Monday, June 08, 2009

News of the Weird / Pro Edition
June 8, 2009 (news from May 30-June 6)
© 2009 by Chuck Shepherd

The Stites Family Tree
Thomas, 25, was charged with sexual assault in Manitowoc, Wis., becoming the 4th Stites brother, and 6th member of his local family, to be charged with a sex crime (3 convicted so far). Herald Times Reporter (Manitowoc)

Los Angeles's Feral Homeless
From the Times: "[The FH] must climb a ladder toward a small, hard-to-notice opening in the all-concrete slab that helps hold up the [Interstate] 10 Freeway [near the interchange with 605]. They must squeeze beneath a rusty metal grating, balance on a ledge and descend a second ladder into thick, dead air and darkness. This is home, a vast, vault-like netherworld, strewn with garbage and syringes." It's about the size of two side-by-side high school gyms; it has an upper loft with toys and rattles and a cat carcass; cops are afraid to go in; and when state officials seal it up every few years, the FH just break it open again. Los Angeles Times

Clichés Come to Life
From the Washington Post, describing the perils faced by all the mega-construction in western Virginia suburbs just across the river from Washington, D.C.: "This part happens all the time: A construction crew putting up an office building in the heart of Tysons Corner [home of the Nat'l Counterterrorism Center and about four miles from CIA headquarters] a few years ago hit a fiber optic cable no one knew was there. This part doesn't [happen all the time]: Within moments, three black sport-utility vehicles drove up, a half-dozen men in suits jumped out, and one said, 'You just hit our line' Whose line, you may ask," asked the reporter. Apparently, no, you may not ask (or, y'know, have to kill you, etc.). The hilarious part comes when AT&T sends a bill for all the re-routing work, to the front group's drop box, actually believing they may get paid. Washington Post

World's Luckiest Snake
The young copperhead that trespassed into a building near Poolesville, Md., and then bit the hell out of Sam Pettengill was given a total mulligan. Though Pettengill was hospitalized and endured 4 antivenin cycles, his residence is a Buddhist temple, and before he set out for the hospital, with his hand already throbbing, he took the snake, circled a prayer room three times blessing it, then walked into the woods and released the little rascal. Washington Post

French Labor Law Meets Reality TV
The stars of the Survivor-ish French show Temptation Island won their lawsuit in the supreme court and were awarded full employee benefits (overtime pay after 35 hours, holidays off, right to sue for wrongful discharge, etc.). It looks like they're getting £11k ($17.5k) each for all being stuffed on that island eating lizards 24/7. No lawsuits . . yet . . over being "unfairly" voted off the île. The Times (London) [CORRECTION: The Temptation Island show, itself, is not Survivor-ishly about eating bugs; it involves dropping "committed" couples in the midst of flirtations singles 24/7 to see who's faithful. However, the French court decision seems to cover all "reality TV" programs, and the three Temptation Island plaintiffs were awarded damages for the "unfairness" of the outcome.]

How Much Is a Muse Worth?
Seriously. You probably thought muses were just the products of fanciful literary minds, but the University of Idaho (in the middle of $3.8m in budget cuts) just hired one for $112k. She's called the university's "Inspiration Officer." KHQ-TV (Spokane, Wash.)

UAE's Dr. Ruth
The delightfully named Wedad Lootah, author of Top Secret: Sexual Guidance for Married Couples, holds court in Dubai dispensing sex advice, mostly for dysfunctional women ("Finally, she discovered orgasm!"), but here's the catch: She wears the niqab (eye holes only), and the trouble with niqabs is we really can't be sure who's under the robe. For all we know, "Wedad Lootah" is really Chip Rowe, the Playboy Advisor. One of Wedad's prime concerns: Since so many Muslim boys get their first experience with other boys, a lot of them want to keep using the back door when they get married, and wives don't appreciate it. New York Times

But Could Wedad Lootah Have Saved David Carradine?
His cause of death is not official yet, but it's all over the news that the actor died naked with one rope around his neck connected to another rope around his stuff, probably engaged in "autoerotic asphyxiation," which has taken the lives of some our most desperate male homo sapiens. Front and center in real time with a report on whether one can "safely" practice AEA, Slate.com concludes, alas, no, at least not by yourself. (Of course, if you had a partner, you might've tried something else.) Slate

"A Little Piece of America Died Today . . ."
That was the lament of Michael Rainey in Texas City (near Galveston), owner of a cat with indiscriminate toilet habits. His neighbor had addressed Rainey to keep the droppings out of his yard except that the neighbor three times used the S-word, with Rainey's 13-yr-old daughter standing there. A distraught Rainey insisted on a "disorderly conduct" charge for the cussin' neighbor, but a jury took all of 15 minutes to acquit him, and Rainey sorta overdramatized that. The Daily News (Galveston County, Tex.)

People With Worse Sex Lives Than You
Alan Berlin, 40, was arrested for chatting up sex with an underage boy on the phone from his Carlisle, Pa., home. Among his proposals: sex in the kid's back yard while the parents were home and sex with Berlin while Berlin is wearing his favorite full-body wolf and cat costumes. Express-Times (Easton, Pa.)

Jury Duty
[In America, you're presumed innocent . . . until the mug shot is released]
Don't just assume that because Paul Baldwin, 49, has been arrested before, that he's guilty this time (of simple assault). Well, OK, it's the 153rd time he's been arrested, but still—. Actually, he's the Portsmouth, N.H., guy who made News of the Weird last year by snapping at his arraignment judge that he didn't need a lawyer because, "I've been in this court more than you have." Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.)

