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News of the Weird
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Princely Behavior

Britain’s Prince Philip has for at least 30 years accommodated a tribe of 400 “cargo cult” people on the South Sea island of Tanna, who revere him as the human face of an ancestral spirit, according to June revelations by London’s Daily Mail. Both sides have been discreet, but the prince has acquiesced by sending the tribe signed photographs, including one in which he is holding the traditional war club (even though a totally authentic pose would require that the prince hold it while naked). Cargo cults are so named because, lore has it, an ancient god forecast that one day, wealth would fall from the sky, and then, during World War II, it did, in the form of parachuted-in supplies for American troops who used the islands as staging areas.


Compelling Explanations

An Iowa tribunal turned down Chris T. Coppinger’s demand for unemployment benefits in May, following his firing from a charitable fund-raising company in Davenport for various alleged indiscretions. Among the company’s charges was that Coppinger had had sex on top of his desk with a co-worker, but Coppinger argued that that should not be a terminating offense, since many other company employees had had sex on his desk, too.

Never Give Up: Ronald Blankenship, a shoe repairman in Birmingham, Ala., finished second in June’s Democratic primary for sheriff and was placed in a run-off, when the Birmingham News discovered details of an apparently shady past: faking his death in connection with an insurance policy, assault and passing bad checks. Blankenship’s defense, a week later: It must be another Ronald Blankenship (even though “both” men have the same middle name and birth date and coincidentally are married to women with the same first, middle and maiden names).

Honesty Is the Best Policy? (1) Jonifer Jackson, 20, was arrested in Clarksville, Tenn., in April and charged with reckless endangerment for firing a 9 mm pistol while street-preaching (because, he told police, it was the only way he could get people to listen to him). (2) Phillip Daniels, 42, was arrested in Dallas in April, as the one who had set off five explosives in the previous two weeks (which he told Dallas’ KXAS-TV were done just because he likes the sounds). (3) Yasuhisa Matsushita, 25, was arrested in Iwata, Japan, in March as the man who stole a high school girl’s swimsuit, put it on, and pranced around in it while relieving himself because, he told police, “(I)t felt so good.”


The Latest American Right

In the course of an April ruling that the New York City school system had gone too far by firing Toquir Choudhri for poor work habits, administrative law judge John Spooner declared that city workers have a “right” to surf the Internet for personal use while at work. Choudhri was expecting reinstatement, but two weeks later Chancellor Joel Klein fired him anyway, citing poor work habits beyond his Web-surfing. (Choudhri was unavailable for comment, in that he was suspected of being on leave in a country on whose tourist Web sites he had been lingering.)



In May, in the midst of the Ford Motor Co.’s “Red, White & Bold,” buy-American ad campaign touting its classic Mustangs, the research firm CSM Worldwide (using statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation) revealed that 35 percent of the 2006 Mustang’s content came from overseas, and in fact, that five Honda models and seven Toyota models contained more U.S. content than the Mustang, including Toyota’s Sienna minivan, which was 90 percent U.S.

More Ironies: (1) The May 10 tornado that hit Highland County, Ohio, touched down in the town of Hillsboro, along Wizard of Oz Drive. (2) In April, The Washington Post, covering outdoor press conferences by Capitol Hill legislators to decry the then-recent bump in gasoline prices, reported that the vehicle of choice for most of them returning to offices only a few blocks away was a gas-guzzling SUV, and in fact that several senators hopped into idling SUVs even to travel across the street from the Capitol to their offices.


Cliches Come to Life

(1) The Chicago Sun-Times reported in May that at least six homeless substance addicts had claimed that someone had paid them $5 each to vote for certain candidates in a recent Chicago school board election (but that a schools spokesman, after consulting the rules, said vote-buying in Chicago school board elections might not even be illegal). (2) London’s Guardian reported in April that access to British dentists is becoming so difficult that in a recent week, 6,000 do-it-yourself crown-and-cap replacement kits had been sold to consumers.


Least Competent Criminals

Flunking Finance 101: John Faux, 41, was arrested in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in April and charged with robbing a Key Bank branch of about $2,000; Faux had complained to the teller that he had clearly demanded not $2,000, but “$100 million,” and the two were still arguing when the police arrived. And Tekle Zigetta, 45, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles in March to trying to smuggle $250 billion into the country (which Customs agents discovered, in the form of 250 bills of the denomination of $1 billion, bearing a picture of President Grover Cleveland).




Veteran New England mobster Anthony St. Laurent, 64, was arrested again in April, in Providence, R.I., on loan-sharking charges. As with previous arrests, St. Laurent tried to convince the judge not to jail him because his colorectal condition required him to take 40 enemas a day, but the condition has apparently worsened, in that he now claims to need “to have his stool removed, biweekly,” according to his lawyer. (Note: “Biweekly,” meaning “every two weeks,” is often used incorrectly to mean twice a week.)

Four weeks ago, News of the Weird reported that a “side business” of British farmer David Lucas was building gallows for export to Zimbabwe and other countries that still execute by hanging. After the story was widely reported in the British press, a man who identified himself as Lucas’ sometime-business-partner told reporters that Lucas had been joking, that he had built only one gallows and was not actually in the business. At press time, it is unknown whether Lucas, or his partner, was telling the truth.


Undignified Deaths

(1) Recent incidents in which people were run over fatally by their own cars: a 62-year-old woman backing out of a parking space at a Wal-Mart in Kahului, Hawaii, in May (she had apparently opened the door to look behind her and fell out), and a 76-year-old woman visiting her husband’s grave at Maple Grove Cemetery in New York City in April (details not reported). (2) A 67-year-old woman was killed in Houston in May when her car went out of control, swerved across a road, and slammed into the lead car of a funeral procession about to depart Guadalupe Funeral Home for the cemetery. The woman’s family later announced that they would just leave the body at Guadalupe for funeral arrangements. ƒç