About half the students who attend the Jewish primary school King David, in Birmingham, England, are Muslims, and in fact, their parents work hard to get them in because they so respect the school's ethos and its halal-like diet. All students learn Hebrew, recite Jewish prayers, and celebrate Israeli independence, but there is a Muslim prayer room, also, and Muslim teachers are hired for Ramadan. However, confided one parent, the school tries to keep a low profile so as not to inflame the religious rabble-rousers.
Robert "Drew" Stephenson, on trial in Fort Worth, Texas, in January for "torturing" an ex-girlfriend, acknowledged her severe burns but said it wasn't his fault. He said the two were having sex in a house that had no heat, and to warm himself, he ran the flames of a lantern up and down his arm. According to him, his girlfriend said she wanted to be warmed up with flames, too. (He was convicted, and in February, after four other women testified that he had beaten them, was sentenced to life in prison.)
-- In February, two anti-whaling activists (one from Australia, one from Los Angeles), intending to attack a Japanese whaling ship near Antarctica with a bottle of acid and a smoke bomb, got lost in the fog in their small dinghy and were rescued with the help of several boats, including the whaler. However, as soon as the activists were safe, one thanked the Japanese crew but said, "I guess we're back on schedule, and we'll be pursuing you again." Shortly after that, the activists approached the whaler and tossed the acid onto the deck, injuring two crew members.
-- It is well-known that Saudi Arabia still prohibits women from driving cars (or riding in them unless accompanied by a male relative), but a December Associated Press dispatch from Riyadh reported on female automobile salespeople (who are successful in selling to females, who can own cars as long as someone else drives). Also, in January, a holding company owned by Saudi Prince Alwaleed ibn Talal hired a female pilot for one of its jets. The woman, Capt. Hanadi Zakariya Hindi, flies with no restrictions but still requires a male relative to get her to and from the airport.
-- In January in Austin, Texas, a 45-minute delay occurred between when a nighttime 911 call was made to report a building on fire and the time firefighters arrived. According to the Austin American-Statesman, the delay could have been due to uncertainty about the seriousness of the "fire," in that the building in question, with smoke spewing from it, was Bert's Bar B-Q (which of course has smoke spewing from it frequently). This time, though, the building was destroyed.
-- William Davis filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against the Murfreesboro, Tenn., police in December because, when they raided his home after complaints from neighbors, they seized and destroyed the 114 dead cats and one dead dog that Davis kept in freezers and which he said had "emotional value" for him. In addition, according to the petition filed in Chancery Court for Rutherford County (and uncovered by TheSmokingGun.com), the carcasses were potential business property, in that he was planning to start his own pet cemetery, and also one of the cats, he claimed, was destined for the Guinness Book of World Records because it had been so large at birth.
-- We're Smart, You're Not: A group of so-called "gifted" eighth-grade students filed a lawsuit in 2003 against the Beaubien School in Chicago because officials denied them their "right" to wear a "Gifties" T-shirt. The school, with similar numbers of "gifteds" and regular students (who, the Chicago Sun-Times reported, are referred to as "tards"), works to tamp down divisiveness and controversy between the two groups. However, said one giftie, "There's a certain point when you have to stick up for your rights," and not only was a lawsuit filed, but when it was tossed out by the first judge to hear it, the students appealed, and argument was heard in January at the U.S. Court of Appeals.
(1) Josie Medlock, 59, imprisoned two home improvement contract workers and two supervisors in her home in East Dene, England, in December and refused to let them out until they promised to finish her kitchen remodeling by Christmas. A local government mediator worked out a compromise, according to London's The Sun. (2) Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara, of Portugal, died in 2001 with a 13-year-old will leaving his entire estate (including two residences) to be divided among 70 people he had randomly selected from the Lisbon phone book, with explicit instructions that his relatives would get nothing. (According to a January 2007 Agence France-Presse dispatch, the outraged relatives are still challenging the will.)
-- (1) The Netherlands broadcaster SBS 6 was scheduled to launch a reality TV show in February, "Love at Second Sight," which has been described as a dating show for the "visibly disfigured." An SBS 6 spokesman said the show's goal is to fight prejudice (which is why the producers changed the name from its original, "Monster Love"). (2) Southern California filmmaker Dominic Scott Kay filed a creative-control lawsuit in January against the financial backer of his short film, "Saving Angelo," starring family friend Kevin Bacon, which he wanted to enter in independent festivals but was kept from by the financier. Dominic Scott Kay is 10 years old.
(1) George Dalmas III, 48, a 20-year, mid-level CIA employee, pleaded guilty in Fairfax, Va., in December to breaking into 10 homes and stealing many items of expensive jewelry, plus 1,074 pairs of women's underpants, all of which Dalmas carefully maintained, in that, said the prosecutor, he was most of all a pack rat. (2) In December, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals petitioned to have convicted Chicago-area bestialist Dwayne Page, 27, banned from further contact with animals (even though Page might already have moved on to a substitute fetish five months earlier, according to a probation officer, by browsing Web sites "relating to diapers for sexual arousal").
Joshlynn Leigh, 30, was arrested in December at a Pennsylvania state police barracks as she arrived for fingerprinting in preparation for being hired by the agency. Leigh was discovered to have driven to the barracks in a stolen car (the same one that was the subject of a warrant against her in Georgia for auto theft).
Canadian inventor Troy Hurtubise made News of the Weird in 1997 and 2001 as he struggled to create an impervious grizzly bear-fighting suit, to mixed success. Over the last two years, he has invested $15,000 to create what he calls the "first ballistic, full exoskeleton body suit of armor" to protect Canadian soldiers in combat. He told the Hamilton (Ontario) Spectator in January that he was ready to put the suit on and face high-powered rifle fire. In addition to the armor, the outfit contains a knife, a transponder, a recording device and emergency morphine.
Ms. Pan Alying, a schoolteacher in China's Shandong province, had her purse snatched in January (containing her mobile phone, bank cards and cash) and decided to try pleading with the thief by sending text messages to her stolen phone. According to Xinhua news agency, she patiently sent 21 sympathetic notes to the man, with no answer, but the day after the last one, she found a package at her door containing her purse and all its contents intact, with a note, "I'm sorry. ... I'll correct my ways and be an upright person."
(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.)