[NEWS OF THE WEIRD]
Not Even a Pin Drop
Officials at England’s 12th century St. Peter’s Church in Seaford, East Sussex, which is renowned for its eerie quiet, created a 30-minute CD recently of near-total silence, first as a small-scale fundraising project, but later for general sales (since word-of-mouth had attracted orders from as far away as Ghana). Those who have heard it said they could make out only the occasional squeaking of footsteps on the wooden floor (and the very distant hum of passing cars). Said one admiring parishioner, “People sometimes like to sit down and just have a bit of peace and quiet.”
Government in Action
• France has seen its wolf population gradually increase from nearextinction in the 1930s, but still classifies the predator as a “protected” species. However, sheep farmers increasingly complain that wolves’ attacks are reducing their herds. Therefore, in a recently proposed “National Wolf Plan,” the government boldly gave headline-writers around the world material for rejoicing: a national program to “educate” the wolves. Individual wolves known to have attacked sheep would be caught, marked and briefly detained, with the hope that they would learn their lesson from that trauma and from then on, pass up sheep and turn instead to rabbits, boar and deer. (Said one critic, “You might as well try to educate a shark.”) • Updates: The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration revealed in January that twice as many fraudulent income tax refunds were paid to inmates in 2011 (173,000) as for the tax year 2010. However, the IRS claimed that the fraudulent returns it did manage to stop totaled $2.5 billion (almost half of which was disingenuously claimed by two inmates). Also, the Department of Health and Human Service’s inspector general revealed in January that Medicare was illegally billed for $120 million from 2009 to 2011 for services used by inmates and illegal immigrants — neither category of which is authorized to use Medicare.
Recurring theme: As of January, New York City music teacher Aryeh Eller, 46, has almost reached a milestone in his battle with the Board of Education. Soon, he will have earned a million dollars in salary and benefits since the board removed him from the classroom 13 years ago and dispatched him to a light-duty “rubber room” after complaints of fondling and sexual harassment in the one year that he actually taught. An arbitrator had found insufficient evidence for his termination, but the board refuses to let him back in the classroom, fearing he is a danger to students.
• Not expected to fly off the shelf: Iceland’s menswear designer Sruli Recht’s autumn/winter 2013 collection, debuting in Paris in January, included a ring made from a four-inch slice of his own skin (removed during recent abdomen surgery, then salted and tanned to give it sturdiness). The ring (called “Forget Me Knot”) carries a price tag of $500,000 — considering that the rest of the ring is 24k gold.
• In Russia’s coldest region (the Siberian republic of Yakutia), artist Mikhail Bopposov created a massive, nearly 900-pound cobra statue (honoring the Chinese Year of the Snake) — made entirely of cow dung. Though at this time of the year the sculpture freezes, Bopposov plans to sell it when it melts, since fertilizer is a valuable commodity during the region’s short summers. (Actually, this is Bopposov’s second foray into dung art, after last year’s winged serpent he created for the Chinese Year of the Dragon.)
• Hard times: According to police in Idaho Falls, Idaho, Mark Carroll, 18, masked and armed with a handgun, is the one who threatened and robbed the night-shift clerk at the Maverik convenience store on New Year’s morning. The clerk was Donna Carroll, Mark’s mother, but police said that it was not an “inside” job and that she still does not believe the man behind the mask was her son.
• Major crimes unit: (1) Sheriff’s deputies in Tampa were searching in January for the thief who stole a wallet from a car and used the victim’s debit card three times — once at a gas station and twice to wash clothes in the laundry room of the Countrywood Apartments. (2) Edward Lucas, 33, was arrested in Slidell, La. in November and charged with theft from the sheriff’s department headquarters. Lucas reportedly had walked in and requested a file, and while he was waiting (as surveillance video later confirmed), he furtively swiped three ball-point pens from the reception area.
• Judges in danger: (1) Sheriff’s deputies in Ozaukee County, Wis. identified Shelly Froelich, 48, as the woman who allegedly called the jail in January and asked if Judge Thomas Wolfgram was in, and when informed that he wasn’t but that he’d be in court the following morning, said, “Good. Tell him I have a hit on him.” Deputies said Froelich’s son was in lockup and that his mom had several times before issued threats to judges after her son had been arrested. (2) James Satterfield, 58, was arrested in Cobb County, Ga. in December after police said he wrote a letter to the wife of Judge Reuben Green vowing to eat the couple’s children after “cook[ing] them first to make them more palatable.”
People With Issues
Michael Selleneit, 54, pleaded guilty in January to several charges including attempted murder in an October 2011 attack on a neighbor, who Selleneit had declared was raping Selleneit’s wife — “telepathically.” In fact, police said, Selleneit had been making that claim “for years,” though he had not taken action until October 2011. His wife, Meloney, was also charged, as she allegedly goaded her husband on, telling him to “go for it,” and even supplying the gun. Both spouses have been extensively examined by mental health professionals, and it turns out that Michael is the saner of the two. He had been ruled “competent” to stand trial, but Meloney has so far not been.
Joint findings of Great Britain’s Ministry of Justice, Home Office and Office for National Statistics, published in January, revealed that 99 out of every 100 recent sexual offenses in England and Wales have ultimately gone unpunished. According to the report (covering 2011), 473,000 sexual offenses occurred, with 53,700 recorded by the police and 5,600 resulting in convictions. The lack of official reporting by victims is even less understandable than in the United States, since government compensation is available to certain victims under British law.
Least Competent Criminals
A massive, fraudulent test-taking scheme spanning three Southern states came to a halt in 2009 after going undetected for 15 years.
In February 2012, Clarence Mumford Sr., 59, pleaded guilty as the mastermind of the syndicate that charged schoolteachers thousands of dollars to have proxy test-takers sit for them in mandatory qualifications exams. The 2009 incident that brought the scheme to light was when one hired proxy (Memphis, Tenn. science teacher Shantell Shaw) decided to take both a morning test for one teacher and an afternoon test for another teacher, at the same location, while wearing the same pink baseball cap.
© 2012 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate.