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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

The latest from where the sun don't shine: Fadhel al-Maliki, a 35-year-old Iraqi national living in New Jersey, was detained at LAX in March after security personnel found a small magnet (wrapped together with some gum in a napkin, then in coils of wire) and a smooth round stone in his rectum. According to the local Daily Breeze, he explained that the items helped him fight stress. And in the letters section of the February 3 issue of the Lancet, a doctor described the ordeal undergone by a 48-year-old male patient when U.S. immigration officials in New York discovered his seton. The patient suffered from an anorectal fistula--a channel, formed by an abscess, leading from the wall of the anal canal to a hole in the skin nearby--and had a seton, or loop of absorbent suture, threaded through his anus and back out through the fistula to prevent serious infection. Apparently suspecting it was attached to some kind of contraband, inspectors reportedly tugged hard on the seton during their examination and ultimately required the patient to let an airport doctor remove it before he could enter the country.

Oops

A state attorney's investigation into election practices in central Florida benefited from an unexpected break in November: A man contacted Orlando's WKMG TV to say that he'd bought at public auction the contents of a storage locker whose rent had gone unpaid; upon examining files inside, the buyer realized they belonged to Doug Guetzloe, a prominent local political consultant and a key figure in the state probe, and turned them over to the station. After obtaining documents from the files, in March prosecutors indicted Guetzloe for perjury.

Schemes

In January in San Marcos, Texas, Bulgarian natives Plaman Ivanov and Ilko Boyadzhiev were charged with burglary and other offenses after they were caught on their way out of an apartment building's laundry room; police reportedly found their van nearby, containing apartment guides for various cities and half a ton of quarters.

The Litigious Society

Ruth Parks filed a lawsuit in October claiming public officials and a news reporter in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas (pop. 2,278), had conspired to keep her from reelection as the town's recorder-treasurer. Among other things, she alleged that by printing an article recounting testimony at an earlier trial--in which she admitted she believed in UFOs but said she had never been abducted by one, while her husband testified that she had and bore a scar on her neck to prove it--the local paper had defamed her, though she didn't dispute the article's contents. In March a U.S. appeals court dismissed the suit, ruling that Parks had no constitutional right to be reelected.

Priorities

A judge in Racine, Wisconsin, set bail at $50,000 for 21-year-old Mario Sims in March. According to court records, he cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet last year while awaiting trial on child molestation charges and missed a September court date. His lawyer at the time revealed that Sims had been seen getting into a limousine sent by The Jerry Springer Show; on an episode that aired subsequently, Sims announced he would marry his half sister, who was also the mother of his baby.

In February an immigration judge in Rhode Island barred Mohammed Mullawala from leaving the country voluntarily and ordered him held while federal officials continued to investigate his identity. The 28-year-old Indian native first attracted the suspicion of an instructor at a truck-driving school he attended near Providence, who said he expressed a great deal of interest in hauling hazardous materials and in whether he'd need to be fingerprinted to get a commercial driver's license but attended only two days of class. He also allegedly offered to pay extra to finish the course early and said he didn't need to learn how to back up.

Not How It's Supposed to Work

After spending three years on Florida's death row for a long-unsolved 1980 murder, Paul Fitzpatrick was awarded a new trial by the state supreme court, and a second jury convicted him in October. Fitzpatrick, now 49, then fired his public defenders, who would have been required to seek a life sentence, and convinced the jury to recommend he again be sentenced to die; rather than list mitigating factors, he encouraged jurors to review gory crime-scene photos. He later explained to Judge Dee Anna Farnell that he enjoyed the calm of death row, where he could read in peace without being harassed by younger convicts, and since condemned prisoners are entitled to more appeals than lifers he'd have more opportunities to reassert his innocence. In March, however, Farnell rejected the jury's recommendation; Fitzpatrick will be eligible for parole in about 13 years.

News That Sounds Like a Joke

While shooting a story in January on the hazards of thin lake ice, a news team from Milwaukee's WDJT TV watched as their driver mistakenly drove the remote truck onto the frozen surface of Big Muskego Lake, where it fell through. The driver escaped unharmed, but it took workers more than a day to haul the truck out of the water. Also in January, according to Pakistan's Daily Times, six students at Dawood Engineering College in Karachi were injured in a furniture-throwing brawl that started when two rival campus groups argued over who would be first to put up posters urging students not to fight.

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

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