Lead Story

In Bradford, Ontario, in March a 59-year-old DUI suspect put a handful of his own feces in his mouth in an apparent attempt to foil a Breathalyzer test. (He’d relieved himself during the ride to the police station.) The suspect, unnamed in police and press accounts, still registered a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit.

Seems Reasonable

The Scottsdale Tribune reported in April that the police department in Mesa, Arizona, was still awaiting word on its request for $100,000 in federal grant money to buy, house, and train a capuchin monkey for its SWAT team. Considered among the smartest primates, capuchins have successfully been trained as live-in assistants for quadriplegics. Now Mesa police want to see if one can be taught to perform special-ops reconnaissance: unlocking doors, searching buildings, etc. The officer who filed the grant proposal said that at only three to eight pounds (not counting its Kevlar vest, video camera, and two-way radio), a SWAT monkey would have access to places humans couldn’t get to.

In April the state government of Victoria, Australia, authorized a new cemetery near Darlington to go ahead with its plan to offer what it says is a more environmentally friendly and economical alternative to standard burial: vertical burial.

Questionable Judgments

An April investigative report by WKMG TV in Orlando revealed that a Federal Emergency Management Agency employee sent to Florida last fall to counsel residents on repairing hurricane damage to their homes wound up buying one of those homes from its 72-year-old owner for a fraction of its likely value. Gary C. Jones, 62, a licensed real estate broker in Missouri who initially denied that he worked for FEMA, said he had simply advised Diane Greco about mold removal; it was her idea, he said, to sell him her oceanfront house in Melbourne Beach for $250,000 even though nearby properties had recently sold for $1 million or more. Greco herself said she had no regrets, but her son told reporters that she had been consumed with worry over damage to the house.

In March a woman suffered a heart attack on a KLM flight to Amsterdam, necessitating an unscheduled landing at Heathrow Airport in London and a request for a medical crew. But due to Heathrow’s decision in October to stop keeping an ambulance on reserve for flight emergencies, the plane was met upon landing by a lone paramedic on a well-equipped bicycle. By the time an ambulance arrived the woman had died. And in February security officers at Dublin International Airport booted an ambulance left unattended outside a terminal entrance, even though it was parked in an area reserved for emergency vehicles; transportation of a seriously injured passenger was delayed while paramedics found an ATM and paid cash to have the boot removed.

Government in Action

When Gregory Withrow staged a protest in April (opposing U.S. immigration policies, he said, among other things) by having his hands nailed to a board as he stood across the street from the California state capitol in Sacramento, he came prepared. According to the Sacramento Bee, he had a letter from the city parks department confirming that he didn’t need a special-event permit to crucify himself on the sidewalk and another from a senior clinician at the Butte County health department saying that the protest had been “thoughtfully considered” and should not be seen as “reflective of a grave disability or motivated by suicidal intent.”

The Right to Go Through Life Without Being Offended

The Contra Costa Times reported in May on Brij Dhir, a licensed attorney in India studying law in San Francisco, and his suit against a northern California microbrewery. Dhir has claimed that the label of Lost Coast Brewery’s Indica brand India pale ale, which depicts the Hindu god Ganesh–represented as a four-armed man with the head of an elephant–holding a beer in one hand and another in his trunk, constitutes a “hate crime” against Hindus. The brewery said it would discontinue the brand, but Dhir still seeks at least $25,000 in damages and suggested that $1 billion would be appropriate to compensate Hindus for their emotional distress.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in October on a lawsuit against Crawford County, Georgia, seeking support for a child conceived while both parents were incarcerated in the county jail. According to a February article in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, a female and male inmate in Istanbul’s Kartal prison, each in solitary confinement, managed to conceive a child via a hole they’d made in the three-and-a-half-inch-thick concrete wall separating their cells; they were fined and had their sentences increased by four months for damaging public property.

Undignified Deaths

In New York City in October Ricardo Guzman, 42, pleaded guilty to having fatally shot his friend Roberto Ortiz in a barroom argument over who was the better burglar. In March in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, feng shui master Tneo Ho Seng, 50, died of smoke inhalation when his house burned down. And in January near Chardon, Ohio, a 17-year-old Amish boy–perhaps unfamiliar with the hazards of electricity–was electrocuted when he tried to remove a downed power line that had become entangled in the wheels of his horse-drawn buggy.

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