News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In March a Washington physicians' agency filed charges of unprofessional conduct against county coroner Dexter Amend of Spokane, citing among other things his preoccupation with sex. (For example, he allegedly asked the mother of a sixteen-year-old girl shot to death whether the girl had ever been sodomized by gang members.) And in May the county coroner in Tacoma, Washington, was fired for encouraging his staff to make sexual jokes about corpses and dead people's sex organs and for allowing photographs of prominent persons' corpses to be circulated around the office.

*On June 9, rock climber Reza Zand, age 35, had to be rescued by a volunteer search team on a 300-foot cliff near Castaic, California, where he got stuck while studying peregrine falcons. He was admonished for being poorly prepared and then released. On June 13, a fire department search and rescue team was called to retrieve Zand, once again lacking sufficient rope, from the very same spot.

*Perhaps the most satisfied customer of penile enlargement surgery among those interviewed by the Wall Street Journal for a June story on the phalloplasty business was Los Angeles print shop entrepreneur Frank Whitehead, who claimed his new length and thickness had "changed my whole outlook on life." Said Whitehead: "I go out on a limb more than I did before with business. Now [when] I go into business meetings, I'm thinking, 'If you guys had just half of what I have.'"

Cultural Diversity
*Despite appeals by their more mainstream leaders, about 4000 Shiite Muslims in Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, slashed their heads with swords and razors in May in the annual self-flagellation celebration of the revered seventh-century saint Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammed.

*Ms. Hind Abderrahim Mohamed, age seventeen, was recently raped by a stranger on the street in Cairo, Egypt. Under such circumstances, the man has one chance to avoid prison: Egyptian law stipulates that he cannot be punished if the victim agrees to marry him. In February, she did.

*In April a court in Hebei province in China found night watchman Qi Minggin, age 61, guilty of making 180 long-distance calls on his employer's telephone and sentenced him to life in prison.

Congressional Candidates
*Mark Steele, a Massachusetts candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, is on probation for setting a business on fire to collect insurance payments. (In his campaign speeches he admonishes voters to assume greater personal responsibility.)

*Bill Yellowtail, running for the House from Montana, was revealed to have had his state senate pay docked in the Eighties for child-support payments and to have kept secret his expulsion from Dartmouth College for burglary convictions.

*Bill Levinger, challenging Idaho's militia-defending U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth in the primary, appeared on a public affairs TV show in April, stripped down to his underwear, offered the host $5000 for a kiss, and played with a toy elephant and rolls of $100 bills.

Won't Take No for an Answer
*Engineering professor Valery Fabrikant, serving a life sentence for shooting dead four colleagues at Concordia University in Canada in 1992, continues his publishing career from prison. His latest article, "Complete Solution to the Problem of an External Circular Crack in a Transversely Isotropic Body Subjected to Arbitrary Shear Loading," appeared in a recent issue of the International Journal of Solids and Structures. Fabrikant requested that comments be addressed to him in prison.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd