In this week's installment of odd news happenings: playoff hockey murder, robbery with a hypodermic needle and teachers sending student papers to be graded in India.
Curses, Foiled Again
Federal authorities charged Gregory Giusti, 48, with making at least 48 threatening phone calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a seven-week period. According to an affidavit supporting the charges, Giusti used an Internet phone service called Magic Jack to make the calls, declaring during one to Pelosi’s San Francisco district office that “the number I’m calling from is untraceable, so if you’re trying to trace it, have fun.” Authorities promptly traced the call to Giusti.
Following his initial court appearance, during which he wept but made no statement, Giusti’s mother, Eleanor Giusti, 83, blamed Fox News for radicalizing her son, whose criminal record includes evading train fare.
Litigation Nation Junior
After Canadian slow-pitch softball player George Black, 53, lost sight of a line drive in the setting sun and wound up getting hit in the face while playing third base, he filed a lawsuit seeking $1.5 million. The defendant is the company that owns the playing field, ArcelorMittal Dofasco, which Black’s lawsuit argues should have provided a sun screen to protect him and other players and warned them “of the dangers of the sun at that particular time of day.” Denying Dofasco’s motion to have the case dismissed, despite expert testimony that most ball fields are designed so the sun doesn’t shine in the batter’s, not the fielders’ eyes, and that it would be impractical to provide sun shading for all infield positions at all times, Ontario Superior Court Judge James R.H. Turnbull ruled the case could proceed to trial. “I’m going after them,” Black said.
Cause and Defect
Earthquakes are caused by women who wear immodest clothing and behave promiscuously, according to a senior Islamic cleric in Iran. “Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader, told Iranian media. The only way “to avoid being buried under the rubble,” Sedighi noted, is “to take refuge in religion and to adopt our lives to Islam’s moral codes,” including women covering themselves from head to toe in loose-fitting clothing.
A 24-year-old Muslim woman died while driving a go-kart at a recreational area in New South Wales, Australia, when part of her loose-fitting, head-to-toe burqa got caught in the vehicle’s wheels and strangled her.
Authorities in Allegheny County, Pa., charged Robert Abrams, 40, with killing his wife during an argument by hitting her in the head with a hammer at least 10 times and stabbing her, then setting their house on fire to conceal evidence of the killing. Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said the two quarreled because Robert Abrams had stayed up late the night before to watch a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game, which went into three overtimes.
Lorraine Bulloch, 43, accidentally stabbed her 1-year-old niece in the head during an argument over the price of gas used when she drove her brother to buy beer in Chatham County, Ga. The police report said the argument escalated when the brother began calling her names, and she responded by grabbing a knife from a drawer and throwing it at him. He ducked, and the blade struck the girl, who was hospitalized in serious condition.
Twenty Nepali climbers embarked on a mission to remove decades-old garbage from Mount Everest’s “death zone,” the area above 26,246 feet known for its treacherous terrain, freezing temperatures and lack of oxygen. Targeting empty oxygen bottles, gas canisters, torn tents, ropes and utensils left by climbers, the Extreme Everest Expedition 2010 is the first to pick up litter from that elevation. “The garbage was buried under snow in the past,” expedition leader Namgyal Sherpa, 30, said. “But now it has come out on the surface because of the melting snow due to global warming.”
Professors at some U.S. universities have begun sending students’ papers to India, Singapore and Malaysia to be graded. The Virginia-based company EduMetry provides the service, called Virtual-TA, to a mix of for-profit and nonprofit institutions, many of them business schools. The company points out that its graders, all of whom have at least master’s degrees, return graded work faster than professors can and that professors freed from grading papers can devote more time to teaching and research. “People need to get past thinking that grading must be done by the people who are teaching,” said Chandru Rajam, a business professor at George Washington University who helped found EduMetry five years ago. “Sometimes people get so caught up in the mousetrap that they forget about the mouse.”
The Next Step Is Obvious
Among the hottest categories for public consumption on social networks is pictures of food posted before it is eaten. One of the largest and most active Flickr groups, called “I Ate This,” includes more than 300,000 photos contributed by more than 19,000 members, who are limited to posting 50 photos a month. The same trend appears on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Foodspotting, Shutterfly, Chowhound and FoodCandy. “I like to show off what I’m eating or something I’ve made that I’m proud of,” Pamela Hollinger, 36, a radio programmer and announcer in Stephensville, Texas, said. “I think getting an iPhone had a lot to do with it. It’s so easy to just take a quick picture of what I’m eating.” Aware of the trend, Nikon, Olympus, Sony and Fuji have released cameras with special “food” or “cuisine” modes, costing between $200 and $600.
Two men who finished shooting at an abandoned farmhouse with a .45-caliber handgun and a .22-caliber rifle were returning home but “stopped their vehicle in order to shoot the guns again,” according to Will County Sheriff’s official Pat Barry. When they did, Barry said, one of them, Matthew B. Eastman, 20, “accidentally shot himself in the right hand.”
When Guns Are Outlawed
A man robbed two convenience stores in Hilltown Township, Pa., by threatening the clerks with a hypodermic needle. Authorities said the robber, estimated to be in his 20s, didn’t get any money from the first store but fled with $600 from the second.