BOOGIE NIGHTS IN BAGHDAD 


"Abu Mustafa" (a nickname) is part of a small market of vendors of pornographic videos operating in Baghdad, according to an August Reuters dispatch, and sells about 50 DVDs a day, with movies from Lebanon and other Arab countries proving the most popular. "I tried lots of other jobs," he said, but this was his most promising opportunity (although he said the righteous Shiite Badr Brigades have threatened to kill him and his approximately 30 competitors in the Bab al-Sharjee neighborhood).

RADICAL RODENTS

Australian surfer Shane Willmott of the country's Gold Coast became a national media sensation in July when reporters showed up to watch him put his three trained mouse surfers through their paces in local creeks and in the Pacific Ocean. Willmott trained them in a bathtub and built them little surfboards and little Jet Skis.

BIGFOOT BENEFACTORS

In May, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation made a $700,000 grant to a World Wildlife Fund program to protect the apparently gorgeous forests in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan even though (according to a 2003 report in National Geographic) the recipient of the attention, the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary, was explicitly created to protect Bhutan's version of "Bigfoot." Bhutan's "yeti" is called the "migoi" and is about 5 feet tall, covered with hair except on its face, smells horrible and disguises its four-footed tracks by carefully making sure to leave only two prints.

GOOGLY-EYED FOR GREENSPAN

Among the stories fabricated by the former New Republic writer Stephen Glass was a March 1998 description (picked up, unfortunately, by News of the Weird) of two Wall Street companies' ritual worship of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. One supposedly held a cake party and songfest on Greenspan's birthday; the other supposedly had a special office with Greenspan memorabilia to help bond traders meditate. (Two months later, the magazine fired Glass and apologized for the fictions.)

In August 2005, Erin Crowe, a recent art graduate of the University of Virginia, quietly placed in a New York gallery 18 paintings and sketches she had made over the years of Greenspan, a subject she chose "because his face is so interesting: his lips, his ears" and "his forehead, his comb-over." As news circulated about their existence, money managers from around the country quickly bought all 18 pieces at prices up to $4,000 each.

D.C. DOWNERS

The Capitol City All-Stars, bubbling with confidence that this year would be their best chance ever to win the regionals and advance to the Little League World Series, found out in June that they were out of the tournament because the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation failed to send in the paperwork on time. Also in June, the District of Columbia agency that approves charter schools turned down the Dupont Circle International Academy (a rigorous International Baccalaureate program), citing as one factor that the school will not admit or pass students who perform at or below their grade level. The agency's chairman told Washington City Paper, "(A school) has to serve everybody that shows up."

TOUCHING VIGILANCE

Charbel Hamaty, of Lebanese descent, spent six months in jail in Raleigh, N.C., after being arrested last year for "molesting" his infant son. The evidence consisted of family snapshots of Hamaty playfully kissing the nude tot's belly button. Only after a protest campaign did a judge finally dismiss the charge, according to a July report by WRAL-TV.

Not so lucky was Fitzroy Barnaby of Evanston, Ill., who angrily grabbed the arm of a 14-year-old girl whom he almost ran into as she was playing dangerously in traffic. He was convicted under the state's "restraining a minor" statute, which requires that its violators be listed as sex offenders (even though the trial judge and, in June, the state Appellate Court both discounted any sexual motive).

DETECTIVE NEEDS WATCHING

Ohio state alcohol and drug undercover agent Timothy Gales was accused, after an internal investigation, of having undermined his own teenage confidential informant in a Columbus store that the pair were probing for selling cigarettes to minors. According to the official report (described in the Columbus Dispatch in July), Gales stood alongside the teenager, and when the clerk proceeded with the sale, Gale asked, "Hey, aren't you supposed to ask for ID?" It was allegedly Gales' second blown-sting incident this year.

DOPPELGANGER DENIED

Elijah Walker, 35, who pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in Cincinnati in June, resisted complying with the state requirement that he also give up a DNA sample, because he feared the state would use it to create a clone of him. (Said the prosecutor, reassuringly, "I'm not sure the state really wants another Elijah Walker.")

COULDN'T HAVE SAID IT BETTER

Arlyne Reiter, of Pompano Beach, Fla., describing the experience of having encountered an iguana in her bathroom: "It was like Jurassic Park in my toilet." And Connecticut saddle-maker Mike Derrick, on why he set up a booth in Boston at the August Fetish Fair Fleamarket: He could spend six hours creating a bridle for a horse and earn $40, he said, but "make one for a human, $120."

Speaking of News Of The Weird

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