• More Texas Justice: In March, juries in Smith County and Matagorda County sentenced Henry Wooten and Melvin Johnson III to 35 years and 60 years in prison, respectively, for possessing small amounts of drugs (but enough under Texas law to allow jurors to infer an intent to distribute). Wooten, 54, had 4.6 ounces of marijuana (same penalty as for 5 pounds), and Johnson had 1.3 grams of crack cocaine (about half the weight of a U.S. dime). (Wooten's prosecutor actually had asked the jury for a sentence of 99 years.)
Can't Possibly Be True
• In February, the undergraduate dean's office at Yale University disclosed that it was formally soliciting anonymous, first-person reports of student sexual experiences to publish on a school Web site, as "strategies for creatively navigating Yale's sexual culture," according to an advisor. "There is a real need for students to have space to think about what happens to them and what they want to have happen," she said. "Sex@Yale" would contain "70 to 80" specific perspectives, she said, but critics suggested the anthology might grow to resemble Penthouse magazine's often-ridiculed "Forum" section of lascivious fantasies.
• It's Good to Be a British Welfare Mother: Under the government's Local Housing Authority, Essma Marjam, age 34, unemployed and the mother of six, is entitled to rental assistance for a five-bedroom home, and the only suitable one she could find is in an exclusive London suburb in which her neighbor is Sir Paul McCartney. Luckily, the generous allowance (equivalent of more than $9,000 a month) covers the rent on the nearly $3 million (U.S. equivalent) mansion. (Additionally, according to the Daily Mail, Marjam's non-housing government benefits total the equivalent of about $22,000 a year.)
• Alan Rosenfeld, 64, a New York City lawyer and real estate entrepreneur, is also a full-time schoolteacher, although he has been prohibited from teaching since 2002 because of accusations of leering at female students. He is thus a "rubber room" teacher whose union contract requires full salary and benefits even though the Schools Chancellor has barred him from the classroom as a "danger" to students. The Department of Education pays him $100,000 a year plus health care (plus retirement benefits worth at least $82,000 a year). The New York Post reported that Rosenfeld reports to "the room" each day but works exclusively on his business affairs.
• In January, Aretha Brown, 66, who has lived in the same house in Callahan, Fla., (pop. 962) for 30 years, suddenly became unable to leave her yard unless she crawled between CSX railroad cars blocking her access to the road. Tracks had always been in place, but the railway only began storing train cars on them this year. CSX told The Florida Times-Union that it would soon build Brown an access road to the street.
• The entertainment manager at Thorpe Park in Surrey, England, announced in February a contest seeking foul-smelling urine. The park has introduced a live action horror maze based on scenes from the Saw movie series and decided that it was missing a "signature stench" to "really push the boundaries" of disgustingness. Manager Laura Sinclair suggested that submissions' pungency would be enhanced after consumption of such foods as garlic and asparagus and offered a prize of the equivalent of about $750 for the winning urine.
• The Times of London reported in February that at least six local government councils have been so avid about enforcing street-parking rules that they have issued tickets to vehicles registered to their own governments. In at least two recent incidents (involving Islington and Kingston), the councils pursued collection all the way to traffic court (though only in the latter case did the adjudicator actually require the council to hand over a fine to itself).
• Seventh-grader Rachael Greer was suspended from River Valley Middle School in Jefferson, Ind., in February, even though she apparently did exactly what her parents and the school want kids to do ("just say ‘no'" to drugs). When a classmate handed her a prescription pill in gym class, she immediately handed it right back. Nonetheless, an assistant principal, after investigating the incident, suspended her for five days because she had touched the pill. (He expressed regret but said it is school policy.)
• A recent epiphany caused millionaire Austrian businessman Karl Rabeder, 47, to be depressed about his wealth, and by February, he was in the process of giving away an estate worth the equivalent of about $5 million. Two luxury properties are for sale, with proceeds going to charities he established in Central and South America, and he plans to move into a small hut in Innsbruck. "Money is counterproductive," he told a reporter. "I had the feeling I was working as a slave for things that I did not wish or need." (According to London's Daily Telegraph, Rabeder's wife was with him at the time of the epiphany, but curiously is silent about her view of his decision.)
Least Competent Police
• Embarrassing: (1) In March, on duty on opening day of the jail at the new Adair County judicial center in Columbia, Ky., sheriff's deputy Charles Wright accidentally locked himself in a cell and was fired after he tried to shoot open the lock. (2) A Collier County, Fla., sheriff's deputy suffered a broken ankle when he and a colleague accidentally locked wheels while patrolling in Naples on their Segways.
• It wasn't pretty, but sheriff's deputies in Montcalm County, Mich., got their man on March 3. Mark McCuaig, in court on an earlier charge, became unruly and escaped from two different sets of officers (despite a Tasering). Another court officer tried to stop him outside, but McCuaig got loose (despite being maced). He locked himself inside a van, but officers surrounded it, broke a window, and Tasered him again, yet couldn't stop McCuaig from driving off. After a high-speed chase, state troopers disabled his tires with "stop sticks" but couldn't apprehend him before he reached his home, where he barricaded himself. Officers surrounded the house, and four of them (plus a police dog) entered, but McCuaig escaped and got into another vehicle. Finally, after another chase, he was forced off the road, Tasered a third time, and subdued.
A News of the Weird Classic (January 2001)
• An inmate was arrested in November 2000 with $12,300 hidden inside his rectum (eighty $100 bills, two $50s, and money orders worth $4,200).