News of the Weird
Mad Clowns and Roller Coaster Lawsuits
November 18, 2010 | 05:55 PM
CLOWNS WITHOUT PITY
Performers in New York's traveling Bindlestiff Family Cirkus protested in October against political campaign language referring to Washington, D.C., as a "circus." Said Kinko the Clown, "Before you call anyone in Washington a clown, consider how hard a clown works."
Sixty-two percent of the 12 million people in Mumbai, India, live in slums, but the city is also home to Mukesh Ambani's 27-story private residence (37,000 square feet, 600 employees serving a family of five), reported to cost about $1 billion. According to an October New York Times dispatch, there are "terraces upon terraces," "four-story hanging gardens," "airborne swimming pools" and a room where "artificial weather" can be created. Ambani and his brother inherited their father's textile-exporting juggernaut but notoriously spend much of their time in intra-family feuding. A local domestic worker told the Times (after noting that both she and Ambani are "human beings") that she has difficulty understanding why the Ambanis have so much while she struggles on the equivalent of $90 a month.
PUTTING THE 'SHORT' IN SHORT-TERM LABOR
Stacey Herald, 36, of Dry Ridge, Kentucky, is 28 inches tall, with a rare condition called Osteogenisis Imperfecta (OI), which causes brittle bones and underdeveloped organs--provoking doctors' warnings that childbirth could cause the fetus to crush Stacey's lungs and heart (and produce a baby susceptible for life to broken legs and arms). However, to the delight of husband Wil, 27 (and 69 inches tall), Stacey recently gave birth to baby number three and promised more. The middle child, 2, without OI, is already a foot taller than Stacey, but the other two are afflicted, with the recent one (according to a July ABC News report) 5 inches long at birth, weighing 2 pounds, 10 ounces.
Safari World, the well-known and controversial zoo on the outskirts of Bangkok, has previously stupefied the world (and News of the Weird readers) by training orangutans to play basketball, ride motorbikes and kickbox (while outfitted in martial-arts trunks). In a photo essay in November, London's Daily Mail showcased the park's most recent success--training elephants to tightrope-walk (where they prance on a reinforced cable for 15 meters and then, displaying astonishing balance, turn around on the wire).
INFAMOUS LAST WORDS
Ms. Rajini Narayan's lawyer told the court in Adelaide, Australia, in September that she killed her husband by accident after intending only to torch his penis for alleged infidelities. The lawyer said she might have lost control of the gasoline she was holding when her husband said, "No, you won't [burn me], you fat dumb bitch."
NARC OF INSANITY
DNA evidence has exonerated 261 convicted criminals (including 17 on death row), but more interesting, according to professor Brandon Garrett of the University of Virginia Law School, more than 40 such exonerations have been of criminals who falsely confessed to "their" crimes. "I beat myself up a lot," Eddie Lowery told The New York Times in September. Lowery had falsely admitted raping a 75-year-old woman and served a 10-year sentence before being cleared. "I thought I was the only dummy who did that." Lowery's (nearly logical) explanation was typical: Weary from high-pressure police interrogation, he gave up and told them what they wanted to hear, figuring to get a lawyer to straighten everything out--except that, by that time, the police had his confession on video, preserved for the jury.
THROWN FOR A LOOP
In June, the roller coaster at the Funtown Splashtown in Saco, Maine, unexpectedly came to a halt, stranding riders for all of 15 minutes. A reportedly "furious" Eric and Tiffany Dillingham said later that their 8-year-old daughter was so frightened that she had to be taken to a hospital and had nightmares constantly since then. (Since the purpose of a roller coaster is to induce fright, it was not known whether the girl would also have required a hospital visit if the ride had been working perfectly.)
(1) John Stolarz, 69, became the latest just-released prisoner to return immediately to his criminal calling, by attempting a holdup of a Chase Bank in New York City instead of reporting to his halfway house on the day after his release. (The robbery failed because the "bank" was actually just a Chase customer-service branch, with no money.) (2) A Phoenix convenience store robber escaped with the money in September, but like many others, inadvertently stuck his face directly in front of the surveillance camera. He had entered the store with a plastic bag pulled tight over his face to distort his features and foil the camera, but halfway through the robbery, he unsurprisingly began laboring for breath and yanked off the bag, revealing his face.
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