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News of the Weird
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Freedom on the March

At the December ceremony in Najaf, Iraq, in which U.S. commanders turned over control of the city, Iraqi commandos took the stage carrying frogs and a rabbit and soon were eating the animals raw in a show of feral manliness. As U.S. personnel looked on apprehensively, one Iraqi cut open the rabbit’s belly, screamed, snatched its heart in his teeth, and passed the bloody carcass down the line, with each commando taking a bite. According to a Baltimore Sun dispatch, locals said that Saddam Hussein’s special forces used to do similar things, but with snakes, dogs, cats and even wolves.

Compelling Explanations

(1) Floyd Kinney Jr., 49, pleading guilty in Northampton County, Pa., in December to indecent assault on two young girls, blamed the incidents on his wife’s obsessive bingo habit, which he said took her out of the house “three, four times a week.” (Said the judge, “Some people, when their wives aren’t home, decide to clean the living room.”) (2) Kevin Sutherland, 45, arrested in Salt Lake City in December for downloading child porn on his office computer, told investigators that he personally would “never” access child porn but that he has been diagnosed with multiple personalities, one of which is a 16-year-old boy (“Casey”) who likes to look at pictures of girls his own age.

Numerous witnesses saw Michael Stone charge into the parliament building in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in November, armed with bombs, a knife and a handgun. After he was wrestled to the floor, he was charged with trying to kill separatist leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, who were inside. However, in December, Stone said everything he did that day was merely “performance art replicating a terrorist attack.” A credulous reporter for the Belfast Telegraph applauded Stone’s “use of mixed media and everyday materials,” which he said “show(ed) imagination.” 

Latest Civil Rights

Charles Littleton, 22, was defiant even after being Tasered by police when he resisted efforts to remove him from a Saginaw (Mich.) City Council meeting. He said he had to stand up for his right to wear his Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap, despite a rule banning hats for men inside. “It means more than just a hat,” he said. “It’s like my crown. It’s like asking a king to remove his crown.”

IBM fired Vietnam veteran James Pacenza from his job at a research facility in East Fishkill, N.Y., because he had logged on to an Internet chat room at work after being told not to. However, Pacenza responded with a $5 million lawsuit in November, claiming that he is “addicted” to chat rooms, as “self-medication” for his Vietnam-based post-traumatic stress disorder. (IBM said it does accommodate illnesses, but was not aware that Pacenza’s obsession amounted to one.)

Monacan High School (Richmond, Va.) art teacher Stephen Murmer was placed on leave in December, and then fired in January, for his extracurricular work painting with his posterior (literally, dousing his backside with paint and rubbing it onto the canvas). Though he had taken steps to work under a different identity, he was exposed in a video that circulated on the Internet and was thus forced to go public. Murmer said he is contemplating an appeal and added, “I’m certainly proud of the ass painting.”


Parents of some Castro Valley (Calif.) High School girls, led by aggressive county judge Larry Goodman, have waged a campaign to oust the school’s girls’ basketball coach, Nancy Nibarger, claiming that she insufficiently valued their daughters’ skills in team tryouts. In October, school officials, in a compromise, created a committee to pick the team, but that committee, too, found the complaining girls not worthy enough. (Several of the parents, undaunted, vowed to continue seeking Nibarger’s dismissal.)

More Ironies: (1) Doug Milliken was elected treasurer of Colorado’s Arapahoe County in November on a promise to help families protect their property from foreclosure (Colorado had the country’s highest foreclosure rate for most of last year). However, on Nov. 6, Milliken, himself, was served foreclosure papers that cited debt of $253,624 on his home. (2) California’s Golden State Fence Co., which has a contract to build part of the United States’ immigrant-impeding barrier on the Mexican border, agreed in December to pay fines totaling nearly $5 million because it had been employing illegal aliens.

Things You Thought Didn’t Happen

(1) Britain’s Darts Regulatory Authority announced in November that professional darts player Robbie “Kong” Green had been suspended for eight weeks after a positive drug test (marijuana). (2) The Federation of Black Cowboys, of Brooklyn, N.Y., with 35 members and 45 horses, lately must do its riding on city streets in traffic that was not a problem until urban sprawl enveloped their Cedar Lane Stables, according to an October New York Times profile.

Least Competent People  

Some British and German drivers have over-relied on their cars’ satellite-navigation devices, according to a December Reuters dispatch, sometimes with tragic (or hilarious) results. A 53-year-old German man thought the device’s instruction to turn “now” meant not at the next corner but right that second, and he crashed into a building. Another followed instructions but ignored a prominent “closed for construction” sign and plowed into a pile of sand. Said an exasperated German auto club spokesman, “It’s not as if people are driving in a tank with only a small slit to see out.” (In November, an ambulance in London went 400 miles to make a 20-minute trip, and in May another took 90 minutes to take a crash victim to a hospital 10 minutes away, both due to faulty “sat-nav” programming.)

Burglar Sheldon Reece, 32, was shot in the abdomen by homeowner Abel Sisneros in Fort Worth, Texas, in December. According to a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, to enter the house, Reece had to boldly disregard two signs outside: “Warning. Nothing inside is worth risking your life for. Owners of this property are highly skilled to protect life, liberty and property from criminal attacks” and “No trespassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.”

Committing Malpractice on a Man’s Best Friend  

In October, the Rhode Island Supreme Court entered a final judgment for Charles “Chick” Lennon, 68, against the manufacturer of a penile implant he had received in 1996 but which perpetually remains somewhat erect. (He says he has to wear a fanny pack in front to conceal it.) He had originally won $750,000 for his pain and humiliation, reduced to $400,000, but then back up to $950,000, which he is scheduled to receive. In Chicago, dozens of men have sued Dr. Sheldon Burman after having their penises deformed in lengthening surgeries, according to lawsuits reported by the Chicago Sun-Times in September, even though Burman said he stands by his original methodology, involving vacuuming and stretching (on which he is said to be self-taught). And Blake Steidler, 25, of Reamstown, Pa., who said he received botched penis-augmentation surgery, was sentenced in November to almost five years in prison for mailing a bomb to the surgeon.

Use What You Have

(1) Police in Sydney, Australia, arrested 19 people in a two-family street fight in January and, according to Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, confiscated “knives, baseball bats, metal poles, planks, branches, cricket bats, pick handles, screwdrivers, golf clubs, curtain rods and glass bottles,” as well as hammers and machetes. (2) Chytoria Graham, 27, was arrested in Pittsburgh in October after a fight with her boyfriend, culminating in Graham’s grabbing the couple’s 1-month-old son by the legs and using him to clobber the boyfriend. ƒç