News of the Weird 


A former police official and current aggressive, respected Wellington, New Zealand, litigator, Rob Moodie, 67, said in July that he is tired of the old-boy network of male lawyers and judges, and that henceforth he will show his disdain by dressing in women’s clothes in court. The worse the “corruption” he senses, the frillier will be his outfits, said the married father of three, who also said he happens to like women’s clothes, but that it took the pervasive male courthouse culture to bring that into the open. Moodie said already he has enjoyed giving “a flash of lace at the urinal” but said he would keep his trademark moustache.


Can’t Possibly Be True

Steven Buelow, whose Vermont prison sentence is up for a rape-murder he committed at age 15, still cannot be released until he proves that he has a place to live, and according to an August report on Burlington’s WCAX-TV, the keenest idea he had was to pick women at random from the Burlington phone book, write them letters describing himself and his prison status, and asking them to take him in (with a total of 15 letters going out). Not surprisingly, at least one woman contacted by the station said she was terrified by the letter and considered moving away, and Buelow said he wouldn’t send out any more.

An analysis of government records by The Washington Post revealed in July that a federal agriculture subsidy program to compensate farmers for market-losing crops has evolved, through regulatory interpretation and lax enforcement, into a program that since 2000 has paid $1.3 billion to people who don’t even farm at all. (Although pre-tax income of all farming was a near-record $72 billion in 2005, federal subsidies actually grew to $25 billion, a sum considerably more than that paid to families receiving welfare.)

More than 70 children got separated from their parents during the Taste of Chicago festival on June 30, but one 6-year-old boy was still unclaimed as of July 7, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, citing a police spokesperson. The boy was eventually turned over to the state Department of Children and Family Services, which found that his family had a spotty record of supporting him even before the festival.


Unclear on the Concept

(1) Researchers at the Russian Plant Institute in St. Petersburg told Russia’s Interfax news agency in June that they had invented a strain of cannabis free of mind-altering properties. (2) And 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams, speaking in Australia in July, said she “would love to kill George Bush” because of the invasion of Iraq.

Officials in Springfield, Vt., denied the liquor-license application of Paul Murphy in July for a paperwork problem without specifying any other disqualifying reason. The officials thus ignored the fact that Murphy is an inmate in the state correctional facility in Springfield and that the location of the liquor service on the application was to be Murphy’s prison address. Said Town Manager Robert Forguites, “We (just) determined that the application was incomplete.”


The District of Calamity

(1) The prime suspects (and their addresses) in a July murder-robbery in Washington, D.C., were actually known to police a month earlier (thanks to a tip from a previous robbery victim), but police didn’t pick them up until after the murder, according to a July Washington Post report. (2) In June, the D.C. inspector general reported that the mugging death of a former New York Times reporter involved “complacency and indifference” by almost all police and rescue personnel involved, from ambulance crew to investigating officers to hospital doctors, resulting in the victim, who was severely beaten, being treated merely as a street drunk. (3) In June, the D.C. police’s crime-solving average went down as investigators found 119 more unsolved crimes that had been originally written up only as “injuries.”


Fine Points of the Law

(1) The New York Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics ruled in July that judges can, if they wish, carry guns in the courtroom if they are otherwise permitted by state law, provided the judges are “patient, dignified and courteous.” (2) Filing a lawsuit in Santa Ana, Calif., in May, Jinsoo Kim said he had a valid contract in which Stephen Son promised to repay the $170,000 that Kim had invested in Son’s Korean corporation, especially considering that the promise was written entirely with Son’s blood.


Least Competent Animals

(1) “Houdini,” the 12-foot-long Burmese python in Ketchum, Idaho, that accidentally swallowed a large electric blanket in July (and electrical cord, after pulling it from the wall) (Veterinary surgeons managed to remove the whole thing, leaving Houdini in good condition.); (2) “Crash,” the pelican that smashed into a car in Malibu, Calif., and had undergone a month’s rehabilitation (only, when finally released in July, to collide beak-first with some rocks, before successfully lifting off) (Wildlife officials said Crash may have been disoriented from eating toxic algae.); (3) “Barney,” the Doberman pinscher guarding a children’s museum near Wells, England (who lost control and chewed up almost $1 million worth of rare teddy bears in August, including one once belonging to Elvis Presley).


Fetishes on Parade

Police in Groningen, Netherlands, announced that a 40-year-old man whom they had previously counseled had once again resumed his compulsion to rummage through garbage seeking discarded tampons (and leaving notes for the discarders) (July). And Paul Zakszewski, 54, was arrested in Salem, Mass., for having allegedly made audio recordings from women’s restroom stalls (July).


School Daze

(1) At commencement this year at Gallatin High School in Nashville, Tenn., the principal had the valedictorian arrested for trying to make a speech that was reserved for the senior class president. (2) The Buffalo (N.Y.) News reported skyrocketing absentee rates at local high schools this spring because of a new district policy that the lowest possible semester grade would be 50, even for those missing every class (meaning that a grade as low as 80 for one semester could be averaged with a no-show 50 to reach the minimum-passing grade of 65).


By the Way, What Stories Have Been No-Longer-Weirded? (III)

Eighty such themes have occurred so frequently that they 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.

Nowadays, too many burglars coming in from the roof seemingly get stuck in vents or chimneys. And even if burglars get inside, sometimes they fall asleep on the job. And visitors to court houses (not only suspects but ordinary citizens) sometimes forget about their drug stashes when the security guard has them empty their pockets. And some driver’s license applicants, perhaps a little too anxious, pull up in front of the examining station and then accidentally crash into it. Those stories certainly used to be weird, but no longer.


About The Author

Chuck Shepherd

More by Chuck Shepherd


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