News of the Weird 

Liposuctioned meatballs, tacky crimes

LEAD STORY: President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia (Africa's smallest country) has long believed he had mystic powers, but he said a vision received on Jan. 18 makes it possible for him to personally cure AIDS and asthma, though only on certain days and for a limited number of people. The vision gave him recipes based on seven herbs mentioned in the Quran but authorized him to treat no more than 10 AIDS sufferers, on Thursdays and Mondays, and not more than 100 asthma patients, on Fridays and Saturdays. (Not surprisingly, the government self-reports success.) Jammeh's previous visions included making Gambia rich by exporting oil, but so far no deposits have been found.

Great Art!: Chilean artist Marco Evaristti, serving dinner to friends at a gallery in Santiago in January, presented a dish of meatballs that he said had been cooked using liposuctioned fat from his own body. "The question of whether or not to eat human flesh is more important than the result," he said. "You are not a cannibal if you eat art." (Evaristti is the artist who once put live fish in a blender at a gallery and invited guests to push the button.)

The Atlantic Theater in the Jacksonville, Fla., suburb of Atlantic Beach planned to stage several dramas this winter, including Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, but following an undisclosed number of complaints from parents who said they were uncomfortable seeing that title, management changed its marquee to "The Hoohaa Monologues." (The change lasted one day, until management realized it was barred by contract from calling the play by another name.)

Government in Action: Nathaniel Abraham was convicted of murder in 1998 and incarcerated, but only until he turned 21, which was in January, at which time he was moved into a rent-free apartment in Bay City, Mich., and enrolled tuition-free in Delta College, in a program sponsored by Michigan Rehabilitation Services. Though some criticized such lavish treatment of a murderer, Abraham seemed ready to start his new life, arriving in Oakland Circuit Court for his formal release wearing "a black fur coat, ivory fedora hat, and an ivory and hot-pink pinstriped suit with matching pink tie and shoes," according to a Detroit News reporter.

Police Blotter: Questionable Judgments: During an eight-day period around New Year's in the Chicago area, thieves stole tractor-trailers filled with, respectively, broccoli and asparagus.

Tacky: 1) U.K. soccer player Glen Johnson, who reportedly earns the equivalent of about $58,000 a week, was arrested at a B&Q store in Dartford after a security guard said he spotted Johnson placing a high-priced toilet seat into the box of a lower-priced seat. 2) Des Moines, Iowa, police detained James Clay in December after a convenience store clerk accused him of putting two hot dogs inside a bun and covering them with enough condiments that the clerk would think he was buying only one dog.

More Tacky Crimes: 1) In November, Robert Hanna, 42, of Meadville, Pa., reported that he had just shot a deer and was about to come down from his tree stand when three armed men happened along and deer-jacked him, knocking him to the ground and stealing his bounty. 2) County jail inmate Brian Bruggeman, 38, was arrested in North Platte, Neb., in December and charged with felony assault after allegedly passing gas repeatedly in front of his cellmate (leading to a fight). The "victim," inmate Jesse Dorris, said he had made numerous attempts to stay away from Bruggeman but that Bruggeman purposely sought him out in a dinner line and let him have it once more.

Testifying in January against a San Bernardino, Calif., strip club accused of promoting prostitution, licensed private investigator Duane Minard (who was working on contract for the police) admitted that he went too far in gathering evidence. He said he had paid a woman $300 for a legitimate dance in a private room, but by the time she had "finished," he owed her $500 more for "additional" services. He testified that he knew he wasn't supposed to go all the way, but "I didn't have the time to clear my head," he said. "I was aroused. I was waiting for the cavalry to come over the hill."

The Weirdo-American Community: For two years now, Estrella Benevides, 46, has been painting messages on her house in San Mateo, Calif., and her prolificness has escalated to the point where all outside surfaces (including the roof) are covered with cryptic references to the Bible, conspiracy theories and episodes from her own life. A local community board gave her a February deadline to remove the writing or pay a fine of $50 a day. Benevides has said she can't remove the messages because they come from God and expose a worldwide mind-control cabal that uses witchcraft and technology, and that this is the only way she knows to warn people. According to court documents cited by, her life has spiraled downward since she lost custody of a young son.

Least Competent Criminals: Police in Lilburn, Ga., were called to the cemetery adjacent to Luxomni Baptist Church at 2:40 one morning in January to investigate reports of a man screaming for about two hours. They found Ezekiel Dejesus-Rodriguez, 24, pinned under a gravestone (with a bloody, broken leg) and said he had apparently been knocking over headstones for fun until one fell on him.

Bright Ideas: Kurt Husfeldt, 46, and two others were arrested in Lindenhurst, N.Y., in January in possession of 14 stolen electronic devices that they apparently assumed were cell phones. However, they were global-positioning devices from a nearby municipal facility, and police had followed their signals to Husfeldt's home.

Uniting for Peace and Brotherhood: 1) In December in Jerusalem, Israel's Green Leaf Party organized the first joint Israeli-Arab conference promoting the legalization of marijuana, which a party spokesman said would create a "common [cultural] identity" that could lead to peace. 2) In January, India's largest political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, sponsored compulsory yoga classes in public schools, but opposition was strong, with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board working side-by-side with various Christian organizations such as the Catholic Church of Madhya Pradesh.



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