-- Motorist Catherine Donkers got a ticket in Portage County, Ohio, on May 8 for not having her baby strapped in, mainly because she was breastfeeding it while she drove. Rather than pay the $100 fine, Donkers' husband, Brad Barnhill, demanded a trial with himself as the defendant, in that his First Christian Fellowship for Eternal Sovereignty teaches that the husband must take responsibility for all of his wife's public actions. (That religion's principal focus, according to founder Christopher Hansen, is keeping "God-given rights" free of "encroachment of the Beast," which is defined as the government.) Barnhill said that at his next court appearance, he will make a citizen's arrest of the prosecutor.
-- Increasingly, chickens are being kept as pets in suburban homes, according to an Associated Press writer in June (though reporting with scant evidence). A Bala Cynwyd, Pa., family has nine chickens, which are "aesthetically pleasing," said the owner, even "cool." A Cedar Hill, Mo., woman recalled the 38 chickens she has had over the years and said "the best part" was "knowing them as individuals." Another Bala Cynwyd woman said her chickens are faithful in the way they follow her around the yard and are "very sweet. They give back."
(1) Life Imitates the Three Stooges: Providence, R.I., high school teacher Michael Dame was charged with assault in June when, being taunted by a truant student who had stuck his head in Dame's classroom, Dame slammed the door, catching the student's head inside. (2) Life Imitates the Movie "Carrie": Dorothy VerValen filed a lawsuit against the city of Sultan, Wash., for a broken ankle suffered when she stepped onto her father's gravesite at the town cemetery to clear away moss, and the plot caved in beneath her. (In June, the judge ruled it wasn't the city's fault.)
In June, the St. Paul Pioneer Press profiled counselors Lynn Baskfield and Ann Romberg, who use the technique of "equine-assisted coaching" to help clients like Mari Harris, who wants to boost her singing career. In a typical session at a Stillwater, Minn., farm, Harris would ride and walk a horse until struck with some dramatic insight on how to achieve show-business success. Said Romberg, "It's much less difficult to accept feedback from a horse than a human." Another client said that when his usually passive horse suddenly sped up in a frenzy, "It got me thinking." "I (had) let (my) business lead me," he realized, apparently for the first time, and thus started drawing a better balance between work and family.
-- Tacky People's Rights: Among the more effortless budget cuts this year proposed by California (which is facing a near-catastrophic financial crisis) was $400,000 by ending the free stocking of trout in 10 Los Angeles County lakes, but local fishermen went nuts and got the county Board of Supervisors to denounce the cut. And when Boston Mayor Thomas Menino ended a longtime giveaway program this year, of free golf privileges for 15 local ministers, several black minister-golfers were incensed, like Rev. James Allen, who said, "I don't want to make it a racial thing, but it seemed like that's what it was."
-- New Frontiers in PC: Sal Santana II, 12, was suspended for three days from an El Paso, Texas, middle school for sexual harassment after sticking his tongue out at a girl who said she wouldn't be his girlfriend. And the Leander, Texas, school board voted in June to prohibit students from "teasing." And Britain's National Society for Epilepsy said in April it had received several inquiries from teachers in training who had been instructed to avoid the term "brainstorming," as offensive to epileptics (substitute: "thought shower") (but the society said brainstorming was OK).
-- Just Can't Stop Myself: Investigatory work by a scorned woman turned up more than 50 others who were victims of the same man, 29-year veteran U.S. Army Col. Kassem Saleh (most recently stationed in Afghanistan), who struck up e-mail romances with the women and wrote "the most intoxicating love letters" one woman had ever read while assuring her (while also assuring others) that they would soon marry. The 5-foot-10 Saleh created at least one skeptical woman, though: Saleh had claimed to be 6-foot-5, but when a first-meeting date with the woman neared, he wrote that he had shrunk about 5 inches due to repeated parachute jumps. Saleh issued a public apology to the women after The New York Times outed him.
-- In 1998, Barbara Downey killed her 7-year-old daughter with two execution-style shots to the back of the head, and she was committed to a state mental hospital; in March 2003, doctors concluded that she is no longer mentally ill, and she was released. And Johnnie Eugene Maxwell, 56, accused of killing his father in 2001, was freed in June after a judge in Hillsborough, N.C., concluded that a stroke had left Maxwell cognitively unable to defend himself at trial (in that he can only speak three words: yes, no and a certain cussword); Maxwell could not be sent to a mental hospital, either, because he is not currently insane or a threat to himself or others.
-- Anthony Perks, an endocrinologist and professor of gynecology at the University of British Columbia, reporting in the July issue of Discover magazine, set out his unique theory of the symbolic meaning of the prehistoric Stonehenge monument in England: The paired, capped stones (one smooth, one rough) represent the female's smooth skin as against the male's rough skin, and the smooth stones match the locations of the vulva's labia minora and labia majora, with an altar stone in the position of the clitoris. "Stonehenge," he said, "could represent the opening by which the earth mother gave birth to the plants and animals on which ancient people so depended."
America's most underrated highway safety problem appears to be senior drivers who mistakenly step on the accelerator instead of the brake: Henry Clax, 78, Jersey City, N.J. (hit three lampposts and then 13 people coming out of a Jehovah's Witnesses assembly, April); Marcella Stahly, 63, Albuquerque (tore through the front wall of a fruit market, March); Ms. Nahid Nainzadeh, 64, New Fairfield, Conn. (plowed halfway into a bank, April); Leonard Borok, 81, Coral Springs, Fla. (crashed through the front window of a post office, May); Waunona Reed, 85, Crescent City, Ore. (struck 26 people leaving an Assembly of God church, January).
-- A suspected burglar in Albany, Ore., apparently escaped in June after failing in his quest to break into a warehouse, but he left behind his bolt cutters, some burned clothing and part of his scalp. Police said the man had attempted to cut through a 480-volt line and probably had "severe" burns.
-- The burglar who is captured because his tracks lead away from a crime scene in the mud or snow is a story category previously identified as No Longer Weird. However, in May, Albert Jackson Dowdy, 22, in Grants Pass, Ore., took incompetence to a new level. According to police, he tried to smash a glass door with a paint can, but the can broke open. Dowdy eventually got into the home, said police (total take: a can of tuna fish and a box of oatmeal), but on his way out stepped in the spilled paint and created tracks to a nearby motel, where police eventually arrested him.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress released in June revealed that Washington, D.C., students score the lowest in the country in reading, even though the system spends more money per pupil than 49 states do, and even though teacher salaries are among the highest in the nation. And Washington, D.C.'s, Options Public Charter School replaced its principal, Clarence Edward Dixon, in May after learning that he is a felon with a long arrest record and in fact had been reporting to work daily wearing an ankle monitor as a condition of probation for credit-card fraud.
A couple said the reason why their 18-month-old son survived a five-story fall out of an unscreened window, with only a broken leg, was because he landed on his loaded diaper (Ottawa, Ontario). A Roman Catholic priest blessed his town's beauty pageant, a preliminary to Miss Italy, saying, "Beauty is never embarrassing, for it is a gift from the Lord" (Civita Castellana, Italy). Taxpayers in Manchester, England, learned they were paying for an Urdu-speaking translator because a newly elected city councilman from a Pakistani neighborhood barely speaks English.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNews@earthlink.net or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)