Monday, December 21, 2009

News of the Weird/Pro Edition
December 21, 2009
(alarming and/or delicious news from December 12-19)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2009 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Health Care Follies (continued): (1) In Scotland, veterinarians felt sorry for "Eskimo," the reindeer, who was constantly bullied by his zoo mates because his "retained testicle" blocked hormones and made him less masculine. Hence, he has received the world's first reindeer laparoscopic surgery, to remove the testicle from his abdomen and set the chemicals free again. UK vets do 600,000 abdominal surgeries a year on pets. (2) One of the riskier jobs in the world is "interpreter" on U.S. payrolls in Iraq (about 8,000 Iraqis have been hired; 360 killed, 1,200 wounded). Thus, the U.S. buys life insurance on them for their families, but since the plan is administered through private U.S. companies, many claims get held up by company finger-waggers, looking to save money, according to a Los Angeles Times-ProPublica investigation. The companies won't pay unless they see documentation of exactly how the interpreter died. U.S. Army officers told the Times, basically, We don't always have documentation. It's a damn war zone! The Courier (Tayside and Fife) /// Los Angeles Times

Things Government Is/Isn't Good At (continued): Back in the U.S., controllers can direct a drone airplane halfway around the world to deliver a bomb on a certain house within the 168,000 square miles of Iraq (well, mostly, except for the collateral damage–), but six years later haven't gotten around to encrypting the signals from the drone, thus allowing Iraqi insurgents to pinpoint drone locations by using off-the-shelf computer programs like SkyGrabber ($25.95 from (And's Danger Room blog reports the problem might even be more serious than that.) Wall Street Journal ///

Bad Week for Justice: Two inmates who between them had spent 63 years in the slammer received "Oops, My Bad"'s from the justice system when DNA overcame obviously-shaky eyewitness ID on one and ridiculous hair-fiber "evidence" (perpetually overrated by forensic "experts") on the other. James Bain, released 35 years after a jury of Florida's finest declared it beyond any reasonable doubt that he raped a kid, said, Ehh, "Everybody had a job to do. The police needed a suspect. The prosecutor needed a conviction. The wheels turned." St. Petersburg Times [quoted in the print edition; quote missing from the archived online edition] /// Washington Post

"Old Media" / "New Media": In New Bedford, Mass., the public library imposed its maximum fine for a book that was 99 years overdue: $361.35. In Hayward, Calif., a 13-year-old girl over-data'ed during one month on her dad's cell phone, and he was billed $22,000. Boston Globe /// KTVU-TV (Oakland)

Sounds Like a Joke: U.S. surgeon Mark Weinberger, who had been on the lam for five years avoiding a flood of malpractice lawsuits, was spotted in Italy and about to be captured. However, rather than face justice, he tried to check out by stabbing himself in the throat, but as befitting an incompetent surgeon, he missed the key artery and is now in custody. The Guardian (London)

And another: The Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre in Norfolk, England, has lowered the water level in its giant aquarium for Christmas because the big turtles (herbivores) are getting their annual holiday treat of brussels sprouts. Officials know from experience that if they don't lower the water level, the gas bubbles from the powerful turtle emissions will raise the level enough to trigger the emergency tank-flooding buzzers. Daily Telegraph

It's Good to Be a British Criminal (continued): Three knife-wielding home invaders burst in on businessman Munir Hussain, his ill wife, and their three children, forced them to the floor, and enconstipated them with fear, but Hussain eventually gained the upper hand, chased them away, and beat one with a pole and a cricket bat. Hussain got 2½ years' hard time. The burglar (the one who got caught) got probation. The Independent

People With Worse Sex Lives Than You

A female art teacher at W.T. White High School in Dallas, Tex., called the police on her student, Martin Guerrero, 17, whom she caught in the middle of class in full masturbatory mode. As she approached, he "began to moan and said 'aye mami,'" and kept right on going. Dallas Morning News

Japan Today reported that truck driver Yuuki Oshima, 22, was arrested for a November 19th incident in which he allegedly urinated though the mail slot in a woman's apartment door. Police said Oshima told them he did it out of unrequited love, that "I absolutely went crazy for her the first time I saw her." Japan Today

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

Jason Burrelli, 29, was arrested in Tampa on a marijuana-possession warrant (from April). If you can get a close-up on the lower part of his whole-head tattoo, you'll see that it reads in script (seriously): "Everything happens for a reason." Indeed. St. Petersburg Times

People Different From Us

James Snell, 27, got a 10-year sentence as the wheel man for a gang of bank robbers when a witness noted that the getaway car had James's personalized license plate J4 MES. Daily Telegraph

Bad Lawyers! Bad! (1) Memphis trial lawyer Mark Lambert was charged with biting off part of a man's nose in a men's room fight, coming to the aid of two other men who were allegedly monopolizing a stall for non-excretory purposes. (2) Aaron Biber, in line to become president of the Minnesota Bar Association, was arrested for alleged sexual assault on an underage boy. Commercial Appeal /// Star Tribune

Over-the-top DJs at WFLZ-FM in Tampa, attempting to deep-fry a turkey on the air, set up a fryer in the station's van and helicopter-lowered a turkey into it. (If things had turned out well, the story wouldn't be here.) St. Petersburg Times

A clumsy New York City hit man killed three, apparently for a drug debt, but botched his escape and is no longer with us. First, while running away, he tripped over his baggy pants and fell, and was thereby forced into Plan B, which was the fire escape, but he fell three stories and landed "very dead," according to a woman on the ground. New York Daily News

Russell Vanderwerf, 44, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms official, faced several charges after making himself at home in a Residence Inn in a New Orleans suburb. Police said Vanderwerf, among other things, modified a room door to install a glory hole padded with duct tape. Times-Picayune

Recurring Theme: Comes now ex-South Dakota state representative Ted Klaudt (and currently long-time-to-be resident of the state corrections department after a rape conviction), who warned in a formal notice to the Associated Press and other media outlets that any use of the name "Ted Klaudt" without his permission would cost them $500,000 each time, for copyright violation. Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Angst, Confusion, Crisis

Holiday gift suggestion from the Lloyd Platt law firm (specialty: divorce) in London: vouchers for a half-hour consultation. Cost £125 (compared to £170 street price). Agence France-Press via The Independent

Defining Academia Down: (1) A math professor at London's Royal Holloway College published a formula (with square roots!) for when to turn, and how sharply, to squeeze into any parallel parking space. (2) A professor at James Cook University in Australia, experimenting on 65 medical students, determined that it's almost twice as painful to remove a Band-Aid slowly than quickly. Daily Telegraph /// Australian Broadcasting Corp. News

Land-challenged Singapore is now down to one working cemetery, having already imposed burial limits (e.g., after 15 years, the body comes up) and "columbarias" (warehouses for urns). Next: Die in Singapore, get buried in . . New Zealand! New York Times

Left-wing radicals were convicted in Turkey (39 of them, at least, out of 1,223 originally charged) after a trial that lasted, all told, 27 years. The 39 were sentenced to life in prison for trying to topple the government in 1980. (NATO's been saying that Turkey should do something about that legal system.) BBC News

Australian jeweler Colin Burn announced plans to create the world's most luxurious personal vibrator (made of smooth platinum, with 1,500 diamonds). He thinks it'll retail for about a million bucks, give or take. Forbes

Eyewitness News

Jude Stringfellow of Oklahoma apparently won the dog custody battle described in News of the Weird in March [NOTW M102, 3-22-2009] and now owns Faith, the amazingly nimble two-legged dog. Los Angeles Times ///

Jamie Cap is the quadriplegic fellow in Pro Edition [11-16-2009] who was judicially granted a gun permit so he could go hunting. He's pictured here with his wheelchair-mounted rifle and the tube he blows into to discharge it. Associated Press via YouTube [link from Nothing to Do With Arbroath blog]

More Things To Worry About

More "Intelligent Design": Nicholas Coke, of Pueblo, Colo., just celebrated his first birthday, but he wouldn't know how to celebrate it at any age because he has no . . no . . brain. All babies born with nothing at the end of their brain stem die right away, but not Nicholas. He's really a shell of a human being: nothing works. (Poor-taste comment on At least he's immune from zombies.) KOAA-TV (Colorado Springs)

Truck Spill: An 18-wheeler ran off the road on Interstate 24 in Nashville, spreading its cargo of adhesive all over the road. Dozens of drivers . . were stuck in traffic. WSMV-TV (Nashville)

Upon Further Review . . .

Here, for your Christmastime pleasure, is a 20-slide show of "caganers," which are, to refresh your memory of the NOTW story from last Christmas [NOTW M088, 12-14-2008], the ubiquitous icons that have populated most Nativity scenes in northeast Spain's Catalonia region for the last 300 years or so. "Caganers" are "always portrayed with pants down answering a call of nature (and often so obscured in the scene as to popularize where's-waldo-type guessing by children). The origin of the caganer (literally, "pooper") is unclear, but some regard it merely as symbolic of equality (in that everyone has bowel movements). Catalonia is now home to artists who craft statuettes of religious figures poised to relieve themselves, and the franchise extends to renditions of sports figures and celebrities (and even a squatting President Bush). One family in Girona province sells about 25,000 a year, according to a November 2008 dispatch in Germany's Der Spiegel." Daily Telegraph (London) /// Der Spiegel

Editor's Note

Pro Edition will not appear next week but will return bright and early on Monday morning, January 4, 2010. The standard News of the Weird column will be published as usual.

Newsrangers: Gary Hammond, Blake Palmer, Tom Barker, Rich Pevey, Pete Randall, Hal Dunham, and Becky Nelson, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors