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News of the Weird



Ivy League Blues: In March, a Princeton University graduate student in applied mathematics, Michael Lohman, was arrested, suspected by police of being the guy who has been assaulting Asian women on campus for weeks by snipping locks of their hair or by furtively doctoring their drinks with unspecified "bodily fluids" in the dining hall. And a week after that, in Rockport, Mass., a chaired professor of economics at Harvard, Martin Weitzman, was charged with larceny after a farmer said Weitzman has long been trespassing and hauling away manure for his own nearby farm, thus denying the farmer his market price of $35 per truckload.

Things People Believe: Kim Chan, 40, of a village in the Cambodian province of Kampot, announced in March that he had a cow that was heavenly possessed and could cure illnesses by exposure to its bodily fluids, but local official Khun Somnang immediately discounted the claim, saying, "We had a holy cow here a year and a half ago [and you] don't get two that close together."

Life Imitates Art: According to a February report in the Israeli daily Ma'ariv, Itzik Simkowitz is suing a pet shop owner in Beersheeba for selling him a sickly Galerita-type cockatoo (price: the equivalent of about $2,000) that died shortly after Simkowitz got him home. As in a classic Monty Python sketch, the shop owner initially insisted that the parrot was merely lethargic and needed time to adjust to his new surroundings, but when the parrot was shown to be "an ex-parrot," "a stiff," and to have "joined the choir invisible," the shop owner still refused to return the money.

Police Blotter: William Woodard, 39, suspected by police in the Trenton, N.J., area of more than 50 burglaries, was arrested in March, and authorities said they were confident they could match him to what had become one of the "signatures" of the crime spree: random splotches of excrement at several crime scenes. In the course of the arrest, a highly nervous Woodard failed to control his bowels, and police submitted samples for DNA testing.

Adventures in Obnoxiousness: Christopher Garcia, 46, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was turned down for unemployment benefits in March because an administrative judge found that he was properly fired by a convenience store for misconduct in that he would not stop "air drumming" on duty (using real drumsticks), causing some customers to complain of feeling threatened. And in March in Rajahmundry, India, officials termed "resounding[ly] success[ful]" their tax-collection tactic of sending drummers to stand outside the defaulters' homes and pound their instruments until the debtors paid up.

The Important Things in Life: Tony Young, 35, made the news in January in Flint, Mich., when he tried to stop the theft of his Mustang ("my pride and joy") by grabbing the spoiler and hanging on for 20 minutes as the thief drove through Flint and on two interstate highways at speeds up to 80 mph, trying to shake him off. Young still managed to call 911 on his cell phone and describe his route until police could join the chase, which ended when the driver fled on foot and was captured. (Two weeks later, "Young" was arrested and charged with breaking into a home, and police discovered that his real name is Anthony Barry and that he has served two stretches in prison.)

Creme de la Weird: Two groups of Aryan supremacists who fled Germany to establish utopias in South America were in the news recently, regarding their descendants' colonies in southern Chile ("Colonia Dignidad") and Paraguay ("Nueva Germania"). Colonia leader Paul Schafer, 83, who reportedly commanded total obedience from his sect of 300 farmers (who remain, culturally and technologically, in the 1940s), was arrested in Argentina as a fugitive from charges of having sex with his camp's children.

Least Competent People: According to police in New York City, schoolteacher Wayne Brightly, 38, who was having trouble passing the state's modest certification exam, paid a former mentor, Rubin Leitner, to take the test for him. Though Leitner is a learned man, he is also age 58, white, chubby and afflicted with the autism-like Asperger's syndrome, while Brightly is 38, black and thin. When Leitner (using the fake ID Brightly had supplied) scored high on the test, officials naturally wanted to interview Brightly to ask about his sudden brilliance, but Brightly decided to send Leitner to the meeting, instead, virtually assuring that the ruse would collapse.

© 2005 Chuck Shepherd

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