Friday, June 30, 2006

Okla. judge Donald Pump-It-Up Thompson was convicted on 4 counts yesterday, thus losing the big big big bet he made with himself in 2004 that tolerating a slow denouement, but ultimately winning, would be better than quickly, silently pleading and slinking off into retirement. However bad that judgment now looks, it pales in comparison to his original, utterly-inexplicable decisions to diddle himself openly, and during a serious criminal trial.

The feds filed a lawsuit against a unit of the giant British company BP, accusing it of manipulating the price of propane in the winter of 2004 so as to corner the U.S. market and make monopolistic profits. In a remarkable coincidence, BP, it turns out, also sells gasoline, whose price similarly shot up dramatically recently.

Updates
More on ol’ Roger Dier, the 67-yr-old rat obsessive in Petaluma, Calif.: Animal Control euthanized 1,000 as unsalvageably feral, leading to outrage from rat lovers, one of whom referred to people like her as “the rat community”; Dier’s previous brush with fame was in 1963 when his home was used by the people who kidnaped Frank Sinatra, Jr. (whose dad was leader of the, um, Rat Pack); Dier said that back when he only had 100 rats, he used to let ‘em sleep with him. San Francisco Chronicle
Just a reminder to eager correspondents that it’s No Longer Weird: The head of the Utah Highway Patrol’s DUI unit was busted after blowing an 0.12 (after first refusing to take a test).

The F State
Too Little Information: Thieves get $3k worth of sex toys and porno DVDs from a Jacksonville store called the Diet Alert Center, on North Main Street. [I’ll get a reporter on that right away.]

Below The Fold
An undecomposed 4-ft shark was found in the Mojave Desert town of Hesperia, Calif. . . . . . The U.S. Senate sometimes overpoliticizes foreign policy, but so far they haven’t blamed Russia for the bad weather (like the Romanian senate just did) . . . . . Reuters reported that at the “Nishtar Hospital” in “Multan, Pakistan,” a prison inmate named “Fateh Mohammad” had a light bulb surgically removed from his nether region . . . . . In Manchester, N.H., a rare drive-by groping . . . . . Six British Airways cabin-crewers are fighting charges for missing a New York City gate call because the airline put ‘em up at a hooker hotel with pimps bothering them all night . . . . . Again, Too Little Information: The nun in charge of the Omaha Archdiocese’s marriage-prep program was arrested for allegedly embezzling $300k, but her lawyer said it was all an honest dispute over “ownership” of the marriage-prep program . . . . . Carlos the Jackal, serving eternity in a French prison, filed a lawsuit against the former head of French intel for improperly arresting him . . . . . Pro basketball player Eddie Griffin was sued by the owners of the car he hit while he was DUI—DUI and allegedly multitasking (driving plus watching a DVD plus, um, enjoying himself carnally) . . . . . In Bath, England, a moped owner complains that cops refused to chase the guy who rode off on it because the thief was not wearing a helmet, and what if he fell off and sued?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Inside NOTW
The Oklahoma penis-pump-judge trial is in session [see today’s post, and yesterday’s, and Monday's], but otherwise, this week is destined to finish only in the high 40's in Weird, among the 52 weeks that will constitute 2006. The rest of the world may be at work, but in the U.S., many newsmakers have deferred important decisions and meetings until after the July 4th holiday, wounding the delicate news cycle. The week or two prior to the end-of-summer Labor Day has the same effect, as of course do the December religious holidays.

Update
From an AP summary of the penis-pump-judge trial so far: Lawyers from both sides have pantomimed masturbation; the pump itself sits on display right in front of the jury; a witness said she heard the whooshing sound of the pump during tearful testimony at a murder trial; one man said he hadn’t seen the device himself but figured out from testimony what it was because he had seen “Austin Powers”; and so forth.

Below The Fold
Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s a physician, so no wonder he hectors his constituents to walk more for their health, but then every day, he takes a limo to work, from his residence across the street . . . . . When Tony Blair told Margaret Beckett she’d succeed Jack Straw as Foreign Sec’y, she said she was so surprised that she spontaneously sputtered the F word . . . . . Vladimir “A Good Man” Putin, obviously sends a secret KGB message to someone by kissing a toddler’s navel in public [I mean, why else?] . . . . . A Kunkletown, Pa., super-compulsive shopper (paid for by embezzlement) was sent up the river for 27 months; her swag: 58 coats, 16 chain saws, 3,000 books, and a John Deere . . . . . A crime alert for Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, Wash.: A gang of marauding Insane Clown Posse dressalikes is mugging people . . . . . Pity the poor geriatric model working for artists, having to hold poses so long that circulation cut-off becomes an acute risk, and then imagine it’s a naked geriatric . . . . . A highly respected Australian surgeon beat an indecent exposure rap, based entirely on his sainted reputation because the evidence seemed clear that he got drunk as a skunk and was sighted nude on a mailbox, choking the turkey.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Yesterday’s NY Times story on fraud from Hurricane Katrina emergency relief is simply a cataloguing of one bold scheme after another, interspersed with old-fashioned bureaucratic cluelessness. The Times researchers estimate the total at up to $2b (which would be 11 percent of all the money paid out so far), but the Gov’t Accountability Office said that, counting other improper disbursements, it could be 21 percent. Criminal charges have been filed against 335 people so far; 7,100 are being investigated by the Red Cross; 7,000 cases have been referred to prosecutors by Congressional investigators; and many more are still ongoing. The Times’s ledes: A Texas hotel owner submitted over $230k in bogus bills for putting evacuees up, and 1,100 prison inmates got $10m in hurricane assistance.

Update
The designers of My Party Doll, the hand-crafted, finely-siliconed, in-“working-order” sex mannequins ($5k each) are holding court this week at the Erotica-LA Convention, and Agence France-Presse was there. The girls, said one of the designers, are “so durable you can jack up your car with [them].” And, “[I] spent most of the time [working] on the breasts because it’s so difficult to calculate gravity.”
The Oklahoma penis-pump-judge trial is underway in Bristow, with the former court reporter sobbingly testifying that, while court was in session, she saw the judge’s stuff at least 15 times, saw him twice tinkle into a wastebasket, saw him several times use the pump (which turned his junk purple), and saw him once (during a murder trial) shave his scrotum.

Below The Fold
At the boutique Royal St. Charles Hotel in N’awlins, one guy beat up and shot another to end an argument over whether the Marine Corps or the Army is tougher [Ed.: I’d tell you it was obvious who won, but somebody in the Army might come after me] . . . . . Two Pascagoula, Miss., guys were run over on Interstate 10, apparently while standing in the fast lane, arguing with each other . . . . . An armored-car robbery in the F State produced a clean getaway with a bank bag of, er, deposit slips . . . . . Spanish disability activist Encarna Conde, trying to trailblaze, appeared in a porn film, in her wheelchair, but it’s not clear from this Guardian dispatch whether she got down . . . . . In Cambodia, “Chewing Tobacco in Noodles Sickens 30,” meaning, not only don't workers wear hair nets, but no mouth nets, either . . . . . Yikes: A 19-yr-old’s suicide bullet passes through his head and kills a bystander.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

An underappreciated reportorial art is how to get a naughty, but not-altogether-relevant quote past your uptight editor and into a story. Gillian Flaccus of the AP yesterday issued a status report on the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang trial in Santa Ana, Calif. (four months long and counting), touting the parade of eccentrics---on trial and called as witnesses. It’s a good enough story, but made better when she illustrated federal judge David Carter’s confusion at the bustle of witnesses with his open-court question about who would next take the stand: “Is that the one who has a stick of dynamite up his rectum?” (The art requires that no further information be given, and none was. Bravo.)

On the other hand, here is clearly too little information: A real TV station here, which Yr Editor watches from time to time, is reporting that (1) a 600-lb. woman was driving an Isuzu SUV in Tampa and (2) survived an accident in which she was “thrown through the sunroof.” Well, 600-pounders are often barely mobile, and would be wedged in tightly in any driver’s seat, and “created a” seems a better phrase than “was thrown through.” Google News says the TV station report is the only one. Several other station websites are starting to pick it up. Neither local newspaper so far has the story or anything close to it.

Below The Fold
Behold Benjamin Ratliffe, the ultimate punk smart-ass, who experiences unusually swift justice . . . . . A federal judge in Missouri halted the state’s executions, fretting that the one doctor who mixes the chemicals is dyslexic . . . . . In Europe now: iced-tea with cannabis; in NYC now: caviar facials ($270; with stem cells from pregnant cows, $250) . . . . . A NJ appeals court tosses out a high school kid’s lawsuit over a yearbook basketball photo (since pulled) that showed him, up-shorts and jockless . . . . . Convicted murderer Clarence Fry, facing a possible death sentence, shows how to burn the bridges . . . . . Boy George, convicted of filing a false police report in NY, is so prissy that he can’t even stand a community service sentence (raking leaves) . . . . . They can’t use the Internet for everything in China, but apparently it’s OK to build a website to out your political-wannabe dad’s extra-marital affair.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Updates
It mostly looks like the British insurance policy I mentioned on Friday was not sold to three nuns but just to three religious women who happen to be sisters. I’m still not sure because several religions, including obscure ones, call their female servants nuns, but the most reliable of the British press don’t use the word “nuns” in their stories.
Prosecutors in the Oklahoma penis-pump-judge trial [NOTW 940, 2-12-2006; NOTW 858, 7-18-2004] are having a tough time getting hizzoner’s alleged squeeze to comply with a subpoena. Last time they closed in, she ran out the back door. (Allegedly, it was she in sex photos on his office computer that formed the non-pump count against him.)
Apparently that hymen-modification surgery to “restore” virginity, which NOTW has mentioned [NOTW 936, 1-15-2006], is big in France, among Muslim women.

Below The Fold
The last thing N’awlins needs right now: a fearless gang of marauding, transvestite shoplifters . . . . . Awesome: She swallowed 320 heroin-filled condoms (awesome, and apparently quite a sight) . . . . . God’s Will: A volunteer-built church in rural Alabama collapsed; turns out the lead volunteer thought the First Amendment means they didn’t need a building permit . . . . . Compared to World Cup hysteria, this would almost be No Longer Weird: Major League Baseball is licensing team logos for urns and caskets . . . . . Where young girls can’t afford breast-reduction surgery to keep boys at bay (Cameroon), there’s breast-ironing . . . . . A Universite Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium) research team developed a roach-pheromone device that coaxes ‘em out into the open, to socialize so that they can be stomped . . . . . You’d think hospitals would be spending to get patient-nurse ratios down to, say, 3-1, instead of their current 5-1 and higher, but, no, they’re supplying flat-screen TV’s and concierge services for patients . . . . . The leading Senate challenger to Sen. Hillary Clinton (the one who said Hillary’s people were hovering over her house in helicopters) was revealed by New York magazine to have had repressed-memory psychotherapy, from which she learned that family problems caused her brother to be gay.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

John Jacobs, candidate for Congress from Utah, blamed his slow campaign start to money problems, stemming from business deals gone south, which he told the Salt Lake Tribune in all sincerity was due to “the devil.” Then, Jacobs said, “I don’t want you to print that,” meaning to the Trib, of course, Pay attention, Story lede on the way. Jacobs: “Now when that gets out in the paper, I’m going to be one of the screw-loose people.” The system is working.

Ol’ Roger Dier of Petaluma, Calif., was all over the brief wire stories yesterday with his thousand caged rats, but the San Francisco Chronicle had much atypical backstory, such as (1) Almost all appeared well fed, (2) He bought 250 lbs/week of rat food, (3) He slept on his bed smack in the middle of the rat room, (4) He had tried for a while to make sure the girls weren’t housed with the boys (but fell behind), and (5) They’re now $5 each at the city’s Animal Services, so act quickly.

Erection News: (1) The Rhode Island Supreme Court OK’d a guy’s $400k judgment against a penile-implant company because his didn’t go down for, er, 10 yrs. (2) And the federal appeals court in San Francisco has outlawed use of the fabled penile plethysmograph in evaluating sex offenders. (It’s that machine that measures a man’s, er, arousal when he sees pictures of, say, children, or feet, or whatever, Komodo dragons, whatever.) (3) And, by the way, Stanford researchers found greater athletic endurance at high altitudes by cyclists who took Viagra over those who took placebos.

Below The Fold
Chutzpah: Nigeria warns its travelers to Britain to watch out for scam artists . . . . . America at its finest: An apparently perfectly sober 25-yr-old from Boston, in Hanover, Germany, for the Cup, forgot which hotel he is staying at, where it is, what it’s close to, etc., requiring police to drive him around town until he recognized it . . . . . The Michigan Supreme Court said dope-smokers don’t have to actually be impaired to be commit DUI . . . . . Mall security guards decide that Springfield, Mo., is such a political hotbed that when a 10-yr-old girl wears a colorful bandana containing some small “peace” signs, riots may follow . . . . . Wayne Johnson lost his game of Chicken with the gov’t of Marblehead, Mass., and now he’ll have to tear down his entire, brand-new, $1.2m home . . . . . A 5-yr-veteran deputy sheriff in Bremerton, Wash., intending to Taser a seemingly-psychotic man in a tree, confused his 40-cal. with his Taser . . . . . (By the way, after taking a 40-cal. slug in the butt, the guy said, “Ow, that hurt, I’m coming down, I’m coming down”) . . . . . There’s now a computer-chip-spout system so that tavern owners can keep track of whether bartenders are pouring too-generous shots.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Handy Guide to Insanity Defense: Many of you probably think that if you honestly receive an imaginary command to kill someone, and you then kill him, you’re insane, but not according to the renowned psychiatrist Park Dietz, the full-time professional court-testifier. Under Texas law, he says, if God orders you to kill your kids, and you do, you’re insane, but if Satan orders it, and you do, you’re sane.

Updates
Yr Editor thought it weird a year ago that an F State Christian church was offering free relocation to Israel for American Jews (in that the Book of Revelation supposedly says Jesus will return when a critical mass of Jews is reached in Israel) [NOTW 903, 5-29-2005], but the L.A. Times reports that the evangelical movement to hasten Judgment Day is growing (and I guess you have to include by implication ol’ Ahmadini in Iran).
Our favorite insurance agent, Britain’s Simon Burgess [NOTW 449, 9-13-1996], acknowledged that, yes, his company does have in force a 100 pound/yr casualty policy, bought by three nuns [POSSIBLE CORRECTION: They may have been merely sisters who are religious] that will pay out 1m pounds in the event of another immaculate birth, to help pay for raising little Christ. (Among his previous policies was the famous Alien Abduction coverage, with double indemnity if the abductee is impregnated, and coverage for male pregnancies, too, since aliens’ powers are unknown.)
Pete Townshend, who was dumped off on Britain’s register of sex offenders in 2003 after he bought child pornography online (It was for research!), posted passages from the novella he’s writing, one of which explicitly (and fondly) described the breasts of a 16-yr-old girl. (He’s taken that passage down.)
That giant cross on public land in San Diego that set Yr Editor off on a rant last month [Backstage, 5-4-2006] will be coming down, after all, by August 2.

