News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


LEAD STORY -- Roach Responders

At a conference in August, researchers from North Carolina State University demonstrated their latest technological advance in aiding "first responders" to peacetime and wartime disasters: cockroaches. Outfitting Madagascar hissing cockroaches with electronic backpacks that include antennas, batteries, cameras and microphones, the scientists hacked the bugs' nervous systems to steer them remotely into the tiniest of openings -- a crucial step toward finding survivors of earthquakes or bomb damage in densely built-up and populated areas. Said one researcher, to ABC News, "(S)omewhere in the middle (of tons of rubble) your kid is crying," and huge machines are "not very efficient" at finding him. [ABC News, 9-13-2012]

The Continuing Crisis

-- Cue the Black Helicopters: A website that tracks sometimes-obscure federal government purchases disclosed in August that the Social Security Administration had recently requested a price for 174,000 hollow-point bullets and that the National Weather Service had requested a price for 46,000 rounds of ammo for semi-automatic pistols. (The latter was subsequently corrected; it was actually the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Office that needed bullets.) Both agencies told reporters that they have armed officers investigating potential crimes. [, 8-16-2012; Washington Post, 8-14-2012]

-- Weapons for the 21st Century: Thousands of farmers in the northeastern India state of Assam are growing the world's hottest chili peppers and selling them to the army to make weapons, reported London's The Guardian in a July dispatch. One expert said a "few drops" of "bhut jolokia" "could make you senseless." Blasting a container of it into a terrorist hideout, he said, would "make them all drop their guns" after "just one breath." (Bhut jolokia has also been used traditionally to repel elephant attacks.) [The Guardian, 7-29-2012]

-- In a tactical risk, Russian gay rights leaders went to court in Moscow in March to demand the right to hold a rally not only this year but, daring the city to oppress them, also a rally every year for the next 100 years. However, the city did not blink. It rejected the demand, and in August, a Moscow city court ruled that the city could be gay-rights-rally-free until the year 2112. [BBC News, 8-17-2012]

-- Because the words were not those ordinarily used by vandals keying a car's paint, Newcastle, England, police looked immediately to a better-educated vandal and arrested University of Newcastle professor Stephen Graham, who had been a prominent critic of neighborhood parking rules that allowed outsiders to use the few spaces on his street. Scratched into several outsiders' luxury cars' exteriors were words such as "arbitrary" and "really wrong" and "very silly" (as opposed to the usual crude vandal references to anatomy and maternal promiscuity). [Daily Telegraph (London), 8-30-2012]

Not the Usual Suspects

(1) Arrested in New York City in August on charges that he used a tiny camera in a folded newspaper to crudely peek up female subway riders' skirts: Dr. Adam Levinson, assistant professor at the prestigious Mount Sinai school of medicine. (2) Arrested in Beverly Hills, Calif., in July and charged in a string of vandalism incidents (shooting metal marbles from a slingshot at windows of dozens of businesses and homes): investment banker Michael Poret, 58, of the Rodeo Drive office of UBS Financial Services. [New York Daily, News, 8-2-2012] [Los Angeles Times, 7-18-2012]

Courtroom Follies

-- Carl Funk, 58, told Broward County, Fla., judge John Hurley (on a video feed from jail to a courtroom) that he is innocent of the seven-year-old charges (trespassing and open-alcoholic-container counts) and that, besides, he is now wheelchair-bound in pathetic medical condition and should be allowed to go home. The judge was skeptical, but finally, according to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report, he offered to fine Funk only $50 on the charges, and Funk agreed to plead guilty. "Good luck, Funk," said Judge Hurley. At that point, Funk rose from his wheelchair and quickly walked away. Wrote the Sun-Sentinel: "Raising both hands, Judge Hurley declared, 'He's been cured.'" [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 7-14-2012]