Recurring Themes
(1) Open-air double-decker bus meets Interstate highway underpass, and the two tallest riders are killed. (2) Two more men were electrocuted trying to steal copper wire, this time from a Southern California Edison facility. (3) Another guy is in critical condition after using jumper cables to connect a power line to his own home. WGN-TV (Chicago) /// Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.) /// KHBS-TV (Fayetteville, Ark.)

More Angst & Confusion from Last Week

About 150 politicos in Italy's liberal party, Radical, frustrated at the lack of media coverage of their issues . . went on a hunger strike. A hunger strike. [Ed.: C'mon. They need to man up! "Leaders" don't go on "hunger strikes."] BBC News

The gov't of Australia acknowledged that it might have been a little lax when it handed out $1,000 emergency payments following the major February bush fires, in that it counted 2,000 homes damaged but handed out, er, 67,000 payments. Australian Broadcasting Corp. News

California apparently has so many serial killers that when LAPD trawled DNA in the course of a recent cold case on the murderous "South L.A. rapist," they came up empty but inadvertently caught the murderous "Westside Rapist" from the 1970s. Los Angeles Times

Readers' Choice: It's from Egypt, and it's not exactly well-documented, but it did fly around the 'net last week. A guy's parents refused him permission to marry a lower-class woman, and he retaliated by, er, cutting off his own stuff. [Come to think of it, that's not much crazier than the idea of spending your entire life with somebody your parents forced on you.] Associated Press via Boston.com

And speaking of questionable sourcing [though this one looks meticulously reported from a courtroom in Harare, Zimbabwe, so I'm going with it]: Ms. Regina Svelo, 21, was given a suspended sentence for planning to kill her brother-in-law, supposedly on orders from her father-in-law. Everyone, including the judge, seemed to accept that she wasn't in her right mind, in that she was found wandering around naked muttering about a "spell" cast by the father-in-law. To buttress her case, when the judge announced his decision, she went into a "trance" and had to be revived with salt. The judge implored her to seek "cleansing" immediately, although he admitted that the judiciary has no approved list of spell-cleansers. The Herald (Harare)

Australian drug dealer Paul Baker is such a mean, dangerous SOB that the judge said he's gotta serve out his 10 yrs in custody, even though he is basically in the same shape as the late Christopher Reeve was in, needing total care, which of course he's certain to get from kind prison personnel. Daily Telegraph (Sydney)

The head of the gov't's drug and crime czar in Conakry, Guinea, warned citizens that the prisons were full and that it was therefore their civic duty, if they encounter thieves, to light 'em on fire (well, their arms, anyway, so they can't steal stuff anymore). Reuters

It's still true that the world's only really clever criminals (except in the movies) are smugglers. The latest: cocaine-baked tablecloths entering Germany and suitcases made of cocaine, resin, and glass fiber in Chile. (Well, they're "clever" if you can get past the fact that they got caught this time.) The Local (Berlin) /// Associated Press via MSNBC

More Sub-Prime Americans

Erie, Pa., police are looking for Sylvester Tate, who they're pretty sure is the guy who attempted a drive-by killing, even though he went 0-for-4 at his target and in his haste to flee, drove his car smack into a utility pole (but he escaped on foot). Erie Times-News

Dude, if you just set a fire in a Wal-Mart because they wouldn't take something back, and you want a mug shot that gives you a fighting chance of beating the rap, for heaven's sake, lighten up! [mug shot] Sarasota Herald-Tribune

The professional police force of Forrest City, Ark., includes these officers: They arrested Lawrence Harden Jr. for robbing a liquor store, cuffed him, shackled him, head-stuffed him into the squad SUV. Harden escaped. K-9's found him an hour later, and he was re-cuffed, re-shackled, and re-head-stuffed into a squad car. He escaped again. Associated Press via KAKE-TV (Wichita, Kan.)

Lower your expectations . . no, lower, still . . no, lower than that. If ya watch TV at all, ya must have noticed the saturation over the last year and a half of warnings that you're gonna have to do something to your TV to keep getting over-the-air signals (and that the gov't will even buy you a converter!). OK. Next weekend is finally d-day (already once-postponed), and it looks like 10 million Americans are still clueless. New York Times

The brand new, supermax-of-kindness prison in Laurel, Md., opened on May 30th and had its first escape on May 31st. On June 1st, they ordered razor wire to supplement what they were previously counting on to impede escapes: "prickly shrubbery." Seriously. WRC-TV (Washington, D.C.)

Eyewitness News

Maybe you already saw this surveillance video of the attempted robbery of the deli in Shirley, N.Y. Guy comes in with a baseball bat, says, Give me your money. Deli owner Mohammed Sohail pulls out his shotgun. Robber drops to his knees crying, begging, Please, No police, volunteers to convert to Islam on the spot. Sohail knows pathetic when he sees it, takes $40 from the till, and lets the guy go. WCBS-TV via KOVR-TV (Sacramento)

Not Safe For Stomachs: Candise McKinney was arrested in Sorrento, Fla., for child-neglect, and I'll show ya what "housekeeping" has come to these days [slideshow]. Ocala Star-Banner

Newsrangers: John Trester, Neil Gimon, Heather Ross, Peter Smagorinsky, and Richard Schultz, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors