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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

In January a federal judge in Tampa locked up corporate raider Paul Bilzerian for contempt of court because he believes Bilzerian is lying about his assets. The SEC has been trying to collect a $62 million securities-fraud judgment from Bilzerian since 1993, but in a recent bankruptcy filing Bilzerian claimed only $15,800 in assets, despite the fact that he lives in an 11-bedroom, 37,000-square-foot lakefront residence with indoor basketball court, movie theater, nine-car garage, and elevator.

Excellence in education: In January Washington City Paper published a November letter from the human resources director for the District of Columbia Public Schools to a female job applicant, informing her that an investigation into her criminal record had been resolved in her favor. According to the letter, DCPS accepted the applicant's documentation that various plaintiffs had, for undisclosed reasons, declined to prosecute her for cocaine distribution, marijuana possession, shoplifting, soliciting prostitution, destruction of government property, and three dangerous-weapons charges and found her to be "eligible for employment with DCPS."

The Right to No Life

In France, a deaf, partly blind, mentally retarded 17-year-old boy won a wrongful-birth lawsuit in October against doctors who failed to counsel his parents that the mother's rubella during pregnancy almost certainly would cause birth defects. In December a Chinese couple was considering a lawsuit against the Tangxia Central Hospital for failing to disclose ultrasound examinations that showed their child, born in October, to have two heads. In January a Texas appeals court reversed a trial court decision that had awarded a couple $42 million for their daughter's dismal quality of life; born prematurely, she is blind, incontinent, brain damaged, speechless, and paralyzed in three limbs.

Creme de la Weird

The New York Times reported in November that at least 23 small businesses across the country have stopped withholding payroll taxes on the far-fetched advice of CPA and former IRS agent Joe Banister, who claims that Section 861 of the Internal Revenue Code actually exempts nearly all Americans from the duty to pay income taxes. IRS commissioner Charles Rossotti calls that interpretation "just plain nonsense," but the agency has allowed companies to flout the law for months--and has even issued refunds to companies claiming they had not owed taxes paid earlier.

In November well-known hunter (and Vermont resident) Thomas N. Venezia, 41, was finally brought to justice for his massive violations of Canadian game laws. Said Venezia after one illegal shooting, reported an undercover agent: "I have the 'K' chromosome. I love to kill. I have to kill." In another incident Venezia spontaneously leaped from a truck and started firing at ducks and then at pigeons because, he said, he needed action--he had gone an hour without killing anything. At a hearing in Saskatoon, a sobbing Venezia admitted to the incidents and was permanently barred from entering Canada, though he remains licensed to hunt in Vermont.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

The canine fragrance Oh My Dog, recently put on the market by the French company Dog Generation, retails for about $30 a bottle and provides (according to the label) "an emotional short-cut between dog and man." And according to an October report in the Baltimore Sun, Susan Wagner continues to pursue her lawsuit against the maker of Paws and Effect, a cologne designed to be sprayed on cats to mask their natural odors. Wagner, who has been suffering serious, recurrent skin problems, charges that the company failed to put a clear enough warning on the package that it was not for humans.

A December Newsweek story reported that some female entrepreneurs can't change their underwear fast enough to fill all their customers' orders. Until eBay banned used-panty sales in November, the Web site hosted hundreds of sellers asking up to $30 a pair, and since the ban many new sites have started up; there are 43 used-underwear sites listed on Yahoo alone. "Michele," a 28-year-old Floridian, buys brand-new panties by the case, gives them to her girlfriends, and retrieves them daily from their dirty-clothes piles for resale.

In November the Korean company 911 Computer, using a technology developed for the Israeli military, introduced a handheld lie detector that senses voice tremors caused by stress-restricted blood flow. After being calibrated with truthful statements, the Handy Truster Emotion Reader can allegedly identify lies with 80 percent accuracy, though a company spokesman said it can be fooled by "compulsive" liars and therefore might not work against politicians.

People Different From Us

In December in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, 71-year-old Frank Buble pleaded guilty to attempted murder after smashing his son Philip, 44, with a crowbar several times because he was tired of the son's sexual relationship with his dog. Philip Buble said he was relieved at the guilty plea, as he is "the first out-of-the-closet 'zoo' [zoophile] to be attacked because of my sexual orientation, so [lawyers] have no precedent to gauge how a jury would react."

Dignified Deaths

Bob Talley passed away in London in December during his 100th birthday party, just after receiving a congratulatory telegram from the queen. At a New Year's Eve performance of the Trenton (New Jersey) Symphony Orchestra, 57-year-old first trumpeter James M. Tuozzolo suffered a fatal heart attack moments after rendering what the conductor called a "flawless" solo. In July Percy McRae, 65, also fell victim to a heart attack, moments after singing the national anthem at Wrigley Field.

In the Last Month

Supervisors in Fairfax County, Virginia, banned residential sleeping except in bedrooms as a way of curbing situations in which dozens of immigrants occupy the same house. Police speculated that a human skeleton found in a chimney in Natchez, Mississippi, was a burglar who got stuck; judging by a wallet and clothing, it had been there for 15 years. Italy's highest court ruled that a man's "isolated, impulsive" grab of a woman's derriere is not enough to constitute sexual harassment. An arrest warrant for failure to appear in court was dropped when authorities in Saint Petersburg Beach, Florida, concluded that the subject of the warrant, a 91-year-old shoplifter, would have shown up if it weren't for her failing memory.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to weird@compuserve.com.

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

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