Lead Story

The Country Fire Authority in Warrnambool, Australia, continues to investigate a September 15 incident in which 58-year-old Frank Clewer generated enough static electricity to burn holes the size of Australian 10-cent pieces in the carpet of a downtown business and necessitate the evacuation of two nearby buildings. Fire official Henry Barton said the garments Clewer was wearing–a combination of synthetics and wool–had at least 30,000 volts coursing through them. David Gosden, a lecturer in electrical engineering at Sydney University, said such a buildup was possible given the indoor and outdoor temperatures, especially if the carpet had been dry-cleaned and still contained flammable substances.

Compelling Explanations

Two former girlfriends of married New York City endocrinologist Khaled Zeitoun recently sued him, citing “severe emotional distress,” according to a September New York Post story. Tiffany Wang claims in her suit that on her first date with Zeitoun he told her they had been married in a previous life, that he regretted mistreating her, and that he had spent his life searching for her to make amends. He later told her the devil had taken his soul 14 years earlier, that to get it back he had to agree never to marry, and that Wang was the first woman to make him regret the deal. He actually popped the question in May 2002, but Wang says he never intended to marry her and only wanted “to see the look of joy on her face.”


Minutes after he’d delivered the opening statement in defense of an alleged child molester in August, lawyer Curtis Holmes was suspended by the Idaho bar association for taking nude photos of a former client in exchange for reducing her bill.

Creme de la Weird

Brendan Francis McMahon, 36, a partner in a financial planning and mortgage brokerage in Sydney, Australia, was arrested in August and held without bail on charges that he’d had sex with a rabbit and killed 17 others found on a road near his office. McMahon’s lawyer says his client’s behavior stemmed from sleep deprivation brought on by methamphetamine abuse. He was due back in court on September 30, and police say he may face further bestiality charges.

Least Competent Criminals

The Dominion Post of Wellington, New Zealand, reported in September the arrest of a recruit at Porirua’s Royal New Zealand Police College who ran his own fingerprints during protocol training and revealed an outstanding assault warrant. And in May, Laurie Ralston’s application for the position of dispatcher with the police department in Athens, Ohio, was scuttled when a background check revealed 17 traffic convictions and two outstanding warrants. Ralston was called in for an interview only to be arrested and charged with failure to appear in court and driving without a license.

More Things to Worry About

In a nationwide survey of hospitals published in a July issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, it was discovered that at least 12,000 heart attack patients in a six-month period were apparently not given the most basic follow-up instructions–such as the directive to take aspirin in the first 24 hours after an attack, which increases survival rate by 30 percent. “Hospitals are busy places, and doctors are fallible, and things will fall through the cracks, and they’ll fall through the cracks a lot,” said Ashish K. Jha, an author of the study. And a RAND Corporation survey released in August revealed that out of 19 public health clinics tested with emergency phone calls describing facial pustules or other well-known indicators of smallpox, not one told the caller to isolate the patient.

People Who Just Can’t Give It Up

Thomas Haberbush, a 72-year-old former elementary school teacher in Saratoga Springs, New York, pleaded guilty in April to charges of stalking and criminal mischief against administrators and school board members who had given him unfavorable job performance reviews nearly 30 years before. And retired political science professor Robert Spadaro was convicted in New York City in June on four counts of attempted murder and interstate stalking of Douglas Bennett, a former personnel chief in the Ford administration who apparently denied Spadaro a job in 1975.

Undignified Deaths

In August a 22-year-old motorcyclist crashed on the outskirts of Bogart, Georgia, while trying to outrun the police at speeds of up to 100 mph. The young man, who was wanted for parole violation and was in possession of marijuana at the time, died when his bike rammed into the “Welcome to Bogart” sign. And in July a 61-year-old farmer in the village of Cadjavacki Lug, Croatia, was accidentally killed when a cow he was preparing to milk fell on top of him. “It took me and the rest of the family almost three minutes to get the cow off him,” the farmer’s daughter-in-law told reporters. No word on the fate of the cow.

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