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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

Notorious for a 2000 installation that gave people the opportunity to switch on a blender containing a live goldfish, Chilean-Danish artist Marco Evaristti celebrated the January opening of his show at a Santiago gallery by serving meatballs made with fat removed from his body via liposuction. The meatballs were also available for sale in cans of ten.

Cultural Diversity

President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia, one of Africa's smallest countries, announced on state television in January that he was able to cure AIDS on Mondays and Thursdays and asthma on Fridays and Saturdays. Hundreds of Gambians have since been lining up on the appropriate days at the statehouse in Banjul to receive treatment. According to the UK's Independent, Jammeh subsequently explained to foreign diplomats that he had recently received a "mandate" to use his mystical powers to treat a restricted number of patients on those days only.

The Weirdo-American Community

At a January hearing in San Mateo, California, a city board ruled that Estrella Benavides had violated municipal code by painting what she said were messages from God in five-foot-tall white letters all over her roof. Starting roughly a year earlier, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, the 46-year-old Benavides had covered the entire exterior of her house and car with generally incomprehensible text containing references to Fidel Castro, Hurricane Katrina, rape, Hitler, the Mafia, cloning, and Watergate. She told the board that the messages warned of a global conspiracy to control the minds of the poor via "witchcraft and technology," but also said they were part of her attempt to regain custody of her young son, who lives nearby with his father.

Unclear on the Concept

Among the upcoming events listed on the marquee outside a theater in Atlantic Beach, Florida, in February was a charity performance of The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler's play in which women find self-expressive power through uninhibited discussion of the vagina. After receiving a complaint from an offended passerby, however, theater management changed the title to read "The Hoohaa Monologues." The event's organizers pointed out that the licensing agreement for the play requires its content to remain entirely uncensored, and soon the correct title was restored.

Government in Action

At a January hearing in a case against a strip club accused of promoting prostitution, private investigator Duane Minard testified that his firm had been hired by the city of San Bernardino, California, to gather evidence at the club but admitted that on one visit he'd gone too far. The 45-year-old Minard told the court that after he paid $300 for lap dances in a private room, the dancer gave him a condom to put on. He knew he wasn't supposed to accept an offer of sex, he said, but he lost control and soon owed another $500. On his way to an ATM for the extra money (he had to leave his driver's license at the club) Minard called his boss, who he said wasn't happy about the situation but assured him the firm would cover his costs. During cross-examination the club's lawyer suggested that this meant the city would ultimately pay for the sex Minard had; the city's lead counsel said he hadn't decided whether to reimburse the $500 but was "inclined not to."

Petty Crimes

According to police in Vernon Township, Pennsylvania, 42-year-old hunter Robert Hanna had just shot a deer in November and was climbing out of his tree stand when three men with rifles approached, told him to drop his own gun, knocked him down, and took the deer. And in January Glen Johnson, who earns a reported $59,000 a week playing soccer in England's Premier League, was arrested at a home improvement store outside London after a security guard allegedly saw him putting a toilet seat into the box of a cheaper model.

Least Competent Criminals

In January 46-year-old Kurt Husfeldt, his 13-year-old son, and 20-year-old Steven Mangiapanella were arrested in Lindenhurst, New York, on charges relating to the alleged theft of what they apparently thought were cell phones, taken from municipal vehicles in a storage yard. The devices, which admittedly did resemble phones, were in fact GPS units, which authorities had no trouble tracking to Husfeldt's house.

Police in Lilburn, Georgia, received a complaint late one January night that someone had been screaming and loudly moaning for several hours. Officers followed the sound to the cemetery near Luxomni Baptist Church, where they found ten gravestones had been tipped over. Pinned under one was 24-year-old Ezekiel Dejesus-Rodriguez, in shock with a broken, bleeding leg; he reportedly admitted he'd been vandalizing the cemetery until things went badly wrong.

Life on the Inside

In December 38-year-old Brian Bruggeman, serving time at Nebraska's Lincoln County Jail, was charged with assault for allegedly injuring fellow inmate Jesse Dorris in a fight. Dorris had complained about Bruggeman's habit of standing next to him and farting, and wardens eventually moved him to a new cell block; the fight broke out, Dorris said, when Bruggeman spotted him standing in line for dinner that night, backed up to him, and did it again.

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

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