The Official Shoe of Illegal Immigrants: Artist Judi Werthein's high-top sneaker "Brinco" went on sale recently ($215 a pair) at boutiques in San Diego and New York City, with tiny accessories (compass and flashlight on the shoelaces, secret pocket in the shoe's tongue), but she also gives away many pairs in Tijuana because she actually designed the shoe for Mexican migrants to wear when they sneak across the border into the United States. (The back of the shoe has a drawing of the country's patron saint of migrants, and a removable foot support has a crude map of the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a November Associated Press report).
-- Until the policy was changed in October, cafeterias in the 18 schools of the North Penn School District (northwest of Philadelphia) had been supplying as eating utensils only plastic cutlery that was washed after each meal and reused, even though students had long expressed disgust at spoons and knives riddled with bite marks and had, defensively, taken to eating foods like yogurt and applesauce with their hands. (The district admitted that this recycling saved only $15,000 a year.)
-- Blond twins, Lamb and Lynx Gaede, age 13, of Bakersfield, Calif., sing professionally as Prussian Blue at white-supremacy concerts and rallies and on the white-nationalist Resistance Records label (with songs like "Sacrifice," which is a tribute to Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess), according to an October ABC News story. The girls' parents home-school them and are active in the Aryan movement (rancher-dad Ted Shaw's cattle brand is a swastika). Said Lynx, "We want our people to stay white. (W)e don't want to just be, you know, a big muddle."
-- According to more than 50 alleged witnesses in 30 pending lawsuits, former Seattle-area gynecologist Charles Momah, 48, not only sexually abused patients but also permitted his twin brother, Dennis (a doctor but not a gynecologist), to stand in for him during some patient appointments, during which he, too, sexually abused the women. Examples of suspicion-provoking behavior, according to witness statements: Sometimes their doctor was talkative, sometimes confused and nearly silent; sometimes he spoke English clearly, sometimes broken; sometimes he walked with a limp, sometimes not; sometimes there were scars on his face, sometimes not. The Momahs deny everything, but Charles was convicted in November of sexually abusing four of the patients.
-- In November, to calm down a growing number of apparently horrified Australians, the Food Authority of the state of New South Wales issued a statement assuring people that meat in their refrigerators that appears to glow in the dark is actually harmless. Said the authority's director, the light-emitting bacteria responsible for the glow "is not known to cause food poisoning" and, actually, is naturally present in most meats and fish.
-- In October in Evansville, Ind., Terrence L. Mackey, 63, was sentenced to 29 years in prison for a May 2005 bank robbery, but not before he tried to defend his behavior to Federal Judge Richard L. Young, blaming the robbery on federal corrections officials. He would have turned his life around before now, Mackey said, if officials had just sent him to a prison close to his mother's home in Florida when he was locked up for a 1982 crime. And as to the charge that he shot at police as he fled the bank robbery, he claimed self-defense: "The police were shooting at me."
-- David Duvall and his 2-year-old daughter were hospitalized with burns on the head suffered during the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville in October after a female acrobat mishandled a flaming wand. The woman, seeking a volunteer from the audience, asked Duvall, in front of his family, if she could set fire to his bald head, and Duvall said, "Sure." Said Duvall's wife, later, "We thought they knew what they were doing."
-- Cary, N.C., software developer Brian T. Schellenberger, 43, told FBI agents in December 2003 that he had been influenced by a workplace motivational poster, "Achieve Your Dreams," that energized him to fulfill his own dreams. His major life transformation, unfortunately, was that "I decided to get rid of the obsolete idea of morality." Specifically, he told the agents that he was inspired to move beyond his mere passive collecting of pornography and to begin creating his own child pornography to satisfy long-held fantasies about young girls. (He also later enlisted a man, unsuccessfully, to kill his wife in exchange for pornography from his collection.) In October 2005, Schellenberger, though subsequently remorseful, was sentenced to 100 years in prison.
-- Jim Porcellato endured about 30 seconds of excruciating pain in October in Sooke, British Columbia, when he attempted to shut off a Bobcat construction vehicle but accidentally stepped on the floor lever that raises and lowers the vehicle's bucket, at the same time that he was, unfortunately, straddling the bucket. Porcellato, with one foot and his body's weight on the lever, had no leverage to stop the bucket, which as it moved, trapped his head and other leg. A co-worker rescued him, but the result was "many" lost teeth and the need for "hundreds" of stitches in his face, according to the Sooke News Mirror.
-- In Fargo, N.D., in September, Justin W. Fraase enthusiastically called the police to tell them that he had a videotape that would prove that the woman who had a judicial stay-away order against him actually wanted him back. The tape was of the two having sex, and when authorities viewed it, they realized that, for one thing, the sex itself violated the judicial order and, second, the woman appeared not to be enjoying herself at all. (Indeed, she later said that Fraase had coerced her, and he was charged with three felony counts relating to the assault and the violation of the stay-away order.)
From the newspaper The State (Columbia, S.C., 11-14-05), regarding fugitive Rodney Dane Higginbotham, wanted for criminal domestic violence: "Alleged Crime: Police said Higginbotham argued with his wife because she had not cooked anything. When she began cooking, he started making spaghetti while eating crackers and squeeze cheese. They argued, and he squeezed cheese on the kitchen floor. She squeezed the cheese on his truck, and he squeezed the cheese in her hair before fleeing in his truck. The wife said she washed her hair before the officer arrived to take her complaint."
In November, NASCAR announced it had contracted with the romance publisher Harlequin Enterprises to arrange for steamy women's novels with car-racing themes, beginning with Pamela Britton's forthcoming book "In the Groove." And according to an October Los Angeles Times report, the trade association Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America contracted to pay two writers a "six-figure" fee to write a novel about a national panic resulting from a fear that drug lobbyists had actually been trying to spread in Congress, specifically, that terrorists might poison lower-priced drug imports from Canada. (The Times reported that the association recently killed the project and blamed the whole idea on an unsupervised lower-level executive.)
The body of a 36-year-old woman was found stuck halfway through a rear window in a house in St. Louis in October, the result (according to police) of an unsuccessful burglary attempt; she had asphyxiated, and in the course of her struggle to break free, her pants had somehow come off. And a 42-year-old woman in Frederica, Del., hanged herself from a tree on the Tuesday before Halloween, and though she was spotted at a distance soon afterward, neighbors did not call police for 10 hours, figuring at first that the body was just a Halloween decoration.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa FL 33679 or WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com.)