-- The prime minister of Latvia, Einars Repse, announced in January the formation of an anti-"absurdity" bureau to deal with the government's excessive "foolishness" and lack of order and the "laziness" of civil servants. The agency, according to a newspaper in the capital of Riga, now receives about 10 complaints a day and has made 460 responses, including referring seven to government prosecutors.
-- The Moral Authority of the United Nations: Dining-room workers at the U.N. staged a wildcat strike at lunchtime on May 2, causing the building's restaurants to be locked down, but what Time magazine called a "high-ranking U.N. official" ordered them unlocked so that staff members could eat (perhaps to pay for food on the honor system). What ensued, according to Time, was "Baghdad style (looting) chaos," in which staff members ran wild, stripping the cafeterias and snack bars bare not only of food, but also silverware and liquor, none of it paid for, including bar drinks taken by "some well-known diplomats."
-- Government at War With Itself: The San Francisco Chronicle reported in March that local priest and accused child-molester Austin Peter Keegan was able to avoid arrest for six months largely through government funding (i.e., the Social Security Administration, which continued to pay his benefits until he was arrested in Mexico on March 1). And prosecutors in Tampa urged a federal magistrate not to grant bail to accused terrorist supporter Sami al-Arian, on the grounds that if granted bail, he surely will flee the country; meanwhile, immigration authorities announced that they have begun the legal steps necessary, in the event al-Arian is granted bail, to deport him.
-- A March investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel revealed that it is the policy of the Social Security Administration (even in times of terrorist alerts) that when someone presents what is obviously a phony ID in order to receive a Social Security card, the ID is merely returned to the person and he is asked to leave the building. No document is retained; no report is made; and law-enforcement is not called.
-- Public Officials Gone Tacky: Detroit City Council member Kay Everett outdid colleagues who use the city's printing plant for mere personal fliers and business cards; she had the plant publish for her a 12-month calendar of herself, "Hat's on Me in 2003," featuring a different, fashionable photograph of herself for each month. And Rhode Island state Rep. Joseph S. Almeida was convicted in February of assaulting a repo man who was lawfully confiscating Almeida's girlfriend's car; Almeida's version was that the repo man voluntarily banged his own head into his truck's door three times, smashing his own eyeglasses and mangling his own face.
-- In February, municipal inspectors in Boston threatened sculptor Konstantin Simun, 68, with fines of $50 per day if he didn't soon clean up the eyesore that is his yard, even though he has repeatedly pointed out that he just happens to work in the medium of "junk." "It's my life's work," Simun said at a hearing, referring to the old tires, traffic cones, plastic milk and water bottles, painted buckets, old golf bags, a broken trampoline and other choice items. (For instance, he made a version of Michelangelo's "La Pieta" entirely from cut-up plastic milk bottles.) Simun's work was once housed at the prestigious DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park near Boston, as a "curator's choice" exhibit. (Noted Philadelphia sculptor Leo Sewell also works in this medium.)
-- In early March, as an edgy Washington, D.C., prepared for possible terrorist reactions to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Reena Patel, 22, and Olabayo Olaniyi, 32, were arrested at the Capitol as they sang and danced, with Olaniyi wearing a ceramic mask, and both with objects duct-taped to their bodies resembling the appearance of suicide bombers, but they maintained they were just artists. Said Patel, "We like to make things beautiful, to uplift, to make people happy." Said Olaniyi, "Duct tape is a hot item in D.C. I wanted my art to reflect what was hot here."
-- Prominent Columbia, S.C., surgeon Harry J. Metropol, appearing before a state legislative committee in April to argue that doctors shouldn't have to pay so much money in malpractice awards and insurance premiums, minimized the harm suffered by a woman (not Metropol's patient) who lost both breasts because of an error in cancer diagnosis. "She did not lose her life," Metropol said, sunnily, "and with plastic surgery, she'll have breast reconstruction better than she did before. It won't be National Geographic, hanging to her knees. It'll be nice, firm breasts."
-- The Cadbury company launched a major promotion campaign throughout Britain to fight childhood obesity by donating sports equipment to schools in exchange for candy bar purchases. For example (according to an April report in The Guardian), the company will donate a volleyball net and poles to a school if it hands in labels from 5,400 Cadbury chocolate bars. (In fact, a 10-year-old child getting a basketball for his school would have to play basketball for 90 hours just to burn off the calories in the candy he'd have to eat to get enough labels for the ball.)
Gerard Lancop, 58, was sentenced to nearly two years in prison for stalking a woman in connection with his psychiatrist-described fetish for women's coats (police found 236 in his home) (Windsor, Ontario, January). And Thomas William Hodgson pleaded guilty to harassing schoolgirls by either repeatedly stopping them on the street or leaving notes for them, offering to buy their cardigan sweaters, which he admitted he had a thing for (Christchurch, New Zealand, March).
News of the Weird reported in 2001 on the staffing problem of British circus knife-thrower Jayde Hanson, after his assistant walked off the job after being nearly hit in the foot, which would have been her third injury that season (which was the number of injuries an ex-girlfriend had suffered as Hanson's assistant before she walked off in 2000). In April 2003, Hanson was performing with his new girlfriend, Yana Rodianova, 22, on Britain's ITV program "This Morning," showing off his world-record form as a speed knife-thrower, but one of the knives hit Rodianova on the head, drawing blood before the live cameras.
Gary Lee Owens, 42, was arrested on drug charges in Stilwell, Kan., in April, even though police weren't looking for drugs when they knocked on his door. The police had received a tip that two fugitives were hiding at that address, and since Owens knew nothing about that, he matter-of-factly gave them permission to search the house but then added the restriction "everywhere but the garage." The police naturally decided that that comment was worth a search warrant, and later found the remains of a suspected methamphetamine lab.
Plymouth (England) University, with a small Arts Council grant, did not test whether an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters could produce the works of Shakespeare, but did test what six Sulawesi crested macaque monkeys would do on a computer over a four-week period at Paignton Zoo in Devon. The Guardian newspaper reported in May that the monkeys produced about five pages of text between them, mostly consisting of the letter S. Said Professor Geoff Cox, they actually spent a lot of the time sitting on the keyboard.
An international organization of gay men who raise money for charities through drag shows came to the rescue of straight high school girls by providing loaners for those who could not afford gowns for prom night (Houston). Police blamed a traffic accident on truck driver Brian Anderson, who they said lost control on Interstate 75 while making himself a bologna sandwich (Burt Township, Mich.). A motorcyclist was killed on Interstate 95 when he crashed into a cow that had wandered out through a hole in a fence made by trespassers looking to get high from the mushrooms that grow on cow patties (Hobe Sound, Fla.).
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)