Monday, July 31, 2006

All the news sounds like a joke today: Japanese inventor Hiroshi Ichigaya has created an "air-conditioned shirt" (battery-operated fans underneath to cool the perspiration, but then it also has [as seemingly everything has these days] a USB connection).

And then, What does Iranian pizza taste like? Ahmadini declared jihad against foreign words (not just American), e.g., "pizza" is now "elastic loaf." (Seriously)

And then, four totally mean-looking inmate muthas (Aryan Brotherhood) were convicted in federal court--of RICO violations. Running a "corrupt criminal enterprise" from inside San Quentin! Total accusations were 32 murders and attempted murders. And this, from the NY Times's report: "The [Aryan Brotherhood] is more of a social club than anything and enjoys playing cards, reading, and crocheting, said Mark Fleming, a lawyer for Mr. [scary-looking dude Barry B.] Mills."

And then, one lone animal-rights activist in England has apparently halted a 30-yr tradition of, what, eel bowling at a fishing town. (Two teams of fishermen stand on platforms, trying to knock each other off by hurling a tethered, 25-lb., dead giant conger eel at each other. The activist threatened "negative publicity" because the festival was disrespectful of the dead eel. (Seriously)

The Forces of Environmental Conservation are squaring off on a beach near San Diego against The Forces of Anti-Putridity: Seals are soooo cute, yes they are, they’re cutie pies, and we have to protect them and not disturb them. But they won’t leave, they stink, they poop, they give birth on the beach to little babies that stink and poop. For some in the neighborhood, it might be enough to make you turn Canadian (i.e., bash their cute little skulls in).

Editor’s Obsessions
The latest on what is Yr Editor’s favorite paranoid, intellectually-lightweight cult, the income-tax resisters: a NY Times piece this morning on Hollywood producer Aaron Russo, who has released an indie documentary on how a few int’l bankers have pulled the wool over all of our eyes for nearly 100 yrs, just to earn more interest revenue. And it has nothing to do, he says, with the huge tax lien the gov't has against him. [btw, If you’re looking for a job as a NY Times reporter, apparently having the name "David Johnston" doubles your chances.]
We all know that "Violence is not the answer," but there’s still something thought-provoking about yesterday when Kofi Annan leaped over the table and strangled the Israeli U.N. ambass--no, no, he didn’t, but there’s something thought-provoking about that 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner saying how she itches to kill President Bush personally, and about the 200 Middle-East demonstrators in Perth, Australia, pouncing on Prime Minister John Howard’s car (with him in it) on Saturday and pounding it, demanding "peace." Violence must be the answer to something.

Below The Fold
Hey, there’s no crying in--the Mafia (unless it’s sympathy for a colleague about to be sentenced) . . . . . A drought-stricken area in Australia’s Queensland state voted convincingly: They’re not drinkin’ no recycled sewer water (but the state premier said they’ll hold another vote in March) . . . . . America has its cultural saturation with guns, but in Bangladesh, it’s industrial acid that the gov’t will have to pry from people’s cold, dead hands.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Inside NOTW
A reader pointed me to a membership bulletin of that church in Manchester, England, that held the fundraising car wash with "holy water," and I plan to issue the following Clarification, in NOTW 966, 8-13-2006:
CLARIFICATION: In a column three weeks ago, I noted (based on a BBC News report) that a Baptist church in Manchester, England, had staged a fundraising car wash using leftover baptismal water, which a church spokesman had referred to as "blessed" (and BBC News had referred to as "holy"). However, the church, in its members’ bulletin, had specifically rejected the idea that baptismal water be considered "blessed." Had I known of the church bulletin, I would not have regarded the story as worthy of News of the Weird.
(My earlier comment [Backstage, 7-24-2006] regarding the use of "holy water" stands, however. Though Catholics [and perhaps others] may view "holy water" as having a fixed and unique set of properties, the phrase, er, secularly, indicates only water that has allegedly been imbued with some spiritual characteristic.)

At first, she said he jammed the cell phone down her throat, and he said she swallowed it on purpose so he wouldn’t see who she had called. At trial, he stuck to his position, but she said she was so drunk she didn’t remember how the phone got stuck in her throat. Oh, man. How is a jury (in Independence, Mo.) to figure this one out? Answer: They can’t. Mistrial yesterday.

Below The Fold
In a lawsuit over a West Des Moines, Iowa, traffic accident, the victim said the reason that Christopher Garton inattentively crashed into him was that he was getting a driver’s-seat blowjob from the missus . . . . . In Portland, Ore., neighbors were puzzled when they saw residents merely tossing buckets of water on their house fire while begging that no one call the fire dept, and we know what that means [answer: a marijuana nursery inside] . . . . . A NY appeals court ruled that words-only child porn e-mail is not illegal (at least as long as the statute uses the word "depict") [CORRECTED: "words-only child porn" should better read "words-only sexual e-mail to a child"]

Friday, July 28, 2006

Excerpts of the forthcoming Playboy Interview with Heckuvajob Brownie were released by the magazine, and included Brown calling U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi a "little twerp" who "can bite me, for all I care," with Taylor reportedly saying he oughta have "kick[ed]" Brown’s "butt" during the Katrina aftermath.

U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana showed he’s not all that into political correctness, either. He walked up to some exhausted, out-of-state, $15-$20/hour firefighters at the Billings airport and told them they did a "poor job" fighting that 92,000-acre blaze near Billings this month (just because some farmers had complained to him that fire captains, and not farmers, were in charge of firefighting scenes).

You remember two weeks ago, when the Homeland Security terrorist target database list was criticized by the agency’s inspector general, how Indiana claimed to have twice as many critical targets as California [Backstage, 7-12-2006]. Now comes word that in Newport, Ind., they are so security-conscious that they’re using the Homeland-Security-purchased highway emergency message boards for local fish fries and spaghetti dinners.

I see dead people writing: Unsuccessful Rhode Island governor candidate Dennis Michaud is the latest proponent of "never give in, ever, ever, ever." He continues to assert that (as required by law) the signatures he collected to get on the ballot were made "in my presence," even though at least one page of signatures was in the same handwriting and collected by a female model he hired and even though two of the signatures were of dead people. "If the [model] is over there," he said, apparently referring to no particular place, "she’s still in my presence."

According to Sports Illustrated [7-31-2006], Allen Heckard has dropped his $832m lawsuit against Michael Jordan and Nike founder Phil Knight, giving no reason, but SI did find out that Heckard is age 51, rather than "appears to be in his 30s," which was Yr Editor’s guess [NOTW 963, this week] from his photo.

Inside NOTW
Just a head’s up that NOTW 965 [8-2-2006] will probably contain, for the first time ever, a story citation to a blog. Well, it’s not an independent blog; it’s a blog published by the Kansas City Star, on the Star website, and written by the Star’s ace crime reporter. But it wasn’t actually published in the newspaper itself, and, as blogs go, it might have deviated from boring-old-mainstream-media style, and it might not have been editor-pre-vetted. One small step for journalism, but one giant leap for News of the Weird. Let’s see how it goes.

Below The Fold
Australian Tim Patch is showing his my-penis-is-my-brush art at the Sydney Sexpo that, I gather, is running right now (he calls himself "Pricasso") . . . . . The Select Board of Springfield, Vt., has denied Paul Murphy’s straightforward application for a liquor license, but based on incomplete paperwork, not because the prospective place of liquor-dispensing was Murphy’s cell at the state prison . . . . . 3 words: meat ice cream (but it’s only for overheated Zurich Zoo animals) . . . . . Most doctors with hobbies choose, y’know, golf, things like that, but a U of Texas Medical Branch hospital doctor chooses (according to police) the pastime of drive-by shooting . . . . . A dog hoarder in Wichita--with 68 pit bulls . . . . . On the shelves of a few convenience stores in Miami: $3 crack kits (glass pipe, Brillo pad, lighter).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Recurring Themes: Another no-show, glorified-sperm-donor-of-a-father, Mr. Ruben Martinez, nonetheless was awarded half of the $1m remaining after his disabled daughter succumbed to her birth defect . . . . . Transcendental Meditation people said Israel shouldn’t waste artillery and air power, that 265 "yogic flyers" (you remember them, the crossed-leg butt-hoppers) can protect Israelis perfectly well by imagining an aura around the country . . . . . Hoarders: It took a federal court decision to make it official, but Sam Shipkovitz (PhD, JD) is so messy that he’s a legitimate local gov’t problem.

Below The Fold
A judge in Japan ruled that it’s illegal sexual harassment for a man to pressure a co-worker to pluck his beard . . . . . Man, how do they do it: first, Japan’s Kobayaski cramming down all those hot dogs, and now an unnamed Korean cramming down at least 3.5 lbs of cocaine balloons (which Customs officials in Nigeria are getting him to excrete) . . . . . A celebrity seeks a court order to limit nosy Chicago news persons from reporting about her home, and by "celebrity," I mean a nosy Chicago news person (the city’s highest paid TV anchor).

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Least Competent This and That: Criminal (NY inmate Donald Bilby pleaded guilty for anthrax letters to the FBI and Secret Service demanding $20k, signed "Donald Ray Bilby," with inmate number). Illegal Immigrant (A Senegalese man tried to cross into Greek Cyprus with a bogus French passport, unmindful of the significance of the English football jersey he was wearing). Cows (A British herd had to be airlifted out after boxing themselves in on a cliff).

A Chicago Tribune reporter has more details about the CIA operatives who blew their cover by demanding personal frequent-flyer miles when they traveled in Europe on alleged "rendition" missions [NOTW 941, 2-19-2006]. (Allegedly, they had to peel Porter Goss off the ceiling of his office when he was told of their stupidity.)

Below The Fold
In a Washington, D.C., suburb, Igbal Asghar commandeered a butcher-shop meat saw and gave his hand to Allah (His son said maybe he was behind on his meds) . . . . . A 20-yr Scotland Yard surveillance and anti-terror expert was spotted at Trafalgar Square videoing terr--no, actually, he was just shooting some upskirts, and he’s under arrest . . . . . Sounds Like a Joke: kid robs kid of popsicle at gunpoint . . . . . It’s not exactly a Darfur-Chad kind of problem, but still, villagers in southern Sierra Leone are under siege from wild cows (aka "dwarf forest buffalo") . . . . . 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams confessed to a desire to personally kill George Bush (on the ground that, possibly, fewer Iraqi children would then die) . . . . . Awesome: Four French youth, aiming to construct a record-setting 45-inch joint, get interrupted by cops at 32 inches, waiting for another dope shipment.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Former cop and front-line, tough-guy litigator Rob Moodie, 67, said he’s coming clean: From now on, to protest the patriarchal court system in New Zealand (and to indulge a personal fondness for looking good), he’s coming to court in women’s clothes (including the "lace-gartered stockings" that he lifted up his skirt to show a Dominion Post reporter ("a flash of lace at the urinal"). The deeper the "corruption" by the old-boy network of judges, the frillier will be his frocks. However, he’s keeping the moustache.

Aw, man, the religious war’s right on the doorstep. Yr Editor had no idea there was a Creciendo en Gracia headquartered in the F State (Miami), with 300 "education centers" in 52 countries and its own satellite TV network. The jefe, Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda, has apparently gotten himself a series of promotions because in 1988 he was the reincarnation of the Apostle Paul, and in 1999, "The Other" (who would pave the way for Christ’s return), and in 2004, well, now he is Jesus. The key to his gospel’s success: The mighty popular discovery that, lo and behold, the concept of "sin" was abolished by (the first) Jesus’s death.

In an apparently stunning breakthrough of modern pharmacology, doctors in Milwaukee seem to have figured out how to curb the 62-yr-old Gary Medrow’s 39-yr compulsion to call strangers on the phone and persuade them to lift others in the room and carry them around briefly. (He gets in trouble with the law by claiming to be a cop when he calls.) Periodic jail and psychiatric treatment haven’t seemed to help [NOTW 195, 11-1-1991; NOTW 509, 11-7-1997; NOTW 552, 9-4-1998; NOTW 874, 11-7-2004]. Federal privacy laws prohibit releasing the Rx combo, but Yr Editor thinks Medrow ought to OK it as a public service.

Below The Fold
The No.2-telecom company in Japan, KDDI Corp., figures that one thing society seems to be clamoring for is less privacy . . . . . It cost lots of research money to find this out: A piece in the Proceedings of the Nat’l Academy of Sciences found that studying with the TV on is less efficient . . . . . Wonder where he learned that from: A British jockey, frustrated with his ornery nag, dismounts and head-butts him . . . . . The gov’t in Kuwait just passed out 200 dinars to every citizen, with the relevant equivalencies being: US$690, or 300 fill-ups (15 gallons of gas at 15cents a gallon).

Monday, July 24, 2006

[Late. Not my fault. was down this morning.]

The most volatile, least-anger-managed legislator in the country, NY state Sen. Ada Smith, has alienated two more now-former employees, running the total to more than 200 in 15 yrs (according to NY Senate officials, who are perpetually figuring out how to deal with alleged assaults to her staffers, the latest victim being breast-bruised with a tossed cell phone). Smith’s position is basically that all 200 have been involved in a conspiracy against her.

It’s not exactly on a level with int’l squeamishness about Israel’s destruction of southern Lebanon, but it’s frightening enough: Scottish military bagpipers aren’t happy about restrictions by the Army to limit piping due to the awful, awful noise it makes (at 111-116 decibels). Said one indignant piper, "The pipes should be played loudly. That’s how they inspire soldiers and scare the enemy."

Inside NOTW
In NOTW 963 [the current issue], a couple of Baptists/religious purists have notified me that Baptists do not have "holy water" and thus that a Baptist church in Manchester, England, cannot offer to wash cars in "holy water" for a fundraiser. Well, now. It’s apparently baptismal pool runoff water, called "holy water" by BBC News and "special" water by the Church, which was clearly promoting the idea that you’ll be spiritually better off with this water than with a tap-water car wash. I gather, though, that some readers are certain that "holy water" can only be water that does certain things.

