Wierd News

Lead stories

The Alaska Court of Appeals ruled in November that a judge could not take away a man's gun permit just because the man was suffering from a delusional disorder and believes that he has been injected with deadly chemicals and that a computer chip was planted in his head. State law, said the court, allows the denial of a permit only if a person has been taken through a full incompetence adjudication. The man, Timothy Wagner, came to the attention of authorities when he entered a store in Anchorage dripping wet because, he said, he was trying to soak the chemicals out of his body. He had a loaded .357 handgun (fully licensed) with him.

� Trial got under way in January in which residents of Anniston, Ala., are suing for compensation for Monsanto's (and its corporate successor, Solutia Inc.) routinely having dumped deadly PCBs into the ground and local rivers for 15 years after it knew, from the company's own research, that the pollution was so deadly that fish in the rivers died bloody deaths 10 seconds after initial exposure to the water. According to documents from a chemical-safety organization and published in The Washington Post, Monsanto and its executives actively hid the dangers from its factory's neighbors while also dumping millions of pounds of PCBs into oozing open-pit landfills. (Monsanto no longer produces chemicals but does make genetically engineered food, which, it assures consumers and the government, is totally safe for human consumption.)

Names in the news

Sentenced to 70 years in prison for armed carjacking in Kansas City, Mo., in December: Montea Mitchell (whose actual birth name, before social workers got it legally changed, was Murder Mitchell, so named because an uncle was murdered around the time of little Murder's birth). Booked for aggravated assault and burglary in Salt Lake City on New Year's Day: Joe Snot, 31. Arrested for robbery in Ottawa, Ontario, in November: Emmanuel Innocent (and, for aggravated assault in Kingsport, Tenn., in October: Innocent Safari Nzamubereka). Sentenced in December to at least 60 years in prison for the first-degree murder of a waitress in Washington, D.C.: Gene Satan Downing, 19.

The litigious society

In January, the brother of one of the seven people killed in October when a deranged man attacked the driver of a Greyhound bus in Tennessee filed a lawsuit against Greyhound and the driver. Apparently, the brother believes that the company should have hired a driver who could safely drive 60 mph while fending off a knife-wielding psychopath (or else trained drivers better to do that).

� According to witnesses, Kevin Rodriguez, 11, choked to death in January 2000 in his Broward County, Fla., school cafeteria after a hey-watch-this exhibition in which he shoved a large part of a hot dog into his mouth. In December 2001, Rodriguez's family filed a lawsuit against the school board because cafeteria and other personnel were not able to save Kevin's life and because hot dogs are too dangerous to serve 11-year-old kids.

And, in the last month ...

It took emergency workers 45 minutes with hydraulic spreaders, but they finally freed a 2-year-old boy's head from a bongo drum (Fitchburg, Mass.). The mayor of Rio de Janeiro pressured prosecutors to send TV meteorologist Luiz Carlos Austin to jail for incorrectly predicting rainstorms over New Year's (and possibly panicking already-flood-weary residents). The owner of a single-engine plane watched helplessly as it, with engine revving yet no one on board, burst loose of its moorings and made a perfect takeoff and brief flight, before crashing (Sonoma County, Calif.). A 63-year-old woman, watching a supposedly helpful video demonstrating the open-heart surgery she was preparing for, got scared and suffered a heart attack (Workington, England).

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