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News of the Weird


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According to Kuwait Times, officials in the Kuwait City suburb of Hawalli shut down a well-known local bakery in April after conducting a surprise inspection in which they discovered that dough was being stored in the toilet. The baker said that keeping the dough moist speeds up the baking process.

Compelling Explanations

The best policy: At his February sentencing hearing in Bradenton, Florida, Kenneth Holmes, a 26-year-old restaurant manager, explained why he'd installed police-style flashers on the dash of his black Crown Victoria (in which he'd been caught running red lights and passing other cars at 90 miles per hour): "It looked really cool and it was a drastic time-saver," allowing him to travel "at a high rate of speed." And according to the Arizona State University student newspaper's Web site, an 18-year-old male student was arrested in the same month after allegedly pulling down his pants and underwear and masturbating to Internet porn on his laptop at a library on the school's Tempe campus; reportedly he explained to police, "To be honest, the Internet connection at my dorm isn't good enough."

In March antiabortion activist David Little told a court in Fredericton, New Brunswick, that he would need an adjournment of his upcoming trial for tax evasion (he contends that some government money funds abortions and he can't be forced to contribute) because his wife and his stepdaughter were victims of "demonic oppression" and required exorcism. Asked how long a delay would be necessary, Little wouldn't specify, saying that while some exorcism cases required only a single session he also knew of one that had been going on for 16 years. The judge denied his request.

Shania Twain: Nothing but Trouble

In a March ruling in Ottawa, Ontario, 33-year-old Matt Brownlee--prohibited from driving after killing two people in a 1996 drunk-driving accident that left him with brain injuries--was held to be not criminally responsible for recent impaired-driving charges because, psychiatrists testified, he believed Shania Twain was telepathically helping him control his truck. And the murder trial of Linda West in Winchester, England, ended in a hung jury in April; West, 49, was accused of deliberately shooting her husband, but she claimed that the shotgun had gone off accidentally while she was using it, at her husband's request, as a prop in a dance routine to the accompaniment of "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" by Shania Twain.

Questionable Judgments

A Seattle Times columnist reported in February on 84-year-old Edith Macefield and her decision to reject a developer's buyout package (which included provisions to build her a larger, wheelchair-accessible house and pay for her health care for the rest of her life) worth an estimated $750,000 and remain where she is--in a tiny 106-year-old house, valued at $8,000, on an otherwise deserted, garbage-strewn block facing a chemical plant. Unable to change Macefield's mind, the developer is reportedly going ahead with plans to turn the rest of the block into a five-story retail complex, meaning the house will likely be surrounded on three sides by walls 60 feet high.

According to February reports by the Ledger-Enquirer of Columbus, Georgia, Pastor Robert Upshaw of Greater Grace Baptist Church in Columbus not only operated an unlicensed residence facility for mentally ill adults in a dilapidated former prison camp built in the 1930s (until the city declared it unfit for human habitation and shut it down), he also allegedly hired out some of its residents--at least one of whom reportedly was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and homicidal tendencies--to work security at Auburn, University of Georgia, and Atlanta Falcons football games.

Least Competent Criminals: Special Lawyers Edition

Gary Peel, a 62-year-old lawyer in Madison County, Illinois, allegedly tried to stop his ex-wife Deborah Peel from interfering with his attempt to declare bankruptcy (and thus avoid making payments to her) by threatening to send her elderly parents explicit photos taken decades earlier of her younger sister, reportedly 16 at the time, with whom he was then having an affair. Deborah contacted the FBI, which seized the photos in a sting operation, and in March federal prosecutors indicted Gary on child pornography charges as well as for concealing assets and witness tampering.

Lawyer Paula Allen, 51, of Waco, Texas, was arrested in January for allegedly kidnapping one of her clients. Last year Allen had posted bond for 31-year-old Rolando Castelan, but after his indictment on gun and drug charges he failed to appear in court, and Allen was out $5,000. According to police, she then showed up at Castelan's wedding with three unidentified "associates," abducted Castelan, cuffed him, and drove him around town while he called friends and relatives in search of a loan to pay her back with; he eventually escaped and turned himself in.

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

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