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News of The Weird


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CEO Andrew Wiederhorn began his 18-month federal prison sentence in August, but unlike other convicted CEOs, he'll continue to draw his $1.6 million a year salary while doing hard time. He pleaded guilty to two felonies (including filing a false tax return) while previously the CEO of Wilshire Financial Services Group in Oregon, but his current company, Fog Cutter Capital Group, apparently believes Wiederhorn is a real hot shot worth holding onto. Fog Cutter said it might even give Wiederhorn a bonus, in order to help him pay the restitution he is required to make under his plea agreement. [south Florida Sun-Sentinel-AP, 8-2-04]


People Who Take Their Sleep Seriously

A 911 operator in Anne Arundel County, Md., apparently fell asleep in the middle of a call about a possible home break-in in progress on July 29, according to the official tape recording, which was reported by WBAL-TV (Baltimore). And in Alexandria, Va., the week after that, police found all three staff members asleep at the Sunrise Senior Living facility on Duke Street. (They had slept through the buzzing call button, several telephone calls, and a police siren. The supervisor had to be nudged awake despite the burglar alarm blaring just 10 feet away. One patient had fallen out of bed and couldn't get up, and another called 911 to summon the police when no one was there to help with his catheter.) [baltimore Sun, 8-4-04] [Washington Post, 8-6-04]


Scenes of the Surreal

Some people out for morning rush hour on Aug. 5 in the Dorchester section of Boston were treated to a demolition derby on New England Avenue, after Yvesnane Gethers, 27, in a white limousine, chased her husband, Wayne Gethers, in another white limo, at speeds up to 50 mph and rammed him at least five times, causing extensive damage to both cars. The couple just happen to own white limos as their vehicles of choice, and Mrs. Gethers happened to discover her husband in his, having an early morning drink with a female friend. [boston Globe, 8-6-04]


People Different From Us

London's Daily Telegraph reported in August on the veiled but apparently active market of British collectors who buy and sell fetuses and stillborn babies, with one seller saying he has heard of prices over 5,000 pounds (US$9,100). The major suppliers, apparently, are labs and medical schools, which dispose of their "curiosities," usually deformed fetuses such as babies with two heads. Said one dealer, of the seriousness of the collectors, "(It) is a very small market, but a very keen market." [Daily Telegraph, 8- 1-04]

On July 12, federal, state and county officials, responding to a call about an eye-popping scene at a sandbar just off Whale Harbor in the Florida Keys town of Islamorada, discovered a young woman apparently blissfully dangling by the shoulders from meat hooks that were hanging from a makeshift bamboo tripod and stuck in her skin. A Coast Guard officer took pictures and asked if anyone was doing anything he or she didn't want to do, but the heavily tattooed, pierced people at the scene assured him they were just having fun in the sun. A sheriff's spokesman said he couldn't think of any laws that were broken but that he would look into it. [Key West Citizen, 7-18-04]


Great Art!

Cape Town (South Africa)'s Old Town House museum has scheduled an exhibit for September featuring familiar 17th-century Dutch Master paintings, but with all of them turned to face the wall, which curator Andrew Lamprecht said will be a "conceptual art intervention" that turns the pieces "into something new and unexpected" which will "force gallery goers to reconsider their preconceptions about the art." "These are fascinating things to see from behind," he said. [Reuters, 8-3-04]


Government in Action

An AFSCME union local filed a grievance against East Haven, Conn., mayor Joe Maturo recently for violating the city's labor contract by personally doing the civic task of reaching down into a storm drain and repositioning the drain cover, which Maturo noticed had become dislodged. According to the union, if a cover comes loose, the city is required to call out exactly four union employees, three of whom would get time and a half and be guaranteed four hours' work. Said union president John Longley, "It's not about the money; it's about our work." (Maturo, a licensed electrician, was a longtime union member himself.) [Newsday-New Haven Register, 8-2-04]

Canadian officials now require immigrants seeking work as strippers to submit nude performance photos of themselves, lest non-pros falsely claim to be strippers in order to get Canadian work permits, according to a July Toronto Sun report. Said an immigration lawyer, "They can't (even) be partially nude (in the photo)." Canadian club owners are so needy of strippers that they typically pay about Cdn$5,000 (US$3,700) a week for headliners. [Toronto Sun, 7-27-04]

U.S. military personnel and their immediate families can routinely receive elective plastic surgery at government expense, including liposuction and facelifts and even breast implants for women (if the woman supplies the implants), according to a July report in The New Yorker. The writer found that, though the military did not offer the benefits in writing, word gets around, and the benefit helps in recruiting as well as in keeping the military's reconstructive-surgery doctors sharp. [The New Yorker, 7-26-04]


Least Competent Criminals

Merle Hatch, 42, was arrested shortly after he allegedly robbed a Compass Bank in Denver, even though he was dressed (in running shorts and shoes) entirely differently than when he pulled off the job. Hatch's plan was to leave the bank, then strip off his pants and appear to be a jogger out for a morning run, carrying the money. However, for some reason, he did the clothing change in front of the bank building in full view of the employees, who reported his new outfit. According to a police spokesman, Hatch expressed surprise when he was caught so quickly. [Rocky Mountain News, 7-17-04]


Recurring Themes

Games Floridians Play: Shannon Kramer, 35, was hospitalized with serious burns after (according to police) trying to toss a lighted firework at his girlfriend from his car during an argument; however, he overestimated the burn time, and it went off in his hands (Jacksonville, Fla., March). And Aravis Walker, 23, was killed when his car exploded during a session in which he would light fireworks and toss them out the window at passersby; one of the fireworks didn't clear the window but ricocheted to the back seat, where it ignited the rest of Walker's fireworks. [WKMG-TV (Orlando), 3-29-04] [WKMG-TV, 6-29-04]


Readers' Choice

In July, a transit system police officer in Washington, D.C., arrested, handcuffed and searched Stephanie Willett, 45, an Environmental Protection Agency scientist, detaining her at a police station for about three hours because she was finishing up the chewing of her PayDay candy bar inside a Metrorail station, in violation of the no-eating rule. Transit officials pointed out that Willett had been warned by the officer a minute before not to enter the station while eating the candy bar, but she thought if it was completely in her mouth as she walked in, she was safe. [Washington Post, 7-28-04]


Almost All True

Three of these four things really happened just recently. Are you cynical enough to figure out the made-up story?

(a) The New Zealand government issued a 100-page occupational health and safety guide for prostitutes.

(B) An appeals court in Michigan ruled that a man suffering chronic depression can, under the Americans With Disabilities Act, carry a loaded pistol in public because holding it in his hands helps him therapeutically, according to doctors.

© Turkmenistan ruled that drivers cannot get licenses unless they pass tests on the moral values described in President Saparmurat Niyazov's writings.

(d) The owner of a gym in downtown Baghdad held a bodybuilding competition on July 30 in honor of the birthday of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

(Answer: The three foreign stories are true.) [Hindustan Times- Agence France-Presse, 7-31-04] [Reuters, 8-2-04] [Reuters, 8-2- 04]

Thanks This Week to Carolyn Pearson, Peter Tandana-Kuhns, Alison Tytell, David Swanson, Jamie Anderson, Brian Bjolin, Alisa Limvere, Bill Barlow, Paul Gebert, Ron Amrhein, and Grace Herrle, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.



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