Wheelchair-confined Richard Paey committed almost exactly the same violations of Florida prescription drug laws that radio personality Rush Limbaugh did, with a different result: Limbaugh's sentence, in May, was addiction treatment, and Paey's, in 2004, was 25 years in prison. Both illegally possessed large quantities of painkillers for personal use, which Paey defiantly argued was (and will be) necessary to relieve nearly constant pain from unsuccessful spinal surgeries after an auto accident, but which Limbaugh admitted was simply the result of addiction. (In fact, if Limbaugh complies with his plea bargain, his conviction will be erased.) Paey's sentence now rests with a state Court of Appeal.
-- (1) China, sensitive about the impression it will make on visitors to the 2008 Olympics, has undertaken a major campaign against open spitting, monitored by volunteer scolders who wear shirts that spell out "mucus" in Chinese and who hand out bags to spit in. (2) India's Rural Development Minister vowed in March that the country will eliminate open defecation by 2012, despite reports of toilet use in some states as low as 15 percent. The government gives homeowners toilet-installation grants.
-- For 30 years now, many residents of Frostburg, Md., have been puzzled, and annoyed, at the three-story-high, 400-foot-long metal- and-concrete frame that Pastor Richard Greene calls his modern Noah's Ark, at which he works off and on, awaiting Judgment Day. According to an April Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dispatch, Greene said the Arc came to him in visions during disturbing dreams in 1976. Some neighbors are patient, but others call the Ark an eyesore that depresses property values and wastes religious charity (since contributions to Greene have totaled $1 million).
-- Ewwwww! (1) Again this year, in April, Jim Werych of the Wednesday Night Classics car club in Brookfield, Wis., ritually dragged his tongue, in a deep lick, across Lisbon Road (with traffic stopped in both directions) to verify, and proclaim, that the streets are free of winter salt and thus safe for the club's delicate classics. (2) A March New York Times dispatch described recent successes in eradicating the grotesque "Nigerian worm," which afflicted 3 million Africans in 1986 but only 12,000 last year. The string-like worm, up to 3 feet in length, produces pools of acid in legs or feet (or eye sockets) and causes excruciating pain until expelled.
-- In April, William Bethel Jr. confessed to police during a traffic stop that the station wagon he was driving was mainly used for transporting corpses for his friend's mortuary service but that he was using it just then to deliver pizzas for Domino's of Feasterville, Pa. (Bethel quickly resigned.)
-- On the day after a federal jury in Virginia sentenced "20th (Sept. 11) hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui to life in prison without possibility of parole, a Florida jury in Orlando gave Carl Moore, 37, exactly the same sentence. The Virginia jury had concluded that Moussaoui could have prevented the deaths of nearly 3,000 people; the Florida jury found that Moore had fondled a 12-year-old girl, briefly, underneath her clothes on an elevator at a resort (his second such conviction).
An Illinois Appellate Court in April upheld a lower court ruling reversing Mongo the steer's disqualification for steroids after he had been chosen junior grand champion at the 2003 Illinois State Fair. Mongo had tested positive for the anti-inflammatory Banamine, for his sore foot, but the court declared the test improperly administered. It was a victory for Mongo's owner, Whitney Gray, but of utterly no benefit to Mongo, who shortly after the fair was slaughtered for steak.
(1) In February, children's book author Frank Feldmann, 35, trespassed to the top of the St. Augustine (Fla.) Lighthouse in the middle of the night, wearing a tiger suit, to decry child pornography on the Internet. However, his point was not immediately understood by police on the ground below because of communication problems posed by his voice-muffling tiger mask. (2) The residents of Steuben County in upstate New York, who attended a community rally in January to protest a planned clean-energy windmill farm, mostly criticized its unsightliness, but one opponent objected because windmill blades make whirring noises that to him resemble sounds of Nazi holocaust torture.
New York City raw-food restaurateur Dan Hoyt, 43, was sentenced to two years' probation in April for a highly publicized 2005 incident in which he indecently exposed himself on a subway train in front of a 22-year-old woman, who reacted by photographing him with her cell phone and displaying the shot on the Internet. In an April interview with New York magazine, Hoyt shrugged off the incident, calling his habit just another facet of a "pretty cool," thrill-seeking person. "I've met women who enjoy (being flashed)." Except for the subway incident, even his victim would "probably want to go out with me."
-- Short Attention Spans: Brian M. Williams, 21, was arrested for allegedly robbing Houchens Market in Glasgow, Ky., in April; police had found him minutes afterward across the street filling his gas tank. And Nathan Myles, 25, was sentenced in March to three years in prison for a lengthy, destructive police chase in Thunder Bay, Ontario; it ended when Myles stopped for a haircut. And Mario Caracoza, 26, was arrested for allegedly robbing a Bank of America in Bristol Township, Pa., in May; police had found him minutes afterward eating breakfast at the Sunrise Diner next door.
-- Wrong Place, Wrong Time: (1) Konoshin Kawabata, 48, was arrested in Osaka, Japan, in March for burglarizing a temple; he wandered through an unmarked door and was surprised by 20 sumo wrestlers, who were staying at the temple and who easily detained him. (2) Police in Melbourne, Australia, arrested a 34-year-old man for robbery in January after the victim (renowned illustrator Bill "Weg" Green) provided police with an unusually helpful drawing of the perp's face.
(1) People hit by "flying" cows (that fall out of livestock trailers on highways and overpasses), with the latest occurring near Seguin, Texas, in March, when a cow flew out onto Interstate 10, causing collisions of two police cars that soon caught on fire. (2) Patient, by-the-book, but useless police standoffs (in which cops implore residents for hours to surrender, eventually to learn that no one is home), with the latest being a suspected drug house futilely surrounded for seven hours by SWAT officers in Oklahoma City in April.
People who accidentally shot themselves recently: Clayton Teman, 23, Springfield, Ore., January (badly misfired while being chased by police). A 25-year-old man, Wichita, Kan., February (driving with loaded gun between his legs). Sheriff's deputy Jeff Hamric, Parkersburg, W.Va., March (during firearms practice at a gun range). An undercover Lauderhill, Fla., police officer, January (when a car bumped him on the street). A 15-year-old boy, North Brunswick, N.J., March (another "waistband as holster" accident). William Tyree, 33, Dacula, Ga., April (badly misfired while being chased by police). An unidentified man, Nacogdoches, Texas, February (shooting at an opossum). And in April, two men, a 23-year-old in Hopkinton, N.J., and an unidentified man in Grass Valley, Calif., fatally shot themselves while playing alcohol-induced games with their guns in front of friends.
CORRECTION: In last week's News of the Weird, I misstated that a young girl's defective heart was removed, in favor of an artificial one, and then re-started recently, after 10 years. Actually, the heart had remained inside her all along, but dormant.