News of the Weird

Week of May 29, 2011


Rights of women are severely restricted in Pakistan's tribal areas and among Muslim fundamentalists, but the rights of the country's estimated 50,000 "transgenders" blossomed in April when the country's Supreme Court ordered the government to accept a "third sex" designation on official documents (instead of forcing a choice of "male" or "female"). The court further recommended that transgenders be awarded government job quotas and suggested "tax collector" as one task for which they are particularly suited, since their presence at homes and businesses still tends to embarrass debtors into paying up quickly (especially since many transgenders outfit themselves, and behave, flamboyantly).

Government in Action!

-- Imprisoned rapist Troy Fears, 55, had another four years tacked onto his sentence in April by a federal judge in Phoenix after he was convicted of swindling the IRS out of $119,000 by filing 117 fake tax returns from 2005 to 2009. According to prosecutors, IRS routinely dispatched direct-deposit refunds while indifferent to matching the payment recipient with the person whose Social Security number was on the return. (In fact, Fears was caught not by the IRS but by a prison guard who happened upon his paperwork.)

-- Apparently, the federal government failed to foresee that fighting two wars simultaneously, with historically high wound-survival rates, might produce surges of disability claims. Just in the last year, according to an April USA Today report, claims are up over 50 percent, and those taking longer than two months to resolve have more than doubled. (Tragically, Marine Clay Hunt, who was a national spokesman for disability rights and who suffered from post-traumatic stress, killed himself on March 31, ultimately frustrated that the Department of Veterans Affairs had lost his paperwork. "I can track my pizza from Pizza Hut on my BlackBerry," he once said, "but the VA can't find my claim for four months.")

-- Close Enough for Government Work: (1) A contract security guard at Detroit's McNamara Building (which houses the FBI and other vital federal offices) was found in March to have casually laid aside, for three weeks, a suspicious package that turned out to be a real bomb. (It was, eventually, safely detonated.) (2) The Census Bureau got it right this time around for Lost Springs, Wyo. In 2000, it had missed 80 percent of the population (counting 1 instead of 5). The new total (4) is correct, since two people subsequently died, and one moved in.

Great Art!

Occasionally (as News of the Weird has reported), patrons of art galleries mistake ordinary objects as the actual art (for example, solemnly "contemplating" a broom inadvertently left behind by a janitor), and sometimes the opposite mistake occurs. At the Boijmans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam in May, a wandering patron absent-mindedly traipsed through a re-creation of Wim T. Schippers' floor-level Peanut Butter Platform (a 40-square-foot installation of creamy spread). (The museum manager had declined to fence in the exhibit, which he said would spoil its beauty.)

Police Report

(1) Homeless Charles Mader, a convicted sex offender in Albuquerque, was arrested in May for failure to report his change of address, as required by law. Mader had moved out of his registered address, which was a Dumpster, into a community shelter. (2) Robert Norton Kennedy, 51, was arrested in Horry County, S.C., in May and charged with assault and battery, despite the humble tattoo on his forehead referencing a Bible verse and reading, "Please forgive me if I say or do anything stupid."

Cavalcade of Rednecks

(1) Sharon Newling, 58, was arrested in Salisbury, N.C., in April and charged with shooting at her stepson with a .22-caliber rifle. She denied shooting "at" him, but said she was just shooting toward him "to make him stop working on his truck." (2) In April in Greensboro, N.C., Stephanie Preston and Bobby Duncan were married in front of family and friends at the local Jiffy Lube. (3) A 25-year-old man in Okaloosa County, Fla., was arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing after he entered the Club 51 Gentlemen's Club, from which he had been banned after a February incident. The man told police that he knew he had been banned from a strip club but couldn't remember which one.


-- A college senior in Colorado complained long-distance in March to the Better Business Bureau in Minnesota's Twin Cities because, headquartered in Farmington, Minn., failed to deliver the class paper she ordered (at $23 per page). (The meaning of "academic dishonesty" is evolving, but it is still a sometimes-expellable offense to submit someone else's work as one's own.)

-- Filipino Henson Chua, working in the U.S., was indicted in March for illegally bringing back into the country an American-made military spy plane and openly offering it for sale for $13,000 on eBay. Sophisticated equipment such as the RQ-11B "Raven" Unmanned Aerial Vehicle requires high-level government approval to prevent acquisition by U.S. enemies.

Democracy in Action

(1) Lisa Osborn was one of only two candidates who qualified to run for the two vacant seats on the Bentley (Mich.) Board of Education in May, yet she did not win. One vote would have put her on the board, but she got none (having been too busy even to vote for herself that day because of her son's baseball game). (2) Monika Strub began campaigning for a state parliament seat in Germany in March as a member of the Left Party. Until 2002, Strub, then "Horst Strub," was with the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party, but then decided he was really a female, underwent surgery and became Monika, a socialist. Not surprisingly, she has been harassed by some of her former colleagues.

Least Competent Criminals

Perps Making It Easy on the Cops in Joliet, Ill.: (1) Domonique Loggins, 21, was running from two Joliet officers in April (suspected of assaulting his girlfriend) when his escape took him through Bicentennial Park downtown. Obviously unknown to him, dozens of police officers from surrounding jurisdictions were in the park that day on a training session (with 60 squad cars in a parking lot). Loggins was arrested. (2) Police imposters usually drive cars outfitted to resemble cruisers (flashing lights, scanners) and carry impressive, if fake, ID. However, Hector Garcia-Martinez, 35, fooled no one in April as the two Joliet women whose car he stopped immediately called 911. "Officer" Garcia-Martinez had none of the trappings -- except, as he lamely pointed out, a sticker on his front license plate reading "Woodridge Police Junior Officer" (typically given to children at police events).

People With Issues

Anorexia nervosa is widely recognized as a debilitating eating disorder that can be fatal in as many as 10 percent of cases. However, men with masturbation fantasies about super-skinny women have fueled an almost-five-fold increase in "ana-porn" websites, to more than 1,500 since 2006, according to an April report by London's The Guardian. One site's recruiting page limited models to those with a body-mass index of 15 or under, and warned that "(b)ones and ribs must be very visible." However, these recruiters are sometimes anorexics' only flatterers, terming them "superstar(s) of starvation," "much prettier than all those meat mountains." (Unlike child or animal pornography, ana-porn is not illegal.)

A News of the Weird Classic (April 1991)

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation of voter rolls since 1981 in East St. Louis, Ill., identified 27 specific dead people who voted in various elections, complete through the 1990 primary. Inspiringly, two men who had never cast a single vote while alive apparently decided to begin participating in the democratic process once they had died, and Mr. Willie E. Fox Sr., who has voted six times since his death in 1987, mysteriously switched registration this year (1991) from Republican to Democrat.

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