Below The Fold
Some folks in Palm Beach County, Fla., are so desperate to get grillz on their teeth that they go to this lady . . . . . The Catholic dioceses in Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif., said they’ll renege on their promise to fingerprint all new employees (to identify sex offenders), in that that might instead turn up illegal aliens that they’d rather not know about . . . . . Oregon has decided that fire crew chiefs can be demoted if they don’t speak Spanish—because so many new hires are legal and illegal aliens, and state law requires fire crews to communicate easily . . . . . Unclear on the Concept: A scientist from the Russian Plant Institute said his team has created cannabis without psychotropic qualities . . . . . Israeli doctors, at a meeting in Prague, said in-vitro fertilization was significantly more effective if the mother was exposed to performances by clowns (Seriously).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

One of the most startling things you’ll learn this month: The U.S. Checkers Championship is running this week in Medina, Ohio, for a purse of six thousand dollars, featuring champ Alex “The Mad Russian” Moiseyev, Ron “King Suki” King (the trash-talking “Muhammad Ali of Checkers”), and 39 others. But no, all that’s not the startling thing. The startling thing is that Moiseyev says champion checkers players, just like chess players, think at least 10 moves ahead.

Latest Celebrity Sightings: The noted combat equipment engineer Cher has issued a dire warning on the unsafety of current Army helmets, and Dr. Angelina Jolie has echoed a sentiment certainly heard widely in the U.S., specifically, “Our priorities are quite strange,” but in this case, she was referring to the U.S. gov’t and not to her life with Mr. Thornton or Mr. Pitt.

How to tell that you’re really wasted: You fall asleep in your locked car with the engine running and your foot apparently jammed against the gas pedal, racing the engine and almost burning it up, and the cops have to break a window to get your attention.

Bruno the bear has been running roughshod over sheep in the Alps, but a bear handler has volunteered his TV-star female bear, Nora, to tempt him with sex so he can be caught. However, the experts decide it would be futile because, as feminists have been saying for years, it’s not the sex that causes the aggression but the need for control, and Bruno’s clearly just interested in marauding over sheep. Besides that, they say, Nora is 11 yrs older, and—oh, wait, that doesn’t matter anymore.

Errorors
Hanuman is the Hindu monkey god, not the elephant god, as I mentioned yesterday in Backstage. [Ed.: I now establish a Corrections policy for Backstage that I will, one, announce the error as I’m doing here and then, two, return to the original text and add a Correction notice at the point of the original error, which is what the most conscientious big-time bloggers do. But the second part of the policy is not retroactive, so there are still errors in the archive that may have been acknowledged but not physically corrected.]

Below The Fold
The F State’s attorney general sued a South Florida pet shop for disappointing the matrons by selling “teacup”-sized dogs that apparently grew into toaster-oven-sized hounds . . . . . What’s playing at the Uterus Theatre? [Ed.: That’s sort of a “teaser,” which Yr Editor defies you to pass by without clicking the link] . . . . . A slooowwww, patient theft of 65,000 coins by a mint worker in Australia . . . . . A Calgary chemical company said a worker’s simple push of the wrong button will cost it 11 million dollars [Cdn; US$9.9m] . . . . . Headline on Kansas City Star’s Crime Scene KC blog: “Officers Honored for Finding Man’s Penis” [uh, I guess that’s another teaser] [the original story is here] . . . . . A doctor in China warns countrymen that too much World Cup excitement could cause people to lose control of facial muscles [which, of course, could make your face kinda inscrutable] . . . . . And if you haven't read the transcript of the AOL customer trying, trying, trying to cancel his service, the St. Petersburg Times has it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Weak Journalism: The stories themselves certainly look authentic, but, c’mon, professional reporters and editors can’t just drop in sentences like these without explanation: (1) In a Washington Post article on recruitment for Navy SEALS: “Finding candidates in top physical condition also helps, but until recently, concerns over legal liability prevented potential recruits from being given a swim test.” (2) In a piece on the newly elected leader of (apparently proudly diversity-oriented) U.S. Episcopals, Reuters disclosed that she (Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori) was raised a Roman Catholic whose background is in marine biology, “with a doctorate specializing in squids and oysters”).

The Associated Press piece on a recent Michael Jackson deposition is equally inexplicable, but celebrity reporter Linda Deutsch gets a pass because most readers don’t expect the guy to make sense: To avoid admitting that his business manager used to give him spending money, Michael said he got loads of cash on his own—from leasing out the cows roaming Neverland. (Seriously)

Updates
NOTW has mentioned the ridiculously slow gov’t recruiting program for U.S. Arabic speakers, but Newsweek checks in this week with more refining: The very best U.S. Arabic speakers (those who learned it on Middle East streets, instead of from textbooks) are largely disqualified from gov’t service because they can’t get security clearances (in that they used to live abroad and probably have close relatives who have lived abroad too long or are still there). Yow.

Below The Fold
A Cleveland judge dropped a child-rape charge because the prosecutor was so late to court that the judge felt he was treating her “like a punk” . . . . . The F State Sec’y of State said the reason they’re behind in implementing nationwide post-2000 election reforms is that focusing on the deadline for fixing the system was more important than what she called the “nuances” of actually fixing it . . . . . The Hindu elephant god Hanuman [CORRECTED: monkey god] was sighted in Banarhat, West Bengal, and pilgrims are flooding the area (but it could be—could be—just a guy with a birth defect) . . . . . Urban Legend Come to Life: Sometimes, dogs do jump up on stoves for food and set the whole house on fire . . . . . A Washington state motorcyclist was killed riding back from an anti-helmet rally—but he was wearing a helmet [link from ObscureStore.com] . . . . . The Ministry of Higher Education in Saudi Arabia is offering scholarships for people to study in America, in such fields as “air traffic control” and “flight safety” [link to original Ministry notice, posted on MichelleMalkin.com].

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Errorors
Yr Editor is eking into the age that is prime territory for making ridiculous mistakes, such as the one in this week’s column, which some readers will regard as only modestly stupid but others, mostly men, will recognize as monumentally dumb. In any event, the man who was the apparent victim of the Texas fire marshals’ faulty testimony in his arson case (and who was therefore executed) was Todd Willingham, not Tyrone.

Below The Fold
Some unmarried men in India’s Gujarat state are apparently outsourcing their wifely needs to Gujarat husbands, who need extra income . . . . . Even in Tucson’s open air, two tons of marijuana tends to produce a reeking throughout the neighborhood . . . . . A Hindu cleric calls for a judicial phallic inquiry (Lingamgate!) . . . . . European Robotics Research Network will publish a code of ethics for robot use, in that, for example, inside of five yrs, people will be having sex with robots [Ed.: please, no Rodney Dangerfield jokes] . . . . . More than a decade after Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, the Pentagon is revealed to still be using a discharge-related document that calls homosexuality a disorder . . . . . Arlington, Va., now has a task force to deal with all its hoarders . . . . . In West Vancouver, B.C., Goldi--well, a woman--came home to find a bear eating her porridge--, er, oatmeal.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Fathers Day Family Joy: Actually, it’s a good thing that Brent, 26, wasn’t around to see his dad (since Brent has been locked up since 2004 as unfit to stand trial for murdering a Chicagoland county treasurer). Late last week, Dad, 56, whose given name, it looks like, is Bunny, was reported by a neighbor as wearing only a woman’s thong bikini, in the middle of the street, masturbating. (Ironically, Brent’s motive for the alleged murder was his dissatisfaction that the treasurer, who was married to Brent’s mother, would walk around the house wearing just his bathrobe.)

