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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

For an interview in the January issue of GQ former president Jimmy Carter recounted a story reporters have been asking him about for at least 30 years: the one about the time he saw a UFO shortly before a Lions Club dinner in southwest Georgia in 1969. He said he and other attendees saw a bright light approaching in the sky; it changed color several times, from white to blue to red and back to white, then receded. "It was a flying object that was unidentified," he told the interviewer, "but I have never thought that it was from outer space." On the other hand, in September Paul Hellyer, who held several high-ranking posts (including defense minister) in the Canadian cabinet in the 1960s, told an audience at the University of Toronto that UFOs "are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head" and that he fears the U.S. military might get earth involved in a war with extraterrestrials.

Family Values

According to police, 36-year-old Rosalean Walker of Manhattan went to a multiplex theater in Jersey City, New Jersey, in December with her boyfriend and her 11-year-old son. When the grown-ups' movie (In the Mix) ended, the boyfriend went into the theater where the son was watching the much longer Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but soon reported back to Walker that he couldn't find him, and they left. Security guards found the boy at 2 AM; police called Walker and told her to come back to New Jersey to pick him up, but according to police reports, she instructed them to "just put him in a police car and bring him home." Charged with endangering the welfare of a child, Walker surrendered to Jersey City authorities the following week but apparently became agitated when she found members of the press waiting at the police station; within a few minutes she was arrested for aggravated assault on a police officer after allegedly hitting a cop with her cane.

The Continuing Crisis

Gynecologists interviewed for a Wall Street Journal article in December said that business was booming for the procedure known as hymenoplasty, or the reattachment of the hymen; one doctor said he was performing about ten hymen repairs a month, up from two a year in the mid-90s. Many patients (some of them Latin American immigrants) undergo the procedure before getting married to avoid disgracing their families; others, already married, do it to put a one-time-only charge in their sex lives.

When Animals Attack

A Zimbabwean expatriate Web site reported in December that President Robert Mugabe had been gored by a goat when his motorcade stopped to refuel. And Paul Rush, a police officer in Fremont, California, showed up at a hospital emergency room in January with trauma to his ankles; while returning a 17-year-old driver home after a late-night traffic stop, Rush was attacked by five Chihuahuas upon opening the teenager's front door.

Least Smooth Criminals

After getting about $60 out of the register, the masked robber of a convenience store in Joplin, Missouri, in November had an oddly difficult time fleeing the scene: apparently failing to notice the sign directing him to the unlocked door he'd walked in through moments earlier, he tried to kick open the locked door next to it, then picked up a magazine rack and unsuccessfully attempted to smash the door glass. He eventually used the rack to break a window and crawled out. (No arrests have been reported yet.)

Recurring Themes

In December Michael Sargent, a reportedly unhappy postal worker with 29 years on the job, was arrested after allegedly accepting as much as $430,000 worth of bulk mail without charging customers for it. Federal prosecutors argued that Sargent posed too great a threat to be released pending trial, noting that he is also a licensed gun dealer with a history of depression and alcohol abuse.

Awesome!

A reporter for the Oakland Tribune, documentary filmmakers from the UK, and a crowd of about 20 were on hand in November at a parking lot in Fremont, California, when 50-year-old Tu Jin-Sheng tied a strip of fabric around the base of his penis and testicles, attached the strip to a rented truck, and pulled the vehicle several yards; he then did it again. The Taiwanese-born Tu is a master of the Chinese breathing and movement practice of qigong and the leading exponent of jiu jiu shen gong, or "iron crotch" qigong, which is said to increase vitality through (among other things) the lifting of heavy weights with the genitals.

Thinning the Herd

In November Tyler Poulson, a 21-year-old Mormon man, was driving with his brothers in South Jordan, Utah, when he told one of them to stop using profanity or he'd get out of the truck. Apparently not taking him seriously, his brother told him to go ahead. Poulson promptly opened the door of the truck (then going about 35 miles an hour), jumped, and was killed instantly.

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

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