News of the Weird

Week of April 11, 2010


Lax on Perverts: In February, the Minnesota Board of Chiropractic Examiners relicensed Scott Fredin even though he is still registered as a sex offender following a 2003 conviction for fondling two female patients during "examinations." Released from jail in 2006, he had re-applied to the board, which then found him "rehabilitated." He agreed to several restrictions on his office practice, but the board declined to order him to disclose his crime to patients. (And in March, the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners finally expelled Dr. David Livingston, whom it had licensed in 1992 despite knowledge of his sex-crime-related expulsions in two states and his being labeled a "violent sex offender" by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.)

The Continuing Crisis

-- Ralph Conone, 68, was arrested in Columbus, Ohio, in March after witnesses identified him as the man who several times had walked up behind young children, punched them on the head when their parents weren't looking, and walked away as if nothing had happened. According to police, Conone confessed that he had been punching children in public since January because he liked the "excitement" of getting away with something.

-- Police who were called to a home in Charleroi, Pa., in February arrested Linda Newstrom, 49, for allegedly swinging a baseball bat (reportedly, a genuine Louisville Slugger) at her 21-year-old son, Jeffrey, because he had come home drunk. (She whiffed on the first two swings but connected on the third.) Newstrom told police, "I brought him into this world, and I'll take him out of this world."

-- Roberta Feinsmith, 67, who had been fired by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, filed a wrongful-discharge lawsuit in February, claiming that, despite glowing job reviews for 12 years, she was terminated because of her age and because she complained to other workers about her recently hired supervisor's "constant barrages of ... flatulence."

-- In February, a one-armed man swiped a single cufflink from the CJ Vinten shop in Leigh-on-Sea, England, and in March, a one-legged man swiped a single Nike trainer shoe from a store in Barnsley, England. The one-armed man is still loose, but the one-legged man was arrested.


-- A popular TV chef in Italy was fired in February after musing on the air about the historical popularity of gourmet cat meat. According to Beppe Bigazzi, 77, cat stew is best cooked after leaving the meat under running water for three days to tenderize it. "I've eaten it," he said, "many times." Bigazzi later explained that he was referring only to a tradition in Tuscany in the 1930s and 1940s and never intended to encourage eating cats today, but apparently his bosses could not endure the public outcry.

-- Unintelligent Design: (1) China's Yangcheng Evening News reported in March that a 6-year-old boy in Ha'erbin City, with 15 fingers and 16 toes, had surgery to get down to 10 and 10. (2) In March, Zhang Ruifang, 101, of Linlou Village in China's Henan province, was reported to have a "rough patch" of skin on her forehead that had recently grown to a length of 2 1/2 inches in the shape of a horn. (However, dermatologists in the U.S. point out that the condition is not all that rare.) (3) In February, the parents of Deepak Kumar, 7, of Belhari in India's Bihar state, sought financial help for surgery to remove the parasitic twin joined at the hip with the now-eight-limbed boy. (His father told an Agence France-Presse reporter that he rejected suggestions that Deepak remain as is so that villagers could worship him as a deity.)

Bright Ideas

-- Supervisors at the Department for Work and Pensions in Carlisle, England, issued a directive in March to short-handed staff on how to ease their telephone workload during the busy midday period. Workers were told to pick up the ringing phone, recite a message as if an answering machine ("Due to the high volume of inquiries we are currently experiencing, we are unable to take your call. Please call back later.") and immediately hang up.

-- The city health office in London, Ontario, created an online sex-education game that officials hope will appeal to teenagers in that its messages are delivered by a cast of iconic superheroes. According to a February report by Canwest News Service, the players are Captain Condom (who wears a "cap"), Wonder Vag (a virgin girl), Power Pap ("sexually active") and Willy the Kid, with each fighting the villain Sperminator, who wears a red wrestling mask and has phalluses for arms. The characters answer sex knowledge questions and, with correct answers, obtain "protection," but a wrong one gets the player squirted with sperm. At press time, the game was still accessible at

More Texas Justice

-- The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals almost never encounters an "improper" conviction, but managed to ease up in February by taking the death penalty off the table for double-murderer Charles Hood, who had been sentenced to die by a jury in Plano in 1990. Hood had learned in subsequent years that his prosecutor and his judge had had a sexual relationship during his trial, but both denied it, and courts refused to investigate. Finally, by 2008, both had confessed to the affair, but the Court of Criminal Appeals still declined to call the trial unfair. In March 2010, several days after a New York Times report on the case, the court found a technical, face-saving ground on which to lessen Hood's sentence (while still ignoring the issue of the affair).

-- Despite Texas' severe pro-conviction history, one man actually received a full pardon in February. Tim Cole had been convicted of rape in 1986, though relentlessly proclaiming his innocence, and a 1996 confession to the crime by another man did not move officials to re-investigate. When a DNA result (ordered in 2008) confirmed the 1996 confession, Cole's innocence could no longer be ignored. In March 2010, Gov. Rick Perry issued a full pardon, but Cole could not enjoy it. He had died in prison in 1999 after wrongfully serving 13 years, the last three despite the fact that the actual rapist had already tried to turn himself in.

Least Competent Criminals

Not Much of a Challenge for Cops: (1) William Edmunds, 32, was charged with DUI in March when his car weaved up to the guard gate at the loading dock for the Montgomery County, N.Y., jail, and he asked if this was the Canadian border crossing at Niagara Falls (more than 250 miles away). (2) Travis Neeley, 19, was arrested in Lake City, Fla., in March for burglarizing a car, caught red-handed by the owner, who used the remote control to lock Neeley inside. Neeley tried several times to unlock a door and exit, but each time, the owner relocked it before Neeley could get out, and he finally gave up and waited for police.

A News of the Weird Classic (May 2004)

In 1990, News of the Weird reported on a "cargo cult" on Tanna, one of South Sea islands comprising the republic of Vanuatu. "Cargo" comes from the cults' belief that the food and supplies that Americans brought to World War II military staging areas arrived by divine guidance, and they continued to worship the empty cargo containers long after the war was over, hoping their prayers would restock them. In May 2004, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, violence broke out on Tanna when breakaway Christians, calling the cargo business nonsense, fought with supporters of "John Frum," the iconic American who symbolizes continued worship of cargo lockers. About 25 people were hospitalized, and police had to be dispatched from Vanuatu's capital of Vila.

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