Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez (Alice, Texas, pop. 19,000) and her twin sister were indicted in January for hiding evidence in a dognapping case. Saenz-Lopez had agreed to baby-sit a shih tzu but, alarmed by the dog's sickliness, she kept it and lied to the owners that it had died. When it was spotted at a local grooming service, Saenz-Lopez and her sister allegedly began a cover-up that included the mayor's once pretending to be her sister. The mayor told her lawyer that if not for her husband, she would go to jail "for the rest of (my) life" rather than give the dog back. Most recently, Saenz-Lopez reported that the dog had run away, but many of her constituents are skeptical.
-- Among the accusations that emerged from an FBI investigation of the U.S. government's beleaguered Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (according to a December Washington Post report) is that the deputy director of that office, Ginger Cruz, a self-described Wiccan, had been threatening to place hexes on employees if they co-operated with outsiders' evaluations of the agency. (She was cleared of those charges by the internal SIGIR staff.)
-- A commercial, pre-packaged ham-and-cheese sandwich using one slice of bread is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which conducts daily inspections under its jurisdiction, but a ham-and-cheese sandwich on two slices of bread falls to the Food and Drug Administration, which inspects plants about once every five years. That anomaly surfaced in the current presidential campaign and was verified by a Congressional Quarterly-St. Petersburg Times "Politifact" researcher in December. A USDA official admitted to the Times that there "is no rationale or logic" behind the distinction: "(I)t's an issue that makes it look like we don't know what we're doing."
-- Political Campaign Strategies: (1) Lee Myung-bak was elected president of South Korea in December, perhaps attributable in part to his organization's spraying a sharp fragrance they call "Great Korea" in the air at campaign events and then on election day at polling places, hoping for an olfactory influence on undecided voters. (2) Matthew Lajoie, 21, could have used chemical help in his race for an at-large school board seat in Brunswick, Maine, in November. He spent the campaign trying to convince voters that he is a changed man from the one who had amassed 18 criminal convictions in the previous two years. (He lost but received 10.5 percent of the votes.)
-- Samina Malik, 23, was convicted in a British court in December and given a suspended nine-month sentence for having amassed a large collection of how-to books on terrorism. She came to authorities' attention as the self-described "lyrical terrorist" who writes poetry glorifying the Islamic mujahadeen fighters who specialize in beheadings. (From her "How to Behead": "Tilt the fool's head to its left / Saw the knife back and forth / No doubt that the punk will twitch and scream / But ignore the donkey's ass / And continue to slice back and forth.")
-- In January, the Centre for Recent Drawing art gallery in a London, England, suburb scheduled a series of 55 works by artist Jordan McKenzie, 40, called "Spent," even though they consist merely of canvases onto which he had ejaculated and covered with carbon sprinkles. McKenzie maintained that the works were "heartfelt and delicate."
-- The Austin (Texas) Police Department announced in January that it had suspended Officer Scott Lando, 45, based on preliminary indications that he had been hiring a prostitute while on duty. According to a search warrant affidavit (disclosed in the Austin American-Statesman), Lando had paid for the woman's services in part by giving her free rein over part of Mrs. Lando's closet, declaring that his wife "would never miss" some of the items.
-- Chutzpah: (1) Georgia Ann Newman, 36, was arrested and charged with battery on a police officer after she not only spit on a Charleston, W.Va., officer but, as he was leading her away, wiped her nose on his uniform shirt. (2) Teresa Walker, 44, was arrested in Cincinnati in October in the course of a minor traffic stop because, while the ticket was being written, she allegedly called the police department on her cell phone to complain that the officer was writing too slowly. She later denied the officer's charge that she had threatened to "shoot" him if he didn't speed it up, but only to "sue" him.
Satellite-navigation is undoubtedly a boon to drivers, but reports are accumulating of incidents in which drivers turned over too much discretion to the technology. For example, in January in Bedford Hills, N.Y., a visiting Silicon Valley computer technician absentmindedly obeyed his car's global positioning system and wound up, stalled, on railroad tracks, where a passing Metro-North train smashed into it (after the man had exited).
(1) In October, Syracuse, N.Y., dentist George Trusty was sued in federal court after a drill bit snapped off and lodged near a patient's eye, allegedly because Trusty was dancing to the song "Car Wash" on the radio while tending to the patient. (2) In January, former Skokie, Ill., eye doctor's assistant Joseph Vernell Jr. was sued after a patient complained that, in a dark room "exam," Vernell was detected licking her toes (but then explaining that he was actually "checking (her) sugar level").
Too Late: According to police in Honolulu in January, it was Ellis Cleveland who robbed four banks within a five-day span, and that's what an officer said to him as they arrested him. Responded Cleveland, "Four. I didn't do four. I only robbed three banks. But it doesn't matter because I'm not talking to you guys. I want a lawyer." Police later said that Cleveland was not counting the attempted robbery on Dec. 31 of the Bank of Hawaii because, after three different tellers tried unsuccessfully to decipher his holdup note, Cleveland gave up and walked out empty-handed.
News of the Weird has mentioned several times (last in 2001) the federal court order requiring the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to rectify decades' worth of negligence in administering the Indian Trust Fund, which might involve as much as $2.5 billion. Included in a 2001 court order was a prohibition against BIA's maintaining a department Web site until it proves that it can secure all the records necessary for the court-ordered accounting, and according to a Boston Magazine story in January (reporting on the bureau's handling of a Massachusetts casino), the agency still lacks department-wide Internet access. However, there is one room on the fourth floor of the bureau's Washington, D.C., office that is connected to the Web, but e-mailers and Googlers have to leave their desks and go to that office.
Recent Playdates: Marion County, Fla., January (image of Jesus on a slice of raw potato); Tampa, Fla., January (image of Jesus on a slab of granite); Houston, January (image of Jesus on another slice of raw potato); Meadow Lake, N.M., December (image of Jesus on a sprayed-on wall covering); Homestead, Fla., December (image of Jesus on a chest X-ray); Port St. Lucie, Fla., November (image of Jesus on a pancake); Houston, October (image of Jesus on a bathroom towel); Forest, Va., August (image of Jesus on a smudge of driveway sealant); Manchester, Conn., August (image of Jesus on a kitchen cabinet door); Lodi, Calif., August (image of Jesus on a backyard fence).
(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.)