Monday, June 29, 2009

News of the Weird / Pro Edition
June 29, 2009 (news from June 20-27)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2009 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Inside Scientology
The St. Petersburg Times last week advanced our "religious" knowledge (Scientology being a religion in the same sense that "Steeler Nation" is a religion, except that Steelers' season tickets are much less expensive) by quoting extensively four formerly-high-ranking dropouts (who were of course immediately downgraded by the Church from "clear" to "liar!"). (It's the principle by which J. Edgar Hoover maintained power for so long: Compile dossiers on any friends who could do ya harm, 'cause one day they won't be your friends.) Yr Editor's favorite revelations: (1) Senior executives' aggressiveness was challenged by the supreme leader, android David Miscavige, who staged games of musical chairs down to the last man standing, to the tune of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody ("Is this the real life? / Is this just fantasy? / Caught in a landslide / No escape from reality"). (2) It was normal procedure, that when L. Ron Hubbard himself (or now, the android) was displeased, he would take the displeasers out to sea on the church's boat, Apollo, and force them off a gangplank, while reciting "We commit your sins and errors to the deep and trust you will rise a better thetan" (only now it can be done in a swimming pool, but everyone's still fully clothed). Yr Editor forgets: Was The Church of the Subgenius a perfect parody of Scientology, or was it the other way around? St. Petersburg Times [part 3 of 3-part series; the other two are good, too] /// Church of the Subgenius

Securities Reform, One Adviser at a Time
Two formerly well-to-do German couples, whose retirement savings were all put into F State sub-prime mortgages [ed.: ROTFL!] and who thus lost nearly everything, kidnaped their investment adviser, James Amburn, and actually tortured his ass for several days at the vacation home of one of the couples. This was not that pansy-ish waterboarding torture but major, Syriana-type torture, and he was rescued only when he coded out a hostage message, and 40 cops found and freed him. The Times (London)

Can't Possibly Be True
Sharon McShurley, the mayor of Muncie, Ind., has finally, in June of 2009, put an end to her fire department's long-time protocol of delivering memos and documents from fire stations to the chief downtown by driving them there in fire trucks. Mayor McShurley identified this practice as "not an efficient operation" and ordered the department to start using e-mail. Star Press (Muncie)

Crime Is My Profession
Neil Murray, 34, the wheel man for a gang of jewelry thieves around Guildford, England, pleaded guilty along with his two pals. They were caught after a police chase in which Murray (driving a stolen Alfa Romeo), conscientiously abided by the speed limit, for some reason. Daily Telegraph

If the Coen Brothers Directed a Nature Film
Dept. of Environment and Conservation officials in West Australia were tracking an endangered woylie (a marsupial), which was wearing a radio wristband. So then a python eats the woylie. So then DEC officials track the python via the beeper, capture it, and bring it back to headquarters to wait for it to excrete the beeper. So then thieves break into the compound and steal the python, which surely meant it would be killed and offered in Asian countries as power food. DEC officials again tracked the python via beeper, apprehended the thieves, and rescued the python, which was released, as puzzled as a python can be. The West Australian

People With Worse Sex Lives Than You
Stephen Murdoch, 45, resident of an apartment complex in Tustin, Calif., was arrested in the community exercise room working out . . in a miniskirt accessorized with stockings and high heels, watching porn. This was said by police to be "suspicious" behavior. KTLA-TV (Los Angeles)

Take Your Pick: Is it worse to be Lahoma Sue Smith, giving a blow job in exchange for some Frito-Lay chips, or to be Faron Johnson, needing a blow job from Lahoma Sue Smith? The Smoking Gun [ed.: OK, full disclosure–it was a whole case of chips]

Jury Duty
[In America, you're presumed innocent . . . until the mug shot is released] [and since our legal system originated in England . . .]
Sonny Grainger, 7, Hull, England: Lovable but rambunctious little tyke? Or Britain's next big serial killer in training? One way to tell . . .. Daily Mail

More Angst & Confusion from Last Week

The airline announced at the gate in Majorca that seat assignments were void and that everyone would sit in the rear because the plane was already front-heavy and hard on the pilot. Not surprisingly, 71 passengers froze solid in the terminal, refusing to move. The airline? Thomas Cook--why do you ask? (Bonus: Some passengers on that plane, which had just landed in Majorca and had already endured such a balancing flight, literally dropped down and kissed the ground.) Daily Mail

Homeless San Francisco bay area man Jason Keller, 40, was arrested for bashing his colleague in homelessness, Stephan Fava, on the head with a skateboard. Police said the pair had been having an argument about quantum physics. (Seriously.) San Francisco Chronicle

A young Swedish couple have decided to keep their kid's gender a secret from everyone, including from it. No gender pronouns, just "Pop." Pop knows only that babies may have different wee-wees, but nothing else about being a "boy" or a "girl." You know the parents' drill, e.g., "Gender is a social construct." The Local (Stockholm)

Organ Goulash: (1) It says here that the reason Becky Willis, 22, can gobble down junk food yet maintain her flat stomach is because her actual stomach is in her, um, shoulder (and her gall bladder, liver, bowel, and colon aren't where they're supposed to be, either). It's Morgagni diaphragmatic hernia! (2) And Brooke Greenberg, of a Baltimore suburb, is 16 and suffers from a WTF/who-knows? disorder in which her parts age at different rates (and some not at all). (3) Bonus: a slide show of medical oddities that may be Too Much Information for you, like a photo of the guy with the longest ear hair. People.co.uk /// ABC News /// Guinness Book

Nobody Saw It Coming? Brenda, a murderer, is paroled, meets Tom, a murderer, who is paroled, they fall in love, they become prisoner-rights activists, they rehabilitate prison scum, they marry, they live happily ever after, until Tom murders Brenda. Vancouver Sun

Crop circles are back in the news, in Tasmania, but the official story is that the problem is not extraterrestrials. It's buzzed-out wallabies, getting high from raids on the legal opium fields and then meandering around and around and around. BBC News

St. Mary's Church, a few miles from Wimbledon stadium, is running a parking business during the tournament, £20 to leave your car all day, but the cars are not in a "parking lot"; they're lined up in the church's cemetery, right over the bodies. Daily Mail

More Sub-Prime Americans

The babe news anchor of WXOW-TV (La Crosse, Wis.), Amy DuPont, complained of harassing e-mails from a viewer, but then it turns out the e-mails came from the computer of her weather guy, Zach Brown, who was fired, even though Zach's roommate admitted he was the offender. Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee)

Brian Blair, the former pro wrestler who served a term as a family-values county commissioner in Tampa, was arrested for punching (no, not pro-wrestling "punching"; punching punching) his two boys, age 17 and 12, in the face. Bonus: on Father's Day! Double Bonus: He's not sorry. (If we had been there, he said, we'd understand.) Tampa Tribune

It may be the only way to endure local politics: Shortly after a meeting with fire and police officials in Plainfield Township, Pa., Town Supervisor Timothy Frankenfield, 42, was found face-down-drunk in the municipal building. Morning Call (Allentown)

Police in Apopka, Fla., say that Mr. Ashely Holmes, 35, must've swallowed those 99 OxyContins they couldn't find on him after a brief foot chase, in that there were 100 in the bottle when Ashely took off and only 1 left when they caught him. [Ashely was briefly visible to the naked eye, through the western clouds.] Orlando Sentinel

The Way The World Works (i.e., You Get Screwed)

District of Calamity II (Detroit): (1) A city councilwoman, who happens to be married to U.S. Rep. John Conyers, pleaded guilty to taking a cash bribe. (2) An audit of Detroit Public Schools found 257 non-employees on the employee payroll. (3) The week before last, a Detroit News review of murder stats showed that police had arbitrarily downgraded 22 murders as "justifiable" just to get them off the books (and drive down the city's murder rate). New York Times /// Detroit Free Press /// Detroit News

401(k) people are surely envious of gov't workers who have ordinary (guaranteed) pensions, some of which assure six-figure annual benefits, even though those governments will have to tax us productive people to make sure the pensions get paid. Like, for instance, there's the former city manager of Vernon, Calif., who draws $499,674 a year. Wall Street Journal

Gov't Accountability Office found that in the last 5 yrs, about 900 people on the gov't terrorist watch list (i.e., no flying!) bought guns and/or explosives just fine, including one guy with 50 lbs. worth of boom. New York Times

Gov't Health Care? The New York Times revealed a current investigation into Dr. Gary D. Kao, head of a prostate surgery unit at the Philadelphia VA Hospital, whose team allegedly botched 92 of 116 procedures by mis-aiming the radioactive seeds that were supposed to land in the prostate to attack cancer cells. But, hey, most wound up kinda close to the prostate, and there were even a couple of leaners. New York Times

Your federal gov't has just awarded researchers $425k to find out, definitively--cutting through all the haze and uncertainty--why some men prefer not to use condoms during sex. ABC News

Eyewitness News

Rev. Patricia McKinney of the Manifested Glory Ministries, Bridgeport, Conn., said she was only trying to help a boy who had come to her asking to have his gayness removed. It's not clear how successful the exorcism was. Looks kinda chaotic. The ol' Gay Demon appears to be quite resilient. WPIX-TV (New York City) via Los Angeles Times /// YouTube [news from WTIC-TV (Hartford)] /// YouTube [longer original video]

Newsrangers: Sandy Pearlman, Jennifer Oleson, Gerald Sacks, Corey Posten, Kathryn Wood, Thomas Pendergast, Don Schulian, Stephen Taylor, Louise Elsea, Michael Thompson, Jakob Derksen, and Scott Adair and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors

Monday, June 22, 2009

News of the Weird / Pro Edition
June 22, 2009 (news from June 13-20)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2009 by Chuck Shepherd

The Human Carpet
"Georgio T." is a 48-yr-old immigrant from Malta, whose scene is working the floors of New York City bars dressed as a rug and available for stomping upon. He doesn't actually, y'know, come when he gets stomped, but still, he says it's very pleasurable. He has a custom rug rig he can slip into and then lies face down, praying for stilettos. He's been this way since childhood: "[One of my playmates] wanted to be the doctor, [another] wanted to be the carpenter, and I would want to be the carpet." New York Times

Tex-Ass Justice in the F State
John Preston's CSI-ready genius dog, Harass II, has contributed to around 60 convictions, they say, with his amazing ability to find specific people's scents on the faintest of crime-scene evidence, even old, old evidence. One of Harass II's IDs went to death row, and many got decades in prison. Turns out Harass II was the Bernie Madoff of crime evidence, making it up as he went along. In fact, when a judge finally tested Harass II's nose, the result was a disgrace to the German shepherd breed. So, judge after judge has been eating this "evidence" up for a couple of years, and anyway, how to you cross-examine a dog's reaction to something? [Oh, right, OK . . pet psychics.] The cover's off now only because in three of Harass II's cases so far, DNA evidence finally has shown that the suspects didn't do it. So, how many of the five dozen behind bars were wrongly convicted? F State law enforcement (including the governor and the attorney general) aren't much concerned. Orlando Sentinel

Glorious Small-Town America
(1) The County Board in Lincoln, Neb., debated whether to pay a claim for missing pants (which should have been returned to a jail inmate but were nowhere around) at $10 rather than $12. ($12 won, by a 2-1 vote) (2) Mayor Julian Mullis of redneck Mulberry, Fla., is expected to survive, physically and politically, after being beaten up by his girlfriend, who is really his cross-dressing boyfriend, who lives with the mayor and the mayor's two young kids. (3) The City Attorney in Jeffersonville, Ind., turned up one morning, head-first inside a garbage can, sleeping off a bender. Journal Star (Lincoln) /// WTSP-TV (St. Petersburg) /// News and Tribune (New Albany, Ind.)

Jonathon Keats Update
The latest project from the San Francisco artist whose mind is either way ahead of ours, or way behind ours, but definitely not even-up with ours: In the era of hyperspeed media, we need to slow down, and thus enters Jonathon with a story in print that'll take about 1,000 yrs to finish. It's nine words long and published in an interactive multimedia print magazine and, according to the instructions, the ink will reveal itself, slowly, taking about a century per word. OK, well, Jonathon's got other stuff to look at, too. Wired.com /// Jonathon Keats

Crime Is Their Profession
(1) Victor Delfi was arrested in Chicago for knocking off the Lincoln Park Savings Bank, foiled when he tried to deposit some of the red-stained cash into his own account in another bank. (2) Marlon Moore, 38, was indicted in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where police said he was working on deals to swindle IRS out of, er, 14 trillion dollars. [Marlon's probably thinking, Damn, I was so close!] (3) A robber escaped in Salt Lake City with some computers from a store, but that's probably not what he came for. It was the Black Diamond Equipment store, and the employee said the guy seemed deflated to find out that they didn't actually sell diamonds or gold (but rather, high-end ski and climbing accessories). Chicago Tribune /// South Florida Sun-Sentinel [LINK FIXED] /// KSL-TV (Salt Lake City) [Update: More details on ol' Marlon's grand scheme. Miami New Times]

People With Worse Sex Lives Than You
Augustus Hudgins, 41, was arrested in a downtown park in Memphis for indecent exposure, or as he tried to explain (according to the cop), "giving [his] penis some air." The Smoking Gun

Jury Duty
[In America, you're presumed innocent . . . until the mug shot is released]
Evansville, Ind., police say that Marcus Bailey, 25, took time-out in the middle of getting braids to step outside the salon and move some cocaine. They say they nabbed him closing the deal. Ya think? Evansville Courier & Press

More Angst & Confusion from Last Week

In southern California, a full-grown mountain lion, rummaging around a garage, was kept at bay for 45 minutes (until animal control arrived) by the homeowner's, er, three mouthy, evolution-rules-defying chihuahuas. KTLA-TV (Los Angeles)

Those local British Councils are keeping Yr Editor's news inventory up. (1) The Brighton and Hove City Council evicted a nature guy from his cave home of 16 yrs . . because it lacks a fire exit. (2) A survey of Council websites shows they spend £50m ($82.4m) a year translating their pamphlets and stuff into languages like Albanian, Bengali, Kurdish, Somali, Gujarati, and Punjabi, when notoriously few people have ever read the damn things in English in the first place. Daily Telegraph /// Daily Telegraph

Actually, gov't labor contracts in the U.S. keep the inventory up, too. Like the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's subway contract, where they pay about $29m a yr to keep a second attendant at the rear of each Red Line train, to open and close the doors (a process that's automated on almost all other rapid-transit systems and on MBTA's own Blue Line for the last 10 yrs). Boston Globe

The Golden and District Search and Rescue company, saving the asses of holidaygoers who get in trouble around the ski resort in Golden, British Columbia, pulled out and left the stupid skiiers on their own. That's because one dainty vacationer from Quebec is suing them because they didn't find him fast enough when he and his wife got lost in February. Calgary Sun

Ms. Shifa Patel, 28, a somewhat butch-looking secretary at Britain's Al-Isiah Muslim Girls School, was hounded out of her job by a small group of rabid parents who insisted she is a man. (She always gets robed-and-veiled up at work, but, of course, not on her Facebook page!) She even went to the trouble of getting certification from a gyno, but the parents thought it was faked. Daily Mail

Quirks: Todd Hall was ordered to prison for a year in Arkansas after a judge found fault with his manner of disciplining his 6-yr-old son: habitually biting him, mostly on the toes. And Robert Stahl, 64, was convicted in Muncie, Ind., in the second separate incident of resolving disputes by reaching into men's mouths and yanking out their dentures. Northwest Arkansas News /// Star Press (Muncie)

Readers' Choice: Belgian Kimberly Vlaminck, 18, is raising hell after she fell asleep in the tattooist's chair and woke up with 56 stars on the left side of her face when she said she expected to see only 3. Tattooist Rouslan Toumaniantz said Kimberly wasn't asleep [How easy is it to fall asleep with 56 needles digging into your face?] and knew full well what she wanted, but that when she got home and saw her friends' and family's reaction, she dropped a log. Daily Mail (London)

BBC News interviewed the man with the world's most hopeless job: head of the navy in Somalia. No sailors, no boats, no ability to stop the pirates. Yet optimistic! BBC News

More Sub-Prime Americans

A 27-yr-old man in Mesa, Ariz., planned to take The Only Way Out by rigging a 24-inch sword to his steering wheel, pointed at his chest, and then crashing his car into a brick wall. He's still with us, though. They make air bags stronger than you think these days, and the car swerved off the road, into a swimming pool. East Valley Tribune

Readers' Choice: Thomas Prusik-Parkin, 49, was busted after a six-year run of bravo-type acting performances, starring as his mother, in a wig, appearing at various social agencies around New York City so they would keep sending her gov't checks to her (him) (which she wasn't entitled so, in that she had died). Yr Editor isn't exactly sure which school of acting influenced Thomas here, but he told the arresting officer, "I held my mother when she was dying and breathed in her last breath, so I am my mother." New York Daily News

Eyewitness News

It's tough being a reporter covering women's Mixed Martial Arts 'cause the gals don't think you respect 'em . . that is . . until they show they can choke out a reporter in three seconds. The Sun (London) [link to video]

Meth Capital of America? The Tulsa World settles that argument! Tulsa World [interactive map of all Tulsa meth busts since January 2008]

A celebratory nude rugby match in New Zealand, interrupted by . . of course . . a fully-clothed streaker [sic]. The Guardian (London) [NSFW]

Toledo, Ohio, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who famously suggested dealing with airport noise complaints by encouraging deaf people to move close to the airport, is also a master diplomat, shown here breaking apart fighting teenagers, aka Fatso, Tubby, and Fat Ass. WTOL-TV (Toledo) /// YouTube video

Newsrangers: John Valentine, Dave Bonan, Kathryn Wood, Cindy Denny, John Holsinger, Richard Schneider, Tim Lindvig, Alice Sullivan, Perry Levin, Sandy Pearlman, Peter Swank, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors

Monday, June 15, 2009

News of the Weird / Pro Edition
June 15, 2009 (news from June 6-13)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2009 by Chuck Shepherd

Vadis' Career Prospects Are Dim
India's small, nomadic Vadi tribe trains its toddlers from age 2 to become, er, cobra-charmers. India made that illegal in 1991, but the Vadi are historically good at staying ahead of the game. The secret: constant familiarity, even affection, creating mutual respect. The cobras are not de-fanged (respect!), but the Vadi say there's only been one disrespectful prick, and besides, they feed the cobras a special herb that "neutralizes" the poison [but that statement has not been, y'know, verified by the FDA]. Daily Telegraph (London)

. . . And Another Thing Not Verified by the FDA
"At one of the nation's top trauma hospitals, a nurse circles a patient's bed, humming and waving her arms as if shooing evil spirits. Another woman rubs a quartz bowl with a wand, making tunes that mix with the beeping monitors and hissing respirator keeping the man alive. They are doing Reiki therapy, which claims to heal through invisible energy fields. The anesthesia chief, Dr. Richard Dutton, calls it 'mystical mumbo jumbo.' Still, he [uses it]." An impressionable mind is a terrible thing to waste. Associated Press via USA Today

Great Art! (in fact, too great for the Venice Bienelle)
Belgian Jacques Charlier was kicked out of Venice's renowned avant-garde art pageant, having gone way too far, they say: His work was 100 detailed drawings of the cleverly imagined genitalia of prominent artists, with hints of the identity in each piece. Sydney Morning Herald [NSFW]

Fine Points of the Law (I)
California had the bright idea a few decades ago to empower ordinary citizens to enforce technical/trivial violations of state laws. For example, a lawyer, working with a wheelchair-using plaintiff, sues all eateries with restroom doors that are a tiny bit narrower than state regs require, and of course the lawyer encourages litigation-sparing $ettlement$. Now, Alfred Rava, Esq., has won $510k from the Oakland A's baseball team for a 2004 Mothers Day breast-cancer-awareness promotion because males weren't eligible for the floppy hats given to the first 7500 mothers through the turnstiles. Seriously. If you swear you were one of the first 7500 through the gates that day, you get $50 cash plus other goodies (after Rava took his cut, of course, of about half). ESPN The Magazine

Can't Possibly Be True
Tuvia Stern and his brother sit in New York City's famed jailhouse The Tombs, charged with scam-running, and Tuvia's good at that. He's damn good. He's so bloody good that here's what he pulled off while behind bars: He talked jailers into letting him stage his son's bar mitzvah in a big room in lockup, outside-catered, 50 guests, with NYC "contributing" overtime pay for five guards. Yeah, they had to peel Mayor Bloomberg off the ceiling when he found out. Associated Press via Haaretz

Fine Points of the Law (II)
Former elementary school principal John Stelmack was convicted in Bartow, Fla., of possession of child pornography, but of the pre-Photoshop variety: head shots of little girls actually (not digitally) pasted onto the sexually active torso-photos of adult women. A 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision sorta said that wasn't really "child pornography," but F State officials have this North Korea-like way of ignoring U.S. policy. Tampa Tribune

Like . . Hey . . Bow-Wow, Man . . .
Nestor Waddell's Labrador mix, Jack, nosing around a Seattle park on a walk with his owner, emerged from the bushes in a daze. He had swallowed "a large amount of dried, harvested marijuana," the later report said. According to Waddell, "[Jack's] eyes were kind of glossed over, very out of touch [and] he didn't seem to recognize me at first. When he was trying to walk, he was looking at his paw, and then looking at the ground and then trying to get his paw to touch the ground, but was unsuccessful." Kinda funny, but the vet charged Waddell $1,500 to bring Jack down. KING-TV (Seattle)

The Animal Kingdom, Stylin' and Profilin' Last Week
(1) Reports of those 20-30-ft-long tapeworms inside human bodies are increasing. (2) Male hummingbirds were clocked by a UC-Berkeley researcher jetting at nearly 400 body-lengths per second [If you could do that, you'd run a 100-yd dash in eight one-hundredths of a second]. (3) A police station in Gerihun, Sierra Leone, has been effectively shut down since January after a takeover by 400 snakes. (4) David Blunkett, a member of the British Parliament out for a walk in Derbyshire county, was attacked by a cow. (5) A dive-bombing blackbird "terrorized" San Francisco's business district. (6) Rose Purdy had to summon beekeepers in Ann Arbor, Mich., to get 1,500 bees off of her bicycle. (7) And in a Florida beachside orgy, with paparazzi looking on, nine male manatees had their way with a lone, horny female. Scientific American /// BBC News /// Agence France-Presse via Australian Broadcasting Corp. /// BBC News /// San Jose Mercury News /// Associated Press via WTVG-TV (Toledo, Ohio) /// Palm Beach Post

People With Worse Sex Lives Than You
Three boys from Whittell High School in Zephyr Cove, Nev., walking to school, ran across Dean Mark, 53, who happened to be naked and tied up, on his belly, over a large rock. They asked him if he needed to be untied, and he said no. They went on to school, then came back minutes later to find Mark dressed and walking around the school grounds. He was arrested. Tahoe Daily Tribune

Jury Duty
[In America, you're presumed innocent . . . until the mug shot is released]
Kevin Miller, 41, pleaded not guilty in Xenia, Ohio, to harassing a few people recently by chasing after them, but the question is why anyone, especially women, might feel "harassed" just to see Kevin coming toward them. You be the judge. That's what arrest photos are for. Middletown (Ohio) Journal

Recurring Themes

More Tex-Ass Justice: Aaron Hart, 18, IQ 47, no rap sheet, was caught basically just playing doctor with a 6-yr-old little buddy and got 100 yrs in prison. The judge said he had no choice. The jury said they asked the judge about alternatives to sentencing but got no answer. The neophyte public defender failed to mention Hart's disability to the jury. The prosecutor kept characterizing it as a "violent" felony (because of the age difference, not for any real violence). Dallas Morning News

In Fact, a Lot of Things Happened Again Last Week: (1) People who stand out in public don't make good criminals, like, for instance, this 7-foot-4 burglar. (2) A 26-yr-old British man who lost his ear in a bar fight had it sewn into his abdomen to try to revive it for reattachment. (3) They're "moving" another graveyard that's lying in the way of progress, in Peoria, Ill. (and they believe that digging up the bones carefully, as required by state law, is all that's required to calm the spirits!). Daily Express (London) /// Daily Mail /// Chicago Tribune

More Angst & Confusion from Last Week

It's difficult to put an exact intellectual value on the just-published research by Prof. Kimberly Neuendorf of Cleveland State, whose team went through the first 20 James Bond movies and characterized the 195 female characters to reveal . . y'know . . stuff about them. Daily Telegraph (London)

Dan Davies's small production company is moving right along on location in Omro, Wis., on the full-length, straight-to-DVD Ed Gein: The Musical (Ed being one of America's more hideous, corpse-skinning psychopaths). The Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wis.) via Wausau Daily Herald

In 2006, judge and jury in Florida conclusively determined that William Deparvine murdered Mr. and Mrs. Van Dusen for their vintage pickup truck, and he was sentenced to take the needle, but while he's waiting, he's filed a civil lawsuit to have the truck "returned" to him. Seriously. St. Petersburg Times

Scenes from the economic downturn, in Toronto: A drag queen was "enraged" when a customer tried to bargain him down to $5 (from $60) for a blow job. "I didn't spend two hours getting my makeup on and all dressed up for [five damn dollars]." Toronto Star

Kids in Ball-mer [you know, the largest city in Maryland] are legendary for sticking close to home all their lives, thrilling sociologists in our otherwise wildly-mobile nation. Now, Gregory Glass and his public-health investigators from Johns Hopkins have proved, via DNA, that Ball-mer's rats similarly rarely ever leave the alley they were born in. Show Gregory the DNA, and he'll tell ya whether it's an "East Baltimore" or "West Baltimore" rat. Baltimore Sun

Albania has been unusually slow to sync its voter lists and its death rolls, so much so that 17,000 current "voters" (roughly enough to single-handedly elect two legislators) are between the ages of 90 and 159 (3,300 over age 110). Reuters via Yahoo

Grown-ups at Lanigan Central High in Minot, N.D., came up with this great idea: Since kids would surely be drinking to celebrate the end of the school year, let's have a "safe-drinking" party, where kids could pop a cold one with sober adult supervision. Of course, there have to be rules: (1) written parental permission, (2) only age 15 and up, (3) not more than,er, 10 drinks each. KXMC-TV (Minot)

Last Words: "A million dollars is a lot of money to pay for a whore."—the late multimillionaire French banker Edouard Stern, quoted by girlfriend Cecile Brossard, aka the said "whore," now on trial in Geneva, Switzerland, for immediately then killing him. BBC News

More Sub-Prime Americans

Motorist Zackary Johnson was arrested after flagging down a cop in Athens, Ga., just to ask him whether there were any warrants out on him. (Answer: "Put your hands behind your back . . ..") Athens Banner-Herald

Motorist Jessica Jackson, 29, was arrested in Port Edwards, Wis., for DUI, plus she was talking on the phone while weaving in traffic, plus she was naked below the waist, plus her pants were hanging out the window. Wausau Daily Herald

Readers' Choice: At least twice last week, hospitality management training took hits, as pranksters claiming to be from higher-up (but identities were unverified by the "managers") called outlets (a What-A-Burger in Albuquerque and a Holiday Inn in Conway, Ark.) and somehow convinced the sheep to "test" fire sprinklers, which in both cases resulted in massive flooding, broken windows, and wrecked furniture. KOAT-TV /// The Smoking Gun

Newsrangers: Peter Smagorinsky, Bruce Alter, Henry Bailey, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors

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

Monday, June 01, 2009

News of the Weird / Pro Edition
June 1, 2009 (news from May 23-30)
© 2009 by Chuck Shepherd

Artsiphartsi
Britain's Manchester Museum has hired Mr. Ansuman Biswas as its "hermit in residence" this summer, to live in a tower and blog concerning one object a day from the Museum's stash, musing on its significance (or lack of). For some reason, Ansuman sounds thrilled to be doing this. And the BBC said it was sending Simon Armitage to Afghanistan to embed with troops. Armitage is a, uh, poet (actually, Poet Laureate short-lister). Combat poet. Speaking of poetry, here's this bit of marketing by the Planet Shikoku Rejuvenation Station massage parlor in Eden Prairie, Minn.:
Men are from Mars! / Women are from Venus
We understand that sometimes / It's all about the Penis!
But there's no unhappy endings [sic] here / Because we don't do anything wrong
We will stroke your ego / Not your ding dong!
The Guardian (Ansuman) /// The Guardian (Armitage) /// City Pages (Minneapolis)

Crime Is My Profession
(1) Brandon Hiser, 22, was arrested in Kansas City for trying to break into a bank using a screwdriver. Bonus: It was the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. (2) Ezedrick Jones, 18, was arrested in Memphis for trying to knock off the very KFC from which he had just been fired. Bonus: The manager recognized him through his mask's eye holes and throughout the robbery, addressed him by name. Kansas City Star /// United Press International

Gift Guide
"The most daring accessory you can wear," the mfgr says, available in an assortment of colors and Swarovski crystals: butt-plug bling! (Seriously. Chains hanging out of your sphincter.) CarnalNation.com /// [NSFW] ExtremeRestraints.com

Fine Points of the Law
Pedophile Richard Balsavage, sentenced to 9 to 23 months in jail plus 3 yrs' probation for taking dirty pictures of a 2-yr-old boy, was annoyed that the judge didn't let him explain. The appeals court agreed with him, and a new judge had to listen this time. Result after listening (combined with one count of Balsavage's violating a previous term of release): 24 to 49 years in prison. Reading Eagle

The New District of Calamity
Longtime NOTW-philes recognize the grotesquely dysfunctional city gov't of Washington, D.C., as Yr Editor's "District of Calamity," but D.C. is improving, and it's about time to pass the torch of greatness . . to the Motor City. (1) Detroit announced that crime declined 24% last yr and that 400 fewer people are in jail. But the city is more crime-riddled than ever, say residents and cops interviewed by the Detroit Free Press. The problem, they say, is that cops just flat-ass don't arrest people. Crime victims don't even bother to call the police anymore. (2) City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, usually intense about Detroit's need for revenue, was outed by the Free Press because she owns a house in a 'hood where neighbors pay property tax of $2,000-$6,500 annually, and she pays $68 a yr. Tax Assessor: We thought it was a vacant lot! Watson: All I do is pay the bill that I get. Freep: You never noticed the amount was low? Watson: Oh, that. Well, a tornado damaged my roof once. Nat'l Weather Service: What tornado? Detroit Free Press /// Detroit Free Press

Good to Know
Jennie Noll is a pediatrics professor at the University of Cincinnati, Children's Hospital Medical Center, laboring hard and bringing forth this startling research revelation: If teenage girls present themselves provocatively online, they'll get more online hit-on's than if they present themselves more demurely. Whoa. HealthDay News via Forbes.com

People with Worse Sex Lives Than You
Larry Stephen Moore II, 42, was arrested near Andersonville, Tenn., when police tracked him from a burglary scene to an abandoned farm house and then scared him into jumping from a second-floor window. For some reason, Moore was naked except for a woman's thong. They don't know for how long that night Moore had been wearing only the thong. Knoxville News-Sentinel [Oh, yes, there's a mugshot!]

Jury Duty
[In America, you're presumed innocent . . . until the mug shot is released]
Jacob Burrow, 26, just released from prison, was hanging out at a Denny's in Fresno, Calif., when police arrested him for harassing customers (eating stuff off their plates, etc.) and threatening to poke the manager's eyes out. Guilty? KGPE-TV (Fresno)

Update
Jonathan Lee Riches, hands-down the most prolific nutcase litigant in America (see Wikipedia link), filed a lawsuit against the Guinness Book of World Records because its editors named him the most prolific litigant in America. Of course! Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.) /// Wikipedia

Recurring Theme
Tex-ass Justice: The District Attorney in Dallas announced he was moving to release Jerry Lee Evans, 47, after a DNA test showed Evans wasn't the rapist and that he shouldn't have spent the last 22 yrs in prison. That makes 20 way-innocent people convicted in Dallas County. Dallas Morning News

More Angst & Confusion from Last Week

The fancy Nobu restaurant in London offers a bluefin tuna entree for £32 ($51) but is so environmentally whipped that, right there on the menu, they tell you not to order it ("Bluefin tuna is an environmentally threatened species—please ask your server for an alternative"). Daily Telegraph

Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand's hard sell: Buy a Triton compact truck for your farm . . . get a free goat. Courier-Mail (Brisbane)

The economy's causing so much stress in Japan that salarymen are suffering epic halitosis. Daily Telegraph (London)

The rebel group FARC just completed its 45th yr of unsuccessfully trying to persuade the good people of Colombia that a Castro-style socialist state is best. Hey, hombrecitos, Colombia's just not that into you! BBC News

They're looking for volunteers to go into Maine's North Woods and howl like a wolf, and then write down what happens. (a) If nothing happens, move on to the next location and repeat. (b) If your howl is seductive, and if indeed Eastern gray wolves have returned to the area, there may be a . . situation. Bangor Daily News

Suck it, said (well, basically, said) the governor-general of Canada (supposedly the Queen's official representative) to the European Union, on a ceremonial visit to fishermen in an Inuit community way up in the Arctic. She personally sliced a piece of heart out of a dead seal and ate it. (The EU's ban on seal products takes effect at the end of the year.) The Guardian

Lai Jiansheng's Crisis Help Line: Suiciders favor a certain bridge in Ghangzhou, China (12 attempts in the last 45 days), and each time, traffic crawls for hours while rescue crews try for saves. Mr. "Chen" was the latest man on the ledge, but he couldn't make up his mind. Exasperated motorist Lai Jiansheng ended the suspense by walking up to Chen and pushing him off (but he survived). Agence France-Presse via News.com.au

It's Good To Be A British Prisoner (cont'd): Lisa Healey, serving life for torturing and killing an old man, had a baby behind bars after a 4-yr weekends-only affair she had while on unsupervised day release. Daily Mail

Since April 2006, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has transferred 90,000 inmates between facilities . . . by releasing them, unescorted, with bus tickets and an arrival date at the new lockup. BOP: We save money that way! Greyhound: WTF? BOP Press Office: Every year or so, a reporter discovers this and makes a lot of noise, but we keep doing it anyway. Las Vegas Sun via San Jose Mercury News

Here are a half-dozen al-Qaeda recruits whining to the L.A. Times that they went through hell to get to Pakistan, but when they arrived, the jihadists didn't give 'em any love (e.g., charging 'em $1,200 for their AK-47s and grenades!). It's evidence that unarmed Predator strikes have made the Pakistani mujahadeen seriously anxious and distrustful. "Brothers in arms" . . "Martyrs" . . Oh, that's so-o-o-o 2003! Los Angeles Times

More Sub-Prime Americans

Desmond Hatchett, 29, was in a child-support drama in a Knoxville, Tenn., courtroom (21 kids by 11 women). WLVT-TV (Knoxville)

Good Ol' Boys' Drug Delivery (Winder, Ga.): wireless doorbell on a tree in the yard, bucket lowered from 2nd-story window, money goes up, drugs come back down in the bucket. Associated Press via Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Judge Rules Jurors Too Dumb to Be Jurors: Plaintiff had gone into surgery for a kidney stone and emerged without her arms or legs, but the jury said . . yeah . . so? The judge booted them off and ordered a new trial. WFOR-TV (Miami)

How do these things keep happening, people? (1) His lawnmower flips over, naturally trapping him underneath, naturally catching on fire, killing him. (2) They got run over somehow by the actual car they were driving at the time. (3) He walked away from a car crash but was immediately killed by a train. Associated Press via Philly.com /// Pocono Record /// Santa Monica Daily Press /// Associated Press via Sacramento Bee

Newsrangers: Mary Foo, Daniel Urban, Chris Chiu, Jessica Binns, Rick Matz, Tim McCall, Stephen Taylor, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors