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Columns > News of the Weird



Satanic sanity

The Texas insanity-defense law requires that a delusional person acting under “orders” from God be judged not guilty by reason of insanity, but that a delusional person acting under “orders” from Satan be considered sane, according to prominent forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz (quoted in a June USA Today story). Thus, Dietz believed that Andrea Yates (at press time being retried in Houston) knew that drowning her kids upon command of someone “without moral authority” (such as Satan) was wrong and thus that she did not qualify for insanity-law protection. Dietz later concluded the opposite in another Texas child-killing case because God had supposedly assured that mother that her kids would be better off dead.

Crotchety complaints

The Rhode Island Supreme Court in June affirmed a $400,000 judgment for Charles Lennon, 68, who had sued the now-bankrupt Dacomed company after his Dura-II penile implant remained constantly erect for 10 years. Lennon said embarrassment had forced him to become a recluse.

Two New Jersey schoolboys separately complained recently that in yearbook sports photos, a tiny portion of their genitals can be seen up the legs of their shorts. (A Colts Neck High School student’s lawsuit was dismissed in June, and a Phillipsburg High School student is pondering a lawsuit, even though a school official ordered the offending page ripped out of all books.)

Inane clown posse

In June, three protesters dressed in clown suits broke a lock at a supposedly secure North Dakota missile facility and attacked the top of the underground housing that holds a live Minuteman III missile by beating it with hammers and painting anti-nuclear slogans on it. They were arrested within minutes, but publicly, the government seemed unalarmed that the trio had broken in so easily.

Speaking to an international medical meeting in Prague in June, Israeli fertility doctor Shevach Friedler said his research team had found that women exposed to brief entertainment by clowns were successful at in-vitro fertilization at almost twice the rate of women who had no clown exposure. Friedler, who is also a trained mime, attributed the difference to greater stress reduction.

The Meek Win a Few

In June, British worker Mr. Sivanadian Perananthasivam was awarded three months’ paid leave plus medical expenses after proving that a supervisor had used two colloquial terms for the man’s posterior during an angry office exchange.

The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed in June that a woman divorced seven years ago is still so fragile from her husband’s leaving her that she should continue to get spousal support (in spite of Canada’s no-fault divorce law).

In his World Cups

A 25-year-old American from Boston, in Hanover, Germany, for World Cup matches, was forced to report sheepishly to police that he had no idea which hotel he had checked into or where it was. According to a Reuters report, the man, reportedly sober, remembered being driven past a park and a Mercedes dealership, but since there are several of those in Hanover, police had to drive him around town for an hour until he finally recognized the building.

Children seen, not heard

In December, News of the Weird reported on a Welsh inventor’s sound device called the Mosquito, which takes advantage of young people’s greater audio range and emits a sound annoying to them but which most adults do not notice, which the inventor used to drive young hoodlums from their hangouts without disturbing adults. Recently, the inventor, Howard Stapleton, introduced a youth-friendly spinoff: a cell phone ringtone (“Teen Buzz”) that is audible to most young people but not noticeable to most adults (who might prefer ringtone silence).


The Nigerian government began recently to warn its citizens traveling to Europe that those countries are full of scam artists. (The travel advisory mentioned pickpocket schemes, but apparently European e-mail scams are less of a problem.)

General Motors executives, trying to explain the dwindling stock market value of the company, have repeatedly complained of oppressive pension benefits owed under United Auto Workers contracts; however, according to a June Wall Street Journal investigation, GM’s fund for worker pensions is “overstuffed with cash,” while its fund for executive pensions is $1.4 billion in the red and getting worse.

Martinsburg, W.Va., physician John C. Veltman, 52, was arrested in May after he (likely intoxicated) commandeered a backhoe and hit a building and a tree and crashed through two fences. Veltman allegedly told an arriving police officer, “I am a (expletive omitted by the Martinsburg Journal) medical doctor, and you are below me.”

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