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News of the Weird
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Reality TV Spawn

The parents of wannabe singer-actor-celebrity Marissa Leigh, 16, of Scottsdale, Ariz., employ 10 people for her career development, according to an April Arizona Republic story, including manager; publicist; voice coach; two acting coaches; people to do makeup, hair and wardrobe; musical composer; photographer; and webmaster (plus, of course, an entourage of confidence-boosting friends). “She’s spoiled,” said her mother, “but hopefully, it’s a grounded spoiled.” However, on her national TV debut, on MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16” (a party which her parents spent $150,000 to stage), she was caught saying “I’m a princess” and “I’m such a rock star that I can do this” and “I always get exactly what I want.” Even after MTV cut the two songs she sang, she was optimistic: “(This show)’ll still put my name out there and stuff.”


Compelling Explanations

In Yorktown, N.Y., in June, one spouse who was roughed up by the other during a domestic eruption tried (as sometimes happens) to talk police out of filing charges. However, the battering spouse this time was Emily Hanlon-Tarasov, a novelist, and the explanation of her husband (who was knocked unconscious when Hanlon-Tarasov angrily threw a book) was fittingly creative: “A few things began flying at the wall,” he said, “and one of them was a telephone book. And unfortunately, my head moved into the space that the book was flying (into).” Hanlon-Tarasov was nevertheless charged with assault.


The Litigious Society

Max Foster, 18, complained to a London Daily Telegraph reporter in June that two police officers in Bath, England, had told him they were under instructions not to pursue a man who had been spotted on Foster’s stolen moped, because the man was not wearing a helmet. According to Foster, the town’s rules of engagement for officers discourage such chases because the suspect might fall off the moped, hit his head and sue the police.

Jay and Laura Flynn of Lilburn, Ga., filed a $111 million lawsuit in June against Home Depot and the maker of Tile Perfect Stand’N Seal Grout Cleaner, charging that a defect caused toxic fumes that permanently destroyed half of Jay’s lung capacity, which, among other effects, according to Laura, ended the couple’s “extremely active love life.” She added, “I mean every day. But now that is over.”

There Must Be Somebody We Can Sue: (1) Daughter Carriel Louah, 25, is suing her parents for at least $75,000 for the broken ankle she suffered in a fall on their property when she paid them an unexpected visit in Darlington, Wis., in 2005. The mother said she appreciated the surprise birthday visit, but denied any negligence. (A judge refused to toss out the lawsuit in July.) (2) Jaime Pinedo filed a lawsuit in Hackensack, N.J., in June against the estate of his late brother’s late girlfriend. Daniel Pinedo and Xiomara Ortiz were murdered in May 2004, execution style, by Ortiz’s jealous former boyfriend, and Jaime Pinedo alleges that that was Ortiz’s fault.


The Laws of Irony

(1) In July, former peace activist Christiaan Briggs, 30 (who had gone to Iraq in 2003 to protest the impending U.S. attack), was arrested in Islington, England, and charged with knocking a man out (leaving him in a coma) in a fight after he allegedly hit on the man’s girlfriend. (2) The British watchdog Environmental Agency, which prosecutes pollution violators, was fined the equivalent of nearly $14,000 in May for allowing toxic waste to flow from its monitoring station along the River Exe in Somerset. (3) In July, municipal officials in Provincetown, Mass., held a community meeting to air numerous complaints by heterosexuals that they are targets of hate speech by the town’s large gay and lesbian population.

What Goes Around, Comes Around: Colin Watson, 63, one of Britain’s most notorious illegal collectors of rare bird eggs (having been convicted six times and having had nearly his entire collection confiscated by the government), fell to his death in May from a tree he had climbed in south Yorkshire to check out a nest.

In June, the Ministry of Higher Education of Saudi Arabia (home of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers), along with the country’s civil aviation authority, jointly announced scholarships for Saudi men and women for bachelor’s and graduate-school study in the United States in such fields as “air traffic control,” “flight safety” and “other majors related to the airline transport industry.”


People With Issues

(1) In June, Betty Jean Barachie was sentenced to 27 months in prison for embezzling $1.5 million from her employer so that she could indulge a mindless compulsive-shopping habit; among her inexplicable, 1,500-item haul were 58 coats, 16 chain saws, more than 3,000 books, and a John Deere tractor. (2) Nurse Christopher Irvin, 32, was charged in April with molesting a comatose 4-year-old girl under his care at Children’s Hospital in San Diego; he told police he had touched the girl’s genitals only “to see if I liked it.” (He said he didn’t and that, because he wasn’t sexually aroused, he must not be attracted to children.)


Least Competent Criminals

A federal appeals court in June affirmed the conviction of Aaron Fraser (aka Asante Kahari) for defrauding a Michigan woman he had met in an Internet chat room and had eventually taken for $38,000 in a counterfeit check scam. (Kahari had sent the woman bogus checks for deposit into her account, and then met her to collect the cash, and was gone by the time the bank realized the checks were counterfeit.) Kahari had denied the charges, but the prosecutor introduced portions of a book, “The Birth of a Criminal” by Asante Kahari, which describes in precise detail the very scheme Kahari was accused of pulling on the Michigan woman. “I would get online,” he wrote, “meet a broad and be mailing her the (computer-generated counterfeit) check the next day.”


Signs of the Times

A July poll of American attitudes on lying, conducted by the Associated Press and the market research firm Ipsos, revealed that many of the respondents could not bear to give poll-takers straight answers from one question to the next. For example, 40 percent said they “never” lied, but in the next question, about 10 percent of that 40 percent said they might even have lied just within the previous week. More than half said lying was “never” justified, but two-thirds then said lying is OK sometimes.

British fitness trainer Liz Stuart conducts “powerpramming” classes for new mothers, the centerpiece of which is the women’s use of their own infants as weights for such exercises as bicep curls and chest presses (adding a kiss to each rep), as well as resistance in “power walks,” according to a May Reuters dispatch from London. Said one mother, of her newfound quality time with her babies, “If I had to go to the gym and put the twins into a (nursery), it would cost me a fortune.”


Fighting the Good Fight

(1) A 47-year-old man was arrested in Milwaukee in June and charged with stabbing a 54-year-old man in (according to the police report) an argument about not having an argument. (2) Marine veteran Christopher Marlowe, 25, was arrested in New Orleans in June and charged with shooting Army veteran Erik Beelman over which branch of service is tougher. č