News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF MAY 6, 2012

LEAD STORY -- The Ultimate Gated Community

Condo developer Larry Hall is already one-quarter sold out of the upscale doomsday units he is building in an abandoned underground Cold War-era Atlas-F missile silo near Salina, Kan. He told an Agence France-Presse reporter in April that his 14-story structure would house seven floors of apartments ($1 million to $2 million each, cash up front), with the rest devoted to dry food storage, filtered-water tanks and an indoor farm, which would raise fish and vegetables to sustain residents for five years. The 9-foot-thick concrete walls (built to protect rockets from a Soviet nuclear attack) would be buttressed by entrance security to ward off the savages who were not wise enough to prepare against famine, meteors, nuclear war and the like. Hall said he expects to be sold out this year and begin work on another of the three silos he has options to buy. [Agence France-Presse via Google News, 4-9-2012]

Can't Possibly Be True

-- Dan O'Leary, the city manager of Keller, Tex. (pop. 27,000), faced with severe budget problems, was unable to avoid the sad job of handing out pink slips. For instance, he determined that one of Keller's three city managers had to go, and in April, he laid himself off. According to a March Fort Worth Star-Telegram report, O'Leary neither intended to retire nor had other offers pending, and he had aroused no negative suspicions as to motive. He simply realized the city could be managed more cost-effectively by the two lower-paid officials. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 3-21-2012]

-- Herman Wallace, 70, and Albert Woodfox, 65, have been held in solitary confinement (only one hour a day outside) since 1972 in the Louisiana State Prison at Angola, after being convicted (via flimsy evidence and a convenient prison snitch) of killing a guard. A third convict for the murder, Robert King, who was in solitary for 29 years but then released, explained to BBC News in an April dispatch what it's like to live inside 54 square feet for 23 hours a day, for over 14,000 straight days. The lawyer working to free Wallace and Woodfox said the soul-deadened men were "potted plants." [BBC News, 4-4-2012]


That Sacred Institution

(1) A federal court magistrate in Melbourne, Australia, decided to split a divorcing couple's assets in half in February after listening to tedious details of their 20-year marriage. The "couple" lived apart except for vacations and kept their finances separate, constantly "invoic[ing] each other," according to the Daily Telegraph, for amounts as trifling as a $1.60 lightbulb. (2) Though many Americans act as though they are in love with themselves, only Nadine Schweigert became an honest woman. She married herself in March in front of 45 family members and friends in Fargo, N.D., vowing "to enjoy inhabiting my own life and to relish a lifelong love affair with my beautiful self." And then she was off on a solo honeymoon. [Herald Sun (Melbourne), 2-27-2012] [Fargo Forum, 3-15-2012]

Questionable Judgments

On Feb. 1st, the New Jersey Honor Legion -- a civic association with more than 6,000 members in law enforcement -- nominated Frank DiMattina as "Citizen of the Month" for offering his catering hall in Woodbridge, N.J., numerous times for gatherings of police and firefighters. The nomination came three weeks after DiMattina (also known as "Frankie D") was convicted of shaking down a rival bidder for a school-lunch contract in New York City. Federal prosecutors told the New York Daily News that DiMattina is mobbed up -- an associate of the Genovese family's John "Johnny Sausage" Barbato. [New York Daily News, 3-26-2012]

Unclear on the Concept

-- In January, Ms. Navey Skinner, 34, was charged with robbing the Chase Bank in Arlington, Wash., after passing a teller a note that read, "Put the money in the bag now or (d)ie." According to investigators, Skinner subsequently told them she had been thinking about robbing a bank and then, while inside the Chase Bank, "accidentally robbed" it. [Daily Herald (Everett, Wash.), 1-30-2012]

-- Emanuel Kuvakos, 56, was arrested in April and charged with sending two Chicago sports team executives emails that threatened them with violence for having stolen his "ideas" for winning "championships." One of the victims was a former general manager of the Chicago Cubs, a team that famously has not won a National League championship in 66 years, nor a World Series in 103. [Chicago Tribune, 4-18-2012]

  -- In April, Arizona (recently the home of cutting-edge legislation) almost set itself up for the impossible task of trying to prohibit any "annoy(ing)" or "offen(sive)" or "profane" language on the Internet. The state House passed the bill, which was endorsed 30-0 by the state Senate, ostensibly to make an anti-stalking telephone regulation applicable to "digital" communications. (Just as the bill was about to go to the governor for signature, sponsors suddenly realized the futility of the bill's directives, and on April 4th, withdrew it.) [Phoenix New Times, 4-4-2012]

Fine Points of the Law

-- Finally, a nationally prominent judge has taken on prison "nutriloaf" as a constitutional issue. In March, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner reinstated a dismissed lawsuit by a Milwaukee County Jail inmate who claimed that the mystery meat gave him an "anal fissure." Posner wrote that the lower courts needed to rule on whether the food of indeterminate content is "cruel and unusual punishment," since (citing a Wikipedia entry) an anal fissure seems "no fun at all." [American Bar Association Journal, 3-28-2012]

-- Gay Rights in Limbo: (1) The Missouri House of Representatives, after several times rejecting "sexual orientation" as one of the legally prohibited categories of discrimination, managed to find another category in March (to join "race," "religion" and so forth) that is deserving of special protection: licensed concealed-weapons carriers. (2) The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in April that Joshua Coman, convicted of having sex with a dog, does not have to register as a sex offender. Activists had urged that the sodomy law on which Coman was convicted be declared unconstitutional, since it appears to equate human-animal sex with man-man and woman-woman sex. However, the Court declined, instead noting that Coman had been convicted of a misdemeanor and that only felons are required to register. [St. Louis Public Radio, 3-11-


People With Issues

In March, West Des Moines, Iowa, police opened an investigation, with video surveillance, of a 59-year-old employee of the state's Farm Bureau on suspicion of criminal mischief. According to police documents cited by the Des Moines Register, the man would look through the employee database for photos of attractive female colleagues and then visit their work space after hours and urinate on their chairs. Not only does the man allegedly have a problem, but the Farm Bureau figured it is out $4,500 in damaged chairs. [Des Moines Register, 3-27-2012]

Least Competent Criminals

Amateur Hour: (1) CVS supervisor Fenton Graham, 35, of Silver Spring, Md., was arrested as the inside man (with two accomplices) in two drugstore robberies in April. Surveillance video showed that in the second heist, the nervous perp evidently failed to take the money with him, and Graham (the "victim") was seen taking it out to his forgetful partner. (2) Kyle Voss, 24, was charged with four burglaries in Great Falls, Mont., in April after coming upon a private residence containing buckets of coins. According to police, Voss first took the quarters and half-dollars ($3,000), then days later he returned for $700 in dimes and nickels. By the third break-in, the resident had installed surveillance video, and Voss was caught as he came back for a bucket of pennies. [Washington Post, 4-13-2012] [Associated Press via Fox News, 4-17-2012]

Least Competent Bank

Federal court documents revealed in March that AWOL Army Pvt. Brandon Price, 28, had convinced Citibank in January that he spoke for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (one of the world's richest men) and convinced the bank to issue Allen (i.e., Price) a new debit card and to change Allen's address from Seattle to Price's address in Pittsburgh. Price/Allen shopped decidedly downscale, running up charges only at Gamestop and Family Dollar, totaling less than $1,000. [Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 3-27-2012]

Thanks This Week to Cindy Hildebrand, Sandy Pearlman and Hal Dunham, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

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