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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

In June 72-year-old Carl Kabat and two other men, all wearing clown suits, used bolt cutters to get into a U.S. missile facility near Garrison, North Dakota, and beat on the lid of a Minuteman III missile silo with hammers until security personnel showed up. This was at least the fifth time that Kabat, who has spent much of his 30-year civil disobedience career behind bars, had broken into a launch site and attempted (if only symbolically) to disable missile equipment, and at least the third time he'd done so while dressed as a clown.

The Power of Clowns, Continued

At a June fertility conference in Prague, Israeli doctor Shevach Friedler reported on research showing that women who'd been entertained by a clown for 15 minutes following an embryo-transfer procedure had a conception rate nearly twice as high as women who'd undergone the procedure but no clown treatment.

Super-Recidivists

During the 17 months he spent in a minimum-security federal prison in Atlanta for mortgage fraud between 2002 and 2004, Wayne Milton bribed guards and sneaked out at night at least 50 times to set up further fraud operations that authorities said ultimately took in nearly $20 million. In May the 32-year-old Milton was sentenced to 20 years for the new fraud plus the escapes; according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he was reportedly recorded earlier that month making a phone call from jail to try to get another mortage loan.

Can't Possibly Be True

In June USA Today reported on Andrea Yates's retrial for murder (ongoing in Houston at press time) and on prominent forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz, who at Yates's first trial in 2002 was the lone mental-health expert to testify that she was legally sane when she deliberately drowned her five children. (The guilty verdict in that trial was overturned because of testimony by Dietz suggesting Yates had been influenced by an episode of Law & Order that, despite his recounting of its plot, turned out not to exist.) Yates's lawyers planned to discredit Dietz by contrasting his evaluation of Yates with his subsequent testimony in 2004 in defense of Deanna Laney, like Yates a deeply religious Texas woman who had killed her children. Dietz explained to the reporter why, even though he'd found both defendants to be psychotic and delusional, he concluded Yates was sane and Laney wasn't: Laney believed God had ordered her to kill her children and thus thought she was doing the right thing; Yates, on the other hand, knew that killing her children was wrong because she believed she'd been told to do it by Satan, who Dietz said does not "have moral authority in Texas."

Government in Action

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in June that 11 carboxy-THC, a by-product created when the body metabolizes the THC in marijuana, must itself be considered a drug under the state's DUI laws. This means that any driver who tests positive for the by-product alone can be prosecuted for DUI even though it has, experts testified, "no pharmacological effect on the body" and can linger in the system a month after actual drug use.

People Different From Us

After getting an unexpectedly strong reading from a metal detector in early June, Enrique Mora of Montclair, California, apparently became convinced there was gold beneath his front yard. Though he later told authorities he'd originally intended to go down only a few feet, the 62-year-old Mora soon hired several workers to help him dig and rigged a bucket-and-pulley system to haul out the dirt, which eventually piled as high as his single-story house. When after nearly two weeks fire officials finally arrived to shut the operation down, they found workers digging away at the bottom of a shaft 60 feet deep, breathing through a garden hose running back up to the surface.

Chutzpah!

General Motors executives trying to account for the company's recent poor performance have repeatedly complained of oppressive pension benefits owed under union contracts, and 42,000 of its workers' pensions have been targeted for cuts next year. According to a June Wall Street Journal investigation, however, GM's fund for worker pensions contains more than enough money to meet its current obligations well into the future and actually improves the company's bottom line by earning over $10 billion a year in interest; meanwhile, its fund for executive pensions is $1.4 billion in the red.

Least Competent People

A 25-year-old man from Boston turned up late one night in June at a police station in Hanover, Germany, asking for help; he couldn't remember the name or location of the hotel he'd checked into that afternoon (before going to see a World Cup soccer match between Poland and Costa Rica) and had been wandering the city for six hours trying to find it again. Working from the man's recollection that an earlier cab ride had taken him past a park and a Mercedes dealership, police drove him around a likely part of town for another hour until he finally recognized the building.

Thinning the Herd

In Milwaukee in June a 46-year-old man punched through his estranged wife's bedroom window, in violation of a restraining order; he severed an artery and bled to death in the street. Also in June, in Welsh, Louisiana, a 51-year-old man filled up his truck with $60 worth of gas, fled the gas station without paying, quickly merged onto Interstate 10, and almost immediately was killed when he plowed into congested traffic; only one other driver suffered even minor injuries. And four days later near Ocean Springs, Mississippi, a 23-year-old woman and a 27-year-old man also died on I-10: apparently engrossed in an argument, they were run over while strolling down the middle of the far left lane.

Suspicions Confirmed

John C. Veltman, a 52-year-old physician, was charged with DUI in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in May after he allegedly drove a backhoe through two fences and into a building, a garage door, and a tree. According to the Martinsburg Journal, the enraged Veltman reportedly told the arresting officer, "I am a [expletive] medical doctor, and you are below me."

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

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