News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
• The cure for emphysema is cigarette smoke piped directly into the lungs, according to chemist Gretha Zahar, whose clinic has treated 60,000 people in Jakarta, Indonesia, in the past decade. Zahar (with a Ph.D. from Padjadjaran University in West Java) modifies the tobacco smoke with “nanotechnology” to remove “free radicals” and adjust the mercury levels—and touts her “divine cigarettes” as cures for “all” diseases, including cancer, with only a wink of the eye from the government (which opposition leaders say is in the pocket of Indonesia’s tobacco industry). Though 400,000 Indonesians die yearly from smoking-related causes, nicotine “addiction” was only reluctantly and subtly mentioned in recent regulations. One pharmacology professor said he had never heard of anyone dying of smoking, which he called a “good, cheap alternative” to expensive drugs.
Unclear on the Concept
• Marla Gilson, 59, was fired in April after her employer callously rejected her offer to work from home in Chevy Chase, Md., at reduced salary, while she recovers from chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant for her leukemia. Gilson’s job was chief executive of the Association of Jewish Aging Services of North America, which serves 112 facilities that help frail and elderly Jews during their final years. Gilson’s termination also made her health care much more expensive and potentially made her uninsurable in the future if her treatment is successful. (Nonetheless, the board of directors thanked her for her service and wished her a “speedy recovery.”)
• Thomas Cavender, 60, of Bessemer City, N.C., pleaded unsuccessfully with a judge in March to remove him from the National Sex Offender Registry, to which he had been assigned as part of his sentence in 2000 for molesting a third-grade girl. Cavender told the judge that he had become a preacher and evangelist and that it “hurts my ministry when you’re in the pulpit, and someone goes to the computer, and there you are.”
• In April, two police constables in North London, England, threatened Louise Willows with arrest for criminal damage and forced her to clean her artwork from a city sidewalk. Willows had cleared off 25 deposits of droppings that dog-walkers had failed to remove and in their place drawn pink cupcakes in chalk (with a nearby message, “Dog owners, Please clear up your dog’s mess. Children walk here”).
Can’t Possibly Be True
• The notorious U.S. military contractor KBR, prominent for having earned several billion dollars from no-bid contracts during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and which has been accused of numerous employee sexual harassment cover-ups (including nine pending lawsuits filed by female employees), has apparently been voted by readers of Woman Engineer magazine as one of the top 50 places for women to work. (KBR and other companies on the list made announcements in April, but at press time, Woman Engineer’s issue containing the list had not been published.)
• Nursery school teacher Elizabeth Davies, 48, was fired in February from Hafod Primary School in Swansea, Wales, after accusations that she had sprayed pine-scented room-freshener on kids who passed gas and on Bangladeshis who had come to class reeking of curry and onions. Of the latter, she reportedly said, “There is a waft coming in from paradise.”
• Recently, public school students were expelled in Spotsylvania, Va. (possession of homemade tubing for launching plastic “spitballs” in lunchroom horseplay) (December); arrested in Hammonton, N.J. (a 7-year-old, for bringing to class a Nerf-type “gun” that fired soft balls) (January); and arrested in Arvada, Colo. (for drawing violent stick figures, which was recommended by his therapist as a way to tamp down harmful thoughts) (February). Meanwhile, in March, at the other end of “zero tolerance,” a judge allowed Ryan Ricco, 18, to play for his school in a big basketball tournament despite being on modified house arrest after being charged with threatening to blow up two other high schools in the Chicago suburbs.
Cavalcade of Rednecks
• (1) In April, Robert Hohenberger, 64, was arrested in Clayton County, Ga., for shooting a neighbor’s dog with a BB gun after complaining that he was tired of the Chihuahua “pooping” in his yard. The neighbor, Leticia Mendoza, told police that her dog was innocent, in that Casey had actually relieved himself inside right before she let him out. (2) Jonathan Avery, 31, was arrested in Benson, N.C., in February for hitting his son, 6, on the head with a spoon, drawing blood with a cut that became infected. Hospital personnel treating the kid called police, as Avery had apparently attempted to suture the wound with fishing line.
• Fine Point of Iowa Law: Thanks to a loophole recently sanctioned by the Iowa Court of Appeals, Matt Danielson and his wife, Jamie, now own their home in Ankeny, Iowa, outright (value: $278,000) after making just one monthly mortgage payment. Iowa law regards a home mortgage by a married couple as automatically void if only one spouse has signed it, and a thusly voided mortgage is treated as fully satisfied. (The purpose was to prevent one estranged spouse from exploiting the other, but the voiding is automatic regardless of the circumstances.) Legislators are currently trying to change the law to leave the discretion of voiding up to judges.
• Explicable Only as Metaphor: On April 13, a customer who had been watching videos in a booth at the Golden Gate Adult Superstore in downtown San Francisco (and whose name was not released) ran from the store into the street engulfed in flames. No explanation for the fire was given, but the man was taken to St. Francis Memorial Hospital suffering from third-degree, life-threatening burns.
Least Competent Criminals
• Not Ready for Prime Time: Harold Luken, 45, was arrested on April 8 in New York City near a Bank of America after his attempt to rob it failed badly. According to police, Luken walked in at 1:50 p.m. and announced that he had a gun and intended to rob the place—but then merely got in a line and said he would wait for a teller. When he finally got to the window (with police apparently on their way), Luken restated his intention and, as if narrating, announced the handing over of the robbery note. When the teller refused to respond, Luken asked to check the balance in his own account, but the teller again declined, provoking Luken to walk away and shout, “OK, I will go to Citibank (and) rob them instead!” He was arrested minutes later.
• (1) “(G)o ahead and shoot me,” said Rodney Gilbert, 57, who was embroiled in a domestic tiff with his girlfriend Kimberly Gustafson in Ocala, Fla., in February. According to police, Gustafson, after cocking the gun in a room with several witnesses, then turned to walk away without firing until Gilbert trailed after her, shouting his final words several more times. (2) “You’re going to shoot? Right here,” said now-deceased Roberto Corona, pointing to his chest. Corona was refusing to reveal the whereabouts of his sister to her husband, David Sanchez-Dominguez, who had asked Corona several times before pointing his handgun at him.
A News of the Weird Classic (March 1993)
• A Tulsa, Okla., physician, writing in a 1992 issue of the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, reported on a 32-year-old woman whose neighbors had just had a large satellite dish installed in their yard. The woman became convinced that she was being wooed by Donald Duck and that the dish had been placed there to facilitate his communicating with her. She spent lots of time “hovering” around the dish and eventually undressed and climbed into it, where she said later that she had consummated marriage to Mr. Duckblog comments powered by Disqus
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