News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*On October 21 the CBS Evening News aired a videotape of an Iraqi wedding reception in which members of a cult of Sunni Muslims performed a series of severe self-mutilations to demonstrate their devotion to Saddam Hussein. While Saddam's sons Odai and Qusai looked on approvingly, the men stabbed themselves in the abdomen with swords and impaled themselves on long skewers; one man shot himself in the stomach. CBS's Middle East experts said the footage is authentic.

*Michael McLean began a 14-to-42-year prison sentence in New York in September for a string of fourteen burglaries in Brooklyn and Staten Island, including the homes of several organized-crime family leaders. The daughter of the late Gambino boss Paul Castellano was at one time so alarmed about the burglaries that she hosted a neighborhood crime watch meeting in the Castellano home. The families pieced together McLean's identity through informants and told him that they wanted their stuff back; McLean now claims not to be concerned about being killed in prison.

Election Recap
*At least six women in the eastern Noakhali district of Bangladesh who voted against the will of their husbands for winning candidates in the June 12 elections reported that their husbands had sent them back to their parents' homes and had begun divorce proceedings.

*Democrat Teresa Obermyer lost a U.S. Senate race in Alaska to incumbent Ted Stevens after a campaign performance that some journalists likened more to stalking than to running for office. Obermyer concentrated on the role Stevens allegedly played in preventing her husband from becoming a lawyer -- she blames Stevens for Mr. Obermyer's failing the bar exam 22 times.

Names in the News
*In May U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben ruled that lawyers would not be able to use nicknames in the presence of the jury in the Reno, Nevada, case against Joseph Martin Bailie for attempting to blow up the Reno IRS building. Bailie is well-known locally as "Crazy Joe" and "Psycho Joe." He was convicted anyway.

*In a Washington Post story in October on postnatal nursing programs, one of the local experts cited was "lactation consultant" Anna Utter. And explaining to reporters in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, in September how an International Nickel plant exploded was company spokeswoman Bambang Susanto. And Grundy, Virginia, prosecuting attorney Sheila Tolliver said in September she was being followed once again by the man who pleaded guilty to stalking her in 1995, Mr. Dorsey Looney.

The Only Way Out
*Kathleen Chang, age 46, bikini-favoring world-peace activist, died in Philadelphia of self-immolation on October 22, hoping her death would spread her message to a larger audience. And Mr. Suresh Kumar, age 25, died similarly on November 14 in Madurai, India, protesting his country's hosting the Miss World beauty pageant. And Clinton Warner, age 22, shot himself to death in Fullerton, California, on October 14 because he was despondent over a predicted lengthy prison term under the state's three-strikes law. (Actually, his was only a misdemeanor drug charge, and he didn't even have the required number of "serious felony" predicates for three strikes; he most likely would have received a short sentence.)

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd