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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

Among the Secret Service detachment accompanying President Bush on his trip to India in March was a K-9 squad of 17 German shepherds and Labrador retrievers, which were housed in suites at five-star Delhi hotels. An official from the Delhi police's dog-training school told Agence France-Presse that the Americans pushed to have their dogs reexamine sites that local police dogs (residing, of course, in their usual non-air-conditioned kennels) had already gone over, and according to one hotel employee quoted in the Indian newspaper Asian Age, staff were instructed not to refer to the Secret Service dogs as dogs but instead to use the animals' police ranks.

Also in March the handlers of a dog team sent from Maine to help look for the bodies of Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans decided to cut short their tour of duty, citing unsafe conditions and disorganization they attributed to FEMA. Though the dogs were working in dangerous wreckage infested with rats and coated in a four-inch-thick layer of toxic slime left behind by flood waters, search coordinators failed to provide them with promised veterinary assistance, and the handlers returned to their hotel one night to be told by FEMA they'd have to fill out applications for refugee status before being let back into their rooms.

Government in Action

The Dudley Wood Methodist Church, which had recently changed location, was informed in March by the town council of Dudley, England, that it would have to pay a permit fee of about $130 to put up a cross outside the new building because under national law a cross constitutes an advertisement. And in the same month the county attorney's office in Apache County, Arizona, announced that it planned to pay a former state attorney general as much as $100,000 to investigate whether county sheriff Brian Hounshell had misused $8,000 in public funds.

The Cheaters' Rights Movement

Responding to lobbying by student leaders, Mount Saint Vincent University in Bedford, Nova Scotia, agreed in March to outlaw the use by faculty of plagiarism-detection software. The president of the student union told CBC News, "Students go to university for a higher education. They don't go to be involved in a culture of mistrust." And in February Agence France-Presse reported that students at Banja Luka University in Bosnia were complaining about the economics department's decision to crack down on cheating by installing surveillance cameras in exam rooms. A university official said that "cheating in exams is a part of our Balkan mentality."

Fine Points of the Law

In February the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld a decision that sentenced the now 60-year-old Nicholas Meyrovich to life in prison for an incident in which he forcibly kissed a woman on the neck while inspecting her house for moths. Meyrovich, who had been convicted of nine prior sex offenses, argued that the neck wasn't an "intimate part" of the body, but the court disagreed, concluding that the kiss did in fact constitute sexual abuse and that it thus qualified him for a life sentence under the state's three-strikes law. And in the same month a Florida appeals court ruled that although it was inconsistent of a jury to find 51-year-old Nicholas Cappalo not guilty by reason of insanity in a 2002 burglary but guilty of eluding police in the subsequent high-speed chase, such inconsistency is permissible under state law and the trial judge had thus erred in throwing out the conviction.

Take Note, Shoplifters

According to a January Washington Post article, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and many local law enforcement agencies nationwide have repeatedly gotten assistance in analyzing criminal evidence from the high-tech forensics lab set up by Target at its corporate headquarters in Minneapolis.

Oops!

A 27-year-old woman was arrested in League City, Texas, in February after police discovered her distraught six-year-old daughter, jacketless in 40-degree weather, wandering around an empty school yard one Saturday morning. The woman said she'd thought it was Friday and dropped her daughter off as usual, blaming a combination of medications she'd been taking for her failure to notice the total absence of crossing guards, school buses, and other arriving students.

In March a court in Orange County, California, issued an order barring prominent neuroscientist Louis Gottschalk, still professionally active at age 89, from wiring any more of his family's money to Nigeria in response to solicitations from e-mail scammers. According to a lawsuit filed by his son, Gottschalk, who drew attention in 1987 for his assertion that President Ronald Reagan showed signs of diminished mental capacity, actually traveled to Africa in 1996 to meet the Nigerians he believed he was helping; he admitted soon afterward that he'd lost $300,000 and promised his family he would ignore such e-mail in the future. But his son said Gottschalk continued to secretly send money--as much as $3 million total--until last fall, when he revealed that he'd soon be receiving $20 million from his grateful correspondents. He trusted them, he said, since they were "different Nigerians."

Readers' Choice

In February a man and a woman handed an object wrapped in paper towels to the clerk at a convenience store in suburban Pittsburgh and asked her to heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds, telling her it was a "life-or-death situation." Catching sight of the object while handing it back, the clerk apparently thought it was a severed penis and called the police. Investigation established that it was actually a realistic but hollow fake that the man had reportedly filled with his urine for the woman to use in beating a drug test she was about to take as part of a job application; they had to get the urine microwaved, they said, so that it would be at body temperature. The pair were charged with criminal mischief, and the store got rid of the microwave.

Update

In 2003 News of the Weird reported on Star Trek fanatic Tony Alleyne, who was trying to sell his small apartment in Leicestershire, England, for roughly $2.1 million after having spent nine years converting it into a detailed replica of the bridge of the Next Generation-era U.S.S. Enterprise. In February 2006 BBC News reported that Alleyne, having found neither a buyer for the apartment nor clients for his would-be business--performing similar remodeling jobs on other fans' residences--had filed for bankruptcy and gone to plan B: gutting the place and redoing it as the bridge of the U.S.S. Voyager (from the later Star Trek series) in hopes of improving its salability.

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

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