Below The Fold
A gov’t meat battle: the forces of eaters ("fresh" meat tastes better!) vs. the forces of industry (naah--we have the right to trick you into thinking old meat is fresh, just as long as the old meat isn’t spoiled yet) . . . . . A man on trial for doctoring his hands to make people sick with a handshake was acquitted, in that he said it was just olive oil, with which he anointed himself to drive demons out of "corrupt buildings" . . . . . 3 NYC cops on call were attacked by a pit bull, with the result: 1 dead dog, 3 cops shot (with NYPD bullets) . . . . . William McHaney was booked in Reno, Nev., for mischief 911-calling a "robbery in progress" when he meant that in his humble opinion the Wells Fargo Bank he was standing in was robbing him blind . . . . . Cliches come to life: What’s a good name for a certain kind of parents to give their kid--the parents who would raise him to insist on cancer treatment by organics and herbal supplements? Starchild.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

As usual, if elitist art chi-chis want to let you know they’ve embraced a painting, they’ll call it "powerful," say it "pulses," and polysyllabilize descriptions of the creator’s life to pronounce how stunned they are at the work--especially if the artist is serving three life terms in maximum security and paints with a brush of his own hair using decomposed M&M’s as his medium. N.Y.Times

In the beginning there was Rotisserie Baseball, which evolved to fantasy baseball football basketball and now even to fantasy fashion leagues [NOTW 928, 11-20-2005], but c’mon: fantasy pro fishing? (seriously) [but it's from the Wall $treet Journal]

Life Imitates The Simpsons: Some malls and resorts that provide motorized scooters for the disabled are fretting because so many of the able-bodied-lazy are grabbing them, even when they have to pay. The disabled-rights people complain, too, figuring that the ambulatory public can tolerate only a limited critical mass of scooters tooling down sidewalks. [Wall $treet Journal]

Sounds Like a Joke: Headline on the website of Seattle’s KING-TV on Thursday: "Man Once Convicted for Child Molestation Could Go Free Because Judge Accepted a Donut" (Well, an appeals court said he was possibly too chummy with a juror, so the conviction was tossed, in favor of a new trial, and since the molesting took place probably in 2002, fading memories will be easier for the defense to challenge.)

Are We Safe? (cont’d): Undercover GAO investigators found that Pentagon contractors were selling surplus launcher mounts for shoulder-fired missiles to "the public" for pennies on the dollar. Yikes! I repeat: Yikes!

Something else that’s hard even to think of, much less to do: Scientists have genetically modified worms (not just worms, but worms that have a total of 959 cells in their bodies and grow to a length of one millimeter) to reject certain chemicals; scientists then monitor those itty-bitty-widdle things and decide whether this or that micro-compound has this or that chemical in it.

Philip Schuth is the social recluse who dazzled the Wisconsin media last yr when he was arrested for shooting at a neighbor, which allowed police to find Schuth’s deceased mom in his freezer, where he had stashed her 5 yrs earlier (no foul play involved). He’s already serving the time for the shooting, but he was sentenced on Wednesday for cashing mom’s Social Security checks, which gave everyone a chance to check him out again. Well, apparently he has a deathly fear of barbers, but other than that, all he said was something in Latin, and also that he wished Jennifer Garner would get more movie roles.

Editor’s Obsessions
Tell me again why this "news" needs to be brought to the public’s attention: If you conduct a two-week sex-ed class for 8th-graders, the percentage of them who then say they're inclined to remain virgins through high school shoots up, from 84 percent to 87 percent. Anyway, the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Dr. Patricia J. Sulak of Texas A&M medical school, and Reuters, thought it was significant. And let’s not even get into the certainty that 13-yr-olds’ hormones and social needs will change drastically by age 17. Nonetheless, someone (taxpayers?) paid for this news; Dr. Smith gets a line on her vita for this news; and people who read only headlines have their world view informed by this news.

Below The Fold
The gov’t of Vietnam, figuring there’s not enough sex on the Internet, announced it will produce sex-ed movies . . . . . In Michigan, they’re gearing up for the nat’l lawn-mower-racing championship on Labor Day weekend (getting those engines up to run 50-60 mph, pursuing the record of 81) [Ed.: but so far, no fantasy lawn-mower-racing league!] . . . . . Least Competent Pelican: That would be "Crash," who smashed into a car in southern Calif. in June and, following some rehab, was released on Thursday, promptly flying beak-first into some rocks (but then successfully lifting off).

Friday, July 21, 2006

Below The Fold
Didn’t think it through: 3 guys break into a champion weightlifter’s garage, but everything’s too heavy to steal . . . . . And speaking of not thinking it through: A 28-yr-old man in a suburb of Jackson, Miss., bobbittized himself but hasn’t yet come up with a reason . . . . . She killed her husband because "he had really been on me lately, criticizing me for things--the way I walk, what I eat, everything," "bad bookkeeping . . . " (and, oh, yeah, emptying our bank account on that Nigerian e-mail scam) . . . . . When Aurora Gonzalez asked the judge for a restraining order against her husband, and the judge found out she was an illegal, he said (seriously) if she wasn’t out the door by the time he counted to 20, he’d have her deported . . . . . Here in the F State, it’s just a redneck backyard, but since Thierry Ehrmann lives in St.-Romain-au-Mont-D’Or, France, it’s art [with photo] . . . . . If you’re in the "private" sperm-donor’s room at Pacific Reproductive Services in Pasadena, Calif., remember to say cheeeese [the Pasadena Star-News story is no longer available, but fortunately, here's TheSmokingGun!] . . . . . The U.S. trade deficit is huge, but , hey, that’s mainly due to unfairly not counting our prime exports: Like, more than half of all the world’s Internet child porn comes from the U.S.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Games Sunnis Play: This one’s called "misyar," reports Reuters, played in Saudi Arabia, and it allows play-like marriages so that couples can pleasure the flesh without offending Allah. 80 percent of misyars end in divorce (though couples can actually use it for a trial relationship to see if they click). Women’s-rights people hate it because misyars legally lay no financial responsibility on the man.

Two stories popped up yesterday whose themes I believe I have mentioned in NOTW in years gone by, but, if that’s true, my crack database search once again failed me. I am almost certain that the Greek grandmother in Corinth who was just approved as a surrogate mother for her daughter will not be the first grandmother in NOTW to give birth to her own granddaughter. And I am almost certain that the feral child, Oxana Malaya of Ukraine, who has just been revisited by an Australian TV documentary team, has been mentioned in some text written by Yr Editor (though maybe in one of my online publications and not in NOTW proper). (Ms. Malaya, now 23, is roughly civilized by now after spending years 3 through 8 with dogs. She has a "dangerously low boredom threshold," said a minder, and still retreats to the woods when she is upset [which, truth be told, Yr Editor sometimes does, also].)

We know Dr. Park Dietz’s view of Andrea Yates’s sanity [NOTW 962, this week] (that since Satan was telling her to kill her kids, instead of God telling her, she must have known it was wrong and therefore was sane), but shrink Phillip Resnick disagreed yesterday during the re-trial: She knew her actions were illegal but still thought she was doing the right thing, i.e., killing them right then, while they were still eligible for heaven, rather than letting them keep screwing up and winding up in hell. Sounds reasonable.

