News of the Weird January 02 2008

Lead Story: Small-Town Mayors: 1) Mayor Ken Williams resigned in Centerton, Ark. (population 2,146), in November and revealed that he is actually Don LaRose, an Indiana preacher who abruptly abandoned his family in 1980 because, he said, satanists had abducted and threatened him, and brainwashed him to rub out details of a murder he supposedly knew about. He said his memory returned only recently, thanks to truth serum. 2) Mayor Lino Donato of Poteet, Texas (population 3,500), said in November that he would remain in office despite his inability to set foot in city hall. That building is less than 1,000 feet from a youth recreation center and therefore off-limits to Donato, who was adjudicated a sex offender in October.

Oops! The Texas Board of Education announced in November it had made its selections of approved math textbooks for the next school year, even though the group of chosen books contained a total of 109,263 errors. Books of the industry giant Houghton Mifflin accounted for about 86,000. All publishers have guaranteed to correct the errors by the time the books are shipped.

In October, rescue crews in Pittsburgh freed a woman who had become stuck underneath an SUV in front of another woman's house. She told police she suspected her husband was having an affair with the woman and had crawled around to get a better vantage point for spying. She said she inadvertently fell asleep and, when she awoke, could not crawl out.

Fine Points of the Law: In November, the Food and Drug Administration told Smiling Hill Farm of Westbrook, Maine, it would have to recall all of its eggnog because it did not list "egg" as an ingredient on the label. Federal law requires the listing to protect people with egg allergies from inadvertently consuming foods they might not have realized contain egg (even products called "eggnog").

The Continuing Crisis: The existence of the 50-year-old, ultrasecure computer protocol required for a U.S. president to launch nuclear weapons is well-known, through newspapers, books and Hollywood films, but according to papers released by Britain's National Archive in November, a similarly complex protocol has been in place in that country only since 1998. Before that, a person could arm a nuclear bomb simply by removing two ordinary screws and, according to BBC News, using "an Allen key to select high yield or low yield, air burst or groundburst and other parameters."

Creme de la Weird: Mesa, Ariz., police arrested Sebastian Mancilla, 41, in November after a security camera at Mervyn's department store caught him being not too subtle in looking up the skirt of a female shopper. According to an Arizona Republic reporter, citing a police source: "At one time Mancilla approached the woman from behind and laid down on the floor to look up her skirt. He then got back to his feet and continued to act as if he was shopping." Mancilla allegedly tried again with the same woman, dropping to his knees, but to no avail, as the woman walked away.

Least Competent Criminals: Not Ready for Prime Time: A man in a werewolf mask tried to rob a Subway sandwich shop in Pittsburgh in October, but came away empty-handed as the two employees on duty refused to give up money even though he implied he had a gun (covered with a paper bag). The employees said the man argued a bit and then in frustration removed his mask and fled, saying, "I can't believe you won't listen to a man with a mask and a gun."

Updates: 1) A court in Preston, England, convicted Akinwale Arobieke, 46, of violating an earlier court order (reported in News of the Weird in 2006) by doing the same prohibited behavior: He accosted a man in public at a mall and fondled his bicep. 2) In October, the singer Donovan, 61, announced plans to open the Invincible Donovan University in his native Scotland to advance Transcendental Meditation teachings, which assert (as mentioned in News of the Weird in 1999 and 2005) that a critical mass of practitioners, concentrating in unison, can cause society to reduce its crime, violence and stress (and, he said, the critical mass for improving a small country like Scotland would be only 250 meditators).