News of the Weird

Week of December 18, 2011


Only the Government: Stung by criticism in 2007 that they were neglecting severely wounded service members, the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs have now gone extreme the other way, routinely providing at least a half-dozen (and as many as two dozen) caseworkers per patient. A Government Accountability Office report in October said the result was "duplication, confusion and turf battles," according to a November Washington Post story, leaving the members and their families often conflicted and overwhelmed about prognoses. At times the Pentagon (serving active-duty personnel) and the VA (ex-military) balked over coordinating their treatments. The agencies, however, told the Post that any duplication was intentional, even though the Post cited military families who each wished they had a single, authoritative case manager they could turn to. A GAO official called the situation "crazy" and "disturbing."

Can't Possibly Be True

-- The U.S.-Pakistan relationship has reached "the nadir of absurdity," wrote, after a December report in The Atlantic revealed that Pakistan "secures" its tactical nuclear weapons by moving them around the country in ordinary unmarked vans ("without noticeable defenses"). It supposedly uses the "Econolines of Doom," "hidden" in plain sight on the country's highways, because it fears the U.S. (its "ally") would steal the bombs if it knew where they were. Dizzyingly, wrote Wired, the U.S. funds Pakistan yet regularly invades it, though desperately needing Pakistan's help in Afghanistan, even as Pakistani soldiers fight alongside Afghan insurgents against the U.S.

-- In October, the super-enthusiastic winners of a Kingston, Ontario, radio station contest claimed their prize: the chance to don gloves and dig for free Buffalo Bills' football tickets (value: $320), buried in buffalo manure in a child's plastic inflatable pool. The show's host, Sarah Crosbie, reported the digging live (but, overcome by the smell, vomited on the air). More curious was a runner-up contestant who continued to muck around for the second prize, even though it was only tickets to a local zoo.

-- In a federal lawsuit for malicious prosecution, a judge found a "strong" likelihood that EPA agent Keith Phillips "deliberately" set up a hazardous-waste enforcement case against Hubert Vidrine for the purpose of facilitating his own work/sex relationship with a female EPA agent. According to the court, Phillips was married and unable to carry on with the agent (stationed in another city) except when they worked together, which they did periodically over a three-year period on the Vidrine case. In October, Vidrine was awarded $1.6 million in damages.

-- Least Competent Plans: (1) L.B. Williams, a black man married to a white woman in Panama City, Fla., reported that the Ku Klux Klan had burned a cross in his driveway in November and left a threatening note. However, the note did not demand that the couple move from the neighborhood; it demanded that they stay. Since the Klan is not known for supporting mixed-race couples, the police were suspicious and ultimately charged Williams with making the threats himself -- to frighten his wife into abandoning the divorce she had recently requested. (2) Paul Moran, possessing (according to his lawyer) "considerable intellectual ability," nonetheless attempted a procedure to turn his own feces into gold (and was sentenced in October to three months in jail in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, after accidentally setting his apartment on fire in the process).

-- Cry for Help: Math teacher Paul LaDuke, 75, was fired in November from the Schaumburg (Ill.) Christian School after a student reported seeing him brazenly masturbate, with his pants lowered, as he sat behind his desk in a full classroom. LaDuke had been at the school for 26 years, and police believe (according to a Chicago Tribune report) he had "committed similar acts at the school several times a year for a decade or longer."

Fine Points of the Law

-- Proportionality: (1) Daniel Vilca, 26, was ordered to prison for the rest of his life (without possibility of parole) following his conviction in Naples, Fla., in November for having pornographic photos of children on his computer. He had no previous criminal record, nor was there evidence of any contact with children. The judge computed the sentence by multiplying a five-year term by the 454 photos police found. (2) A week earlier, a judge in Dayton, Ohio, sentenced former CEO Michael Peppel, 44, for defrauding his shareholders by overstating revenue in a company that went on to lose $298 million and cost 1,300 employees their jobs. Sentencing guidelines recommended an 8- to 10-year term, but federal judge Sandra Beckwith ordered Peppel to jail for seven days.

-- Dog walker Kimberly Zakrzewski was found not guilty in October of violating the poop-scooping ordinance of Fairfax County, Va., despite photographic "evidence" of dog piles submitted by neighbors Virginia and Christine Cornell (who had previously been feuding with Zakrzewski). The jury chose to give greater weight to testimony by the dog's owner that the photographed piles were bigger than anything she had ever seen from "Baxter." The owner also revealed that she had brought to court one of Baxter's actual piles but decided to leave it in her car.

Oops! Sorry About That ...

-- Bad Shots: (1) A 22-year-old man was shot in the face on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, in September; his companion on the camping trip thought he was shooting at a bear. (2) An 85-year-old man was shot in the face in Augusta, Ga., in September; a female acquaintance thought she was shooting at an opossum. (3) A 20-year-old woman was shot in Vilas County, Wis., in July; deputy sheriff Ty Peterson (a relative) thought he was shooting at a cougar.

The Pervo-American Community

-- Can't Stop Himself: Convicted child-sex offender Charlie Price, 57, was arrested in Pittsfield, Mass., in October, but only for disturbing the peace -- because the "victim" was merely made of cardboard. Price, spotting a sunglasses display in a Rite-Aid pharmacy, had begun kissing and licking the face of the pictured model, and groping her.

Crime in the F State

-- (1) Two men outfitted as zombies were arrested for assault at a Halloween party at a nudist resort in Pasco County, Fla. (One bit a security guard, but he was not infected.) (2) Jeffrey Lluis, 27, who performed stand-up comedy at clubs around Tampa, apparently held a day job as bank robber (charged in November with knocking off a SunTrust bank -- twice).

Undignified Deaths

-- Thinning the Herd: (1) In October, a 30-year-old woman and her unidentified boyfriend were killed as they carried their domestic brawl from their car onto Interstate 485 near Pineville, N.C., and were struck by separate vehicles. (2) A 27-year-old man was killed in a one-car crash in Broward County, Fla., in October. He (a passenger) had punched his wife (the driver) in the face, causing her to lose control and careen into a lake. (She and the couple's 3-year-old daughter, in the backseat, survived.)

A News of the Weird Classic (July 2007)

-- John Moore, 67, golfs nearly every day and has for about 20 years, according to a July (2007) St. Petersburg Times report. The golf he plays, though, consists of hitting 35 long-iron shots (five shots with each of the seven balls he owns) on a grassy median strip along Interstate 275 in downtown Tampa. "You can't play this game one day, two days in a week," he said. "You have to play it all the time if you want to do something with it." What Moore wants to do with it, he told the Times, is to someday soon make his first-ever appearance on an actual golf course.

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