That’s Messed Up
A Washington Post investigation concluded that $400m worth of powdered milk that the Agriculture Dept gave to help farmers feed their livestock during a 2003 drought largely wound up on the black market, headed overseas.

Below The Fold
Can’t Possibly Be True: China announced it would assign tracking numbers to every cabbage, carrot, and pea pod in the country for the Olympics, in case someone gets sick . . . . . A Univ. of Central Florida man told police the reason he set the sofa in his dorm on fire was so he could meet chicks during the evacuation . . . . . Swimmer Hilary Bramwill, 30, was picked up by local rescue people about a mile off Long Island, headed, she said, for Israel . . . . . Least competent python: It swallowed a large electric blanket, cord and all (but, in surgery that’s pretty hard for us non-veterinarians to imagine, the whole thing was pulled out, and "Houdini" is doing fine) . . . . . San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture has a fund-raising Wankathon scheduled for next month in London, but Metro buried the lede (which is that the record for the longest continuous masturbation is 8-1/2 hours).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

This ought to be good: A British judge was ordered by the Court of Appeal to develop some criteria by which to measure the offensiveness of The Jerry Springer Show and then to watch about 400 hours of it, to decide a contract-dispute case. The British programmer said the show has gotten raunchier over the years and is no longer acceptable viewing, but the Springer distributor (who has a contract until 2008) said it’s no more disgust--er, controversial than it has ever been.

In Muncie, Ind., a relatively fresh fetish: Former county coroner Robert Troxell pleaded guilty in connection with offering a woman $750 to have sex with him on the condition that her children would be watching.

The District of Calamity: The Washington Times, using official records it had to go to the Freedom of Information Act for, found, among other stunners, that the Washington, D.C., local gov’t has 1,268 bureaucrats making at least $100k/yr (more than Chicago has, though Chicago’s population is 5x more) and 43 making $150k/yr or more (half again as many as Chicago has). The numbers for comparably-sized Baltimore are 55 and 2.

Big Ten football referee James Filson filed a lawsuit Monday against the conference for firing him in violation of the ol’ Americans with Disabilities Act, after it got out that he has only one eye (plus a prosthetic, after an accident). He pointed out his good evaluations but was told that, now that the coaches have found out about the prosthetic, he’s too easy a target when he makes close calls. [Ed.: The conference’s position has merit, but Yr Editor can tell you, as a former high school basketball referee, that "eyesight" is vastly overrated. I mean, it’s nice if you actually, y’know, see the play, but . . ..]

New Jersey attorney gen’l Zulima Farber, whom NOTW reported in April for her sloppy driving record and cavalier approach to the resulting arrest warrants, is in trouble again and may not survive politically. Police in Fairview made a traffic stop of her boyfriend, who called Farber, who then showed up, with personal driver, in her state car (maybe a reason for appointing her att’y gen’l was to get her off the road), with lights a-flashin’, and Republicans say that was an obvious attempt to intimidate the traffic-stop officers.
More piling-on against Homeland Security: Last week, it was the Dept’s inspector gen’l ridiculing the terrorist-target database. This week, it’s the Gov’t Accountability Office’s raking the Dept’s FEMA for credit-card abuses last yr, especially in the month after Katrina hit. (By the way, FEMA takes a lot of abuse, doesn’t it? Isn’t it about time to highlight something that FEMA does efficiently? OK, then. According to this report in the Baton Rouge Advocate, it’s against the rules for residents in FEMA’s emergency-trailer parks to invite reporters in unless accompanied by FEMA minders, and that rule is being strictly enforced in Morgan City and Davant in Louisiana.)
The L.A. county sheriff is finally wondering just how a tiny, private "transportation agency" (couple of vans to shuttle the elderly) can have an actual, semi-official police force. This question arose in that February crash of that Ferrari Enzo in Malibu by the Swedish Internet millionaire who turned out to be on the run from various scams. [Yr Editor fixed upon the police-force issue immediately--another reason why y’all need to get your weird news right here, at Backstage!]

Below The Fold
A New Zealand rock band called Mint Chicks either staged the most awesome p.r. coup of the year, or were just lucky, when they were playing so loud that ceiling plaster fell on the audience, injuring two . . . . . In the course of upholding a spousal-abuse decision, Italy’s highest appeals court ruled a husband’s conduct "criminal" for making the missus scrub floors . . . . . Ms. Knovack Jones, a veteran Miami lawyer (and former prosecutor), pleaded guilty to stealing $300k from a client and then quickly losing it in a Nigerian e-mail scam. "I was not thinking clearly," she said . . . . . Malpractice lawsuits against plastic surgeons sure do make for cheap headlines, like for these patients suing a NYC doctor over, respectively, a missing belly-button and a missing nipple.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hey, remember those Hindus in Tamil Nadu state, who used to have ceremonies marrying the donkeys, or maybe the dogs, together to promote world peace and prosperity? Jeez, we could use some of those donkey marriages right about now, huh? Oh, wait, they had one Sunday night! OK, then, won’t be long now!

That "Mosquito" ringtone thing (based on technology of sounds audible mainly to young people, 20s and younger) [in News of the Weird 962, this week] now is being disclaimed by Howard Stapleton, a reputed creator. Stapleton’s business partner had told the NY Times that he and Stapleton had created it, but Stapleton apparently gave an interview on NPR denying that. I don’t know if that makes that part of Yr Editor’s report wrong, or just ambiguous. Ehh, if the Times corrects its story, I’ll correct mine. [Ed.: And this kind of story, being totally inconsequential, is precisely the kind the Times doesn’t mind correcting!]
That Dutch party for pedophiles--and, of course, for free train travel [Backstage, 5-31-2006]--survived a court test and will be accorded political rights.
Maureen Faibish goes on trial this week in San Francisco in connection with her 12-yr-old son’s death from the family’s pit bulls. She is the mom who, trying to discount responsibility for having left him alone with the animals, said at the time, "It [was] Nicky’s time to go." "When you’re born, you’re destined to go, and this was his time." [NOTW 911, 7-24-2005]

Below The Fold
China, taking advantage of its location far, far away from Mexico, figures its border patrol agents have enough down time to do marriage counseling for locals . . . . . The sumo wrestler Roho, angry over a loss in Nagoya, ignored ancient tradition and went all WWE on the photographers and the facilities . . . . . U.S. Marines are tough, but it takes an inner-strength, too, especially for a Marine who tries to get his comrades to join him in yoga class . . . . . A Sydney, Australia, man was fined A$25k (but no jail time) for a ballsy scheme to smuggle out rare bird eggs in his underwear (producing, according to customs people, quite a bulge).

Monday, July 17, 2006

Who wouldda thought? When it comes to stock options [which Yr Editor will find in the Backstage archive sooner or later, no thanks to the fabulous Google blog-search], not just a few but maybe 2,000 captains of industry--capitalist cowboys--only want to compete with marked cards.
Missouri’s state doctor (not an anesthesiologist) in charge of mixing death-penalty potions is reportedly dyslexic [Backstage, 6-27-2006], and now, after the state put out a call for a replacement, not one of the 298 anesthesiologists who live nearest the site would accept the job..

