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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

The FBI recently contacted several psychics who participated in Stargate, the U.S. government's long-running "remote viewing" program, hoping that they would be able to predict the targets of future terrorist attacks, according to a November report in the Times of London.

Diversionary classes offered aboard the USS Peleliu, a navy warship stationed in the Arabian Sea in October, included anger management and World War I poetry. In a Reuters interview one enthusiastic student explained: "Just by what [the poet wrote], you can actually feel [the war], or you can get a mental picture of [death]."

Sexual assaults against children in South Africa have almost doubled in the past two years, probably prompted by a growing belief there that having sex with a virgin will cure HIV. According to a health official in Durban: "We have no idea where this idea has come from, but it has been around for a few years and has certainly taken hold." The country was stunned in early November when six men, attempting to "protect" themselves, were charged with the rape of a baby.

Loose Body Parts

Jack Wilke filed suit in August against police in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, after he asked for his wife's personal effects following her suicide and they gave him only a container holding some of her internal organs....As part of a wrongful-firing lawsuit in Charleston, West Virginia, it was revealed in August that a box of remains allegedly belonging to murder victim David Allen Williams, which the medical examiner sent to Williams's sister in 1998 and she subsequently spent $850 to cremate, were actually deer bones....The teeth, nose, and partial scalp that startled a woman when she found them in her attic in Mohegan Lake, New York, in September were later revealed to be souvenirs her late husband had kept of his 1981 plastic surgery.

Can't Possibly Be True

Emma Ness of Fargo, North Dakota, passed the eye test for her driver's license renewal in September despite vision so impaired that her nurse drives her around. Ness, 79, has 75 percent blockage in one eye and sees spots in the middle of road signs, according to a report in the Fargo Forum, but she bet the nurse that clerks would renew her license anyway. "We're only human," said a state transportation official.

Port commissioners in Oakland, California, ordered a full inquiry in October into why 1,000 secure-area access badges for Oakland International Airport were missing. It seems regulations permit the airport to have only 500 unaccounted-for badges.

Northern California cell phone users who were placed on hold after dialing 911 this summer did not receive the traditional recorded messages of reassurance. Instead panicked callers were forced to listen to energy-saving tips or California Highway Patrol recruiting notices.

Inexplicable

When David Devlin went to retrieve his vacation photos from a Glasgow film processing shop in August, he found that his package contained year-old snapshots of British prime minister Tony Blair and his family on holiday in Italy. Devlin returned the photos to the shop. Blair's office said only that the prime minister was grateful to have them back.

Mark Wayne Toon, 24, was arrested in September and charged with breaking into the Van Alma Tire Center in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and stealing some things. Toon not only dropped his wallet at the scene but, in the course of urinating outside the shop, left on the front window two sets of what police described as buttocks-shaped prints.

People Different From Us

A September San Francisco Chronicle profile highlighting consumer advocate Doug Carlson's successes in getting sluggish or recalcitrant postal supervisors to do their jobs better described Carlson's lifelong fascination with the post office: "As a kid, he followed the postman around. He got his first post office box when he was 15." A law-school graduate and now a university administrator, Carlson tours mail-processing facilities because "it's fun to watch" and said he reads the postal manual as a "hobby."

People Just Beggin' for It

Edward T. Petit's first words to officers in Brockton, Massachusetts, after fatally hitting a 24-year-old woman with his car in June were that he was just bragging to his buddy a few minutes earlier that he could "drink him under the table any day."...On being informed that Canada had chosen a secluded rural retreat for next year's Group of Eight summit, possibly because the area's grizzly bear population would discourage large groups of protesters, Alberta political activist Alan Keane said the protesters would be out in force anyway, because grizzly bears "are our friends."

What's in a (Middle) Name

Arrested for murder in Shelby, North Carolina, in August: John Wayne Moses. In Hastings, Minnesota, in October: Steven Wayne McBride. In Ehrenberg, Arizona, in October: George Wayne McBroom. In Bangor, Maine, in October: Carl Wayne Heath. In Irving, Texas, in October: Darrell Wayne Wright. In Toledo, Ohio, in October: Mark Wayne Jones. Sentenced to life in prison for murder in Dallas in September: Michael Wayne Henry; and in Wellington, New Zealand, in October: Richard Wayne Gorrie. Executed for murder in Raleigh, North Carolina, in August: Ronald Wayne Frye.

In the Last Month

Melvin Burkhart, 94, a carnival performer who hammered spikes into his face through a cavity behind his nostril, passed away in Riverview, Florida....British researchers found that a sheep can distinguish and recognize as many as 50 other sheeps' faces for up to two years, even in silhouette....A San Francisco motorcycle cop ordered a fire department van, actively collecting Toys for Tots for the holidays, towed for having expired plates....A 49-year-old computer programmer in Maroochy Shire, Australia, was sentenced to two years in prison after hacking into a town's waste-disposal system to divert millions of gallons of raw sewage onto land out of frustration that the town wouldn't hire him.

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

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