-- In January, the engineers and hobbyists of Utah's Salt Lake Astronomical Society told reporters they were planning to air-drop bowling balls, at very high altitude, to check out their impact when they land on the salt flats, to simulate the impact of meteorites. The society said it had been frustrated that it could not find any meteorites so far and had been wondering whether they had disintegrated or been pulverized on impact. Two days later, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, citing the many people engaged in work projects on the salt flats, said it was a bad idea to be dropping bowling balls around them.
-- In December, Texas murder defendant Leonard Rojas' time for appeals ran out, and he was executed. Sixty-eight days later, three members of the state's highest court for criminal cases explicitly concluded that Rojas' appointed lawyer was woefully incompetent and that the court's majority had ignored that incompetence while Rojas was still alive. The lawyer, David K. Chapman: had never handled a death-penalty case, failed to investigate Rojas' case, rarely met with Rojas, admitted he missed filing deadlines (one of which barred Rojas from any federal appeal), and had had his license suspended three times by the Texas Bar (once during the time he was representing Rojas).
The race-discrimination lawsuit of two black sisters (Grace Fuller, 48, and Louise Sawyer, 46) against Southwest Airlines is scheduled to go to trial in Kansas City, Kan., in March. The sisters' entire case is that a white flight attendant, in a hurry to get passengers seated, recited Southwest's version of a rhyme that has a racist history: "Eenie, meeny, minie, moe / Pick a seat, We gotta go." The sisters felt degraded and believe they are due some money.
Most recent antiwar demonstrations have been by clothed people, but since November, nude demonstrations against an invasion of Iraq have taken place in Marin County, Calif. (200 women at three sites); near West Palm Beach, Fla. (23 people); Byron Bay, Australia (700); and New York City's Central Park (30, in the snow). And the U.S. Navy announced in February that it is way short of "morticians" and is willing to pay sign-up bonuses of $6,000 (but denied the job search was related to Iraq). And according to Britain's The Sun, both George Bush and Saddam Hussein recently ordered the same $975 handmade shoes from the Milan, Italy, shoemaker Vito Artioli (Bush in size 10, Saddam 9 1/2).
-- In February, a 23-year-old woman who had once changed clothes in the office of a talent agency in Brighton, Mich., while a hidden video camera was running, convinced a jury that that one humiliating experience was worth $575,250. She said that the incident was so severe (even though she had not sought counseling or taken medication for it), she had lost all trust in people and would have to give up on being a model.
-- Anne Stanley filed a lawsuit in Westmoreland County, Pa., in December, asking $90 million as her compensation for a period of time when she was unsure whether or not she had received a deadly infection. A defective bronchoscope was allegedly used on her at Latrobe Area Hospital in January and June of 2001, and one of the things that this particular defect (loose valve) permits is for bacteria to form in a pocket that cannot be reached by sterilization equipment.
-- High school senior Brian Delekta filed a lawsuit in February against the school system in Memphis, Mich., alleging that he actually did A-plus work in one course but only received an A for it, and that his average should be even higher than it is (and Delekta was ranked first in his class by the end of his junior year). The course at issue here is a "work experience" course in which he served as a paralegal in a law office and did a fine job, according to his supervisor. That supervisor happened to be his mother, Diane, who said she meant that he did A-plus, not A, work.
-- The 3rd Baron Mereworth and dozens of British nobles told reporters in January that they planned to sue Britain in the European Court of Human Rights because the Blair government had ousted most of them in a 1997 reform of the "upper" legislature, the House of Lords (which had long been criticized as a mere social club of aristocrats). (Lord Mereworth, for example, inherited his title last year upon the death of his father, who spent 70 years in the House of Lords without ever participating in a debate.)
In her Daily Telegraph (London) column of Jan. 16, Medical Editor Celia Hall reported that a family doctor in western England has been summoned to a formal hearing before his local primary-care trust because he refused to certify a male patient for a Pap smear to screen him for cervical cancer. The man sincerely believes he is a hermaphrodite, but his doctor said he can find no evidence of that (and in fact, the man once fathered a child). At least one colleague suggested appeasing the patient, which the doctor said he might do if someone would teach him the procedure for performing a cervical smear on a 34-year-old male.
Kenneth Patrick Porche Jr., 22, was arrested outside the ladies' room at Dillard's department store in Houma, La., in January, carrying four plastic bags of urine and several empty bags labeled with descriptions such as "old woman." Police said they believed that Porche would enter a stall, disable the toilet's flush mechanism, and line the bowl with a plastic film to catch the urine, before hiding away in an adjacent stall. After a woman used the toilet and left, Porche would collect and bag the urine from the plastic film. Since Porche's behavior was difficult to characterize, police charged him under the catch-all "criminal mischief."
Two women were arrested in February and two men were being sought by police in a failed counterfeit-check scheme in Hickory, N.C.; they were busted because, despite using elaborate computer software to publish bogus checks, none of the four noticed that they had spelled the payer Broyhill Furniture's name as "Boryhill Furmiture." And according to authorities in Winona, Minn., in February, Carl Fratzke defrauded seven people of a total of $200,000 in a bogus investment in gloves; Fratzke (not a very sophisticated investor, himself) then immediately fell for one of the myriad Nigerian scams, blowing the entire $200,000 (plus $550,000 of his own money).
News of the Weird has several times reported on Postal Service letter carriers who get so far behind on their routes that they believe their only way out is to destroy their many bags of backlog. In January, two Immigration and Naturalization Service supervisors in Laguna Niguel, Calif., were indicted for allegedly ordering subordinates to shred their office's 90,000-document backlog (and to continue to shred incoming paperwork so that the office kept current).
Motorist B.J. Justin Lundin, 20, stopped his car in the middle of a two-lane road near Weatherford, Texas, in January, got out, and attacked the driver behind him in a fit of road rage over the driver's having earlier objected to Lundin's tailgating; Lundin was then accidentally struck and killed by another car trying to get around the two cars. And retired Belgian engineer Louis Dethy was accidentally blown up in November by one of the 19 deadly booby traps he had rigged in his home near Charlerois to prevent his ex-wife and 14 children (with whom he was feuding) from legally taking ownership of the house.
A worker at the Brown-Forman Distillery sent 1,800 gallons of tequila into the sewer system when he mistakenly unloaded one tank into an already full one (Louisville, Ky.). Circus clown Gavin Riley, 37, was jailed for two years for beating up his girlfriend because she declined to go watch him perform (Newcastle Upon Tyne, England). Entomologists explained that warm weather was the reason that hordes of cutworms and army worms were slithering across northwestern New Mexico, covering roads and invading homes (but not to worry, in that they would turn into moths in a few weeks, anyway) (Shiprock, N.M.).
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)