News of the Weird

Lead Story

Munich, Germany, physiotherapist Franziska Weber told reporters in December that her supercold (minus 230 degrees Fahrenheit) walk-in freezer therapy, originally designed to relieve chronic pain, now is used more frequently by clients who want merely to relieve stress. One to three minutes in the chamber (cost: about $11), Weber reports, gives patients a huge energy burst and is especially popular among business executives to condition themselves for important meetings.

People Who Are Not Like You and Me

Police in Pittsburgh identified a 31-year-old man as the person who was too lazy to lug his Christmas tree down to the street and thus simply tossed it out his sixth-floor window on Christmas Day. The tree hit a power line on the way down, knocking out electricity to about 400 customers and deadening the 911 line briefly until a backup generator kicked on.

Not My Fault

From a report by psychologist N.G. Berrill, to a New York City court in November, quoting former police officer Justin Volpe on how he came to brutalize Abner Louima's rectum with a mind-of-its-own toilet plunger in the notorious 1997 assault: "I couldn't believe [that Louima didn't apologize for cussing him, Volpe said]. The next thing I know, the stick was in [Louima's rectum]." Volpe continued: "I was terrified. When the stick seemed to pop in, I said to myself, 'I cannot believe this.' "

The president of Oklahoma City's Fraternal Order of Police told reporters in November that the six recent incidents of on-duty sexual misbehavior by officers is attributable to "stress" emanating from their anguish working in the aftermath of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah federal building.

Born-again Christian David Strein, 44, announced in November that he would appeal his 1998 dismissal from a New Mexico state government job for misusing his computer because he was actually powerless to stay away from Internet pornography. Strein contended that after he first discovered on-line porn, "Satan told me to check it out some more." Also, said Strein, once at a porn site, he was trapped on a virtually endless loop of sex sites that had taken over his computer. (The administrative law judge had ruled that Strein had visited too many sites and given them his credit card number too many times to have been blameless.)

Crises in the Workplace

In a September profile of a purgatorylike room at Tokyo's Sega Enterprises building, The Wall Street Journal described the daily activities of disfavored employee Toshiyuki Sakai during the four months between his first negative evaluation and his ultimate firing. Sakai was assigned to an empty room with a desk, chair and incoming-calls-only telephone, where he was expected to remain every day, with no assignments yet also without personal diversions. Observers cited by the Journal called Sega's room a compromise between the U.S. preference for ruthless termination and the Japanese commitment to stick with workers longer.

 
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