Editor’s Obsessions
Yr Editor ranted previously on how our 25-yr-old paralysis opposing peaceful nuclear power will make life even more difficult and expensive in the 21st century, and yesterday’s NY Times Magazine cover story is sympathetic to the point. If the U.S. doesn’t overcome its head-in-the-sand approach, the shelf life of the 103 online reactors (that supply 20 percent of our electricity [29 percent of NY’s, 52 percent of NJ’s]) will expire before hard-to-build plants can replace them. Where will the 20 percent come from? (Uh, windmills and solar panels, of course!) (And, dammit, conservation! Won't all you people ever start to conserve?) Meanwhile, 440 reactors in 31 countries (with "dozens" on the planning boards in China and India) are doing just fine now, and [see below] more people have died playing Scrabble than at Three Mile Island.

Below The Fold
Er, that is, Mr. Brendon Tahau, 26, was beaten and stabbed to death in New Zealand in an argument during a game of Scrabble . . . . . "This court sentences the defendant-- to start dancin’, yeeee, hah! . . . . . A 10-day fest in Tehran showcases the latest in chadorwear, and if you’re not a Muslim woman, apparently the "fashions" look pretty much alike . . . . . Not cut out for crime: Walking out the door of the Lasalle Bank in Troy, Mich., with his bag of loot, robber Lawrence Lawson spotted a passing police car and promptly fainted.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The F State
Orlando’s WFTV reported that two gymnastics coaches in suburban Longwood had a history of stabbing two boys, age 8 and 10, with drywall screws when they didn’t "stick" their landings.
The latest on Crazy Kent Hovind (the Pensacola creationist and, until the state closed it, operator of the religious Dinosaur Adventure Land, who relentlessly refuses to pay taxes because he works for God): The feds indicted him for not withholding payroll taxes (he called his employees "missionaries").
The latest on Crazy Katherine Harris (the makeup-intensive secretary of state during the 2000 recount, who is now a Member of Congress and waging a way-uphill campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November): She had yet another mass turnover of key staff (five) this week, and she got in way over her head in taking credit for a piece of housing legislation, and she naively accused Nelson of a fundraising indiscretion (in that it was one on which his error was de minimis and quickly rectified while hers on the very same matter was larger and poorly rectified), and she announced she was borrowing $100k from her campaign to renovate her house in Washington. (The Miami Herald yesterday traced the roots of her problems to a clueless, gratuitous, and inapposite attack on fellow Republican Joe Scarborough.) [She also had surgery this week to remove an ovarian mass, which is supposedly benign, but even so might give her a face-saving way out of the campaign, but fortunately for us demolition-derby addicts, that option would appeal only to freefallin’ candidates who are rational.]

Below The Fold
In Hatfield, Ind., yet another (4 in 8 days now) confused senior driver (possibly a gas-brake problem, but not clear at this point), this time leaving two dead highway workers . . . . . Delicate heteros force a town meeting on Cape Cod, all huffy at being dissed by gays . . . . . Oops--The Baltimore Orioles’ bobblehead supplier gets Brian Roberts’s race wrong . . . . . A Kenyan doomsday cult has announced September 12 as The Day (but not to worry because it’s the kind of afterlife where you’ll apparently still need Kenyan shillings) [link from] . . . . . How ‘bout that global warming: They canceled a pool party in Minnesota because of the heat wave . . . . . The Times of London says "the Gov’t" will prohibit "standby" controls on electronic equipment in order to, er, conserve energy (Seriously) . . . . . On a plane? How about 20 snakes loose in your car?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Recurring Themes: The latest thread in that controversy over "assistance animals" (i.e., do "emotional support" Pekingese get the same legal privileges as seeing-eye Shepherds): A 45-yr-old man with post-traumatic stress from 9-11 sues to bring his rat terrier to a no-dogs Fire Island nude beach.
Mauritania, one of those African countries in which female corpulence is regarded as prestigious, seems to be slimming down a tad, according to a Christian Science Monitor dispatch. Fewer cases of mothers "forcibly funneling sweetened milk and millet porridge down the throats of young girls."

One of the more interesting Washington sagas of the last decade has come to a close. The U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. finally ordered district judge Royce Lamberth off the Indian trust funds case, concluding that he has lost his objectivity. (Indians are suing the Dept of the Interior for billions of dollars in royalties that the Dept has supposedly collected from use of their land. The Dept, under both Clinton and Bush administrations, said it’s not as much money as the Indians think. The Indians say that’s an impossible defense because the Dept has lost, or is unwilling to look for, so many of the records. Lamberth, either comically or admirably, and probably a bit of both, has had a sort of zero-tolerance policy for any Dept laxness and has held three cabinet officials in contempt and at one point shut down the Dept’s entire computer system. At another point, he ordered Dept officials to dig through decades-old, rat-feces-infested records in an abandoned New Mexico warehouse.) The appeals court admits the Dept’s record-keeping has been deplorable but said this week that Lamberth needs to take a Valium and work on some other cases.

Editor’s Obsessions
Why did this poll make the news: The AP-Ipsos poll, released on Tuesday, revealed among other things that 52 percent say lying is always wrong and 65 percent say it’s OK sometimes. At another point, 4 in 10 said they personally had never lied, but of that subgroup, 1 in 10 then said they had lied in the past week. The underlying assumption with this poll is that we can learn something about lying by asking questions to a bunch of liars. "Polling" (as distinguished, maybe, from controlled-questioning in science) produces either the thought of the moment or the respondent’s personal image-construction.

Below The Fold
2nd time in 8 days: This time, it was a police dog that kicked the car into gear (and gave a woman tire tracks) . . . . . Australia, too, has a pesky immigration problem: student- and tourist-visaed Asians offering cutthroat competition to Aussie prostitutes . . . . . Just Can’t Stop Herself: A British mother of 13 starts in-vitro for more . . . . . KHOU-TV, musing why the intra-squad "communication" ratings of Houston police chief Harold Hurtt are low, said it might be because he lives (weekends) in Phoenix . . . . . Another unusual trial strategy: With the death sentence on the table in Akron, Clarence Fry wouldn’t stop giggling about his dead victim . . . . . Last week, David Spellman pleaded guilty to pistol-whipping his wife, but this week, it’s a new morning--as he is sworn in as mayor of Black Hawk, Colo. . . . . . A step ahead of Stephen King: a killer car wash, in Ocala, Fla.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The F State
A single unit in the Hotel Versailles (combo hotel-condo) in Miami Beach burned out, according to a neighbor because the resident had 18 TV sets plugged in, some used as doorstops and one in the hallway.
The county planning commission in Daytona voted to allow a woman in rural Pierson to keep her 200 stray (some feral) cats, approving her permit as a shelter. The neighbors went nuts.

