News of the Weird

Lead Story
*Texas A&M student Jonathan Culpepper and his fraternity, Kappa Alpha, were indicted in College Station, Texas, in December on a criminal hazing charge -- inflicting a severe wedgie. The grand jury found that fraternity members lifted a candidate off his feet by the waistband of his underwear, resulting in the surgical removal of a testicle.

Can't Possibly Be True
*During the Christmas handicap race at a track in Melbourne, Australia, the horse Cogitate threw its jockey and bumped another horse, sending apprentice jockey Andrew Payne into the air. To break his fall, Payne grabbed Cogitate's neck, then scrambled into the saddle and rode the horse across the finish line (both horses were disqualified).

*In November ballroom dancing champion Michael Keith Withers was convicted in Perth, Australia, of the attempted 1994 murder of his wife/dance partner Stacey Larson. He said it was an accident, but the jury found that he had doused her with gasoline (used in a Whipper Snapper lawn trimmer he had borrowed from a neighbor) and set her on fire, burning 70 percent of her body. Larson testified that she had not seen Withers after the incident, but under cross-examination she finally admitted she had slept with him fifteen times since then. Another witness said Larson bought Withers Christmas gifts in 1995, including his very own Whipper Snapper.

*A 1985 lease fixed the annual rent the United States pays for its Moscow embassy at 72,500 rubles, worth about $60,000 at the time. The devaluation of the ruble has reduced the rent to the equivalent of $22.56 a year, with nine years to go on the lease. In August the Russian government stepped up demands to renegotiate, but the Americans continue to resist.

*The New York Times reported in December on a Jordanian company that employs veiled Palestinian women stitching together women's exotic underpants for Victoria's Secret stores and catalogues. The products, which in 1997 will include bras, are sold with a "Made in Israel" label in order to take advantage of Israel's favorable trade status with the United States.

*In December Frederick Lundy showed up for a court hearing in Akron, Ohio, at which he could have pled not guilty to a parole violation (and been released until trial) or guilty (and gone to jail immediately). Lundy pled guilty and was led away. He had come to court with 41 rocks of crack cocaine in his pocket, which were discovered in a routine preincarceration search.

*In November at the Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, Anthony Valencia and Fitzgerald Vandever, both age twenty, were arrested and accused of roaming the intensive care unit to steal patients' food off warming carts. Said a hospital spokeswoman, "Actually, we've got some pretty good [food] down there."

The Weirdo-American Community
*In January disbarred Parsonburg, Maryland, lawyer Paul Bailey Taylor, age 61, finally snapped after years of erratic behavior. Armed with a rifle, he barricaded himself inside a church for five hours before police persuaded him to surrender. When he was working, Taylor ran his law practice from the bathroom of an unheated rural trailer, where his desk was set up over the toilet to accommodate his intestinal disorder. A social worker once described the place as "clean," in that Taylor's twelve cats were neatly housed in cardboard boxes and his legal papers were filed in an orderly fashion in the bathtub.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd