The usual 20,000 or so visitors every year to Belgium's Verbeke Foundation art park have the option (365 of them, anyway) to spend the night inside the feature attraction: a 20-foot-long, 6-foot-high polyester replica of a human colon created by Dutch designer Joep Van Lieshout. At one end, of course, another body part is replicated (and gives the installation its formal name, the Hotel CasAnus). The facility, though “cramped,” according to one prominent review, features heating, shower and double bed, and rents for the equivalent of about $150 a night. The 30-acre art park is regarded as one of Europe's “edgiest” art destinations.
-Giuseppe Tedesco took the witness stand in Newton, N.J., in December and swore that all six shots that hit his girlfriend, Alyssa Ruggieri (one of them fatal), were “self-defense” “accidents.” After she discovered his .25-caliber handgun in sofa cushions, he said he reached for it and in the struggle was shot in the hand, but he still managed to grip the gun tightly, and the pair tumbled down some stairs. During the struggle, “both” hands shot Ruggieri twice. Despite their injuries, they both maintained their vice-like grips on the gun, he said, and “they” shot Ruggieri twice more. The final shot, he said, came with Ruggieri holding the gun point-blank at his face, and when he pushed it away, “they” fired another shot that hit Ruggieri in the temple. (At press time, the trial was continuing.)
-The issues director of the fundamentalist American Family Association told his radio audience in November that God's feelings will be hurt if America stops using fossil fuels for energy. “God has buried those treasures there because he loves to see us find them,” said Bryan Fischer, who described Americans' campaigns against fossil fuels as similar to the time when Fischer, at age 6, told a birthday-present donor that he didn't like his gift. “And it just crushed that person.”
-Retrials and appeals are sometimes granted if a convicted criminal demonstrates that he received “ineffective assistance of counsel.” Among the reasons that the lawyer for convicted Joliet, Ill., quadruple-murderer Christopher Vaughn offered in his November motion was the ineptness of other lawyers (but not himself). Specifically, he argued, the lawyers for the convicted wife-killing police officer Drew Peterson put on such a disgusting case that they gave all defense lawyers a bad name. (The website LoweringTheBar.net pointed out that Vaughn lawyer George Lenard himself violated a lawyers' “kitchen sink” standard by overlisting 51 separate reasons why his client deserved a new trial.)
Mauricio Fierro gained instant fame in December in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as the reported victim of a car theft (captured on surveillance video) when he dashed into a pharmacy. He went to a police station to file a report, but encountered the pharmacy owner making his own report — that Fierro was actually robbing him at the moment the car was taken. More surveillance video revealed that while Fierro was standing outside the pharmacy, wondering where his car was, a man ran by and stole the stolen cash. Fierro then immoderately complained to the police even more about Sao Paulo's crime rate and lack of security. Afterward, Fierro admitted to a local news website that in fact he had stolen the very car that he was reporting stolen.
The Continuing Crisis
-Former undercover cop Mark Kennedy filed for damages in October against the London Metropolitan police, claiming post-traumatic stress syndrome based on the department's “negligence” in allowing him to have such a robust sex life on the job that he fell in love with a woman whose organization he had infiltrated. Kennedy's wife has filed for divorce and is also suing the department, and 10 other women (including three of Kennedy's former lovers) have also filed claims.
-Sarah Childs won a restraining order in Denham Springs, La., in December, forbidding the town from shutting down her “Christmas” lights decoration. The large outdoor display (in a neighborhood with traditional Christmas displays) was the image of two hands with middle fingers extended.
-In a 3-2 decision, the Board of Adjustment in the Seattle suburb of Clyde Hill ruled that a homeowner must chop down two large, elegant trees on his property because they obstruct a neighbor's scenic view of Seattle's skyline. The board's majority reasoned that the complaining neighbor (who happens to be former baseball all-star John Olerud) would otherwise suffer a $255,000 devaluation of his $4 million estate. (Olerud was ordered to pay for the tree removal and to plant the neighbor two smaller trees in place of the majestic ones).
People With Issues
(1) New York's highest court ruled in November that subway “grinders” (men who masturbate by rubbing up against women on trains) cannot be charged with felonies as long as they don't use force to restrain their victims (but only commit misdemeanors that usually result in no jail time). (2) Police in Phuket, Thailand, announced that their all-points search for a public masturbator who harassed a restaurant's staff had produced no suspects -- although a spokesman said they did find “a few people (nearby) who were masturbating in their vehicles, but none of them were the man we are looking for.”
Update: Four months have passed since News of the Weird mentioned that at least 60 North Carolina prisoners have been improperly incarcerated -- legally innocent based on a 2011 federal appeals court decision. (Still others are at least owed sentence reduction because they had been convicted of offenses in addition to the incorrect one.) A June USA Today story revealed the injustice, and the federal government took until August to release holds on the inmates, but since then, only 44 of the estimated 175 affected prisoners have been correctly adjudicated. USA Today reported in December that the recent delay has been because of the obstinacy of some North Carolina federal judges, including cases involving citizens by now wrongfully locked up for more than 18 months.
Least Competent Parking Enforcers
(1) The week before Christmas, a Nottingham, England, officer wrote parking tickets to drivers of two ambulances that were taking too long to board wheelchair-using schoolchildren who had just sung carols for an hour downtown to raise money for the homeless shelter Emmanuel House. (Following an outpouring of complaints, the Nottingham City Council revoked the tickets.) (2) An ambulance on call, with lights and siren, pulled into the parking lot of Quicky's convenience store in New Orleans in November to treat a customer, but one employee nonetheless obeyed what he believed to be his employer's no-parking rule and applied an immobilizing “boot” to the ambulance. The man, Ahmed Sidi Aleywa, was later fired. A co-worker said Aleywa was an immigrant who had said he was not familiar with “ambulances.”
Least Competent Criminals
Recurring Themes: (1) Marquis Diggs, 29, entering the county administration building in Jersey City, N.J., in December for a hearing in family court over his mother's restraining order against him, became the most recent drug possessor not to have realized that he might be subjected to a search. Police confiscated 32 baggies of “suspected marijuana.” (2) Cleland Ayison, 32, got a sentencing break in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in December when federal judge William Dimitrouleas pitied him. Ayison got only house arrest and community service because his crime -- trying to pass a U.S. Federal Reserve note with a face value of $500 million -- was so “silly.”
Ironies: (1) A 20-year-old man's life ended when he was shot to death in an altercation in San Bernardino, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 21, while attending a Mayan-inspired “End of the World” party. (2) The next night, in Fort Worth, Texas, a 47-year-old drummer collapsed of a seizure and died onstage. He had played with several bands, including Rigor Mortis.
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