News of the Weird

Office doodies

Obsessed executives have always taken business home at night, but increasingly they take it into the bathroom, with laptop computers, high-speed connections, flat-panel televisions and speaker phones, according to a February Wall Street Journal report. (Said one, "I'm beside myself when I can't get my e-mails.") However, there are problems, e.g., "sound-chamber" sound (the hollow voice created by typical bathroom acoustics usually gives away one's location) and the "BlackBerry dunk" (with one Houston repair shop saying it gets a half-dozen jobs a day of portable devices accidentally dropped into the sink or tub, "or worse").

The poor dears

With Clinton Dearman about to be sentenced for burglary and assault in Christchurch, New Zealand, in January, his lawyer asked for sympathy. Dearman had been surprised mid-burglary by his victims, who were all seniors who proceeded to beat Dearman up and hog-tie him (a photo of which made the newspapers). Thus, the lawyer said, Dearman had become a "laughingstock" among prisoners and would "never be able to hold his head up in criminal company again." Also, in January, Alexis du Pont de Bie Sr., 62, who grew up in a du Pont family mansion and inherited $7 million, filed a lawsuit in New York City accusing his estate's trustees of mismanagement that has reduced his wealth to $2 million and necessitated a cut in his allowance to $3,000 a month, making him, he said, "literally destitute and homeless."

Taxing our patience

In December, a self-employed market analyst in Chimacum, Wash., requested from the IRS a copy of the 2003 Form 1040 and instructions, so he could revise an old tax return, and three weeks later received instead two shipments totaling 48,000 copies of 2005 Form 1040 and instructions. And tax officials in Valparaiso, Ind., admitted in February that they mistakenly valued one house at $400 million (though its previous assessment was $121,900), and even though they recomputed the owner's bill, they failed to erase from the city budget the $8 million in tax revenue they were expecting from the property, including $3 million that they had already disbursed.

Out of Date

Mutaa, the 1,400-year-old Islamic tradition of "temporary" marriage (typically, for one-night stands or for financial reasons), has proliferated in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, embraced by Shiites even though condemned by Sunnis, according to a January Los Angeles Times dispatch. Also, under sharia law, a Muslim husband can end a marriage at will, but apparently there are formalities. In Kuala Lumpur in January, a judge said the declaration had to be made in court and thus fined a Malaysian lawmaker the equivalent of about $150 after he tried to declare divorce first by text-messaging his wife and then by voice mail.

Early release

On Super Bowl Sunday, deputies in Sheridan, Colo., found a car with its windows blown out, its doors bulging outward and the roof bent upward about a foot. The license plate led to Norman Frey, 46, who admitted that he had been on his way to a party with a balloon filled with acetylene, which he planned to explode in celebration. However, the balloon ignited, perhaps due to static electricity from the back seat, and Frey and a companion suffered shrapnel wounds.

Don't gawk and drive

Police arrested David Kennedy, 33, in January near Murfreesboro, Tenn., after he accidentally ran other drivers off the road, perhaps from being distracted by the open pornographic magazines that were in his front seat. And on a January afternoon, motorist Stephen Nielsen, 38, was stopped and finally awakened by Suffolk County, N.Y., police, who saw him driving 40 mph on the Long Island Expressway with eyes closed and mouth agape.

Lies and dolls

In July 2005, News of the Weird reported that former Florida judge Gary Graham had been charged with child molesting, based on statements by a former girlfriend, and as an added touch, the woman had described Graham's insistence that she present herself for sex in pigtails and with paint-on freckles, to give the effect of a young girl. In February 2006, a judge in Inverness, Fla., dropped all the charges after the ex-girlfriend admitted that she made everything up because she was angry.

Civil slide

Australia's attorney general, Philip Ruddock, announced in December that terrorist suspects being held under house arrest would routinely be sent to anger management classes, to help them address their alienation. And in December, a 75-unit apartment house opened in Seattle, funded by grants from the local, state and federal governments, as free housing for what the city considers its most incorrigible drunks, on the theory that keeping an eye on them would be less costly than leaving them free to cause mischief and overuse emergency rooms.

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