News of the Weird October 22 2008
LEAD STORY: The ashram-museum in Ahmedabad devoted to India's highly revered icon of freedom Mahatma Gandhi recently re-installed a replica of the spiritual leader's personal toilet, in that Gandhi's own hygiene-consciousness was such a part of his legacy. It is said that he cleaned the toilet daily and referred to it as his "temple," but ashram officials had removed it in the 1980s as somehow inappropriate, according to a September dispatch from New Delhi in London's Daily Telegraph. Gandhi had written that "a lavatory must be as clean as a drawing room."
Unclear on the Concept: Bernard LeCorn, running for the school board in Ocala, Fla., declared himself the best-qualified school steward among the three candidates because of his "doctorate," but the Ocala Star-Banner discovered that not only was it from a well-known diploma mill (cost: $249), but that Alabama A&M, a real school where he had claimed to be a faculty member after receiving bachelor's and master's degrees, had never employed him and had enrolled him for only one year. (In another diploma-mill fraud indictment in August, one alleged purchaser of a doctorate was Bart Anderson, superintendent of a school district in Columbus, Ohio.)
Can't Possibly Be True: Jose Rivera, 22, survived two tours in Iraq, but back home in California, he took a job at the high-security Atwater federal prison, where officers cannot carry even non-lethal crowd-control weapons, and Rivera was murdered 10 months later by two inmates armed with handmade shivs. "Every single inmate in there is armed to the teeth for his own protection," complained one officer, but a Bureau of Prisons spokesman told CNN in August that "communication" with inmates is a better policy than even modestly arming guards.
When Eric Aderholt's house in Rockwell County, Texas, burned down in June, it wasn't because the fire department was too slow. They arrived within minutes, but none was aware that local hydrants were locked. Apparently, departments know that hydrants in rural areas have been shut off, as part of post-9/11 security, and must be turned on with a special tool, which no one brought that night. Texas law even requires shut-off hydrants to be painted black, but the firefighters still arrived without the tool, and by the time they retrieved it, Aderholt's house was gone.
A member of Pakistan's parliament stood his ground in August, defending news reports from his Baluchistan province that five women had been shot and then buried alive as tribal punishment for objecting to their families' choosing husbands for them. A defiant Israr Ullah Zehri told the Associated Press, "These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them," despite condemnation by Zehri's colleagues. "Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid," Zehri said.
Inexplicable: The incredibly patient Joseph Shepard Sr., 53, sat quietly in St. Louis-area lockups for more than two years expecting that his lawyer, Michael Kelly, was working for his release on bond, but it turns out neither Kelly nor prosecutors nor the judge was doing anything at all. In fact, Shepard seemed innocently happy when a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter told him in August that he had looked into the case himself and that Shepard would be released soon. Shepard's attitude: "If I just sit here long enough, something's going to happen." Three days later, federal judge Carol Jackson released Shepard and chastised Kelly. (Shepard's drug charges remain.)
People With Too Much Time on Their Hands: In December 2003, Yves Julien worked a regular 11-hour shift, plus overtime, all at premium pay, for the Canada Border Services Agency, and then demanded an additional $9 (Cdn) for a sandwich he had purchased when asked to put in the extra hours. The agency said he was not entitled, by contract, because the overtime was already at premium pay. In September 2008, after nearly five years of multiple reviews, hair-splitting legal decisions and lengthy appeals, Julien won his $9.
Recurring Themes: Critters 4, Humans 0: (1) A 17-year-old boy in Reno, Nev., accidentally set his family's house on fire trying to kill spiders (August). A Buddhist monk accidentally burned down his temple in Ojiya City, Japan, trying to destroy a hornets' nest (September).
© 2008 CHUCK SHEPHERD