officials (factoring in the security necessary to bring fuel through Pakistan). (2) Patient Jim Bujalski complained to St. Anthony's Central Hospital in Littleton, Colo., in September about the cost of his prescription Plavix and Crestor tablets, which he was forced to "buy" from the hospital because it administers only drugs under its control. The Plavix was $248 each (he pays $8 at home), and his Crestor ($3 at home) was $65. The medications were part of his $58,000, one-day hospital stay.

Unclear on the Concept

-- Nurses might best treat patients who have self-cutting disorders by helping them in their endeavor, according to an October advisory from Britain's Royal College of Nursing. "Assisted self-harming" should be considered as part of nursing care plans, according to the advisory, benefiting patients by having skilled professionals at their side, for example supplying sterile blades and providing the quick stanching of blood and dressing of wounds.

-- On July 13, William Thomson, 55, feeling bad recently about having violently resisted arrest by the Salisbury, Mass., police in a drunk-driving incident in 1997, brought hot coffee to a Salisbury station house and sought symbolic forgiveness from the officers on duty. The very next day, however, Thomson was arrested again in a drunk-driving incident, and again he forcefully resisted, punching a Breathalyzer machine, threatening an officer, and attempting to flood a lock-up cell in the station house.

Chutzpah!

-- In Ogden, Utah, in October, Adam Manning, 30, accompanied his pregnant girlfriend to the McKay-Dee Hospital emergency room as she was going into labor. According to witnesses, as a nurse attended to the woman, Manning began flirting with her, complimenting the nurse's looks and giving her neck rubs. When Manning then allegedly groped the nurse's breast, she called for security, and Manning was eventually arrested and taken to jail, thus missing the birth of his child.

-- After James Cedar admitted to police that he was the one spotted peeping into his Toronto neighbor's window at night, the victim, Patricia Marshall, installed a video camera at that window to discourage him from re-offending. In September, when all parties reported to court for a final resolution of the peeping case, Cedar's lawyer served legal papers on Marshall, threatening to sue her over the camera. Since Cedar's house sits within the view outside Marshall's window, he complained that the camera could capture images through his windows and thus invades his privacy.

The Weirdo-American Community

When police in Brimfield, Ohio, stopped Jaime Aguirre, 42, for a traffic violation in October, they found some conventional photos of nude and near-nude women, but were especially surprised at a stash of x-rays and mammograms, which they supposed came from Aguirre's job as technician at an imaging center in Tiffin, Ohio. The Brimfield police chief said he believed the stash was used by Aguirre for sexual gratification, and since some of the x-rays and mammograms were of girls under the age of 18, Aguirre was charged with possession of child pornography.

Least Competent Criminals

Oops! (1) Three men and a woman from Atlantic City, N.J., were arrested in August and charged with robbing the Artisans Bank in Bear, Del. Their escape after the robbery had been delayed when they accidentally left the keys to the getaway car in the bank. (2) Andrew Burwitz, 20, was arrested in Appleton, Wis., in November and charged with drive-by shootings into two residences. No one was hit, and the major damage was done to Burwitz's car, in that Burwitz fired the first shot before he remembered to roll down the window.

Recurring Themes

Thousands of airline passengers continue to attempt to bring prohibited carry-on items on board. The New York Post reported in September that the Transportation Security Administration had confiscated 123,000 items so far this year from just the three main airports serving New York City. Included were 43 explosives, 1,600 knives, a 10-point deer antler, several fire extinguishers, a tree branch, nunchucks, a grill, a baby alligator, "unwashed adult toys," a gassed-up chain saw and a kitchen sink.

A News of the Weird Classic (April 1997)

In Milwaukee, the family of Robert Senz demanded shortly after his burial last July (1996) that Borgwardt Funeral Home dig up the body because Senz's wallet was missing. Sure enough, the wallet containing $64 and credit cards was still in Senz's pocket. In February (1997), Borgwardt sent the now-$64-richer family a re-burial bill for $2,149, but after the family protested, decided the whole thing was the county medical examiner's fault and sent the bill there.

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