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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

At a ceremony in December marking the transfer of authority in Najaf, Iraq, from the U.S. military to Iraqi forces, Iraqi commandos demonstrated their mettle by eating small animals raw in front of a stadium of onlookers. One participant sliced open the carcass of a rabbit with his knife, screamed, took a bite out of its heart, then passed it to his comrades for them to finish; several frogs were consumed as well. According to a Los Angeles Times report, such displays were common (and often televised) during the rule of Saddam Hussein, whose elite Fedayeen troops distinguished themselves by eating wolves.

Compelling Explanations

In December in Easton, Pennsylvania, 49-year-old Floyd Kinney Jr. pleaded guilty to molesting two girls; he blamed the attacks on his wife's devotion to bingo, which he said kept her out of the house "three, four times a week." (The judge pointed out that "some people, when their wives are not home, decide to do other things, like clean their living rooms.") Also in December, 45-year-old Kevin Sutherland was arrested in Salt Lake City for allegedly downloading child porn on his office computer. His wife reportedly told investigators that though Sutherland would never do such a thing himself, he was being treated for a multiple-personality disorder and one of his other personalities was a teenage boy who wanted to look at images of girls his own age.

Michael Stone forced the evacuation of the Parliament Buildings in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during a crucial November meeting by trying to get inside with what he allegedly claimed was a bomb; the bag he carried was found to contain a gun, a knife, and several explosives. At a bail hearing the following month his lawyer argued that Stone--a notorious figure who served time for murder after he opened fire at an Irish Republican Army funeral in 1988--had not been attempting to carry out an actual terrorist attack but rather "a piece of performance art replicating a terrorist attack."

Latest Rights

Charles Littleton, 22, told WJRT TV in Flint, Michigan, that he never raised a hand against the police officers who Tasered him and dragged him out of a November city council meeting in Saginaw; all he did, he said, was insist upon his right to wear his Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap despite a council rule requiring men to remove their hats. "It means more than just a hat," said Littleton, who attended the meeting to get extra credit in a college sociology class. "It's like my crown. It's like asking a king to remove his crown."

Justice Is Served

Last fall a group of angry parents escalated their long-running feud with Nancy Nibarger, girls' varsity basketball coach at Castro Valley High School near Oakland, when they insisted that she not be allowed to pick who would be on the team, forcing the school to hold tryouts in front of a six-person panel of experts on which Nibarger had only a single vote. In November the panel's decisions were made public: none of the complaining parents' daughters had made the cut.

Ouch

Rhode Island's supreme court ruled in October to affirm a $400,000 judgment for Charles "Chick" Lennon in his lawsuit against the manufacturer of his malfunctioning penile implant, which has been stuck in an erect position since 1996. According to his lawyer, Lennon, 68, can't have the device removed because of other health problems, and pain and embarrassment have forced him to become a recluse. In September officials moved to revoke the medical license of 80-year-old Chicago doctor Sheldon Burman, a penis-enlargement specialist who according to numerous lawsuits has allegedly caused the severe disfigurement of dozens of men. (One plaintiff claimed he'd been left with "something that doesn't even resemble a penis.") Burman told the Sun-Times that he stood behind his work but admitted he'd taught himself the enlargement procedure with no prior training in urology or plastic surgery. And in November 25-year-old Blake Steidler was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for mailing a bomb to the doctor who'd performed his penis-enlargement surgery, the results of which he was (according to prosecutors) "extremely unhappy with." The bomb was found before it reached its intended target, who reportedly practiced in Chicago but was not otherwise identified.

The Continuing Crisis

Reuters reported from Berlin in December on drivers' growing tendency to rely on their car's satellite navigation system rather than their eyes or common sense. One 53-year-old German drove into a roadside toilet in October, causing $2,600 in damage, when he obeyed his device's instructions to "turn right now" without waiting to reach the upcoming intersection. Weeks earlier an 80-year-old in Hamburg, trusting that the GPS system "knew a shortcut," drove past a prominent sign reading closed for construction and crashed into a large pile of sand. And in December an ambulance crew trying to transport a patient from one suburban London hospital to another 13 miles away followed automated directions for four hours before their dispatcher located them; they were in Manchester, about 200 miles to the northwest.

Armed and Dangerous

In January, according to the local Daily Telegraph, police in Sydney made 19 arrests after a disagreement between two neighboring families erupted into a street brawl in which more than 60 people reportedly went at each other wielding "knives, baseball bats, metal poles, planks, branches, cricket bats, pick handles, screwdrivers, golf clubs, curtain rods, and glass bottles." And in October in Erie, Pennsylvania, 27-year-old Chytoria Graham was arrested for assault and reckless endangerment; police said that during a dispute with her boyfriend Graham tried to hit him using their month-old son, held by both legs, as a blunt instrument.

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

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