News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*In February, Eastern Illinois University officials declined to refund $364 in tuition to April Hixson for the course "Nonwestern Music," which Hixson said was little music and much pornography, seemingly designed to draw reactions from female students. Said Professor Douglas DiBianco, "You have to understand the extremes of art to appreciate art in general." Hixson (who received an A) said DiBianco's themes in lectures and visuals included enemas, penis amputation, incest and the advocacy of student orgies. The university acknowledged at least one ongoing state complaint over a DiBianco course.

*Despite his high-profile job, Tarrant County (Fort Worth, Texas) Sheriff David Williams has apparently stopped meeting with the Fort Worth police chief and county commissioners and even his own administrators, and rarely goes to his office, according to a February Houston Chronicle report. His defenders say he is merely extremely shy, but critics say he hasn't taken criticism well (his too-close ties to the Christian political right, his eccentric new projects such as a helicopter fleet, and his earlier attempt to acquire sovereign powers from the county under the law of the Republic of Texas as it was in 1836).

Latest Work-Study Programs for the Gifted
*A top Columbia University law student, Zolton Williams, 29, was convicted in December of running a cocaine-smuggling operation to help finance his studies. And in January, University of California at Santa Cruz National Merit Scholar Emma Rose Freeman, 18, was charged with robbing a beauty salon and a Costco store at gunpoint (along with her philosophy-major boyfriend). And Berkley, Michigan, honor student and athlete Sarah Plumb, 16, was charged with the armed robbery of a gas station in December (on her way to gymnastics practice), allegedly to feed a 2-year-old heroin habit.

Crises in the Workplace
*Carmel Valley, California, grocery cashier Sandi Lewtschuk was fired in October after 20 years at Safeway because, though she had no customer complaints, she was deemed deficient by management in executing the company's "smile" policy. (Lewtschuk and other Safeway employees have criticized required smiling as phony, and some female employees in San Francisco said the policy encouraged male customers to believe the women were flirting.)

And in January, flight attendants for Cathay Pacific Airways (Hong Kong), feuding with management over automatic pay hikes, threatened to violate that company's smile policy by frowning for one hour per flight.

*Brian Mills, 20, was charged with malicious destruction of property in December after he returned to a fast-food restaurant in Lincoln Township, Michigan, where he used to work, and urinated into the deep-fat fryer. (Health officials said the risk to the public was minimal because the frying temperature was so high.)

*In January, a union filed a complaint on behalf of a male civilian employee at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida who was recently barred from wearing earrings, makeup and a bra to work as an airfield management specialist.

*On the other hand, the Canadian armed forces last year approved the application of a 35-year-old male combat leadership instructor to continue his career as Sergeant Sylvia Durand by undergoing hormone treatment and surgery.

-- By Chuck Shepherd


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