Lead Story: Atrocities, starvation and disease continue in the Darfur region of Sudan as humanitarians try inventive strategies to get the world's attention. Nashville clothing designer Deborah Denson, for example, sells purple "Panties for Peace," earmarking half the proceeds for Darfur relief. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who has written tirelessly since 2004 on the subhuman brutality in Darfur, lamented in a May column that Americans still seem less concerned about the rapes and murders of thousands of children there than about, for example, the 2005 plight of the "Pale Male" hawk evicted from a ledge on a luxury high-rise in New York City, and pointedly suggested that Darfur's victims adopt a puppy as their symbol. Citing research collected by the University of Oregon's Paul Slovic, Kristof imagined a picture of a lovable, tortured Darfur dog as having a better chance of bringing donations and a demand to stop the killing.
Recurring Themes: As evidence that weird news keeps repeating itself, this week's collection consists of recent instances of people doing the same old things that we've seen before in News of the Weird.
Fake police officers have graced News of the Weird (most recently in 2006) for pulling motorists over for officious scoldings on traffic safety, but a March 20 stop in Boca Raton, Fla., by an imitation off-duty sheriff's deputy was special. He was riding with his girlfriend when he decided to stop a discourteous motorist, and when a real cop later showed up, the "deputy" was revealed to be not a cop and also not a "he." Rachel Otto, 21, wore her hair short on top and shaved on the sides, and her outing as a woman apparently shocked the girlfriend, who had been living with Otto for a week. Police said Otto's rap sheet included nine arrests for impersonating police officers.
Wrongly convicted defendants are freed from prisons regularly now, some after many years' incarceration, and lawsuits against the legal system that put them there are proliferating. Three men in Birmingham, England, who were recently freed after, respectively, 18, 18 and 11 years in prison for murders, were (in separate trials) awarded a total of 2.16 million British pounds (about $4.2 million), but the Court of Appeal ruled in March that they will have to give back 25 percent to the government as compensation for their "room and board," i.e., tiny cells and prison food, during all those years.
News of the Weird has informed readers several times of the claims by transcendental meditation practitioners that crime and war could be stopped cold by the channeling of huge amounts of human psychic energy into productive thought. (The movie director David Lynch led such a project in 2005.) In April 2007, Needham, Mass., psychiatrist Eric Leskowitz told reporters that he and his cousin are making a documentary film, borrowing the TM principle to measure the impact of Fenway Park fans' creating unified fields of brain waves to carry the Boston Red Sox to victory.
Men accusing women of "stealing" their sperm appeared in a pair of 2005 stories, including that of a Chicago doctor who impregnated herself with her doctor-boyfriend's sperm (from oral sex). (He sued her for theft, but an appeals court called the sperm a "gift.") In a less spectacular lawsuit filed in March 2007 in New York City, Quoc Pham charged that girlfriend Neli Petkova had exploited him to father a baby, and that as soon as she was pregnant, she discarded him, publicly terming him sexually inadequate and allegedly announcing that she had met another man who "could make her cervix orgasmic just by thinking." Pham wants $1 million and visitation rights to the now-3-year-old.
In January, a judge in Benton County, Ore., acquitted a 46-year-old man of sexually abusing his 10-year-old stepdaughter after he told the judge that he suffers from "parasomnia" and sometimes commits acts that appear volitional but during which he is actually sound asleep. Men in Canada and Great Britain in 2005 were also acquitted of sexual assault after courts heard medical testimony about what is now called "sexsomnia."
Nigerian Internet scams were thought for years to be so transparently fraudulent that they would work only on the very gullible, who would send thousands of dollars overseas in the naive expectation of receiving millions in return. However, it was also too good to pass up for a professional money manager, the longtime treasurer of Alcona County, Mich., Thomas Katona, who admitted in court in January 2007 that he had lost $1.25 million of taxpayer money, plus his own life's savings, in a Nigerian scam.
© 2007 CHUCK SHEPHERD
What Atlanta needs are public and private leaders who truely love this city enough to…
I can't believe I'm aligned with the Tea Party. Life is a wondrous thing.
My roommate and I will bike all over downtown (GSU campus, Woodruff Park, Phillip's Arena/GWCC…
@vox— hanukkah is not a major holiday, in fact it's probably the most minor holiday…
"It's definitely a heart of our quirky and awesome neighborhood and a destination for people…