Inside NOTW
Sure, it's No Longer Weird, but what if it's two NLW's? Off the top of my head, I'd say that that story is usable. So Calvin Barfield and two pals pull up to the drive-up window at a bank in the sticks near Albany, Ga., to cash a check from "Joyce Powell" (whose checks they had stolen). It happens that Joyce Powell works at the bank. No Longer Weird. They panic and drive off. Barfield left his driver's license in the drive-in drawer. No Longer Weird. Hence, no longer No Longer Weird.

Below The Fold
County officials in Beaufort, S.C., have to start all over with the budget since they realized they failed to catch a couple of erroneous property-tax valuations, like the trailer home valued at $262 million . . . . . Australian paleontologists declared there once were "fanged killer kangaroos" and a possibly-carnivorous "demon duck of doom" . . . . . Scientists in Bologna, Italy, exhumed bodies of some 18th-century opera singers who were castrated young (which was done to get their voices up) so they can see if their various body parts continued to grow . . . . . Police in Groningen, Netherlands, warned that the garbage-sifting "tampon maniac" is back on the streets (after promising police a few yrs ago that he’d try to cut back on the fetish).

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The ridiculous part of today’s NY Times report on Homeland Security’s terrorist-target database is not the trivial nature of so many of the sites (petting zoo, flea market, popcorn factory, ice cream parlor, various podunk parades and festivals, etc.) or the obvious overinclusions from, say, Indiana (more than twice as many critical targets as California). No. Not that. In fact, one should have sympathy for bureaucrats’ work-products in that gargantuan, hastily-improvised federal-agency startup that was obviously created primarily to assure Americans that something was being done for security after 9-11. The ridiculous part is supplied by the spinners, most notably a fella named Jerrod Agen, the deputy press secretary of Homeland Security, who said, "We don’t find [the list] embarrassing," that it "is a valuable tool." It would have been understandable had the Department’s inspector general (who is the one who produced the damning audit that the Times reports on today) reached back into dusty files from 2003 and found a rough draft of a terrorist-target database, for a few laughs. But it’s not a rough draft, and it’s not old. According to Jerrod Agen, the list that the IG skewers is an ongoing list, and the Department is "constantly making sure that our list of assets is the most accurate and informative." In other words, according to Jerrod Agen, this is currently the best information they have. In other words, presumably, you should have seen previous versions before we updated them. In other words, this terrorist-target database is a good example of the high quality work we’re doing right now at Homeland Security. (For the record, the obvious explanation for the absurdity of the list is that Homeland Security failed to specify standards of what would be a terrorist target, thus allowing 50 states to submit 50 mis-matched sets of targets, and Homeland Security just copied them all down uncritically. Well, except, of course, that Jerrod Agen implies the list has been "constantly" checked and updated.)

Now contrast that bureaucratic knee jerk with, on another matter, the gov’t of New Jersey. Rarely does an agency openly admit a mistake and backtrack, but the Corzine administration just did. The mistake: New Jersey had stopped spending public money to help Medicaid men get erections. The street price of a hard-on is around $10, and the gov’t already faces near-constant rebellion over high taxes. So after the Corzine administration secured even higher taxes in last week’s budget compromise, the bureaucrats figured it was just the right time to admit the Viagra "mistake" and start paying for it again.

National Journal published the salary list for all White House employees, including $106,641 a year for a Mr. Stuart Baker, who is listed officially as "Director for Lessons Learned." [link from]

In April, Yr Editor mentioned Ellen Jong’s book of self-photographs, Pees on Earth (which is as it sounds: photos of her urinating at various spots around the world). Now comes Martin Creed, who is billed as a one-time winner of Britain’s prestigious Turner Prize, and his about-to-be-completed Sick Film, consisting of 19 people vomiting on camera. Next in the queue, of course: Shit Film. [No, seriously. It’s here, in The Guardian.]

The latest nat’l epidemic of senior-driver gas-brake confusion claimed its third victim in a week. [Ehhh. It’s really the God of Random in action, but the news business loves epidemics.] (Thursday, only a house was hit, Detroit, driver age 89; Saturday, 27 people injured, New London, Conn., driver age 85; yesterday, only an eye doctor’s office was hit, Orlando, driver age 87)

Below The Fold
"Cleanup in Aisle Sev---kerblooey! Managers at a Wal-Mart in Quebec, on receiving a bomb threat, dispatched their employees throughout the store to look for it . . . . . Tobacco Kills: Inmate Marlon Clay in a prison in Alden, N.Y., died after impulsively shoving into his mouth contraband he had just been spotted with (2 bags of tobacco).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Yet Another Thing to Worry About: Prof. Karim Nayernia, now at Newcastle Univ., announced that his team had grown a procreationing mouse penis from mouse stem cells (but that the offspring were sorta a mess, healthwise). Of course, say the optimistic scientists, in x number of yrs, everything will be so refined that human females will have the choice not only of which delivery system to use but of which type of payload, leaving men to hope only that the women who choose the Spermalike will be mostly the women whom men wouldn’t have desired, anyway.

Splitting Hairs: is one of those Christian-sex-toy sites, with their work cut out in 'splainin' themselves to the pious. Says proprietor Mrs. Joy Wilson, God wants married couples to use the "jelly egg" vibrator, the "Screaming O" vibrating ring, and the remote-controlled vibrating panties (best worn in public). Just no pornography, no third-person applications, no "life-like" dildos. Sez Mrs. Wilson, "I say, 'Lord, I'll give it up tomorrow if You want.' . . . But He keeps bringing people to me with concerns and questions."

Below The Fold
Ralston Froman was arrested minutes after robbing a bank in Houston because he was apparently oblivious that a TV reporter and her cameraman saw what was unfolding and slipped outside to wait for him . . . . . In Australia’s Woodford Correctional Centre, the warden has to bribe the inmates (to keep their cells clean) . . . . . The Speaker of the NY state Assembly works for a law firm that actively solicits people to sue the state for accidents on state property . . . . . More than half of psilocybin users report trips powerful enough to make scientists’ highest scale of mystical experience.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Cory Neddermeyer was turned down for unemployment benefits in Iowa, in that the reason he was fired from his ethanol plant was that a massive spill created a pond of hooch, and Cory, a "recovering alcoholic," after trying all day to resist, finally gave in, stuck his head in, and guzzled (result: 0.72 reading). Admin Law Judge: "Why would you drink fuel?" Cory: "I don’t have a good explanation for that."

A few weeks ago, it got out that the FBI’s computer set-up was so bad that some agents still don’t have e-mail addresses ("Send those terrorist movements to"), but those agents were lucky. The Bureau just got a guilty plea from a contractor who broke Director Robert Mueller’s and other bigwigs’ passwords via a public shareware program.

Sez this police report in Atlanta’s Creative Loafing: A contractor was hospitalized with a bloody "anal cavity" because he happened to bend over close to the wall that a guy on the other side was drilling through.

