News of the Weird

Sep. 23, 2010
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Least Competent Criminals

Lame: (1) Gerald Maxwell, 39, a convicted burglar who in August was caught breaking into the same home in Sarasota, Fla., he had broken into last year, quickly tried to explain his innocence to police officers. "I was going back in there to leave a thank-you note, because I'm the guy who burglarized this place last year (and) I just got out of jail," he reportedly said. (2) Terrance Mitchell was arrested in Waterloo, Iowa, in July, identified from video surveillance as the man who tried to shoplift surveillance equipment from a store in the area. Thus, Mitchell apparently was unaware that stores that sell surveillance equipment might operate surveillance cameras.

Medication Craze

More than 500,000 children in the United States take antipsychotic medications, according to a 2009 FDA report. As The New York Times reported this month, “Even the most reluctant (doctors) encounter a marketing juggernaut that has made antipsychotics the nation's top-selling class of drugs by revenue, $14.6 billion last year, with prominent promotions aimed at treating children." In one psychiatrist's waiting room, observed the Times reporter, "children played with Legos stamped with the word Risperdal," an antipsychotic made by Johnson & Johnson. A representative for Johnson & Johnson, which recently lost its patent on the drug, said the company has stopped handing out the toys—though company officials insisted they were not toys at all, but rather advertising reminders for doctors.


In Washington, D.C., in July, a carpenters’ union held a rally to denounce employers who hire nonunion carpenters. But many of the chanting protesters were nonunion day workers hired by the carpenters' union to make the demonstration look bigger, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Compelling Explanations

  • The Republican candidate for governor of Colorado, Dan Maes, explained in August that he began the campaign supporting environmental programs, such as Denver's innovative bike-sharing project, but that he has rethought his position. Now, he told reporters, he thinks environmental programs are, in reality, part of an international plot to undermine the United States. "If you do your homework and research, you realize that (encouraging people to park their cars and ride bikes in the city) is part of a greater strategy to rein in American cities under a United Nations treaty," Maes said.

  • In August in Australia, the New South Wales (NSW) anti-corruption commission held a hearing in which it got engineer Don Gamage to admit that he "exaggerated" his credentials in order to receive a series of government contracts. Nonetheless, Gamage was defiant: "If I didn't exaggerate," he explained, "the people in NSW…would have missed the service and the benefit I have delivered."

  • Bruce Tuck, who confessed in December 2009 to a series of rapes in Martin, Tenn., and was sentenced to 60 years in prison (and who faces still more charges), tried to withdraw his confession in June. Tuck complained that he was not of sound mind at the time because, though weighing 275 pounds, he was being held in jail on a "lettuce-only" diet. Thus, he said, he was unusually vulnerable when a detective offered him a bag of chips and a soda to talk about the alleged crimes.

A News of the Weird Classic

The lawyer for a former phone-sex worker in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., announced to reporters in November 1999 that his client had received workers’ compensation based on her claim of carpal tunnel syndrome (the result, the attorney said, of being encouraged to masturbate on the job as much as seven times a day). Steven Slootsky said his client (who declined to be publicly identified) accepted less compensation than she wanted in order to avoid the embarrassment of testifying, even though the money is not enough to reimburse her for the surgery she required on both hands.

2010 Chuck Shepherd


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