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News of the Weird



Lead Story

In July an administrative law judge ruled that Cory Neddermeyer wasn't entitled to unemployment benefits after being fired from an ethanol plant in Denison, Iowa. A spill at the plant in April left behind a huge pool of 190-proof fuel alcohol; the 42-year-old Neddermeyer, self-described as a recovering alcoholic, said he held out as long as he could but finally yielded to his curiosity about "the taste and its effects" and drank from the pool until he passed out.

People With Issues

New York state senator Ada Smith pleaded not guilty to a reduced charge of harassment in Albany in July for an alleged incident in which a staffer claimed Smith threw hot coffee in her eyes and pulled off her hairpiece. Smith's legendary temper has reportedly led to run-ins with police officers, flight attendants, and many of her employees, an estimated 200 of whom have quit or been fired during her 15 years in office. Smith has denied virtually every accusation, but in April the exasperated senate Democratic leader stripped her of an annual stipend and the use of a car.

The Democratic Process

Hey, they weren't running for husband of the year: David Spellman was sworn in as mayor of Black Hawk, Colorado (population 178), in July, a week after pleading guilty to felony charges for beating his wife with a pistol. And four days before the California primaries in June, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Republican Jim Galley, a self-described "pro-traditional family" candidate for Congress, had in the 80s repeatedly defaulted on child-support payments and was for a 17-month period simultaneously married to his first and second wives. (He lost.)

The high road: In May, Bill Conrad, running against Tom Berryhill in another California primary, sent out a campaign flyer headlined "Tom Berryhill doesn't have the HEART for State Assembly." The flyer said that "the average lifespan of a heart transplant recipient is 7 years," then claimed "Berryhill's transplant was six years ago." Berryhill, who actually received a heart transplant five years ago, won anyway.


According to a June Associated Press report, some ranch owners near Falfurrias, Texas, about 80 miles north of the Mexican border, had recently equipped the fences surrounding their property with ladders so that illegal aliens trying to avoid a nearby U.S. border patrol checkpoint could climb over rather than make holes in the fences and thus allow livestock to escape. Immigrants didn't seem to be using the new system, however, apparently suspecting that the ladders were monitored by the border patrol.

Recent Notable Headlines

"Officers Honored for Finding Man's Penis" (from a story on the Kansas City Star Web site in June about departmental recognition for the police officers who retrieved the severed penis of a suicidal man from his kitchen trash; it was later reattached). "$5 Million Awarded to Couple for Loss of Vagina" (from a May report on the site of Chicago's WMAQ TV about a hysterectomy gone very bad, resulting in extensive scar tissue and "foreshortening").


Herring are just gross: In 2004 News of the Weird reported on research suggesting that herring routinely communicate via a high-pitched sound emitted from their anuses. This June a scientist from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources told a Rhode Island conference that herring also release gas bubbles from their anuses that make it more difficult for orcas to hunt them using echolocation.

Least Competent Criminals

Pierre Barton, 20, was arrested for aggravated robbery in July after he allegedly tried to hold up the manager of a Cleveland pizza restaurant with a "gun" made of two sticks, some tape, and a piece of black fabric. According to police, Barton dropped the unconvincing weapon, picked up the cash register, and fled; the manager ran after him. During the chase two index cards fell to the ground that were later found to read "Give me the money" and "Tell I'll kill your family." As he ran, Barton, apparently a poor ad-libber, threatened to shoot the manager though he was no longer even nominally armed; the unfazed manager eventually caught him and held him until police arrived.

No Longer Weird

Added to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (79) The person who gets stuck to a public-restroom toilet seat that someone else, apparently as a prank, has coated with glue (an April Fool's Day incident at a Denny's in Salisbury, Maryland, was followed in May by another at a Wal-Mart several miles away). (80) The person who begins to discuss an illegal drug transaction on the phone without realizing that he's dialed a wrong number and is speaking to a police officer (most recently a woman in Victorville, California, inadvertently called an officer's home phone and requested an ounce of meth; thanks to caller ID, she was in custody within the hour).

Inaugurating a series of items reviewing the themes that have been declared No Longer Weird: In July 27-year-old Calvin Barfield may have transcended the No Longer Weird list by combining two listed themes into a single incident. Barfield allegedly drove up to the drive-through window of a bank in Sylvester, Georgia, and attempted to pass a stolen check, apparently unaware that the checking account holder was an employee there (NLW number 56); perhaps suspecting (correctly, if so) that the teller was stalling him while the bank investigated, he drove off empty-handed but, according to police, accidentally left behind two forms of ID (NLW number 3).

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Chuck Shepherd.

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