Monday, August 31, 2009

News of the Weird / Pro Edition
August 31, 2009 (news from August 22-29)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2009 by Chuck Shepherd

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Yr Editor will not publish Pro Edition next week (but will return Sept. 14) (and the standard News of the Weird column never skips a week). This will not be a "vacation." I will be working furiously, shaping up yet another attempt to glide this News of the Weird franchise into the digital age. The task is frustrating, but let's face it: After all these years, and despite a stellar résumé and two professional degrees, I'm no longer qualified for anything except News of the Weird.]

Update: Looking More 'n' More Like Texas Executed a Slam-Dunk-Innocent Man
Cameron Todd Willingham got the needle in 2004 after jurors believed the expert who told them that the 1991 fire that killed his 3 babies just had to be arson. In the years since, a parade of prominent national fire scientists (the latest, last week), re-examining the evidence, have concluded that the Texas fire warden was fulla crap, that the fire was an accident. Sorry 'bout that, Cameron. (Fire marshals are not nearly the only Texas forensic "experts" to be found fulla crap.) Austin America-Statesman

"Yo, yo, yo, Shalom, y'all. 'Sup?"
Stand-up comic Sunda Croonquist (a black-Swede mix) married into a Jewish family in New Jersey and naturally started to weave the family circus into her act. Funny at first. No longer, they said. Ruth Zafrin and her daughter and son-in-law have actually filed a lawsuit against Sunda for defamation. [You're right; there're no lawsuits in comedy!] Associated Press via ABC News

British Kids Can Legally Buy Porn for the Next 3 Months . . .
Seriously. The gov't forgot to include its 1984 child-porn regs on the list of laws it filed with the European Commission, and a Fine Point of the law means the statute can't be enforced until the EC has been "consulted" about it for 3 months. Reuters

Don't Say Yr Editor Never Publishes Good News
A study of scans on 16- to 19-yr-olds revealed that marijuana use actually reduces the brain damage normally done by binge-drinking. (On the other hand, the researchers were all from UC San Diego, and results on non-California dope-users may differ.) KTVU (Oakland)

Update: The Rubber Room
Quick, now, which is the primary function of the school system? (a) that every child gets diligently-applied educational opportunities or (b) that every teacher gets diligently-applied due process from a 100-page, single-spaced union contract? You say (a)? ROTFL! The New Yorker checks in this week on the topic (addressed in NOTW a coupla times). It costs New York City more than $40m/yr to keep 600 teachers accused of terminable misconduct or incompetence on full salary awaiting hearings that by contract take 2 to 5 yrs to schedule and then typically last longer than capital-murder trials, plus $60m/yr more for 1,000 others whose schools closed but whom no other principal wants. The 600 "rubber-roomers" clock in every day and sit around getting even more pissed off (comparing themselves to Gitmo detainees). Their favorite victim phrase is "performance evaluations," as in "We don't need any." Said one rubber-roomer, "We can tell [by ourselves] if we're doing our jobs." The New Yorker

A Woman Way Different from Us
Angela Simpson, 33, was indicted, but it hardly matters because she calmly confessed the whole murder on camera to Phoenix's KTVK-TV, patiently setting out her reasoning. She stabbed the wheelchair-confined man 50 times, pulled some teeth, beat him with a tire iron, drove a nail into his head, then dismembered the body and burned it. (Bonus: She did it all in front of a mirror so he would see as much of it as he could.) Reason? She wanted to improve the ethical standards of her neighborhood for her "family" and the "children." The man was a snitch, and that's what snitches deserve. Child molesters, too, but mainly snitches. KTVK-TV

News That Sounds Like a Joke

Allen Stanford, one of those masters-of-the-universe guys (now under indictment because, the Justice Dept. says, it was all a $7bn Ponzi scheme), got rich with the help of the chief financial regulator of Antigua and secured the regulator's loyalty by taking an actual blood oath with him. Grown-ups. Mashed their blood together. Just like in the movies. (That's according to Stanford's number-two guy, who has pleaded guilty.) New York Times

Update: Roy Pearson, the $54m-dry-cleaning man [You didn't think it was over, did you?], was unanimously and scathingly turned down in December by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and recently by a federal court when he sued to get his local judgeship sinecure back. (He said the reason D.C. turned him down was to [illegally] retaliate for the dry-cleaning lawsuit. The real [legal] reason, of course, is that the man is an embarrassment to Anglo-American jurisprudence in general.) So he filed a federal-court appeal. When he loses, that'll pretty much leave only SCOTUS and The Hague on his To-Do list. Legal Times

The owner of Lynch Hummer in Chesterfield, Mo., told Autoblog.com that he's happy he converted part of the space in his showroom (after Hummer sales fell last yr) to a gun market. One-stop shop. Makes dicks feel twice as long. Autoblog

Athena Sidlar, 28, pleaded guilty in Allentown, Pa., but it's hard to decide which way to look at her "crime." She was an aide at Allentown State Hospital and was caught teaching one of her patients the correct way to swallow nails. Turns out she's a swallower, herself, who either wasn't screened very well by Human Resources . . or . . was specially hired for her expertise. The Morning Call

People With Worse Sex Lives Than You

Taking a bad idea and making it worse, and then worse than that, and finally, even worse, still: A medical journal this month reported the predicament of the fella who first decided that the thing to do was to insert a ball-point pen into his urethra. That didn't feel as good as he originally thought, and so he decided, second, that the thing to do was push it further in to see if that made him tingle. No, OK, forget the whole thing. But it was now in too far to pull out. He decided the thing to do, third, was push it in even further because then it might get to be accessible through his rectum. (Anatomy tip: They're not connected.) Neurotopia blog /// Canadian Journal of Urology (abstract)

Jury Duty
[In America, you're presumed innocent . . . until the mug shot is released]

Sara Kellum, 29, Merced, Calif., was charged with robbery, but to judge her properly, you'll just have to peer down the front of her shirt. No way around it. Merced Sun Star

Katherine Patterson, 58, dropped trou and mooned a guy in a courthouse elevator. That, everyone agrees on. But was that a sex offense? One way to tell: Would you be sexually aroused seeing part of Katherine's bare ass? Stockton (Calif.) Record

Raymond Roberson, 70, is here . . just because he's a mess. He might also have been armed and naked, but mainly, he's a mess. KTVL (Medford, Ore.)

Recurring Themes

In Charleston, W.Va., a 57-yr-old man was hospitalized after trying to make a keychain charm from a live, .30-06 rifle round by drilling through it. And in Joliet, Ill., a 27-yr-old woman was hospitalized with 2nd-degree burns incurred as she was filling up a gas can inside her car and wanted to see whether it was full yet . . and the handiest light source was her cigarette lighter. And in Santa Barbara, Calif., a driving-test-taker accidentally plowed into the DMV building and redecorated an office. WSAZ-TV (Charleston) /// Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, Ill.) /// Santa Barbara Independent

More Angst & Confusion from Last Week

The project manager on a nuclear plant cleanup in Dounreay, Scotland, told reporters his go-to radiation cleanser was the Scottish equivalent of Easy-Off (Cillit Bang). Daily Telegraph (London)

Hell's totally waiting for Aurelio Vallerillo-Sanchez, 39, Omaha, Neb. He was convicted of rape . . of an underage girl . . and financing her abortion . . by stealing a church's painting of the Virgin Mary. Omaha World-Herald

Unclear on the Concept: San Francisco's Dept. of Public Health recently endorsed, for stress-reduction . . drum circles. "Repetitive patterns influence brainwave activity," said a shrink. He's surely right about that. San Francisco Examiner

Ian Stafford, 58, was arrested as the prolific panty bandit running around Preesall, near Fleetwood, England. (Bonus: He's the mayor . . or was, until his arrest.) Daily Telegraph

It says here that the Mermaid Medical Ass'n, in Brooklyn, N.Y. [Yeah, yeah, but New York reporters vouch for it], is threatening to go to the Int'l Court of Justice in The Hague, outraged that the city of Kiryat Yam, Israel, doesn't believe in mermaids. (The city is offering $1m to anyone who can prove they exist, a challenge that MMA finds insulting.) YnetNews (Tel Aviv) /// Gothamist /// New York Daily News

So . . if the police, say, in Longmont, Colo., find a photo attached to a cow's tongue, i.e., could be a hoodoo ritual . . do they have the duty to go find and warn the person in the photo . . or do they just keep doing their other (unimaginary) projects? KMGH-TV (Denver)

Britain's Nat'l Farmers Union warned, on the heels of four recent deaths of people trampled by cows, to watch out, especially if you're walking your (cow-magnet) dog. At the same time, over in the picturesque Swiss village of Lauterbrunnen, 28 cows in a three-day period took The Only Way Out off a cliff. The Independent (London) /// Daily Mail (London)

More Sub-Prime Americans

Michael Williamson said (during his trial in Cincinnati after which he just received 80 yrs in prison) that the real reason he raped those three pre-teens for several years was to protect them from the girls' mother, who was abusive. (Bonus: His judge said Williamson's excuse "is almost unbelievable." Almost.) Cincinnati Enquirer

A brand-new way for a robber to be stupid: For a disguise, Thomas James, 24, just spray-painted his face. [You are correct. That can be toxic. And in fact, Thomas is no longer with us.] WLTX-TV (Greenville, S.C.)

Too Much Time on Their Hands: Animal photographer Ren Netherland, Clearwater, Fla., shoots total, full-dress makeovers. For instance, here's some of his dog work . . poodles trimmed and colorized and padded so they look disturbingly like (a) a panda and (b) a camel. Daily Telegraph (London)

A woman dropped off her car at the Tires Plus service center in Winona, Minn., to get a belt replaced, and said, "Oh, by the way, I have a goat in my trunk." And she did. Alive. And painted purple and gold. And with the number 4 shaved on its side. Unknown whether she was for ol' Brett or against him. Winona Daily News

You never want to be in as much trouble as this guy: He was stopped by a sheriff's deputy after cutting him off while making a lane change. Oh, and he was driving a big rig with 14 tons of marijuana, which now no longer belongs to whatever cartel was moving it. Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.)

A 30-yr-old warrant for sex abuse of a minor had caught up with William Evans, 57, who was finally standing trial in St. Augustine, Fla., and the jury had just retired to deliberate, and an apprehensive Evans disappeared on a break. Yes, he killed himself. And of course, the jury (which didn't know that) came back, Not Guilty. St. Augustine Record

Teddy Brisseaux, 26, was arrested in New Haven, Conn., after he wandered, extremely drunk, into a stranger's house, undressed, lay down in a child's bed, with the child in it, and passed out. He was still asleep when the cops got there and arrested him. According to the Connecticut Post, "He claimed that his arrest was the result of racial profiling, police said." Connecticut Post (Bridgeport)

Eyewitness News

Among the recent selection of WTF, ick-quality creatures comes the Speleonecies atlantida, which has no eyes and lives in burrows on the ocean floor near the Canary Islands (in other words, you'll have to take completely on faith that there is such a thing). Wired.com

And if that's not enough, here's a 19-slide show of the "World's Ugliest Animals." New York Daily News

Newsrangers: Carl McGlore, Craig Cryer, Dan Bohlen, Chuck McGill, Lu Stanton, Mike Schmahl, Jim Dukes, and Tom Barker. Also, the News of the Weird Senior Advisors (Jenny T. Beatty, Paul Di Filippo, Geoffrey Egan, Ginger Katz, Joe Littrell, Matt Mirapaul, Paul Music, Karl Olson, and Jim Sweeney) and the News of the Weird Editorial Advisors (Paul Blumstein, John Cieciel, Harry Farkas, Fritz Gritzner, Herb Jue, Emory Kimbrough, Scott Langill, Steve Miller, Christopher Nalty, Mark Neunder, Bob Pert, Larry Ellis Reed, Rob Snyder, Bruce Townley, and Jerry Whittle).