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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

Because of their connection with the Hindu god Hanuman, wild monkeys are protected by law in most Indian states and have traditionally been permitted to destroy property, steal food, and attack people without reprisal. According to a September dispatch in London's Independent, however, as the frequency and severity of monkey attacks have grown recently, dozens of monkey bodies have turned up with their throats cut. Authorities believe these are the result of contract killings, ordered in the apparent belief that paying someone else to kill monkeys is less sacrilegious than doing it oneself.

Not Getting Along

In July, Joseph Manuel Augusto, 37, and Andres Diaz, 52, chased each other around a Burger King in Stratford, Connecticut, after Augusto confronted Diaz for taking too long in the men's room; Augusto was swiping at Diaz with a small pocketknife, while Diaz tried to hit back with a straw dispenser. No one was injured. And the city of Monte Sereno, California (population 3,800), said in October that it would proceed with civil and criminal cases against former residents Joe and Darla Padgett. The Padgetts, who feuded with neighbors and authorities before moving out of state, are charged with building a fence taller than permitted by code and illegally chopping down a tree; so far the battle has cost the city $170,000 in legal fees.

America's Gun Problem

David Toumey, coroner of Monroe County, Indiana, was hospitalized in September after accidentally shooting himself in the leg while giving an informal demonstration on gun safety. In the same month, according to the Daily Citizen of Searcy, Arkansas, a 61-year-old man accidentally killed himself with a pistol in nearby Rose Bud while "showing off" for his nephew before church. He removed the clip, held the gun to his head, and pulled the trigger, apparently forgetting there was still a bullet in the chamber.

New Hampshire Moms and Their Knives

Police in Sandown, New Hampshire, say Suzanne Viviani, 47, held a knife to the head of her 22-year-old daughter, Rebecca, after Rebecca allegedly snatched a container of cocaine out of Suzanne's bra during an altercation in August. (After spending a weekend in the same jail cell on assault charges the women said they'd reconciled.) And in October, 40 miles away in Belmont, police charged Jacqueline Weiner, 36, with felony assault for an incident in which she allegedly stabbed her ten-year-old son in the arm with a kitchen knife and bit him repeatedly (while his stepfather allegedly held him down) because he and his brother had damaged her favorite stuffed animal.

Latest Religious Messages

In September a group calling itself the Arabian Peninsula Women's Information Bureau (and believed by many to be operated by Al Qaeda) announced the first issue of Al Khansaa, an Internet magazine designed to recruit Muslim women as "female jihad warriors." Among the inspirational words: "The blood of our husbands and the body parts of our children are the sacrifice by means of which we draw closer to Allah."

Questionable Judgments

In October the school board in Puyallup, Washington, canceled all Halloween activities, in part, it said, because the traditional image of the pointy-nosed, broomstick-riding witch is offensive to Wiccans, some of whom refer to themselves as witches. But the Seattle Post-Intelligencer interviewed a local Wiccan leader who said that Wiccans are used to the witch stereotype and suggested that abolishing Halloween is more likely a concession to conservative Christians.

People Who Shouldn't Have Access to Matches

David Mason, 45, of Surrey, England, admitted in an August trial that while on a flight home from Norway in February he had set fire to some pornographic magazines he'd brought aboard because he was offended by certain pictures. Witnesses testified that earlier Mason had asked flight attendants for permission to incinerate paper in the galley oven. And in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in September, 19-year-old Leroy Brown set fire to a pair of pants he believed his wife had worn to a tryst with another man; when the pants burned his fingers he dropped them, starting a fire that destroyed the couple's mobile home.

People With Issues

Kenji Hishida, 39, was arrested in September and charged with attempting to steal several pairs of trousers from a West Japan Railway employee dormitory in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture. According to police Hishida's apartment was found to contain more than 10,000 such items and Hishida told them he'd been stealing uniforms from railways and airlines for 15 years. In the same month a judge in Brighton, Massachusetts, ordered a psychological evaluation for Joseph Rizza, 55, who had been charged with two counts of vandalism. Rizza has allegedly attacked several of his neighbors' trees, using an ax or hammer and chisel, and told a court psychiatrist he has "a responsibility to keep trees from producing pine cones."

Least Competent Criminals

According to a Milwaukee police press release, last month two men, aged 24 and 19, allegedly broke into a gas station, chained the ATM inside to the rear bumper of their car, and drove away, dragging the machine behind them through the streets. Patrolling officers arrested them within a few blocks.

Update

Gary Arthur Medrow, 60, has been in News of the Weird several times (most recently 1998) for his signature weird behavior: he calls women on the phone, claiming to be a police officer or other official, and convinces them to pick up another woman and carry her around the room. He's been arrested for this dozens of times over the last 30 years, leading to jail terms and institutionalization, and in September he was charged with doing it again, this time allegedly calling a woman in New Berlin, Wisconsin.

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

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