News of the Weird | News of the Weird | Chicago Reader

News of the Weird 

Lead Story

A Swedish businessman complained last month that a regional environmental court in the county of Jamtland had denied him permission to start a tourist business searching for the eggs of the legendary Storsjoodjuret, a monster reputed to live in the waters of Lake Storsjon and often described as having a long serpentlike body and a head like that of a cat or dog. Investigating the complaint, the Parliamentary Ombudsman in Stockholm found the court had cited its own decision declaring the monster an endangered species and stating that "it is prohibited to kill, hurt or catch animals of the Storsjo monster species" or to "take away or hurt the monster's eggs, roe or den."

Justice Prevails

In May California law firms asked a court to approve $258 million in fees for their successful handling of a class-action lawsuit against Microsoft: about $3,000 an hour for the lead attorney (who billed over 6,000 hours), $2,000 an hour for nearly three dozen other lawyers from as many firms, and $1,000 an hour for administrative work. Each of the consumers represented in the suit will get a voucher worth between $5 and $29 toward the purchase of Microsoft products.

Government in Action

Although 50 countries including Japan have banned the import of American beef since a case of mad cow disease was reported in Washington State in December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ruled last month that it would prohibit Creekstone Farms of Campbellsburg, Kentucky, from voluntarily testing all of its cows for the disease in order to meet Japanese safety standards. The USDA said such testing would imply a level of health hazard that "is not scientifically warranted."

Can't Possibly Be True

In April in Covington, Georgia, veteran schoolteacher Carrie Peoples, 63, resigned after she was accused of encouraging students to throw a 14-year-old female classmate out a first-floor window. The girl landed on her head and was treated for neck injury and cuts at a local hospital. And in March music teacher Jason Schoenberger, 24, was suspended from Public School 279 in Brooklyn and charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child after he hung kindergartner Imhotep Lubin on a closet coat hook as a prank on a colleague. Allegedly he had already tried to hang another student on the hook, but the child fell off (Schoenberger caught him before he hit the floor).

An April article in the Boston Herald describes satiation therapy, a technique used to treat some Massachusetts sex offenders. In this therapy, a pedophile, for instance, might masturbate to images or sounds of consensual sex between adults; then after reaching orgasm he would be forced to continue masturbating to computer-generated images of children. In theory "deviant fantasies" would become associated with the less satisfying sensation and thus diminish in power.

New Hampshire Politicians in the News

In February John Kerns, 23, resigned from the New Hampshire House of Representatives rather than face a vote to expel him for alleged ethics violations including bouncing a $4,000 check that he'd signed using the phrase "State of New Hampshire." Kerns (who was kicked out of the University of New Hampshire's Student Senate in 2000) had a week earlier worn Knights of Columbus regalia--a black cape and a large gold medallion--to file an injunction against the ethics committee. He said he was not currently a member of the Knights of Columbus but wore the ceremonial garb to signify that he had been ordained as a reverend in the Christian faith. Also, self-styled presidential candidate Robert Haines, 57, of Manchester was arrested while campaigning in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in April. After being warned by a police officer that his car was illegally parked, the Associated Press reports, Haines told the officer that he would "kick his ass and cut off his dog's head."

Surprisingly Competent Criminals

In April a man in Covington, Kentucky, lost $180 to a robber who walked into his home and threatened him with a gun. Only after handing over the money did the victim realize the gun had no barrel; he chased the robber out of the house but couldn't catch him.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in August 2003 that a doctor at a remote hospital in the Peruvian Andes used an electric drill and pliers bought at a hardware store to remove blood clots that were putting pressure on a man's brain. In December, Dr. Keith Sivertson saved a brain-trauma victim in a similar incident near Ketchum, Idaho. Judging that Ben King wouldn't survive a 100-mile helicopter trip without immediate treatment, Sivertson made a hole in King's skull with a Makita power drill.

More Things to Worry About

In Scotland bus drivers are spit upon so regularly that last month officials in Edinburgh issued swab kits to drivers so they can collect the DNA of offenders and match it against a national database. A similar program in Glasgow last fall led to assault charges against more than 25 passengers.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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