Below The Fold
NY Post reported yesterday that among the regular nude bathers at Lucy Vincent Beach in Chilmark, Mass., is, er, Alan Dershowitz (who puts his swimsuit back on when talking on the phone) . . . . . In all, 70 kids got separated from their parents at the Taste of Chicago on June 30; one hasn’t been claimed yet . . . . . In the phrase of NOTW Board member Ivan Katz, a "mortician’s lien" at a Brooklyn funeral home . . . . . In Orlando, a man broke into a salvage yard and was in the process of removing an airbag when it exploded, and he’s now in bad, bad shape . . . . . Almost a perfect storm of tackiness: The AA Tulsa Drillers baseball team giveaway last Friday was Moses bobbleheads . . . . . The sad state of U.S. trade: Apparently our most prominent recent export is Prof. Marvin Seligman’s role-playing self-esteem lessons for adolescents, just adopted by British schools . . . . . Bexar County (Tex.) deputies couldn’t understand why Christopher Hill was making "monkey sounds" when they picked him after a long chase, but I quote: "Ayee yee yee yaaa, ooo weee yee yee yah hoo" and so on . . . . . Yr Editor doesn’t know what they teach at King City (Calif.) High School, but I want a job there; take a look at these salaries [link from].

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Putting More Fannies in the Pews (cont’d): Rabbi Yair Silverman’s Orthodox congregation in Berkeley has conveniently defined “the home” as an eight-mile ring around his synagogue, thus allowing much more freedom for congregants during the Sabbath, when they’d be restricted in their home homes. (It’s been done before, and apparently the orthodox Orthodox don’t like it one bit.)

Oddly, the Washington Post and the AP issued dueling trend pieces on Americans’ love of luxury bathrooms (or, as the Post writer describes them, “pimped-out” bathrooms, with spa-like appliances and wide-open spaces rather than, as Yr Editor prefers, a place of business). AP story (Naples Daily News)

Let’s count the ways in which Allen Heckard hears a melody that isn’t there: He’s suing Michael Jordan and Nike for defamation, for $832 million, $416 million each, a figure he got by taking his age and multiplying by 7, because nearly every day someone confuses him with Jordan, even though they don’t look that much alike, and even though he’s six inches shorter, and even though he plays basketball a lot and wears Air Jordans and has (he says) a game, and actually in the end says the resemblance is a “positive thing.” Needless to say, he filed the lawsuit himself.

Recurring Theme (tempting the poltergeists): The Boston Archdiocese sold a church in Roxbury to a charter school last month, and now archaeologists have found “hundreds” of skeletons on the property.

A New Hampshire judge has told state medical people to back off of Dr. Terry Bennett, the physician who bluntly told a very fat female patient that she was very fat (and that she might as well shoot herself and that she’d only be attractive to the few men who value large woman, such as black men). Very impolitic, said the judge, but doctor-patient counseling should be protected. Besides that, the judge said, she is fat. [No, no; made that last line up.]

Editor’s Obsessions
The breach of contract lawsuit filed in 1991 by service stations against Exxon, which took 10 yrs to get a verdict (against Exxon, for $500m), was settled this week, for about $1b (interest included), of which $320m went to several law firms. Usually, Yr Editor finds such legal fees ludicrously excessive and a by-product of judges’ professionocentric regard for fellow members of the bar. However, the principle executes on a sliding scale, and in this one, several factors dictate that the fees might well have approached the lower boundary of being justified (i.e., length of time, complexity, stalling tactics by Exxon, appeals, and the real possibility that a single legal misstep over a 15-yr period could have denied the firms adequate compensation for their work).

Below The Fold
The F State’s Brevard County (which includes Cape Canaveral, by the way) has begun jailing inmates in tents due to overcrowding . . . . . Organizers of a September rock festival on the Isle of Wight in Britain have changed their minds and said it won’t have a “clown” theme: too much coulrophobia runnin’ around . . . . . Cold: In Donegal County, Ireland, the hearse driver and several others in the funeral entourage were fined for speeding.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The elite Explorers Club in NYC caters to guests’ exotic food tastes, says this Reuters dispatch, and by exotic, Yr Editor means scorpions (in canapes), tarantulas, worms (but only after they’ve gotten “colonics” via 10 days of oatmeal), crickets, pigeons (in pate), dandelions, and so forth. Very expensive, too. And watch out when you eat the scorpion, because it’s uncouth not to notice that its antenna is still stuck to your lip.

It’s a good thing Bolivia’s not a major world player. Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca, an Aymara Indian, says one problem with Western society is that we (unlike the Aymara) can’t be without being, i.e., be there without being there. A U.S. linguist says the Aymara is the only studied culture in which the past appears to be out front while the future is behind. [Wall Street Journal, $ link]

4th of July Tragedies (besides the, ho-hum, firecracker ones and the random gunshots and the traffic accidents): A 20-yr-old man was killed in Bethel, Vt., when the family’s homemade celebratory cannon misfired, and a man in Magnolia, Del., was hospitalized after trying to light his outdoor grill with gunpowder.

Would You Send Money to This Man?: An AP story from Dubai takes on Western Union’s over-enforcing money-transfer laws by blindly holding up shipments to anyone named Mohammed, Ahmad, etc. But for this information, it quotes the manager of a WU franchise in Dubai, whose name is Mr. Nixon Baby.

The F State’s Supreme Court took a small step yesterday to make the state a little less stupid by tossing out the tobacco-company liability award in 2000 that would have required the companies to pay $145b in punitive damages to smokers’ estates. [Yr Editor doubts there are six people in the entire state smart enough, fair enough to render an informed decision on radically restructuring a major American industry, but there’s no reason to believe that the six random people who wandered into a Miami courtroom are the ones.]

NOTW reported on Henry Ingram in 1998, when he bought land in South Carolina and vowed that no Yankees or people named Sherman would ever own it (or even people whose names were anagrams of Sherman). The covenants have been pretty much ignored as several parcels of it have been bought, and Ingram now lives in Texas, but a new buyer is bringing the story back to the news.
And, for any of you out there bored by the drabness of the Reynolds Wrap you have to wear on your head to keep out the gov’t’s radio waves, here’s a site offering designer tin-foil hats [link from].

Below The Fold
A rejected “Apprentice” applicant (with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and his restaurant’s health-dept. closing behind him) sued Donald Trump for $250m for rejecting him . . . . . A guy arrested for bank robbery in Provo, Utah, says he was "assigned" to the job by a humanitarian group that needed the money in order to fight "hate" . . . . . NASA people seem impressed that bird doo-doo on the Discovery, obviously from Cape Canaveral birds, is still there, despite launching-pad thunderstorms, 300,000 gallons of water sprayed on to cool off the engines, and atmospheric burn of liftoff.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Below The Fold
It says here that a 25-yr-old man in Calcutta had part of his skull fall off and that now he holds it up for visitors to his hospital room [link has not-very-revealing photo] . . . . . A Cleveland TV cameraman pleaded no-contest to mischief in which he smooth-talked 3 kids to bike through a raging street flood so he could get a neat-o viz for the six o’clock news . . . . . Dogs! If they’re not stepping on shotgun triggers, they’re kicking trucks into gear . . . . . New Zealand anti-war activist Christiaan Briggs, 30, is not anti-violence; he was arrested in London for putting a rock singer in the hospital in a dust-up over the singer’s gal . . . . . Orange paper is the secret to curing a rare form of dyslexia that causes people not to be able to read things unless they’re turned upside down . . . . . A Winnipeg casino says its software mistakenly posted a Cdn$209k payout on a nickel game (usual max payout: $3k), and it’s refusing to pay . . . . . A Hindu family in Belchertown, Mass., is suing the arranger of a failed arranged marriage prospect—because the girl’s too ugly.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Socc—er, football, is harder to understand than you think. England’s Manchester United team confirmed that it was considering implanting tracking chips in its players so it could keep better track of them on the field. [link from]

