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Record-holding paper airplanes, ethics classes for gang members and more 

LEAD STORY: World-Class Adolescent Endeavors: Japanese engineer Takuo Toda's paper airplane was certified in May as the Guinness Book record-holder for the longest flight from a single folded sheet of paper: 27.9 seconds. And in Witcham, England, in July, Jim Collins won the World Peashooting Championship, using a "traditional" instrument blowing at a target 12 yards away, but noncompeting ex-champion George Hollis once again drew the most attention with his homemade, gyroscopic-balancing, laser-guided peashooter, with which he won three previous championships.

COMPELLING EXPLANATIONS: When motorist Timothy Pereira, 19, rammed Christine Speliotis' car head-on in Salem, Mass., in March, there was no doubt in police officers' minds what the cause was: Pereira was driving 85 mph in a 35 mph zone and had swerved into Speliotis' lane. However, in July, Brandon Pereira, 17, an injured passenger in his cousin's car, filed a lawsuit against Speliotis for negligence, claiming that if she had been quicker to get out of the way, the collision would not have occurred.
    Failed Defenses: 1) A woman in Kansas City, Mo., told police in June that the reason she had stabbed her sleepwalking 24-year-old boyfriend in the face was that she feared he would hurt her if she didn't wake him up. (She said the man had also just finished urinating in her closet.) 2) In Britain's Chelmsford Crown Court in July, Sultan Al-Sayed, 40, was convicted of peeping under the next stall in a department-store changing room despite his claim that the only reason he placed his face on the floor was to relieve pain from a toothache.

IRONIES: When the tenant failed to pay $87,000 in rent in April and May on two townhouses and a retail property at Trump Plaza in New York City, the landlord did what Donald Trump would surely do: began eviction proceedings. However, the tenant in this case is Donald Trump's Trump Corp., which leases the space from the current landlord, the Trump Plaza Owners co-op. Said the co-op president: "If you don't pay the rent when Donald Trump is your landlord, he comes down on you like a hammer. Well, lo and behold. ..."
    In July, Mexican authorities accused one of the country's newer drug cartels, La Familia, of murdering 12 federal agents following a 2007 debut in which it rolled five severed heads into a dance hall in a show of intimidation. According to an April Reuters report, captured documents indicate that La Familia gang members are strictly required to attend regular prayer meetings, to never drink alcohol or take drugs, and to attend classes in "ethics" and "personal improvement."

I WANT MY RIGHTS! Relatives of two British convicted murderers, claiming a breach of "privacy" under the European Convention on Human Rights, filed lawsuits recently against the Greater Manchester Police over a crime-prevention campaign. High-profile gangbangers Colin Joyce, 29, and Lee Amos, 32, had been sentenced to long prison terms, and the GMP, trying to turn youths away from gangs, created computer images on billboards of the two men as they might look when they are released, sometime after the year 2040. Their families were outraged. (GMP reported that gang-related shootings are down 92 percent since Joyce and Amos were caught.)
    Schoolteacher Charlene Schmitz, convicted in February 2008 of using electronic messaging to seduce a 14-year-old student in Leroy, Ala., was fired and is now serving a 10-year prison sentence. However, under Alabama law, she is still entitled to draw her $51,000 salary until all legal issues are concluded, and Schmitz is both appealing her conviction and suing the school board for firing her. Another aspect of state law requires the settlement of all criminal issues before the lawsuit can even be addressed. The school board, with an already limited budget, must thus pay Schmitz and her replacement during the process.
    A Canadian public employees' union local had been on strike in Toronto for weeks, causing an otherwise popular public park to fall into disuse because of high grass and lack of maintenance. Fed-up neighbors brought their own mowers to the park and cleaned it up, making it once again a valuable community resource for dog-walking, ball-playing and picnics. Said the local union's president, in July, of the neighbors' effort: "You could use the word 'scab.'"

FETISHES ON PARADE: Christopher Bjerkness, 31, was arrested in Duluth, Minn., in July and charged with another episode of breaking into a gym facility and slashing numerous large rubber exercise balls. He had acknowledged a sexual urge to slash that type of ball following a conviction in 2006 for cutting up 70 balls in three incidents at the University of Minnesota at Duluth. This time, 40 balls were damaged at a St. Mary's/Duluth Clinic West building. Police were told by a psychologist last year, after Bjerkness abandoned court-ordered therapy, that he "continues to be a risk to society."

LEAST COMPETENT CRIMINALS: Recurring Themes: 1) Lonnie Meckwood, 29, and Phillip Weeks, 51, were arrested in Kirkwood, N.Y., in June after allegedly robbing the Quickway Convenience Store. Their getaway ended about a mile from the crime scene as their car ran out of gas, even though the Quickway is also a gas station. 2) Hatim Gulamhusein, 48, was arrested at Toronto International Airport in April, suspected of bringing 76 swallowed packets of cocaine into the country as a drug mule, despite a mighty effort to avoid being charged. Gulamhusein managed to control his bowels so well that it took three weeks for all the packets to pass.

RECURRING NEWS: It should be well-known by now to News of the Weird readers that a DNA test disproving fatherhood will not necessarily relieve a man of child-support obligations. Frank Hatley's case is especially alarming. He was finally released in July in Cook County, Ga., but only after having spent 13 months in jail because he had missed a few payments for another man's child. Hatley had paid conscientiously, albeit incompletely, from 1987-2000, out of meager wages, and continued (even during periods of unemployment and homelessness) for several years after he learned he was not the father. In 2001, a court absolved him of the duty to make future payments, but the state interpreted that ruling as not affecting the overdue amounts from the past, and in 2008 jailed him.

THE CLASSIC MIDDLE NAME (ALL NEW!): Arrested recently and awaiting trial for murder: Jerry Wayne Damron, Taylorsville, N.C. (July); Edward Wayne Edwards, Louisville, Ky. (August); Anthony Wayne Thomas, Orlando, (June); Travis Wayne Baczewski, Austin, Texas (July). Indicted recently for murder: Heath Wayne Overstreet, Roanoke, Va. (July); John Wayne Boyer, Nashville, Tenn. (August); David Wayne Hoshaw, Norfolk, Va. (August); Kenneth Wayne Baker, Churchville, Va. (July). Federal appeal of murder conviction denied: Mark Wayne Wiles, Ravenna, Ohio (August). Sentenced for murder: Carl Wayne Bowen, Swansea, Wales (July). And, alas, from Caroline County, Va., comes word that John Wayne Peck, who made this list upon his arrest in 2007 for murder, was found not guilty by a jury (July).

A NEWS OF THE WEIRD CLASSIC (MARCH 1995): Writing in the February 1995 Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, two Wisconsin researchers concluded that nose-picking does not create problems for most people, but that for some the habit "may meet criteria for a disorder — rhinotillexomania." Among their survey findings: 66.4 percent of pickers did it "to relieve discomfort or itchiness" (versus 2.1 percent for "enjoyment" and 0.4 percent for "sexual stimulation"); 65.1 percent used the index finger (versus 20.2 percent little finger and 16.4 percent thumb); and "Once removed, the nasal debris was examined, at least some of the time, by most respondents."

© 2009 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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