The lawsuit looks authentic, with court docs posted on the excitable celebrity website TMZ.com: You’ve got Michael Jackson, who’s not right, being sued by Helen M. Harris-Scott, who’s also not right. $100m is owed, she says, because he’s been stalking her for 15 yrs through global-satellite devices, through subordinates and way-subtle messages, telling her she’s not good enough, which has disrupted her bail bond business.

Student Sefa Boyar is aiming to protest Turkey’s national super-meritocracy exam by getting all 180 questions wrong (which actually translates to 225 wrong, counting the 25% penalty for guessing).

Weekend herd-thinnings: A man in Milwaukee punched out a window to get into his estranged wife’s home but the punch slashed an artery, and she’s now an estranged widow. And the F State announced stats from 2004 (the latest), showing that motorcyclist deaths are up from 22 to 250, after the repeal of the state’s helmet law. And alleged window-peeper Scott Kruger is still alive, but it was close, after he impaled himself on an iron fence while running from cops.

Below The Fold
A new housing development showcases not just a model furnished home so customers can dream of living better than they probably will, but containing a model family, too, so they can dream of being better than they probably are . . . . . Romarr Gipson, 15, who made Chicago papers in 1998 when he was falsely accused of murder, apparently decided to exercise his One Free Makeup Crime by shooting a guy . . . . . A couple playing sex games at a Comfort Inn in Galveston, Tex., learned the hard way that the room sprinkler head will not support an erotic-asphyx rope . . . . . You ought to have an inkling of bad times ahead if you name your restaurant (even in Guangzhou) the Fangji Cat Meatball . . . . . A 16-yr-old boy got 15-to-life in London for killing his sister and trying to kill the rest of the family, as per his transcribed plan, “Operation New Life. Kill family. Lose memory. Get adopted by a rich couple. It all starts [now].”

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Below The Fold
Jury to lawn mower manufacturer: We 6 ordinary people made up a lawn mower design that’s better than any mower ever made, and since you didn’t think of it, please hand plaintiffs $2m . . . . . Homeland Security’s emergency hotline to the 50 governors was overrun by telemarketers . . . . . What? A kid from Amarillo finished in the top 10 at the Nat’l Spelling Bee? (but then, the city’s congratulatory billboard misspelled her name, so everything’s cool) . . . . . The NBA Finals has a body count: An F State man was killed when a car came through the roof and landed on him while he was watching TV . . . . . In Ottawa, a sort-of wine-tasting, except of breast milk, and for some reason the gov’t is hesitant to fund it . . . . . It appears that the new Grand Avenue High School in L.A. is being built on top of a cemetery . . . . . Wonders of the Web: You search for how to remove a “Tabasco” stain and come across using Tabasco in a bomb to blow up a school . . . . . Colombia may be the land of drug lords and assassinations, but the “Road Safety Fund” still has time to figure out that “ogling women” causes 5 percent of traffic accidents . . . . . Can’t Possibly Be True: A St. Paul, Minn., 3-yr-old insists on a “News Hour with Jim Lehrer”-themed birthday party [but “Puh-leeze,” he said, “Pleeze, pleeze, pleeze, no Anne Taylor Fleming essay”].

Friday, June 16, 2006

Drought-plagued farmers around Colorado Springs are ticked at John Smith, who would rather scrounge for water for his lettuce and spinach than risk destructive hailstones. Smith fires hail-busting weather cannons (eight, at $40k per), about which the science is, er, well, quite thin, but his neighbors are sure the cannons work too well and have scared away all rain. So you’ve got a $320k technology that’s probably bogus but that both sides are riled up about (and let’s not even ask whether all us taxpayers bought Smith those contraptions). [Contra: A Mississippi Nissan plant bought some weather cannons, too.]

It’s one of Yr Editor’s oldest No Longer Weird’s: the criminal who accidentally drops ID at the crime scene. But surely we can make an exception for a bank robber who drops his check-cashing card and his phone bill and his actual birth certificate on the floor of the bank.

And this Recurring Theme is almost No Longer Weird: the art gallery (or employee) so little versed in Great Art that either the real piece gets mistakenly tossed out or the accessories of the piece get displayed instead of the actual piece. London’s Royal Academy not only did the latter but did it after an apparently fully-reasoned deliberation, rejecting David Hensel’s human-head sculpture but accepting the base and easel-like rod that it was perched on. [Now, Yr Editor would be mortified to have his, er, art treated that way, but Hensel, quoted by BBC, seemed matter-of-fact about it.]

That’s Messed Up
Angola sells 1.4m barrels of crude a day, has a gov’t surplus of $2b, will see a 1/3 rise in revenue next yr (i.e., it has so much money that it can’t figure out how to spend it all), but the central Bento River (source of drinking water for the poor) in capital Luanda (pop. 4.5m and the “sister city” to Houston, Tex.) is so clogged with sewage and refuse that visiting health professionals say the current cholera epidemic is only part of the problem. The N.Y. Times is there today, above the fold.

The F State
The new mayor of Winter Park (bordering Orlando) admitted that, 6 yrs ago, yes, he did get into an argument with a guy and smeared dog poop on his shirt (but says things were a little crazy that day).
A major scandal is brewing, in Broward County (Fort Lauderdale), and now reaching Yr Editor’s home counties in Tampa and St. Petersburg, of court clerks and/or chief judges blatantly-illegally sealing court records of prominent people. More than 100 instances are alleged in Broward. [Ed.: Improprieties like this go on and on in places like the F State because of a dearth of smart-asses. People live here for the beaches and the boating and the business opportunities; nobody moves here to save (even part of) the world. Thus, there’s a lot of “how can they do that?” and not much “they can’t do that!”]

Below The Fold
Following up yesterday’s note about the wave of Cuteness dominating Japanese culture: Tokuyama Zoo staged an exhibit of soccer-playing crows wearing little tiny jerseys . . . . . Two Australian academics, preparing America for the end of the estate tax on 12-31-2009, said about 50 blokes managed to stave off their own deaths for a few days when Australia eliminated the tax as of 7-1-1979 . . . . . Official Saskatoon coroner’s report: The 42-yr-old woman was probably dead 15 minutes after she hid a leaky bag of cocaine inside her vagina . . . . . Aftermath of a fatal car crash near Nampa, Idaho: 3 bodies, 4 heads.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pedophilia-Denial Roundup:
I was intimately chatting up that teenage girl online but, Lord have mercy, not because I like sex with kids! It was just “kind of a power trip.”
A San Diego Children’s Hospital nurse, in what he described as sort of a self-discovery phase, did indeed touch the comatose 4-yr-old girl’s privates, but that was just “to see if I liked it” (since he had so much child porn around that he was starting to wonder). And, whew! I didn’t get aroused, he said, so obviously there’s no problem (although his lawyer seems anxious to keep that private journal sealed).
Denver-area high school English teacher Mark Asimus, 45, was busted for trolling online for teenage girls—to fight each other, all-out, blood, broken bones, etc., live and in person.

You Can Do It, We Can Help: Five bathroom vanities shipped to various Home Depots from a Massachusetts warehouse, each containing a brick of marijuana, have turned up. The best that authorities can make of it is that the dope-distribution guy, working out of the HD warehouse, got his signals crossed or was asleep at the wheel . . . . . But that’s nothing compared to the woes of Jay and Laura Flynn of Lilburn, Ga., who just sued HD and a grout-sealing product for $111m because Jay inhaled the stuff and now says he’s got about half a lung left. $1m is for loss of happy time because the Flynns used to do it “every day.”

Yr Editor hasn’t been down on a ranch since he was 5, but they say that in Europe, bull ranchers are automated in sperm-collection, using a go-cart made to resemble a (mountable) cow (thus requiring the driver to wait patiently until the bull gets off, and then gets off). A New Zealand company has intro’d one in that country, and evidently farmers are queuing up for demonstrations by obviously preening, conscienceless bulls.

Below The Fold
America’s worst school district? Colorado Springs, since it looks like they assigned, as the “peer trainer” of a severely disabled girl, a 15-yr-old boy with 20 suspensions under his belt and a 0.0 GPA, and then, after the inevitable molestation, happened to hire as their expert medical witness someone who said the girl probably enjoyed it. Seriously . . . . . Local officials closed down Enrique Mora’s hole in Montclair, Calif.: He was digging down in his yard, way down, six stories down, because his gold detector went off . . . . . In Japan, lots of people are worrying that there’s too much cuteness around (cute products, cute celebrities, cute fashions), creating kind of an infantile doom for Japanese culture . . . . . There may be abundant signs that the Bush Administration is ready to start building a way-underpublicized [well, have you heard about it?] NAFTA super-highway, Mexico to Canada, with the only port of "entry" in Kansas City (from Human Events, via HuffingtonPost.com) . . . . . Readers’ Choice: A suspect, fleeing cops at high speed (and severely swerving on a dirt road), was subdued by his passenger, a thus-badly-bounced-around pit bull that apparently got so pissed at the reckless driving that he tore up his master's nose.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Never, Ever Give Up—Ever: Ronald Wayne Blankenship is in a runoff for sheriff in Birmingham, Ala., but now his somewhat shady background has surfaced (alas, no murders, though!), and so what does a guy do? Answer: Deny. Must be another Ronald Blankenship. Another Ronald Wayne Blankenship. Another Ronald Wayne Blakenship married to a woman named “Judy Ruth Green Stonecipher Blankenship.” Another woman named Judy Ruth Green Stonecipher Blankenship who has been disabled since 1990. Yeah. Major coincidence. Check your facts. Don’t bother me.

Some grownup at Phillipsburg (N.J.) High got all fertoutst about a photo in the $80 school yearbook that just came out and gave the order to take an X-Acto knife to the offending page in all copies, so that no one can glimpse the female student in a scene from a school play, sitting on a desk, with “a bit” of her underwear showing. So the books are “ruined,” many kids say; the female student didn’t object in the first place; the school board president can’t believe it happened and may be forced to press-run the entire edition again; and the best part—as in adult-role-model-best—is that all the grownups are denying they had anything to do with the cut-it-out order.

GAO’s Catalog of FEMA Horrors: This morning, the Gov’t Accountability Office will say that FEMA inspectors have done a great job of tracking down the fraud committed against the agency during the post-Katrina hubbub—if you consider catching 1.2 percent of it, or 2.8 percent of it a “great job.” The headlines, according to an AP story, will be that FEMA money paid for, among other things, two months in Hawaii, a Dominican vacation, Dom Perignon, a divorce, and porn products, and that some of it was so brazen that it’s not possible for a FEMAn to look at the paperwork and not realize he’s being scammed. On the other hand, Congress is expected to go nuts about this, for no other reason than to take the public’s mind off all their pork.

Below The Fold
A worker-tribunal victory for the pathologically sensitive male: “Park your ass [translated from the original Australian arse] in that chair” sends him to the doctor . . . . . In Point Leamington, Newfoundland, volunteer firefighters get their priorities in order: No drinkee, No extinguishee . . . . . A former enforcer for the Gangster Disciples in Chicago is hired to translate “civility” into “gang” at the trial of a current banger.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The wife and 4 kids of Spain’s Manolo Caseres, 57, walked out on him 19 yrs ago because he had for yrs devoted all his quality time to rooting for the Spanish national futbol team. It’s now nearly 30 yrs that he has been traveling to all the team’s games, everywhere, so that he can sit in the stands and ceaselessly and super-annoyingly beat his cussed drum. “Obviously, losing your family like that is a bad thing to do, but . . ..”

Below The Fold
Life’s Cheap (cont’d): He so badly wanted his $2 change fm a tow truck driver, who had none, that he pressed the issue and now is no longer with us . . . . . An ex-NYPD cop complained that he got into Dept of Homeland Security hdqtrs in Washington by flashing an easily-detectible knockoff of a Mexican gov’t illegal-alien ID . . . . . Ford Motor Co’s delicate touch: You’re fired, 9 months shy of 30 yrs, and no, we won’t waive the 9 months toward your full retirement benefits, but we will waive the 9 months necessary for you to get this punk 30-yr certificate of gratitude . . . . . Update: That fired, large-breasted dancer in a Billy Joel traveling show comes in for lengthy commiseration in the Washington Post . . . . . God’s Will: Greg Setser was convicted of a $65m scam, mostly from religious investors (God’s line apparently being busy when they called to ask if this was a holy way to spend parishioners’ money).

Editor’s Obsessions
Yesterday was another occasion for the ritualistic, mountain-out-of-molehill reporting of FBI crime figures, which usually (including yesterday) is about as sociologically important as an interview with Britney Spears. Murder last year, up 4.8 percent, meaning what? In a nation of 230 million or so adults, 750 more people were murdered in 2005 than in 2004. In some cities, down; some, up; in some where it went down, it was up the yr before; in some where it went up, it was down the yr before. No intellectually honest trend of any kind is discernible. The stats won’t even tell you whether you face even a minuscule greater or lesser probability of being the victim of a serious crime. Why do news organizations do it? (1) Mindless convention? (2) Editors are mathematically unsophisticated? (3) Readers are easily awed? (4) ‘Cause why, that’s why? (Similarly, that the Boston Celtics lost the first two games of the 1969 NBA finals in Los Angeles but came back to win the series means absolutely nothing to the fortunes of the Miami Heat this yr, but that fact, and the crime stats, are even less useful than the bizjournals.com stats released yesterday purportedly showing Seattle as the “smartest” city in America. Even if bizjournals.com did its study better, say, adding up and averaging the IQ scores or whatnot for every person in every city, such averages would give you only the tiniest, tiniest improvement in probability for describing the next person you met in Seattle, or in Baltimore, and meanwhile, they feed our perverse general obsession with stereotypes.)

Monday, June 12, 2006

A neurotic—imagine Richard Lewis before therapyis set to be his own “Truman Show” on the Internet, starting Wednesday. Kieran Vogel will have his every move (except bathroom) dictated by viewers for 6 months, hoping that their decisions will be better than his own neuroses-petrified ones. Fears? Soup, redheads (their sweat is red), public restrooms, people who have just used public restrooms, and so on.

A Journal of Medical Ethics paper says the Catholic Church’s recommended “rhythm method” actually kills millions of embryos. That is, sex on the fringes of the cycle doesn’t not fertilize the egg; it fertilizes it but not adequately enough to become viable, resulting in the embryo’s death. (Also on the Religion beat: MPAA has rated a church-made movie PG, instead of G, purely because it is too religious. And a pastor in Ontario, Calif., ticked that the City Council continues not to fund his pet project, placed an official Godly curse on the city manager and his family.)

Federalism and the Doctrine of Unintended Consequences, on display in Skull Valley, Utah: The Goshute Indians are almost all the way through the permit process from the nuclear-friendly Bush Administration to store high-level radioactive waste on the rez for about $1m/yr, but the rez is only 18,000 acres of nothingness, home to 15 of the 120 total tribe members, and the rest of the mega-Red State is having a conniption, with the governor threatening to lie down on the railroad tracks at the border to stop the fuel rods. [Also at play: Yr Editor’s Doctrine of 90-Degree-Angle Borders, which holds that states with three or more of those borders should have diminished rights.]

Update
“The Mosqito,” the high-pitched sound (an “ultrasonic teenager repellant,” as a N.Y. Times writer called it) that a Welsh security company employs to keep young punks from gathering because young ears can hear it but not older people, has now been employed on behalf of the kids (to “alter the balance of power”), in the form of cell phone ringtones that enable kids to defy teachers’ orders to keep phones off.

Below The Fold
Buffalo, N.Y., high schools fret that kids have figured out that when oh-so-compassionate authorities set “50" (instead of “0") as the lowest grade you can make, you can take the 2nd half off if you score 80 the 1st half (thus ending with minimum-pass 65) . . . . . Convicted attempted-armed-robber Dana Buckman in Rochester, N.Y., is suing the victims for beating him up real bad . . . . . A retired professor of French in Colorado was accused of expressing her opinion to her Congresswoman with a pile of merde . . . . . Chutzpah: The state school superintendent of Georgia announced they were going to separate out the test scores of Katrina evacuees in the state because they were dragging down the natives’ scores. Georgia.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Creative writers and the men who marry them: Yorktown, N.Y., novelist Emily Hanlon-Tarasov admits she threw a phone book at her husband, knocking him out, but that cops should just move along, that there’s nothing to see here: “[N]ever in my wildest dreams did I think it would hit him,” she told them, and hubby Ned Tarasov’s story is, “A few things began flying at the wall, and one of them was a telephone book. And unfortunately, my head moved into the space that the book was flying [into].”

The F State
“Officer Delicious” is what the West Palm Beach decoy cop out to trap redlight-runners calls himself, dressed in drag as a hooker but signaling ahead to a partner which cars should be ticketed. Three Questions: They have no actual female cops in West Palm? Or, if they have ‘em, was it that this guy won out because he was maybe a little too insistent that he be the one? And, if so, don’t we need to know more about this guy (like, Is he having too much fun)?
Suspicions Confirmed: All the rah-rah civic types in Jacksonville say it’s a city on the rise, but, really, now: A “Key to the City” (awarded by a former mayor) went down on eBay for $38.

Below The Fold
Allerca, Inc., o f San Diego is now taking actual orders for the breakthrough hypoallergenic cat (a real cat, not a Tamagotchi), at $3,950 plus $1,000 “processing and transportation” . . . . . Yesterday, Yr Editor reported one of those roadside-urination deaths, but on Wednesday a speeding train near the City Hall station in NYC whacked off part of the hand of a guy urinating in a subway tunnel.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Readers’ Choice (and cue the Monty Python sketch): A woman in St. Peters, Mo., who was dissatisfied with the Chihuahua she had gotten from a breeder—mainly because it had just died—barged into his home in search of a substitute, and when the breeder objected, she smacked him in the head with said unsatisfactory dog corpse.

Recurring Themes: (1) Gaudy, artistic coffins are all the rage in Ghana (as they have been for a few individuals stateside over the years, such as that guy buried inside his beloved Cadillac), and (2) the latest motorist-stopped-to-tinkle death (slipped and fell into the Payette River near Smiths Ferry, Idaho).

Inside NOTW
Two more Rushies checked in, and two more on that other criminal-sentence juxtaposition, i.e., screeching to Yr Editor that that Orlando fondler’s crime is indeed morally equivalent to Zac Moussaoui's.
The Reuters wire has another of those super-suspicious stories that look either recycled from way back or are the creative product of a sleepy editor on the graveyard shift: the traffic-stop cop (this one in Amsterdam) who learns that the excuse for speeding was that the driver had just washed his car and needed to dry it.

Below The Fold
A guy in Llandrindod Wells, Wales, after 8 pints, thought it would be cool to jump butt-first off a pool table onto a cuestick to, y’know, see what happens . . . . . A high-speed police chase in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., involved running 9 red lights and going against traffic on Interstate 81, but the cops finally got the heinous burglar and recovered his loot (two 12-packs of cheap beer) . . . . . To upgrade public restrooms in Kuala Lumpur, the gov’t is set to install designer urinals so men can pee into a tuba-like thing or a clown’s mouth, etc. . . . . . A Beverly, Mass., woman, 3 yrs after finishing high school, finally, joyously got her diploma, after passing (barely) the mandatory statewide test in math on her 11th try (Another woman did, too, but was so embarrassed that she went into hiding) . . . . . British medical ethics bigshot Len Doyal comes out for eliminating the middlemen in euthanasia decision-making and just letting the doctor decide (subject, of course, to objection from the comatose patient).

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Least Competent Bail Bondsman: A Santa Cruz, Calif., bondsman accepted an accused check-counterfeiter as a client, then rejected the guy’s attempt to pay him with a counterfeit check, then accepted the guy's second check, for 3x the amount of the 1st, and go figure: It was counterfeit!

Editor Buried the Lede: The Boston Herald reported that an apparently-tightly-wound woman, acting as a handicapped-space vigilante, rammed an illegitimate parker in a lot in front of The Christmas Tree Store in Somerville. (Buried lede: The Christmas Tree Store is open in June.)

What John Crosky of Westerville, Ohio, is: child molester. What he’s not: (1) talented poet (although he tried mightily, reciting verses at his sentencing, chastising the judge, the police, and the prosecutors for his fate), (2) smart (He chastised the judge before the judge imposed the sentence.) 30 yrs.

Inside NOTW
OK, now we’re starting to cook: 4 more Rushies. That makes 9, and the week is still relatively young. And there’s still a faint hope that NOTW might get actual dittohead ear time! [For background, see other Backstage entries this week]

Updates
William Saletan, the “Human Nature” columnist at Slate.com, reviews a San Francisco body-modification conference last weekend that featured a discussion of a man who is, presumably, our boy Dennis Avner, the Cat Man [NOTW 905, 6-12-2005], along with some other characters who have and haven’t made NOTW. The piece has some go-to links for other choice self-mutil—uh, self-modifiers.
You’ve probably wondered what the latest is on the 207th-richest guy in the world [Backstage, 3-7-2006], Mr. Anurag Dikshit.
Travis Frey, the Iowa man with the homemade sex-slave contract for the missus [NOTW 945, 3-19-2006], was sentenced to 10 yrs in the joint.
Pat Robertson, speaking to the AP yesterday, swore that he once leg-pressed a ton, though acknowledging that he didn’t use competition-quality technique. [Backstage, 5-30-2006] [Backstage, 5-18-2006]

Below The Fold
People riding in boats, maybe, are supposed to drown, not people riding on lawnmowers . . . . . Here’s a story not all that bizarre except that it introduces a woman who is “the Anna Kournikova of chess” . . . . . A Texas commission recommended canning and fining a funeral director who hid a baby’s corpse in the clothing of another corpse so she wouldn’t have to pay two cremation fees . . . . . A 54-yr-old man walked in to a police station in Peterborough, Ontario, and asked the desk sergeant for a light for his crack pipe [but the story is poorly journalismed-up, and Yr Editor can’t vouch for it yet]

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Yesterday, an F State federal judge, in a formal written order, required two feuding lawyers, who couldn’t decide on where to hold a deposition, to report to the courthouse steps in Tampa and play one game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, with the winner to select the deposition site. [Link from Fark.com]

Inside NOTW
Hoax Alert: It appears that the British farmer with a gallows business on the side [NOTW 955, 5-28-2006] was just jerking reporters around (because, said his business partner, he just likes to talk about capital punishment). He did build a gallows, but he’s not in the business. The Times of London first reported it, followed by 30 British papers and Yr Editor’s source, BBC News. Of course, Yr Editor doesn’t know for sure whether his business partner knows what he’s talking about, either, but here’s the UPI story.
Two more Rushies spit at Yr Editor [see Backstage, 6-5-2006]. Only two more. Damn, that’s lonely. I might have to reconsider my decision to write the items less sloppily. In general, their problem is similar to the one I’ve long described as how tax resisters operate. The tax resisters find a provision on page 821 of the Internal Revenue Code, whose literal meaning is susceptible to the viewpoint to which they are so deeply committed, but they haven’t the intellectual equipment to understand that “the law” covered on page 821 [Ed.: I'm just making up these page numbers] also requires a contextual reading of provisions on page 192 and 1504, and of six federal court decisions---which thousands of judges, tax lawyers, tax professors, legislators, governors, and other officials have long ago internalized. That contextual application of "the law" on page 821 is way-different from the resisters' viewpoint. Nonetheless, say the resisters, all those thousands of experts must be wrong. The Rushies pick out the most Rush-favorable sentence(s) of his plea agreement and ignore the unchallenged evidence behind the case. Even though the plea agreement governs the sentence and the "criminal record," it doesn't make the evidence go away.

Below The Fold
Yr Honor, I’m not a whore; I’m an amazing [sexual] healer, and I plan to fight this charge “and show them how godly God can be” . . . . . F State version of dating your coach: A high school basketball player had an affair with her male head coach, then sought counseling from the assistant coach, and then he started going out with her . . . . . Great Headline: “Eyebrow Wax Herpes Lawsuit to Proceed” . . . . . One Milwaukee man stabbed another during an argument “about not having an argument,” reported the Journal Sentinel.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The place to be today (6-6-2006) is in the unincorporated town of Hell, Mich. (which has made News of the Weird twice when particularly inappropriate things went on there), where the population of 60 will swell with people, most arriving to spit in Satan’s face. And a Dutch ministry has called on evangelicals in 21 countries to spend the day’s 24 hours in prayer. And here’s a sociological discussion of 666 with some nice links at the end.

Is it a serious finding? Or is it another one of those instances where kids taunt adult questioners by pretending to be more dysfunctional than they are? A survey at Cornell and Princeton (for the journal Pediatrics) revealed that 17 percent of the students have purposely cut or burned or done other self-mutilation.

U.S. District Judge Gerard Lynch in NY correctly dismissed state prison inmates’ constitutional challenge to being double-bunked in single-man cells, even using the Pythagorean Theorem to show that the men in the uppers were the same distance from the toilet as those in lowers. But he did make one very ivory-towerish judicial finding: that having to smell a cellmate’s farts is no worse than having to smell your own, which we all know is abjectly false. (However, the smart money says the Court of Appeals will not set this question for argument.)

The Lost Art of Keeping a Low Profile: Immigrant Randall Roye was busted as an illegal only because he sued NYC for $20m when he fell out of a first-floor window in a public school building.

Inside NOTW
Looks like either the audience for News of the Weird is working itself out, or the country is getting less polarized—Nah, it must be the audience. In the first two days of NOTW 956, 6-4-06, with the lead item about the paraplegic Richard Paey getting a worse deal on Florida drug law than Rush Limbaugh, only three Rush fans read me the riot act. Ya still don’t mess with Rush, but I was expecting worse and spent an unusual amount of time futzing with the wording of the item to bulletproof it, to appeal to the Rush fans who actually, y’know, think about things, as opposed to the Rush fans who treat every issue as Us vs. Them. (In fact, I’ve already had two readers who have distinguished themselves on another story in that column, being outraged that I don't agree with them that fondling two adolescent girls is, too, the moral equivalent of Zac Moo Sowee’s helping create all those widows and orphans on Sept. 11.)

Updates
Here's the latest dispatch from Iceland's penis museum (alas, no photos).
Ironically, about the time I was making that error about re-starting the girl's dormant heart [Backstage, 5-23-2006], a surgeon in the UK was actually transplanting a beating heart (which was out of the body not quite the 10 years of my story, but, er, 5 hours).
Gee, little did I know, in all my yrs of noticing cargo cults (which I mentioned even yesterday), that Britain’s Prince Philip was the actual god of one of them, but the Sunday Mail has an expozay [Ed.: I don’t have my html book handy] of his long-time relationship with the Yaohnanen tribe on the island of Tanna (which also houses a tribe that worships, or at least used to, Lyndon Johnson, by bowing before a rusty Johnson outboard motor [NOTW 120, 5-25-1990]). The Prince has acquiesced in their idolatry by sending them autographed photos, which they revere, but has sworn them to secrecy for years.
More on that David Copperfield story from yesterday: NOTW Board Member Joe Littrell remembered the story as not particularly reliable even when it first came out, at least as far back as November 2005. Ooooooo, somebody's gonna get in troub-bul at those newspapers (and KPIX-TV).

Below The Fold
A homeless man just happened to wander onto an F State high school criminology class’s mock crime scene and died, and boy, when those kids showed up, were they ever impressed with the teacher’s attention to detail! . . . . . Guy in Athens, Ga., survived getting hit by a train, but the Money Fact is that the engineer could have stopped in time but didn’t [Ed.: I can't find it online, but I'll keep looking] . . . . . Drive without a license in Scotland, and your car winds up in a crusher . . . . . Another Guinness Book record (with photo that you’d be better off not clicking the link on) (It’s, uh, longest nipple hair) . . . . . An airport control tower in the F State that looks like it’d be what FEMA would issue as a control tower . . . . . The baba hit the fan in Hong Kong when a radio station (trying to Americanize?) took votes on which HK celebrity that listeners say they would most like to sexually assault . . . . . More than 50 people lined up 2 days in advance of an IKEA opening in Canton, Mich., for the payout of a free $79 chair and a secret envelope, with $10 (some higher).

Monday, June 05, 2006

It doesn’t appear to be online, but the 6-5-2006 issue of ESPN The Magazine reports on the annual, bloody, basically lawless polo weekend near Pakistan’s Himalayan Shandur Pass (in a two and a half-mile-high stadium), in which the Gilgit and Chitral tribes tough it out in what has evolved into a pretty good substitute for all-out war. No refs (only a promise not to "intentionally" hit opponents), and the penalty for losing is that your fellow tribesman will mercilessly stone you. The lead anecdote was of Gilgit’s star player, bucked off of his horse and lying motionless with a broken neck, being dogged by the crowd to get up off the field so the game could continue.

Mainstream News Outlets Run the Risk: From the website of KPIX-TV, the CBS affiliate in San Francisco: "[illusionist David] Copperfield To Impregnate Woman Onstage [with no sex]." The story first appeared on some European soft-news sites, attributed to an interview Copperfield gave in Germany. The Boston Herald attributed it to the New York Post, and maybe the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier did, too (but the story is down now, and the NYP’s archives don’t reveal it). (Of course, the KPIX thing might have been because, as we know, kids pull weekend duty at a lot of these news websites.) This is the type of story that, if real, would knock the socks off all the David Blaine-loving editors everywhere, but so far, none of those editors have bitten. Yr Editor (yr lazy editor) will just wait and see what the more energetic sleuths come up with.

Welcoming China to the world community: It used to be that nothing bizarre happened in the People’s Republic (or maybe that had something to do with censorship?), but things have loosened up, and here’s a two-bagger today: A young man wants to see if that Kung Fu move he learned is powerful enough to stop a train, and here’s a Beijing man winning the equivalent of almost $1,000 in his lawsuit over getting bitten, in series, by a neighbor’s dog and by the neighbor.

The weirdest gruesome story Yr Editor has seen in a while: A woman in Germany was convicted of 9 counts of manslaughter, i.e., her last 9 babies. She had 3, and, pregnant with the fourth and fearful of her husband’s reaction, she hid the pregnancy and then drowned the baby in a toilet (or "let it drown," I guess, since she wasn’t convicted of actual murder). The same thing happened with pregnancies number 5 through 12 (though some babies’ remains were found in flower pots). Testimony at trial pegged her IQ at 120 and with severe alcoholism (but it was unclear whether that contributed to the deaths or came in response to them).

Maria Malone is a serious Dallas Mavericks’ fan, so serious that in close games (on TV or in person), she habitually vomits. "It’s this total feeling like I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I don’t know what I want to happen, and there’s nothing I can do about it." [Ed.: But some day, that guy next to her in the $75 seat might have something to say about it.]

Below The Fold
Almost No Longer Weird: the gun expert who removes all visible bullets but forgets about that one still in the chamber . . . . . Already NLW (but expanding): Neighborhood officials in Sydney, Australia, faced with punks annoying people in the street and in a parking lot, pump out Barry Manilow music to send them scurrying elsewhere for kewlness . . . . . Here’s a real snake on a real plane in the real cockpit (but it was just a single-engine jobbie) . . . . . A man in Blairgowrie, Scotland, drowned trying to rescue his dog from the River Ericht (uselessly, of course, in that dogs face long odds on getting themselves drowned) . . . . . On the Internet, no one knows if you’re a dog, but if you’re a cat, you can’t own a domain name . . . . . Steven Tari, aka Black Jesus, is on the run for something or other in Papua New Guinea; no particular weirdness here, except that he runs a cargo cult, and I love cargo cults . . . . . The Wish-Bone people staged a "salad fashion" show in NYC on Friday, hosted by Richard Simmons, and apparently lots of photos of the outfits (e.g., lettuce dresses) are available. Try these two, here and here . . . . . Thinning the Herd: Two F State college students pulled down one of those big helium advertising balloons and played inside it until it was too late.

NOTE: Backstage is normally updated daily by 12 noon Eastern U.S. time, but today might be as much as 3 hrs late. Please, please return later. Thank you.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Alien life! Yr Editor must’ve missed it, but the “prestigious” journal Astrophysics and Space Science published, in April, a report on strange, cell-like structures that lack DNA but still reproduce, under circumstances thought to be impossible. Researcher Godfrey Louis says, Could be something that hitched a ride on a meteorite. Popular Science has the story. Yikes.

A 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals acknowledged that Scott Panetti, on Texas’s death row, is delusional and schizoaffective, but, still, he knows he killed some people and that he’s about to go down for it, and thus his execution is constitutional. (A criminal-law professor said Panetti is the “gold-plated craziest” guy he’d ever seen on death row.) Since this is Texas, here’s your kicker: At his murder trial, despite having been assigned to 14 crazyhouses and drug-addicted since childhood, Panetti was allowed by the Great State of Texas to act as his own lawyer (and he promptly called himself as a witness to describe how he had been taken over by Mr. Sarge Ironhorse, and what happened was, “Sarge boom boom”). Seriously. NY Times

Errorors
The story of Travis Williams did not occur in Salt Lake City, as I reported in NOTW 955, 5-28-2006; it took place at Grantsville High School, in Grantsville, Utah.

Updates
The San Francisco Chronicle looks at the prospects of reality for that nasty, nasty Morgellons disease [Backstage, 5-30-2006] and implies it’s maybe 8-5, against.
Here’s another one of those features from Japan where they show off hard-to-imagine flavors of ice cream (“cow tongue,” “cactus,” “roasted eggplant,” etc.). (For the state-of-the-art in presentation of ridiculous ice cream flavors, go here to see the Mainichi Daily News’s photo feature. Be sure to click on the two links under the picture, labeled “The Wacky World of Japanese Ice Cream” and “The Wackier World of Japanese Ice Cream.”)
David Boies was a lot more famous years ago when he defended Microsoft against monopoly and Al Gore against the Bush Florida gang, and thus it was with great pride that Yr Editor documented his involvement in a super-tacky Florida lawn-care dispute [NOTW 713, 10-7-2001]. Well, that was then, and it ain’t over yet: Ten yrs down the road, millions in legal fees, humongous amounts of Boies’s time, and maybe, still, his law firm’s chief financial officer will be off to the Big House. Here’s what I wrote in 2001:
In August [2001], a Florida court of appeals heard arguments on a third contempt of court order by Palm Beach judges against a lawn care company owned by a cast of characters resembling that in a Carl Hiaasen novel but including superstar New York lawyer David Boies, who has been supplying legal firepower, unsuccessfully, against a rival lawn care firm (whose owner represents himself in court). Boies’s company, Nical, alleged that rival Scott Lewis broke a 1996 contract, and things have gone back and forth since then, with a second Nical owner apparently violating multiple court orders. Besides Boies, Nical’s owners are a convicted top-drawer Miami marijuana smuggler and the frisky ex-wife of a Guatemalan textile manufacturer (a woman who was described by one California clothing buyer as a “sex nazi” because she used him as her “sexual tool” in exchange for overlooking various invoices). [Palm Beach Post, 6-11-01]
Below The Fold
Divorce judge to husband: “No, you can’t get 'visitation rights.' It’s a dog! . . . . . Yesterday wasn’t such a great day for Yr Editor, but at least I wasn’t driving down the road, minding my business, and suddenly 40 tons of gravel fell on top of me . . . . . Devil Rays’ baseball player Carl Crawford is on the shelf for a game or two after hurting his knee stomping on the ground to protest a bad call by umpire C.B. Bucknor . . . . . Another one of those family-values candidates (this one for Congress, from San Diego) who’s on his 3rd wife, was for a 17-month period married to both the first and the second, and had his paychecks garnisheed for 4 yrs for back child support.