News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In January the owners of KZZC-FM in Tipton, California, ended eighteen consecutive months of being an all-"I Heard It Through the Grapevine" station, playing various versions of that song all day, seven days a week (except once, when it played the Eagles' "New Kid in Town" for a whole weekend). The station was pending sale and the owner just needed to keep the frequency occupied, but negotiations dragged on much longer than expected.

*Life imitates lawyer jokes: Because of overcrowding at the Chilliwack, British Columbia, courthouse, jury selection in a January manslaughter case was removed to a local community center, but because of other court business taking place there, jury selection was further removed to the center's men's room. Said prosecutor Henry Waldock, "When you hold hearings in a bathroom, I fear it may diminish the respect for the justice system in the eyes of the public."

*The Associated Press reported in January that many handicapped and deformed kids from the village of Murshidabad, India, were being sold by their parents to middlemen who placed them in Saudi Arabian cities as beggars. For those who didn't have such children but still wanted a piece of the action, the traffickers took on private investors, offering a 50 percent return within a few months.

Compelling Explanations
*Darlie Routier, recently convicted in Kerrville, Texas, of murdering her five-year-old son but adamant about her innocence, said, "If I had [killed him], I would be the first person to stand up and say, 'Oh, my gosh!'"

*In October a University of New Hampshire business major, in a letter to the school newspaper, blamed his recent drunken driving on a police crackdown on underage drinking in the university town of Durham. Because he has to drive to another city to drink, the student wrote, "[I] can expect to be doing a lot more drunk driving."

Smooth Reactions
*In December Bowling Green (Ohio) State University instructor Patrick Stearns, age 32, was suspended after allegedly punching a 25-year-old student who showed up late for class. And in January the Medical Board of California issued a public reprimand against Dr. Edward A. Thistlewaite of San Marino, California, for slapping a nine-year-old boy he was treating for Attention Deficit Disorder.

*In September world-renowned composer Jon J. Polifrone, age 59, sent a letter to 2500 colleagues in classical music announcing he was abruptly quitting the business and limiting the availability of his works, solely because administrators at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (where he is a professor) told him he needs to spend more time on his teaching. (Colleagues interviewed by the Roanoke Times said the VPI review was merely a suggestion and that he was not in danger of losing his job.)

Undignified Deaths
*Weight problems: In January Michigan state security officer Canute Findsen, age 43, was shot to death in Lansing by fellow officer Virginia Rich, age 51; he in turn was able to shoot Rich to death just before he died. Police believe Rich was upset that Findsen had made one comment too many about her being overweight. And in January in Providence, Rhode Island, Ricardo Guerrero killed himself rather than face prison for shooting and wounding Johnny Urbaez at a nightclub; according to police, Urbaez had precipitated the incident by referring to Guerrero as "Fatso."

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd