Monday, December 07, 2009

News of the Weird/Pro Edition
December 7, 2009
(bewildering and/or outrageous news from November 28-December 5)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2009 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Weekly Gold

Capitalism is eternal, even in Somalia, where a "stock market" for investing in the pirate industry might be the only thing in that anarchic country that actually works. People bring their venture capital (including guns and pirate accessories), lay it down among the 72 companies on the big board, and cash out their tickets if their ship comes in. In fact, befitting this era, there even seems to be a Bubble! As the exchange has grown, pirates' ransoms have doubled, to about $4 million per ship. One savvy Somalian says he's made $75,000 in just 38 days in the market. Reuters

Denver, Colo., UFO enthusiast Jeff Peckman is back in the news, having gathered enough signatures for a city ballot question next year on whether to establish an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission, to develop protocols for "diplomatic contact" when the ETs land. In 2008, Peckman famously staged a news conference, having promised to release a smoking-gun video of an ET visit, but he produced only ridicule. (Also last week, Britain's Ministry of Defense closed its UFO unit after 50 years, and in Mesa, Ariz., the school district's information technology officer resigned after inadvertently overwhelming the district's computer system by installing a personal copy of a software program that networks computers searching the skies for alien radio transmissions.) Los Angeles Times /// Bad Astronomy blog [2008 press conference] /// The Independent (London) /// East Valley Tribune (Mesa)

Safety First in Britain (continued): In an episode begging to be Pythoned, inspectors from the government's Health and Safety Executive (in Fleet Street jargon, Elf & Safety Executive) thoroughly examined a bowling alley and expressed alarm that bowlers might injure themselves if they walked down the lanes and tried to knock over the pins by hand. Inspectors suggested, among other safety improvements, shields to block access to lanes except for doggy-door-like space on the floor to roll the balls. (Also, town managers in Poole, England, installed a super-safe Christmas "tree" that was actually a giant metal cone covered in astroturf. It won't fall over on top of anyone, and there are no needles to get stuck in people's eyes or decorations to be hung using dangerous stepladders.) Daily Mail /// The Times

A University of Montreal professor, intending to measure the specific effects of pornography on men, had to scrap the study because he couldn't find any non-users for his control group. Not a one, he said. "Guys who do not watch pornography do not exist." Montreal Gazette

A group of civic activists will start running L.A. Gang Tours in January, through South Los Angeles and Watts ($65 a ticket) and has been negotiating with Crips, Bloods, Florencia 13, and 18th Street gangs to give the buses a pass when they roll through the 'hoods. They'll peddle merchandise, too, but not the T-shirt originally proposed, where the promoters would pay kids to blast the tourists with water pistols and then sell them shirts that read "I Got Shot in South-Central." Los Angeles Times

Updates: (1) That Peruvian gang that kills people for their fat [Pro Edition, 11-23-2009] probably either doesn't exist or kills them for other reasons. (2) That gender-issues-enlightened Swedish male college student who started pumping his breasts in September [NOTW M129, 9-27-2009] officially gave up in futility. (3) The inept robber who begged for his life when deli owner Mohammad Sohail wrestled his gun away during a robbery (and even promised to convert to Islam on the spot if Sohail wouldn't shoot him) [NOTW M119, 7-19-2009] sent Sohail $50, told him he had turned his life around, and signed it Your Muslim Brother. Time magazine /// The Local (Stockholm) /// WNBC-TV (New York City)

People With Worse Sex Lives Than You

Stuart Leonard became the latest fatality in the sport of auto-asphyxiation, which his partner said was surely an accident, in that Mr. Leonard's body was found at his favorite sex-play hideout: "If we had an argument, that's how he would spend the evening." The Argus (Brighton, England)

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

Here's a challenge: Do you hold Christopher Haentzler, 20, responsible for robbing the Caseyville (Ill.) Food Mart? He said he was forced into it by another man. Belleville News-Democrat

Sub-Prime Americans

Travis Himmler, 23, Bloomington, Minn., was charged with burglary of the Golden Wok restaurant and theft of its cash register, which he carried away on his bicycle. He was discovered down the road after a nasty spill from the bike. The dangling cord from the cash register had got caught in the spokes. Sun Newspapers (Eden Prairie, Minn.)

A Denton, Tex., woman became the victim of a free-lance, door-to-door massage artist whom she let into her home (He "seemed legitimate," she told cops) when he explained that he was just trying to get in some massage hours toward his license. She got an inkling that he wasn't legit only when he asked her to supply her own lotion and told her she had "nice tits." The Smoking Gun

Least Competent Criminals: (1) Brier Cutlip, 22, and Paul Bragg, 25, on parole and barred from possessing guns, were re-arrested when they showed up for a parole appointment still wearing their orange hunting vests after a full day in the woods. (2) Grandville Lindsey, 30, in Beaumont, Tex., was on probation, barred from using Internet "social" sites. But then he Twittered a woman in the probation office, and his probationary status was upgraded to "15 years in prison." (3) Two men who managed to get away after robbing the SunTrust Bank in Dunkirk, Md., nonetheless belong in this category, in that they had wasted valuable time before the robbery when they barged into the Lee Funeral Home next door, apparently thinking it was the bank. WBOY-TV (Morgantown, W.Va.) /// Beaumont Enterprise /// WTTG-TV (Washington, D.C.)

Jason Zacchi, 27, tried to rob a Wendy's in Dearborn Heights, Mich., via the drive-thru window, with a bandanna over his face, and a shotgun, but suddenly the manager on duty stuck her head out the window and challenged him. "What the hell are you doing?" she screamed. Bandanna or not, a mother recognizes her own son, and she turned him in. Detroit News

Rance Johnson, 19, an inmate at the county jail in Merced, Calif., went on sick call with excruciating pain. Earlier, on the floor of the visitation room, he had found a five-inch-long shank, which he then tucked away for safekeeping in the place where inmates keep things that are dear to them, but that didn't work out. Merced Sun-Star

Angst, Confusion, Crisis

Sweden, trying to improve North Korea's childlike understanding of global markets, convinced a company to make designer jeans for the Swedish market. After much comical bumbling and opaque corporate communication by the Koreans, "Noko" jeans finally arrived in Sweden, selling alongside Levi's and Guess, and retailing for the equivalent of about $215. New York Times

[UPDATE: The Swedish contract retailer now says the jeans won't be on the shelves but can be ordered from its website. BBC News]

There's now an App for uninvited Mexicans. An art professor at the University of California, San Diego, created the Transborder Immigrant Tool, using GPS to find the safest places to cross the border and get through the rugged Southwest desert. (It's not clear which cell phones it will work with.) Associated Press via San Francisco Chronicle

Mr. Zhang admits he's competitive, that he "never wants to lose an argument" with his wife—and thus always winds up with "bruises and scars all over." (Mrs. Zhang is a kung fu master.) As potential relief (after negotiations led by the in-laws), she has entered into a contract that permits her to beat up her husband only once a week. If more than that, she pays. Daily Telegraph (London) (citing Chongqing Evening News)

Paraguay's choice to head its consulate in New York City is an illegal immigrant. Arturo Noguera lived here for 17 years, then left, and now is not permitted back in the U.S. to claim his new office. The U.S. Congressman representing New York City's Paraguayan community now suggests that Paraguay retaliate by expelling the inconsiderate U.S. consulate official in Asuncion who denied Noguera's visa. Time magazine

Eyewitness News

Jalopnik blog published the sweet spot on the Facebook page of the daughter of the General Motors CEO who "resigned" last week. She is disagreeable on the subject. [language warning!]

A big Internet hit last week was this apparently-legit snapshot, from an American Airlines flight attendant who wanted to dramatize to the company's suits how much trouble is caused by a seriously-obese passenger on a full flight. Irish Independent

Argentine democracy meets WWE chairs-match action, in the provincial parliament in Chaco. BBC News [30-second ad precedes video]

More Things To Worry About

Brandon Deyo, 21, was arrested in Jupiter, Fla., on several child pornography charges. He is the son of David Deyo, who's serving 17 years in federal lockup for manufacturing child pornography. (Bonus: Before his conviction, David's part-time job was "Noodles the Clown.") Palm Beach Post

The Denver (Colo.) School Board hired a professional marriage counselor to help members get along with each other. KMGH-TV (Denver)

The city government in the Chinese city of Dali, in Yunnan province went into the retail business by opening . . a gay bar. Reuters

Upon Further Review . . .

Illustrative passages from American novelist Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones, the winner of this year's Bad Sex in Fiction award from Britain's Literary Review: "I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg." Then, later: "[A woman's genitalia resembles] a Gorgon's head . . . a motionless Cyclops whose single eye never blinks. If only I could still get hard, I thought, I could use my prick like a stake hardened in the fire, and blind this Polyphemus who made me Nobody. But my cock remained inert, I seemed turned to stone." The Guardian

Editor's Notes

(1) In both News of the Weird [M138, 11-29-2009] and Pro Edition [10-5-2009], I reported on HoneyBaked Ham's firing of store manager Richard Huether, who had failed to recuperate fast enough after taking a bullet for the company in a store robbery in April. Even though he was left with company-paid disability insurance, and would now be eligible for Social Security disability, he would immediately be subject to paying 100 percent of his "COBRA" health-care premium (for 18 months, after which he would have to purchase non-group insurance, which would suddenly be priced to account for his "pre-existing condition," i.e., "was shot in stomach"). HoneyBaked now informs Your Editor that, following the initial report on WRAL-TV (on which the News of the Weird story was based), the company, professing to have been unaware before then of the depth of Huether's financial hole, gave him an additional check for "more than $20,000," to cover COBRA premiums for 18 months. But, he remains fired.

(2) Four candidates with the Classic Middle Name were in the news last week. The now-executed Bobby W. Woods of Texas had already made the list when arrested and so cannot be added. Darry W. Hanna was convicted in a "death," but can't be listed because the most that federal prosecutors could get was "conspiracy," since a state court had already acquitted Hanna of the actual murder. However, Bart W. Johnson of Alabama (arrested) and Jason W. Strickland of North Carolina (committed suicide while a suspect) appear to be clean additions (although Strickland's suicide was in August, very much outside Pro Edition's boundary). Associated Press via Houston Chronicle [Woods] /// Charlotte Observer [Hanna] /// Birmingham News [Johnson] /// The State (Columbia, S.C.) [Strickland]

Newsrangers: Jamie Wilson, Pete Randall, Peter Hine, Sandy Pearlman, Larry Lee, Jeromy Tichner, Stephen Taylor, Michael Willis, and Neil Gimon, and 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)