-- Punta Gorda, Fla., inmate James "Happy" Borland, 41, suffered a near-fatal concussion in December from being roughed up by inmates Lemuel "K-Money" Ware, 32, and Corey Andrews, 32, because Borland had accused Ware of stealing his pet spider and renaming it "Pinky." According to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report, Borland had demanded his spider back, but Andrews intervened. Ware, who said he had purchased the spider fair and square, felt he had to go after Borland because Pinky (in a small box in Ware's shirt pocket) "told" him to.
-- After the police chief of Portland, Ore., defied a local judge and said he would continue to examine suspicious people's garbage without search warrants (because, he contends, curbside garbage is public property), reporters from the local Willamette Week newspaper examined (under cover of night) a December day's curbside garbage thrown out by the chief, the district attorney and the mayor (who is officially the chief's boss). The newspaper published an inventory of each official's trash, finding much banality (e.g., what the mayor planned to watch on TV) but nothing illegal or improper. When told what the reporters did, the police chief got hostile, and the mayor, said the reporters, "went nuclear."
The former Bob Craft filed a lawsuit in November against the owners of the reckless-stunt-filled MTV program (and movie) "Jackass," claiming it has defamed him, in that five years ago, he had his own name legally changed to "Jack Ass," which he thought would call attention to his national campaign against drunk driving. Ass, who lives in Montana and filed the lawsuit there, claims that the TV show and movie have damaged his reputation ("which I have worked so hard to create," he wrote) to the tune of at least $10 million.
-- London's Observer reported in November that the British government is exploring whether to require convicted pedophiles to receive microchip implants that would allow them to be tracked by satellite after their release from prison. The government would know not only whether pedophiles visited schools or parks but, based on a proposal by one company whose software monitors astronauts' bodily functions in space, whether the pedophiles are feeling nervous or excited (but so far, sexual arousal cannot be tracked by the software).
-- State authorities raided a Honolulu artifacts dealer in December and filed criminal charges against him for possession of rare or extinct birds without a state license. However, as dealer Don Medcalf pointed out to them at the time (to no avail), not only are the rare birds merely stuffed animals, but they were killed and stuffed sometime in the 1800s, not only before the possession law was passed but before Hawaii was even a state. In January, the prosecutor dropped the case because he "felt (the charges) wouldn't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
-- Immigration and Naturalization Service is being incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security just in time. In November, INS revealed that it had routinely granted citizenship to a man with ties to the radical Islamic group Hezbollah during a time that he was under direct scrutiny by a joint FBI-NYPD terrorist task force. One week after that, a General Accounting Office review found that INS could not find nearly half of the 4,100 supposedly registered immigrants that the federal government wanted to interview in the days after Sept. 11 because the agency had been so lax in enforcing the registration law.
-- For 12 days in November, Yugoslav performance artist Marina Abramovic, 56, confined herself to three raised desks at a New York City gallery, where she denied herself all external stimulation (except being stared at by visitors), subsisting on water, and carrying on all bodily functions in full public view, in order to heighten her senses so that, she said, she and the audience could efficiently transmit energy between them. (Previously, for the same purpose, she and a partner sat at ends of a long table for seven hours, not moving and trying not even to blink.)
-- In September, art student Nathan Banks, 22 (of New York's Purchase College), painted randomly chosen words on about 60 meandering cows in order to see if they would inadvertently line up to form poetry. At about the same time, in England, writer Valerie Laws, 48, did the same thing with sheep (except that she chose the words of only one poem, to see if the sheep could form another poem). An arts council granted Ms. Laws about $3,400 for her project, which she said would break down the boundaries between "literature" and "quantum mechanics."
According to police in Red Bluff, Calif., Andrew McCrae killed one of their officers in November and fled to Concord, N.H., where he was arrested a few days later. According to his Web site postings, McCrae (a former "human shield" in Israel) thought the alleged murder would create sympathy for his views on war, police brutality, globalization and corporate social irresponsibility. He allegedly told friends that he was immune from prosecution because he had had the foresight to incorporate himself beforehand in a state other than California (corporate name: Proud and Insolent Youth).
In November, Blair MacKay, 32, was fined about $600 for invasion of privacy by a court in Dingwall, England, after testimony that he had barged into a neighbor's apartment and asserted, "I don't listen to phone conversations," after the woman had just minutes earlier told her companion over the phone that Blair MacKay was probably listening to them. (In other wiretapping news, the Agence France-Presse news service reported in October that a German police surveillance campaign had been compromised when a software mix-up by the O2 mobile phone company mistakenly notified criminal suspects that their phones were being tapped from a voice-mail phone whose number was printed on their September bill.
Ng Lai Ping, 39, complained in October that an official at Hong Kong's Central Library had demanded that she stop breastfeeding her child in public and gave as the reason signs posted at various places in the building, "No Food or Drinks." And Arab News reported in December that a hospital in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, had refused to hand over the body of a deceased baby until after father Wajeeh Suleiman (of Turkey) pays his bill of about $48,000 (U.S.).
Officials were understandably alarmed when 24 residents of a nursing home tested positive for marijuana, but it turned out to be a reaction to a prescription for acid reflux (Claiborne County, Tenn.) And among the celebrated "first babies" born on Jan. 1 were one produced by artificial insemination to a female-female couple in Fairfax, Va., and one born to a father on the lam from the law (who was quickly picked up by police after a news story on the birth) in Spring Hill, Fla. And the Castaways Travel agency of Houston has booked a May 3 clothing-optional Boeing 727 flight to Cancun, Mexico (but the crew will be clothed and cabin temperatures warmer).
The FBI charged in November that the now-resigned head of the Washington, D.C., Teachers Union may have embezzled more than $2 million in union funds (while broken-down public schools lack books and supplies for students) to support an Imelda Marcos-like clothing, furnishings and artwork habit. On another matter, the D.C. public school system admitted in December that it had continued to pay out $5 million in employee benefits during the year to ex-employees who had already left the government (and other parts of the District government were suspected of doing the same thing).
The Guardian (London) reported in December that multinational food giant Nestle continues relentlessly to demand about $6 million from dirt-poor Ethiopia as payment for that government's having nationalized a Nestle subsidiary 27 years ago. (According to the Oxfam humanitarian group, $6 million would feed a million people for a month.) And Florida inmate Gary Alvord, 55, who escaped from a Michigan mental institution and killed two women in Tampa in 1973, this year begins his 30th year on death row.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)