Zombie research 

Lead Story

If society were ever attacked by zombies, we would probably be doomed, and quickly. That was the conclusion of two university researchers in Ottawa, Ontario, who set up mathematical models hypothesizing zombie attacks as infectious diseases with the well-known characteristics of zombie biology from popular fiction. In fact, according to a July BBC News report, zombies are more threatening than virulent diseases because they can regenerate (unless decapitated or incinerated, of course). More troubling was the researchers' presumption that zombies move slowly, as in older movies, but in recent fiction, they're super-quick, making them nearly invincible.

Government in Action

• Scared-y Cat Brits: (1) In June the Peterborough City Council ordered retirees who come together for weekly coffee at the public library to give up hot drinks, in case one accidentally spilled on a child. (2) In July the Dagenham Pool in Essex, citing (according to the manager) drowning risks, banned swimmers from doing "lengths" and forced them instead to swim "widths." (3) In June the Brighton and Hove City Council ordered nature-lover Hilaire Purbrick, 45, out of the cave that has been his residence for 16 years, citing its lack of a "fire exit."

• In April, the Pelham (Mass.) Board of Selectmen notified residents that it proposed to "alter a (four-mile) portion of Amherst Road" and needed their co-operation. The board said the road, in service with exactly the same contour since 1822, must better conform to what Amherst Road looked like on an 1822 map. Thus, some property owners along the route were asked to cede some rights to the government to un-modernize the road.

• Among the personal tasks allegedly demanded by Portsmouth (Va.) mayor James Holley of his public-payroll assistant Lorraine Stokes (from a list Stokes released in August, alleging Holley's abuse): affixing labels to boxes identifying Holley's assorted-color argyle socks; placing orders for "tummy support T-shirts" and "90-minute abs" videos; and locating retailers for his favorite English Leather cologne, Stri-Vectin Cream (for "turkey neck"), geese repellant, T. Barry underwear, grass seeds and Gillette hair paste.

The Police Department

• Latest Domestic Disturbance Calls: (1) A couple fought with each other using water, mouthwash and powdered whey protein (Bremerton, Wash., July). (2) A wife repeatedly punched her husband and then, as officers arrived, pulled him inside the house by his ear (Niceville, Fla., August). (3) A 78-year-old woman kicked her husband in the groin several times recently because she believes he had an affair 35 years ago (Lynnwood, Wash., May).

• Unclear on the Concept: San Antonio police chief William McManus announced in August an upgraded training program to teach his officers how to obey the law while off-duty. The department has had to fire 10 officers so far this year for law-breaking, and included in McManus' program is a personal talk to each incoming cadet to stress that police officers must not commit crimes.


(1) In August, Jorge Iglesias petitioned a judge in Madison, Wis., to regain custody of his 66 roosters and hens that police confiscated in a suspected cockfighting raid. Iglesias said he feared that the Dane County Humane Society, temporarily holding the animals, was treating them with "cruel and barbaric" abuse. (2) Afghan refugee Fridoon Sadiqi filed a lawsuit against Britain's Home secretary in August after being turned down for political asylum because he had presented a forged passport to enter the U.K. According to Sadiqi, the rejection made him clinically depressed.

The Continuing Crisis

• Elsie Poncher decided reluctantly in August to go back on a promise she had made to her late husband. Richard Poncher had purchased a crypt (for himself) just above the one in which the body of Marilyn Monroe rests in a Los Angeles memorial park, but Elsie now needs money and thus offered the crypt for sale in August, planning to move Richard to a less prominent place. Richard had been assured by Elsie that he could spend eternity lying face down "over Marilyn."

• Ultra-Dangerous Activities: (1) In May, a man in his 20s was killed in a fight at a community center in Calgary, Alberta, following a dominoes tournament. (2) Kenneth Reppke, 54, was charged with assault in Fraser, Mich., in July for allegedly smacking a woman in the head, knocking off her glasses, because she refused to sell him Boardwalk and Park Place in a Monopoly game. (3) Jason Keller, 40, was acquitted by a jury in San Francisco in June of hitting a fellow homeless man in the face with a skateboard. Keller had become angry during a discussion about particle physics.

People Different From Us

Geography professor Melanie Patton Renfrew, 54, was convicted in Burbank, Calif., in August of violating a judge's order to stop stalking KNBC-TV weatherman Fritz Coleman. Renfrew had badgered Coleman for two years, via e-mail and telephone calls, about his "error" in terminology, confusing "onshore" winds with "offshore" winds. Coleman, she insisted, needed to apologize. "Offshore" winds blow out to sea; "onshore" winds blow in.

Least Competent Criminals

Lisa Newsome, 42, was arrested in Zachary, La., in August, caught trying to smuggle a 24-can case of beer out of a convenience store. The heavyset, housecoat-clad Newsome was squeezing the 20-pound case between her legs as she waddled from the cooler toward the front door. When police arrived, Newsome offered to pull up the dress to demonstrate how she carried the case, but, said a police captain: "I told her, no thanks. I wasn't into that."


News of the Weird reported in June 2006 that a second forensic expert had concluded that an innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham, had been executed in Texas in 2004 -- that the "arson" that killed his three daughters was surely only a tragic accident. One of the experts had made a last-second appeal to the Texas pardons board and Gov. Rick Perry to spare Willingham's life, but his report was ignored. Since 2006, two more forensic fire experts have concluded that the fire was not a crime and, said one (in August 2009), the trial testimony of local fire investigators had more resembled the musings of "mystics or psychics." (Nonetheless, in an unrelated 2009 case, two U.S. Supreme Court justices noted the Constitution has "never" declared it wrong to execute an actually innocent man who nonetheless has been convicted.)


About The Author

Chuck Shepherd

More by Chuck Shepherd


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