The state gov’t of New South Wales in Australia has proposed to install official voting booths in bars to supplement the ordinary polling places (though not physically in the drinking area). [Ed.: If Florida had permitted barroom voting in 2000, we might have seen something crazy like, oh, say, 1,100 besotted people in Jewish-intensive Palm Beach County precincts voting for Pat Buchanan, or more than 1,000 totally-wasted people in two optical-scan-ballot counties, intending to vote for Gore-Lieberman, blindly marking votes for other Presidential candidates on subsequent pages, thus voiding their ballots. Jeez, if that had happened, George W. Bush would have won the election!]

Inside NOTW
A handful of readers complained about my editor’s note in NOTW 959, 6-25-2006, in which I gratuitously pointed out that “‘bi-weekly,’ meaning ‘every two weeks,’ is often used incorrectly to mean twice a week.” My note was intended to inform the time in between bowel movements of the New England mobster Anthony St. Laurent, who suffers from an impacted colon. The readers were eager to refer me to several dictionaries or other sources indicating that either definition is perfectly acceptable. How right they are, except my point was different, and by the way, there are several dozen grammarians in the country who would foam up at those particular sources. “Bi-weekly” is one of those words that, through massive misuse, has acquired an incongruous meaning [cf. the adverb “hopefully,” now used as a placeholder-interjection, instead of “I hope that” or “it is hoped that”] [cf. adverbs, instead of adjectives, to modify forms of the verb “to be” and other “sense” verbs, such as “to appear” or “to feel” (when “feel” refers to mood and not to tactility, such as that an ill person “is feeling badly”)]. “Bi-weekly” is particularly objectionable on that ground because the misuse creates asymmetry with the still-correctly-used “bi-annual,” which universally means every two years. Contrast the supposed misuse of “ain’t,” which many grammarians also call incorrect: “Ain’t” not only poses no asymmetry with anything; it creates a perfectly useful contraction where none existed, i.e., “I ain’t” versus the awkward “I amn’t.” Anyway, Yr Editor defers this argument to all the grammarians whose job this is to argue such things. The only point I was making was that the Providence Journal reporter could have meant twice-a-week bowel movements, but to those who understand the recent history of the word, Mr. St. Laurent’s problem would have seemed much weirder (every two weeks) without my note. I can assure the handful of readers who wrote me that had I not clarified the word, I would have heard from puzzled grammarians incredulous about fortnightly bowel movements and lecturing me accordingly.

The San Diego cross that Yr Editor ranted on [Backstage, 5-4-2006] and had been scheduled to come down last weekend is back on hold now, after a temporary stay ordered by SCOTUS’s Anthony Kennedy.

Below The Fold
An Italian begs for jail instead of house arrest with his grandpa, but, after all, the object is punishment so the judge orders him back to the house . . . . . It turns out that Raul Castro’s daughter (Fidel’s niece) is the Hugh Hefner of Cuba, campaigning for sexual tolerance . . . . . The gloves come off in Chicago politics: An alderman calls the County Clerk a “little poop butt” . . . . . It’s now official (at least in Quebec): It’s not libelous to call Claude Vorilhon (founder of the Raelians) “crazy” (and in fact, said the judge, he is crazy) . . . . . The winner of a toddler pageant in Patterson, Calif., was DQ’d when he (innocently, obliviously, said his mom) raised a middle finger to the crowd.

Monday, July 03, 2006

[NOTE: Yr Editor will be working tomorrow, but since no Americans will be reading tomorrow, there’ll be no post.]

It’s nice to see a legislature with its eyes on the prize, refusing to be distracted by side issues. In this case, it’s the Zimbabwean legislature, unpreoccupied with the world’s worst hyper-inflation, swinging into action on July 1 and easing the Witchcraft Suppression Act. Henceforth, no one can be convicted unless there is proof that an accused “traditional healer” has actual supernatural powers. A Zimbabwean professor said witchcraft has some genuine benefits.

A South Carolina man jumped on the back of a 10-ft gator to rescue his girlfriend’s dog and was successful. [Woo, betcha somebody got luck-ee that night!]

That’s Messed Up
The federal farm subsidy program is so screwed up that developers can openly sell non-farm land by advertising that it comes with built-in federal payments, and still, the farm lobby in Washington is so strong that nobody can do anything about it, says the Washington Post, after a 9-month investigation. For actual farmers, the program is even better. Last yr, total farm subsidy payments were half again as much as total family welfare payments.

The F State
A trailer park just south of Orlando was a haven for convicted pedophiles, with 25 there now, actually recruited there with the apparent indifference of the Dept. of Corrections, which has been having trouble placing registered sex offenders due to local keep-away restrictions. Finally, DOC says stop it because, across a small lake, there’s another trailer park, with 70 kids.

Below The Fold
A stockpile of commercial fireworks being set off toppled over, causing one to go sideways, into the spectators (but only 3 hurt) . . . . . A feud at an Adelaide steel factory was topped off by a brief forklift duel . . . . . U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska was caught saying something really stupid about the Internet [link from] . . . . . Supposedly the Lake Elsinore team of the Class-A California League had a Tom Cruise Night last Friday that featured a Scientology signup and a “silent inning” with no P.A. announcing . . . . . The father of NY Hillary-challenger KT McFarland denied that he abused his kids, as she had charged, though he did tell a NY Post reporter that he’d kick his butt if he didn’t scram.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

As a 4th of July special, the Wall Street Journal interviewed on Thursday the most prominent U.S. competitive eater, Sonja Thomas, 38, 5-foot-5, 100 lbs., whose usual July 4th meal is 30-something hot dogs at Coney Island in 12 minutes. She doesn’t “practice” (gets sick too easily), trains on dried squid for her jaw muscles, drinks huge amounts of diet soda to expand her stomach, walks 7 hrs a week on a brutal treadmill, and says the toughest part of competitive eating is mental.

The L.A. Times reports from Micronesia, using as lede the Yapese people’s use of huge rocks as their money, some “coins” so large that they can’t be moved. But the buried lede is that the Yapese are still a traditional, patriarchal, caste society (following independence from the U.S. in 1986), despite $93m/yr in U.S. subsidies. In fact women are still required to go topless on holidays.

Below The Fold
It turns out that the Michigan gov’t has a fantastic record for rehabbing convicted felons (459 on the rolls right now) . . . . . For some reason, it’s not newsworthy in Britain, but on Thursday, the beermaker SABMiller endowed a professorial chair in brewing science at the University of Nottingham, for an MSc program.