News of the Weird

Two Steps Back: In recent months, at the same time that the Bush administration was mobilizing support for a military invasion of Iraq, other administration representatives were working with Iraq (and Iran, Libya, Sudan and the Vatican, and against almost all of the U.S.’s traditional allies) to resist United Nations worldwide support of "reproductive health services" (including abortion), sex education (except "abstinence") and gay rights. One critic called it perverse to blame Iraq for "unspeakable acts of terrorism" while joining them "in the oppression of women." Contemporary Holy Shrines: (1) A Mud Puddle (in the shape of Buddha’s footprint, attracting pilgrims to Thailand’s Pungna province and "guarded" by a frog whose skin is being fondled by people searching for lottery numbers) (September); (2) a Potato (in the shape of the Hindu god Ganesh, attracting pilgrims to a private home in Bombay, India) (September); (3) An Outline in a Dead Tree Trunk (in the likeness of the Virgin Mary looking down at her baby, attracting pilgrims to the property of nonbeliever Bill Gaede in Fresno County, Calif.) (September); (4) the Condensation on a Greenhouse Wall (in the image of the Virgin Mary, attracting pilgrims to a private home in Ile-a-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan) (September).

Can't Possibly Be True: Medell Banks, a retarded, poor black man from Butler, Ala., is serving a 15-year sentence for manslaughter as a result of his confession that he killed his newborn baby in 1999, despite strong evidence that there was never a baby in the first place. While in jail in an earlier incident, Banks" estranged wife claimed she was pregnant, hoping for lenient treatment, but refused to be examined except cursorily by a local doctor who said he thought he heard a fetal heartbeat. When Mrs. Banks" "baby" vanished, authorities assumed it had been born and killed. (Mrs. Banks had been sterilized four years earlier, and doctors say she remains sterile.) (In August, a state appeals court ordered a new trial for Banks, but he remains in prison through the obstinacy of the district attorney, Robert Keahey.)

Police Blotter: From the Bozeman (Mont.) Chronicle: "A caller reported at 7 p.m. Sunday that a man was holding a knife to a woman in a car parked in the Albertson’s parking lot. Officers responded and determined that the woman was actually using the man’s knife to clean her teeth."

From the August Alta, Utah, town newsletter (as featured in the Salt Lake Tribune): "July 14: At 12 p.m., the deputy on duty responded to a report of a man chasing a moose in Albion Basin. It is suspected that this is related to a subsequent report of a moose chasing a man."

People With Issues: ‘shy,’ ‘brilliant’ (according to colleagues) neurologist Joseph James Warner was arrested in Gainesville, Fla., in August (following a domestic altercation) and charged with illegally storing numerous human heads, brains and other body parts in his home. Warner was teaching at the University of Florida but was immediately fired because the body parts belonged to the school’s lab and could not be lawfully removed. A former girlfriend called the Warner home a "hellhole" because of the organ-containing tanks and jars strewn around the house, and a St. Petersburg Times reporter said many of Warner’s co-workers described him as a "deeply troubled man."

Our Civilization in Decline:A 12-year-old boy drowned because the 10 people on the river bank watching him flail away wouldn’t budge until the boy’s father raised the rescue price to the equivalent of $1,100, but by then it was too late (Henan province, China, July). A Norwegian environmental research group said the chemical pollutants PCBs, drifting northward, might be responsible for recent strains of polar bears born with both male and female sex organs.

Also, in the Last Month: A 55-year-old condemned murderer-drug dealer, who suffered a heart attack just as the hangman’s noose was placed on his neck, was revived, hospitalized and rescheduled for execution (Khomeini Shahr, Iran). A 25-year-old man in scrubs was arrested at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital and charged with sexual assault for fondling women after telling them that he was a "lactation consultant." And Montana Republican U.S. Senate candidate (and former salon owner) Mike Taylor angrily withdrew from the race after his Democratic opponent ran attack ads that Taylor said made him look gay.

Send your Weird News to [email protected], or go to© 2002 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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