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News of the Weird
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Do Your Shoplifting Elsewhere

Increasingly, police departments and government offices (customs agencies, NASA, even the FBI) rely on state-of-the-art investigation support from the Target Corp. (as in Target department stores), according to a January Washington Post report. Targetís world-class forensics lab in Minneapolis is the first choice by many departments for examination of surveillance tapes and other evidence, and it was Target in the mid-1990s that finally moved agencies to coordinate previously incompatible databases of criminals (treating the felon population as a nationwide ìinventory controlÎ problem). A Target executive said he works for ìa high-tech company masquerading as a retailer.Î

Government in Action

During President Bushís recent trip to India, 17 Secret Service Labradors and German shepherds accompanying him (each with its own police ìrank,Î such as ìlieutenantÎ) were housed in five-star hotels in Delhi, according to local press stories (but Delhi police dogs, assisting in the same missions, went home to kennels). Faring less well was one of the three teams of search-and-rescue dogs assigned to find Hurricane Katrina victims, which had to be sent home in March because of a hotel-booking snafu, for which FEMA and Louisiana officials blamed each other.

How to Be a Police Department: In California, a police department can be created if a local government gives a transportation contract to a private company, automatically empowering that company to hire its own cops, who, though not allowed to make arrests, can carry guns, access police databases, and receive government anti-terrorist grants. The law achieved notoriety in February when Internet millionaire Stefan Erikssonís Ferrari crashed in Malibu, and he later made confusing statements, including the revelation that he is the ìdeputy commissionerÎ of the ìSan Gabriel Valley Transit AuthorityÎ police, a post he acquired by starting a modest bus service for the elderly.

Questionable Policies: (1) The Wood Methodist Church was informed in March by the town council in Dudley, England, that it owed an ìadvertising feeÎ of the equivalent of about $130 to put up a cross. (Town regulations specify that a ìcrossÎ is an ad for Christianity.) (2) In March, Apache County, N.M., contracted to pay up to $100,000 to a former Arizona attorney general to investigate Apacheís sheriff, Brian Hounshell, who, after an exhaustive previous investigation (whose cost was not revealed), was accused of misspending $8,000 of taxpayer money.

Signs of the Times

Cheaters on the Rise: (1) In March, students at Mount Saint Vincent University in Bedford, Nova Scotia, persuaded the administration to prohibit professors from using any plagiarism-detecting aid, to avoid (said the student union president) a ìculture of mistrust.Î (2) Students at Banja Luka University in Bosnia-Herzogovina protested in February the economics facultyís decision to install surveillance cameras during exams. ìCheating in exams,Î said one student, ìis a part of our Balkan mentality, and it will take years to change studentsí (attitudes).Î

In March, New York Times fashion writers noted that the decision of several designers to shroud runway modelsí faces in various ways during the annual Paris Fashion Week in February and March surely must be sending some message. Among the devices designers used: masks (making some models resemble ìHannibal Lecter in drag,Î according to one critic), woven basket-like coverings and burqa-type swaddling. Guesses on designersí motives included a reflection of general world gloom; tributes to the plight of Muslim women; and designersí fear of beautiful facesí distracting from their designs.

People Different From Us

Former major league baseball all-star Darren Daulton, 44, told the Philadelphia Daily News in February that in retirement, he understands dimensions of reality that few of his fellow Earthlings know. He first experienced his extraordinary power after delivering a game-winning hit in the 1990s and breaking into tears after the game, discovering that "I didn''t hit that ball. Something happened, but it wasnít me." Later, Daulton said, he was "awakened" to realms beyond those covered by the five senses. Things will become clearer on Dec. 12, 2012, at 11:11 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, he said, because thatís when the world will end.

Least Competent People

(1) A 27-year-old woman was arrested in League City, Texas, in February after police discovered her 6-year-old daughter wandering around her empty school yard on a Saturday morning. The woman said she dropped the kid off, as usual, but that she was distracted and didnít realize it was Saturday. (2) Prominent neuroscientist Louis A. Gottschalk, still professionally active at age 89, lost about $3 million of his family trust over a 10-year period to Nigerian e-mail scammers, according to his son, who wants an Orange County, Calif., judge to remove his father as the estateís administrator. In fact, Dr. Gottschalk has continued to pay money on another scam because the new recipients are "different Nigerians," according to the son's description of a conversation with his father.


In 2003, News of the Weird told the inspirational story of "Star Trek" fanatic Tony Alleyne, who was trying to sell his small apartment in Leistershire, England, for the equivalent of about $1.7 million, after having converted it to a finely detailed model of the starship Enterprise (with transporter control, warp core drive, voice-activated lighting and security, infinity mirror, etc.). In February 2006, Alleyne, weary of the lack of buyer interest, filed for bankruptcy and moved to his Plan B: to gut his "Enterprise" and redesign the place as the bridge of the Voyager (from the later Star Trek series), which he will offer at a lower price.

Readers' Choice

On Feb. 23, a woman asked a clerk at the Get Go! convenience store in McKeesport, Pa., to "microwave something for me. It's a life-or-death situation." The clerk complied, but when she realized that the item might be a severed penis, she called police. The woman later explained that it was a dildo-shaped container of urine because she had to be drug-tested for a job afterward and needed urine heated to "body temperature." Unexplained still in subsequent press accounts was why she stored the urine in that type of device. She was charged with criminal mischief (for contaminating a microwave food oven).