New York state Sen. Ada Smith, known to some as the "Wild Woman of Albany" for her temper, pleaded not guilty in April for yet another alleged outburst (accused of assaulting a staff member with hot coffee after a comment about Smith's weight). According to Senate officials cited by the New York Daily News, more than 200 of her staff members over the years have either quit or been fired. Besides Smith's previous run-ins with Albany police, New York City police and United Airlines, other former employees have claimed that she assaulted them (the latest being a woman who said Smith threw a phone at her). Smith has denied virtually every accusation, but her exasperated Senate party leader has stripped Smith of seniority privileges.
In July, Cory Neddermeyer, 42, was turned down for unemployment benefits in Iowa, after a judge ruled that he was fired for cause. His employer, the Amaizing Energy ethanol plant, suffered a massive spill that created a pond of fuel alcohol, and Neddermeyer (a recovering alcoholic), after resisting as long as he could, gave in and started drinking from the pool (causing him to pass out and later register an 0.72 blood-alcohol reading).
The District of Calamity: The District of Columbia government's payroll for 2005, reported by the Washington Times in July, included 1,268 employees paid over $100,000 a year (including 43 over $150,000 a year). The figures for Baltimore (with a slightly larger population) were 55 and two, respectively, and Chicago, with five times the population of D.C., still had fewer employees in both categories. In fact, even though the D.C. workforce has shrunk by 2,000 workers since 2002, the annual payroll has increased by $180 million.
Not Cut Out for a Life of Crime: (1) Lawrence C. Lawson, 60, was charged with robbing the Lasalle Bank in Troy, Mich., in July, which was an easy collar because, as he emerged from the bank with his loot, he spotted a passing police car and promptly fainted. (2) Pierre Barton, 20, was arrested in Cleveland following the robbery of Georgio's Pizza, shortly after he had accidentally dropped his two "cheat sheet" cards containing his robbery speech (reading "Give me the money" and "Tell I'll kill your family (sic)"). (In fact, Barton apparently was a poor ad-libber: Although his makeshift "gun" had come apart and was lying on the floor, he still threatened to shoot the manager as he was fleeing.)
-- In June, when Cook County, Ill., elections supervisor David Orr questioned the ethics of the family of Cook County Board President John Stroger (whose illness forced him to resign but not until the family delayed long enough to discourage potential successors, so that Stroger's son would have a better chance of winning the vacated post), a Stroger ally called Orr a "little poop butt."
-- California Assembly candidate Bill Conrad admitted in May that he personally wrote the flier proclaiming that his party primary opponent, Tom Berryhill, "doesn't have the HEART (emphasis in the original) for State Assembly" because Berryhill had a heart transplant six years ago and that "the average lifespan of a heart transplant recipient is seven years." (Berryhill won easily.)
-- After All, They're Not Running for Husband of the Year: (1) David Spellman was sworn in as mayor of Black Hawk, Colo., on July 12, a week after pleading guilty to two charges for pistol-whipping his wife with a handgun in 2005 (and firing three shots). (2) Self-described "pro-traditional family" candidate Jim Galley lost a two-man June congressional primary in San Diego, with no help from the San Diego Union Tribune's discovery, a week before the voting, that he had had child-support payments garnisheed from his paycheck for four years and was once, for a 17-month period, simultaneously married to two women.
(1) Randall Roye, whom New York City government lawyers say entered the country illegally in the 1990s and assumed the identity of a dead man, nonetheless tried to sue the city for $20 million after he allegedly "fell" out of a first-floor window of a school building. (With his cover blown, he has dropped out of sight, according to a June New York Post story.) (2) The U.S. military has attempted to hand back 32 parcels of land and buildings to the South Korean government after restoring them to their pre-Korean War condition (except for capital improvements the U.S. has made, which stay with the buildings). However, South Korea is refusing 25 of them, according to a June Stars and Stripes story, until the U.S. provides further upgrades.
Texas farmers about 75 miles from the Mexican border near Falfurrias have taken to installing ladders on their property to allow illegal aliens to climb over their fences in the course of trespassing so they'll stop making holes in the fences (which allow the farmers' cattle to escape). According to a June Associated Press report, the ladders aren't used very much, apparently because the illegals assume there's some catch.
In 2004 News of the Weird reported research suggesting that herring routinely communicate among themselves via a high-pitched, "raspberry"-like sound emitted from the anus. In June 2006, a researcher at Greenland Institute of Natural Resources said that herring appear also to use anal bubbles as a defense to obscure themselves from killer whales. (Researchers are not agreed on whether it is digestive gases or some other mechanism that produces the bubbles.)
(1) "$5 Million Awarded to Couple for Loss of Vagina" (a May report on Chicago's WMAQ-TV Web site about a hysterectomy gone bad, leading to "scar tissue and foreshortening" of the vagina). (2) "Officers Honored for Finding Man's Penis" (a story on the Kansas City Star's Crime Scene KC weblog about departmental recognition for seven police officers who searched a field and a yard looking for a man's severed, discarded penis, and then rushed it to a hospital to be reattached).
Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (79) The man who falls victim to a random prank by sitting innocently on a public restroom toilet seat that has been coated with glue, as happened to a 20-year-old man at a North Salisbury, Md., Wal-Mart in May. (80) The drug dealer or buyer who dials a phone number and begins a specific drug-sales conversation immediately upon the recipient's answering, oblivious that he has accidentally dialed a police officer's phone, as when a Hesperia, Calif., sheriff's deputy answered in June (and used caller ID to make the arrest).
Eighty such themes have been "retired from circulation" since News of the Weird began publishing in 1988, and for the next few months, they'll be reviewed here. Two popular criminal slip-ups involve the thief who tries to pass a stolen check not knowing that the check belongs to the clerk who is handling his transaction, and the robber who accidentally drops some form of ID at the scene of the crime. (Even though they're both No Longer Weird, we still applaud Calvin Barfield's "two-fer" in July. According to police in Sylvester, Ga., Barfield not only cluelessly tried to cash Joyce Powell's stolen check at the bank where she works, but also got nervous and fled the scene, leaving his driver's license in the drive-thru drawer.)
(Visit Chuck Shepherd daily at http://NewsoftheWeird.blogspot.com or www.NewsoftheWeird.com. Send your Weird News to WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com or P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, FL 33679.)