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LEAD STORY: Some of the well-intentioned donations for victims of the December tsunami are bewilderingly inappropriate (such as ski jackets and Viagra), according to a February Wall Street Journal dispatch from Sri Lanka. Relief workers are being distracted by shipments of, for example, moisturizing gel, sweaters, women's dress shoes, Arctic-weather tents and thong underwear. Crucial medicines were in short supply, but not Valium, anti-depressants, or drugs with labels in languages that local doctors could not read. As the Journal wrote, some doctors "appear [just] to have unloaded their sample bins."

World's Shortest Attention Span: A New York City jury in January awarded $450,000 in damages to a professional dancer whose career was ended in 2001 after surgery by Dr. Andrew Feldman at St. Vincent's Hospital. In a pre-op meeting, the dancer described the discomfort in his right knee, and Dr. Feldman wrote a large "X" on the spot of the pain, but 20 minutes later, he mistakenly cut into the man's until-then healthy left knee.

Finer Points of Law: 1) Sergio Segundo Ruiz, 60, was hospitalized with multiple injuries in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in January after being hit by a car while crossing a busy street, but he was nevertheless charged with interfering with traffic, and a police officer was stationed outside his room poised to arrest him as soon as he was well enough to leave. 2) In January, a judge in Breda, Netherlands, officially ruled that a 46-year-old bank robber, who stole $8,400, could only be charged with a crime worth about $6,100 because the court had to let the man offset the equivalent of $2,300 that he paid for his gun, as a legitimate business expense.

Latest Religious Messages: In a December Tampa Tribune feature, local Southern Baptist preacher Tom Rives was profiled in his part-time role as KoKoMo the Clown, enthusiastically delivering uplifting spiritual messages to kids and nontraditional church audiences. Said Rives (who estimates he has trained about 400 people for his clown troupes), "I don't think [preachers] should be going around with a Bible tucked under their arms and a scowl on their face." To his critics who say clowning is undignified, the Rev. Rives said, "I tell them that all Baptist preachers are clowns. I just went to class and got certified."

Another Election Headed to a Supreme Court: Ali Joho, who lost a close election for the parliament of Kenya in December, filed a petition two weeks later asking the country's high court to nullify the contest because the winner, Anania Mwaboza, was allegedly spotted with some supporters under a bridge on election eve, sewing up the eyes of three cows and then drowning them to cast a spell on Joho's partisans. Allegedly, as part of the spell, voters from out of the district appeared and voted for Mwaboza, and some polling places were opened late and closed early to frustrate Joho's supporters.

Readers' Choice: Tammy Jean Warner was charged in February with negligent homicide in the 2004 death of her husband, Michael, who suffered acute alcohol poisoning (0.47 blood-alcohol level) caused by having ingested three liters of sherry wine, allegedly provided by Tammy via enema. The Lake Jackson, Texas, widow told reporters that she was only trying to help Michael (who she said had been addicted to enemas since childhood) and that he also did enemas with coffee, "castile soap, Ivory soap. He had enema recipes. I'm sure that's the way he wanted to go out because he loved his enemas."

Recurring Themes: New York City health officials are still investigating the October death of a baby shortly after a circumcision by Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, who uses a rare, ultra-Orthodox procedure of drawing the infant's blood with his mouth. Officials found that the baby and two others circumcised by Rabbi Fischer had contracted herpes.

The Continuing Crisis: Attorney Wayne G. Johnson Sr. was arrested for drunken driving shortly after leaving a court hearing in which he represented a client accused of drunken driving (McKean, Pennsylvania, January). And Tammy Lynn Price, 28, in court as a defendant in a drug case, was charged with stealing the judge's gavel when he stepped out (Farmington, Missouri, January). And Leonardo Leyva, 44, was arrested for public intoxication after calling 911 at 3:50 am to complain that his wife wouldn't have sex with him (Turlock, California, January).

© 2005 Chuck Shepherd

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