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News of the Weird



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In January 39-year-old Ronald Dotson of Detroit was sentenced to 18 months in prison for an October incident in which police reportedly found him trying to break into a storefront displaying a mannequin in a French maid's outfit. The Detroit Free Press reported that this was Dotson's seventh mannequin-related offense since 1993, when he was caught in the alley behind a women's clothing store with three mannequins wearing lingerie; his October arrest came only days after his parole following the sixth conviction.

The Continuing Crisis

Last month the local-news Web site Pasadena Now hired two reporters based in India to cover the "city government and political scene" in Pasadena, California. The site's proprietor explained to the Associated Press that since most information can easily be gathered long-distance (especially now that Pasadena city council meetings are viewable online), outsourcing was a reasonable and cost-effective way to improve the site's reportage. Meanwhile, UPI reported in March that to meet increased demand among U.S. businesspeople for visas to India, the Indian embassy in Washington, D.C., had been forced to post ads looking to outsource some of their visa-application processing.

Because tough local laws prohibiting sex offenders from living near places children congregate have left most of Florida's Miami-Dade County off-limits, the state Department of Corrections was as of April housing at least five offenders in a makeshift encampment underneath the Julia Tuttle Causeway, which connects Miami and Miami Beach. According to a report by CNN, the site lacks electricity and running water, is open to the elements, and teems with rats; because all offenders are required to be at their residence between 10 PM and 6 AM, a probation officer visits before dawn each day to check up. Offender Kevin Morales--who has a job and a car but was forced to leave his apartment because groups of children used the pool in his building--told the reporter, "Jail is anytime much better than this."

Frontiers in Pet Care

A year-old domestic short-haired cat named Oreo underwent $3,500 hip-replacement surgery at a Long Island animal hospital in March, apparently becoming the first cat in the New York area to do so. Larger dogs have been getting their hips replaced for years, but until recent advances cats' relatively light weight made them unsuited for the procedure. And in April the AP reported on a new product to be sold in Japan later this year: a patch that adheres to the paw of a dog or cat and changes color to indicate the animal's stress level.

Frontiers in Verbs

At his March sentencing hearing in Cincinnati, Ricky Lackey, a 25-year-old music producer convicted of attempted theft, told the judge that he had no children but "six on the way." According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the visibly startled judge asked, "Are you marrying a woman with six children?" He explained, "No, I be concubining." Prosecutors said six women are due to deliver babies fathered by Lackey between August and October; Lackey, who had already paid restitution in the case, was released without further sentence.

The Litigious Society

In January 18-year-old Joshua Vannoy filed a lawsuit against his former high school in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, alleging that his rights were violated in a series of incidents that began when he wore a Denver Broncos football jersey to school days before a playoff game between the Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to the suit a teacher made Vannoy, an honors student, take a midterm while squatting on the floor and directed his classmates to throw balled-up paper at the "stinking Denver fan," the principal refused to discipline the teacher, and, after the media picked up on the story, Vannoy had to stay home and eventually move to another school district to avoid taunting and abuse.

Least Competent Criminals

Police in Elizabethton, Tennessee, found an overturned forklift on a county road in March; visible sticking out from underneath were a pair of shoes, but officers were unable to get at them. While they tracked down the vehicle's owner, a call came in from a nearby emergency room, where a man was telling an unlikely sounding story of having lost his toe in a hit-and-run accident. The man, 34-year-old Claude White, was arrested for theft after police got the forklift turned over and discovered a toe in one of the shoes.


Big Star Trek fan Tony Alleyne of Leicestershire, England, was last discussed here in 2006: he'd recently filed for bankruptcy and was having a hard time selling his apartment, which he'd painstakingly converted into a replica of the bridge of the USS Enterprise. Last month Alleyne finally sold the one-bedroom on eBay for the equivalent of about $847,000--reportedly five times its market value--after spending more than a year remodeling it into the flight deck from Star Trek: Voyager.

Also in May: Michael McPhail of Spanaway, Washington, who last fall became the first person to be arrested under the state's new bestiality law after his wife accused him of having sex with their pit bull, was found not guilty by a jury in Tacoma. Afterward McPhail told reporters, "I'm glad that justice was able to see it wasn't an action of my doing." And Zimbabwe's Central Statistical Office announced that the nation's annual inflation rate, which had reached a record level of 1,593 percent in January, was up to 3,732 percent in April.

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

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