-- Missouri Associate Circuit Judge Barbara Peebles was suspended in September and recommended for removal by the state judicial commission for various offenses, including being late for work and destroying a court document in order to avoid embarrassment. The most serious charge, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, was that she allowed her "clerk," Whitney Tyler, who was Peebles' personal friend and hairdresser (and apparently without formal legal training), to dispose of as many as 350 cases as Tyler saw fit. Said one lawyer, "Until the judge (showed up), (Tyler) was the judge." [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9-1-2012]


A sign at the entrance of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor asks that visitors "conduct yourself with dignity and respect at all times. Remember, this is hallowed ground." However, as the New York Post reported in September, visitors to the National September 11th Memorial in New York City show no such restraint, with some treating that hallowed ground more like a "Disney attraction." They sit (or worse, lie down) on the bronze-plaque names of the dead, and lay (and spill!) their drink cups on them, creating an "almost cheerful" atmosphere, the Post said. The head of New York City's retired association of emergency medical service firefighters said the elegant memorial more resembled a visitor's "kitchen table." [New York Post, 9-2-2012]

The Aristocrats!

-- "Number 1" Complaints: (1) Albert Sultan filed a lawsuit in August in New York City against his hard-charging former boss, real estate broker Jack Terzi, accusing Terzi of various workplace abuses including (to make a point in front of co-workers) deliberately urinating on an item of Sultan's clothing. (2) Timothy Paez, 22, was arrested in Boulder, Colo., in July based on an incident at Shooters Grill and Bar, in which, after being rejected by a woman, he later approached her and allegedly urinated on her leg. (3) Australia's Illawarra District Rugby Union reported in July that it was investigating an unnamed Avondale player who had allegedly urinated all over his uniform pants during play so as to discourage his Vikings opponents from trying to tackle him. [New York Daily News, 8-11-2012] [Daily Camera (Boulder), 7-30-2012] [Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 7-6-2012]

-- July was especially active for bestiality arrests. Among them: Shane Walker, 38, and his wife, Sarah, 33, at a motel in Mesa, Ariz., where Sarah had supposedly planned to consummate her dream of sex with a German shepherd. Cody Slaughter, 22, in Yuma, Ariz., after an investigation revealed sexual assaults against a dog, a horse and a pig. And Dana Kintz, 28, pleaded guilty in St. Louis to performing sex acts on the dog belonging to her and her boyfriend, Shawn Ingram, 37. [New York Daily News, 7-4-2012] [Yuma Sun, 7-6-2012] [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 7-11-2012]

Least Competent Criminals

Desperate Cries for Help: (1) The two aspiring robbers arrested for hitting Zhen Yang's convenience store in Gatineau, Quebec, in June were also immortalized by the store's surveillance video. As Yang resisted the masked, knife-wielding men, he spritzed one with a can of bear spray, sending the second man fleeing and temporarily blinding the first. As the heavily doused man tried to climb over the counter, Yang punched him, over and over again, on his buttocks. Police picked up both shortly afterward. (2) Latasha Singletary, 30, was arrested in Fall River, Mass., in June after allegedly robbing the same liquor store three times in a 24-hour period. The owner recognized her immediately because she had robbed the store two years earlier, as well. [Toronto Sun, 6-6-2012] [WLNE-TV (Providence, R.I.), 6-15-2012]

Readers' Choice

(1) A 44-year-old man dressed as Bigfoot (in a military-style ghillie suit) was accidentally run over by two cars on U.S. 93 south of Kalispell, Mont., on Aug. 26. Friends of the man said he was wearing the costume to convince people of Bigfoot's existence. (2) Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman acknowledged in July that he had recently met with his long-estranged father after 42 years. Mr. Philander Rodman lives in the Philippines, and by his count, has fathered 29 children by 16 mothers. [KAJ-TV (Kalispell), 8-27-2012] [Associated Press via New York Times, 7-2-2012]

Thanks This Week to Bruce Leiserowitz, Sandy Pearlman, Lance Ellisor, Gary Davidson, Jim Watson, Barry Rose, Jeff Ammons, John Beyrau, John McGaw, Steve Hopman, Ted Poppke, Roger Meiners, and Sherry Trujillo, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

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