News of the Weird
Applicants to top colleges and graduate schools often take test-preparation courses from private companies. Recently, those hoping to gain admission to prestigious private high schools and grade schools have also gone the route of corporate course prep. Now, according to a November New York Times report, such courses and private coaching are increasingly important for admission to New York Cityâ€™s high-achiever public kindergartens, even though the applicants are just 3 and 4 years old. Basic coaching, which may cost more than $1,000, includes training a child to listen to an adultâ€™s questions and sit still for testing. Minimum qualifications for top-shelf kindergartens include scores at the 90th percentile on the Olsat reasoning test and the Bracken School Readiness knowledge test.
- The Public Record: (1) From the police in Findlay, Ohio: "A woman called the police early Saturday morning (Oct. 31) during an argument with her husband after he claimed that the woman's daughter performed oral sex on him, and the daughter was better at it." (2) From the Steamboat Pilot (Steamboat Springs, Colo.), Nov. 4: "Police were called to a report of a suspicious incident in the 2900 block of West Acres Drive where a woman reported that she found feces in her toilet that she did not think she put there."
- Justifiable Felonies? (1) Five people were arrested in Los Angeles in October and charged with kidnapping and torturing two "loan modification" agents who had taken fees while promising to save their home from foreclosure but had allegedly failed to help. (2) Daniel Adler, 61, was arrested in October in Stony Point, N.Y., and charged with assault. Police said Adler had been solicited by a Sears Home Improvement telemarketer and agreed to an appointment. But when the employee arrived, Adler allegedly punched him in the face. Adler said he had scheduled the appointment only to "advise" Sears, in person, to stop calling him.
- Oops! In an October incident, an off-duty Jacksonville, Fla., sheriff's deputy forgot to leave her service weapon outside when accompanying her mother to Shands Jacksonville hospital for an MRI. The powerful magnet sucked her Glock away in a flash, trapping the deputy's hand between the machine and the gun. Repairs, including the lengthy powering-down and re-powering of the machine, and lost revenue were said to have cost the hospital $150,000.
Government In Action
Google 1, FBI 0: In September, Nebraska prison guard Michal Preclik, 32 (who had been on the job for a year and had just been promoted), was discovered to be on the lam from Interpol for drug and fraud crimes in the Czech Republic. The Nebraska Department of Correctional Servicesâ€™ background check, using the FBI's National Criminal Information Center database, had turned up nothing, but when officials subsequently typed Preclikâ€™s name into Google, the Interpol wanted poster was one of the top results.
Democracy in Action
When the DRP candidate to head Mexico City's most populous borough was disqualified from the race this year, party officials hatched a plot to elevate a street peddler, "Juanito" Acosta, to run in the general election, with the "understanding" that he would step aside if victorious, in favor of the original candidate, Clara Brugada. Helped by his "everyman" image (according to a New York Times dispatch), Acosta won the election. However, his sudden power and celebrity apparently went to his head, and he refused to relinquish the position. (He finally agreed, in November, but only after receiving concessions from the party.)
Franciscan monk Cesare Bonizzi, 63, who 15 years ago turned from spiritual new age music to heavy metal (inspired, he said, by the groups Metallica and Megadeth) and who has spent the last several years as the robe-clad lead singer of his own band, Fratello Metallo, announced his retirement in November after realizing, he said, that the devil had tempted him too much with celebrity and turned him away from his brothers.
(1) William Evans, 57, on trial in St. Augustine, Fla., in August for a sex crime that occurred nearly 30 years ago (but not erased by the statute of limitations), committed suicide while away from the courthouse, awaiting the jury's decision. Without knowing that, the jury came back and declared him not guilty. (2) Engineering student Ken Kitamura, 19, drowned in the Yodogawa River in Osaka, Japan, in August. He and several colleagues had constructed a prototype canoe made of concrete. When the canoe capsized, Kitamura, who was not wearing a life vest, was unable to make it back to shore.
A News of the Weird Classic (April 1999)
In October 1998, News of the Weird wrote about the on-the-job death by snakebite of serpent-handling preacher John W. (Punkin) Brown Jr. (In a landmark book on Southern snake-handling preachers, Salvation on Sand Mountain, Brown was called the "mad monk," the one most "mired" in the "blood lust of the patriarchs.") Because Brown's wife had died three years earlier (of a snakebite during services in Kentucky), the Browns' three orphans were objects of a custody fight between the two sets of grandparents. In February 1999, the wife's parents won primary custody, in a hearing in Newport, Tenn., largely because Mr. Brown's parents were not able to refrain (despite a judge's orders) from taking the grandkids to snake-handling services.
© 2009 Chuck Shepherd