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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

According to a September report in the Indianapolis Star, 40-year-old Loren J. Adams was convicted in May of distributing and exhibiting obscenity in connection with a Web site he maintained to feed his interest in bestiality. Through the site Adams not only provided videos of people having sex with horses, snakes, and other animals, but at one point placed an ad offering to rent out his three-year-old Great Dane, Tyson, for roles in pornographic films. (The dog has since been adopted by another owner--and, perhaps mercifully, neutered--but Adams still faces a civil charge of animal mistreatment.)

Long Shot

In July in Ogden, Utah, a judge allowed Richard Quinton Gunn to act as his own attorney in his aggravated-murder appeal: he'd decided to withdraw his guilty plea after the jury at his sentencing hearing gave him life without parole after deliberating just two hours. Following his arrest Gunn had confessed to killing his elderly tenant using a crowbar, a butcher knife, a handsaw, a fireplace poker, a 12-inch bolt, a straight razor, an ax, walking canes, a pool cue, and a large salad fork.

Compelling Explanations

In October, U.S. Representative Cass Ballenger, a Republican from North Carolina, told the Charlotte Observer that he'd separated from his wife of 50 years in part due to stress caused by the presence in their neighborhood of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties organization headquartered across the street from the Ballengers' home, three blocks from the U.S. Capitol. The 76-year-old Ballenger said CAIR's proximity "bugged the hell" out of his wife, and called the group a "fund-raising arm for Hezbollah." He claimed that he and his wife were anxious at the sight of women "wearing hoods" (perhaps meaning head scarves) moving boxes into the building: "They could blow [the Capitol] up."

Demon Babies: In May in Port Huron, Michigan, 32-year-old LaFayre Marie Banks was charged with assault and first-degree child abuse after her seven-month-old baby fell from her second-story bathroom window, suffering severe head trauma and internal injuries. Banks told a police officer that she was bathing the child when "it reared up and went through the window." And in August in Wetumpka, Alabama, 27-year-old Melissa Wright was sentenced to 25 years in prison for putting her 18-month-old daughter in a hot oven. Wright claimed that the child had slipped from her arms, fallen to the floor, and rolled into the oven, and that then the door had closed.

Alternate Reality

This year Medicare has decided to crack down on abuses of a benefit that provides motorized wheelchairs for the elderly or disabled. The chairs typically cost about $5,500, and the agency estimates it will spend $1.2 billion on them in 2003, up from $289 million in 1999; however, patients who want a chair are now required to meet face-to-face with a doctor first, to make sure they actually need one. Medicare also announced that it is spending $600,000 this year to rent a blimp emblazoned with the agency's 800 number, which will overfly sporting events.

The New York Times reported in October that Nabors Industries, a large operator of oil-well drilling rigs that in 2001 moved its legal headquarters from the U.S. to Barbados (corporate income tax: 1 percent) and its tax headquarters to a mail drop in Bermuda (no corporate income tax), is now attempting to claim special privileges reserved by law for American businesses. (The U.S. corporate tax rate, for comparison, is generally 35 percent.) Nabors wants to be treated as an American company in order to secure a competitive advantage under the Jones Act of 1916, which bars non-U.S. firms from working on ships involved solely in domestic trade.

Readers' Choice

On Wednesday, October 29, thousands of rush-hour passengers on New York City's commuter trains had to be rerouted while firefighters tried to free Edwin Gallart, 41, whose arm had gotten stuck in a train toilet when he reached in to retrieve his fallen cell phone. (The toilet had to be ripped out and sliced open; the phone was not recovered.) And the next day in South Philadelphia, a 25-year-old man who had allegedly been exposing himself to girls and women for weeks tried it one time too many: after two neighborhood men caught him in the act, he ran and was chased by 20 to 30 Catholic schoolgirls from nearby Saint Maria Goretti High, all in uniform, who brought him down, roughed him up, and held him for police.

In the Last Month

In Souto Redondo, Portugal, Catholic priest Antonio Caetano apologized for hitting a parishioner on the head when she would not leave his home; she'd come to ask that her daughter be given a place in his Sunday school, even though she'd registered too late. The city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, installed ten surveillance cameras to help combat pilferage at a municipal dump. And in Oviedo, Florida, vegetable grower A. Duda & Sons introduced a new breed of celery, 15 years in the making, to the delight of Bloody Mary fans everywhere: the stalks grow hollow in the center, and can be used as straws.

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

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