Monday, January 04, 2010

News of the Weird/Pro Edition
"You're Still Not Cynical Enough"

January 4, 2010
Exceptionally Inexplicable Reports from Last Week
(datelines December 26-January 2; links correct as of January 4)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Are We Safe (I)? Are lapses in security inevitable? Some things don't seem to lapse: (1) After a breach, new air passenger restrictions resemble Whack-a-Mole (after the mole has left the building). (2) Transportation Security Administration overdoses Americans with "security theater" (bureaucratic Valium). (3) Israelis wince with embarrassment at our wussiness (with 6 U.S. airliner attacks in 10 years, out of 99 million departures, that's 1:16 million flights). (4) Jihadists smile and study our new rules. (5) TSA gives itself a shout-out (acting chief Gale Rossides, the day before Umar The Nigerian struck: "[W]e are respected internationally for our security work"). The new buzz: TSA still won't inspect scrota, never mind sphincters, which is what it would have taken to detect the guy assigned to blow up a Saudi prince on August 28th and who failed, painfully [NOTW/Pro Edition, 9-14-2009]. ABC News [TSA's self-salute] /// CNN [folly of "security theater"] /// Toronto Star [Israelifying airports] /// [Christopher Hitchens on Americans as sheep] /// [William Saletan on crotch bombs] /// [odds of airborne terror]

Are We Safe (II)? A guy named Dennis Montgomery has allegedly pulled what might be the national security version of a Ponzi scheme on the U.S. government (according to an investigation in the current Playboy). He parlayed his experience in video-compression into scary claims that the Arabic network Al Jazeera was sending jihadists their new target coordinates by burying bar codes in telecasts and that only his proprietary software could reveal them—for the right, fat contract. CIA director George "Slam Dunk" Tenet, among others, slurped it right up, as "credible intelligence," leading to a December 2003 crisis weekend that went nowhere. The thing about U.S. security is that we have more than two dozen intel agencies—and they mostly hate each other. Hence, when the CIA finally exposed Montgomery, he walked down the street and pitched to another (U.S. Air Force, $3 million). We want to believe. (Montgomery, who was once abducted by aliens, has declared bankruptcy over heavy gambling debts and is in major litigation with a former employer over ownership of his magic software.) Playboy

Lonely Men, Understanding Their Limitations: A Japanese otaku nerd decided to take the plunge with his online avatar girlfriend Nene Anegasaki and get hitched. "They" honeymooned in Guam, he in the flesh and she inside his Nintendo, which is capable of hosting such wedding night excitement as games of Paper Rock Scissors. The man declined to give his real name to Reuters "for fear of being misunderstood." And inventor Le Trung, 34, who introduced his custom-made Japanese robot girlfriend Aiko last December, said he has upgraded the gal and this year had her over for Christmas with his parents in Brampton, Ontario. [Le has constructed her to be so intelligent, though, that she has likely ruled out marriage without a prenup.] Reuters via Yahoo News [Dec. 20] /// Daily Mail (London) [Le Trung] /// [Project Aiko]

New Mayhem Genre: Christopher Macquarrie, 25, and Jonathan Fager, 22, were charged in Gainesville, Fla., with wrecking an apartment with a sledge hammer. No, they're not just college-town rednecks; they were creating a "mural" for the new "gallery" into which they were in the process of converting the apartment. A week earlier, in Edinburgh, Scotland, "gifted" artist Kevin Harman was fined £200 for smashing a window at the Collective Gallery and calling that his new art piece. He was said to be deeply insulted that the Gallery labeled it "vandalism." Gainesville Sun /// The Guardian [video!]

Several months ago, a hard-to-believe story surfaced from Uganda in which a farmer had forced his young wife, who was breastfeeding their child, to also regularly breastfeed his farm dogs. (You know how people make up news stories on the Internet.) But London's venerable daily The Independent sent a reporter to Pallisa, Uganda, and working with local officials and activists, the journalist has nailed the story. It really happened, over a period of 7 years. The farmer's reasoning: His dogs needed to eat, and since he had to send two cows to the wife's family to win her hand, he figured the wife owed him. Seriously. (Uganda's incorrigibly patriarchal tribesmen even have their charm, as when local women's activists invited them for a Q-and-A, and a few earnestly sought instruction on how, exactly, a man is supposed to respect his wife.) The Independent

Common-Sense-Challenged Americans

They don't make cops like they used to. Squeamish San Luis Obispo, Calif., sheriff's deputy John Franklin filed a lawsuit against the local Catholic parish, claiming to have been severely traumatized when Father Geronimo Cuevas reached out and touched his genitals while Franklin was working undercover in a park sex sting. (San Luis Obispo)

Nicholas Tretter, 29, was charged with assaulting a man in Minneapolis by, according to prosecutors, running up behind him and stabbing him repeatedly. Tretter told police he did it "to see what it felt like" to stab someone. Star Tribune [with mug shot, totally in harmony with his explanation]

Sure enough, if you tie Christmas trees to cars to carry them home, teenage boys will grab hold of the trees and "surf" them in traffic (This kid got "moderate" head injuries when thrown off). Orange County Register

Spare the Pellet, Spoil the Child: Dad shot his stepson with a pellet gun on Christmas day as, one guesses, a teachable moment to let the kid know it was wrong for him to shoot people. Setting a good example is important to the dad, even though in another life, he's a registered sex offender. /// [mug shots]

Recurring Themes: (1) Sawed-off shotgun tucked into pant leg, rush into convenience store for holdup, yank out gun, shoot self in foot. (2) With pal, break into shop, tie up employees, prepare to steal ATM, realize it weighs 250 pounds, can't lift it, abort. Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald /// Chicago Sun-Times

Angst, Confusion, Crisis

"South Dakota Woman Narrowly Missed Topping U.S. Intoxication Record": She was discovered behind the wheel of a stolen truck, fortunately passed out, with blood sample showing .708 alcohol (U.S. record .720 by an Oregon woman, also behind the wheel, also fortunately comatose).

"Japanese Researchers Develop See-Through Goldfish": Scientists at Mie University and Nagoya University bred translucent genes into light-gilled goldfish, with the benefit that biologists and students don't need to dissect the fish to see their beating hearts and itty-bitty brains. Translucent frogs, developed in 2007, will be offered for public sale this year as pets for about $110 each. Agence France-Presse via Google News

Anglican priest Tim Jones of York, England, got in trouble for his explicit Christmas message to the penniless in his congregation: Please, don't turn to mugging or prostitution, but shoplifting food from the big chain stores is OK (e.g., Chef Boyardee would be a smart choice). A few days later, a stalker dumped a pot of Chef Boyardee spaghetti on him. (Bonus: Here's a giant mold universe found inside a Chef Boyardee can [which, OK, has absolutely nothing to do with the story of Father Jones].) The Guardian //

The Pentagon's War on Disabled Soldiers: A 2008 law was supposed to upgrade coverage for veterans' combat-related disabilities (e.g., explicit coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder and for combat training injuries)—at least that's what Congress apparently intended, but the Pentagon must've considered that too much to keep track of. It has limited the law to (a) future PTSDs only and (b) wounds that occur in actual combat, ignoring many maddening, tear-jerking claims. Washington Times

Below The Fold

"Taking Naked Pictures of Sleeping Teen Not a Crime [says Swedish] Court" (Stockholm) [citing Hallandsposten]

Redneck Security System (Bonus: It worked!): "Beer Can Alarm Gives Away Intruder" Fargo (N.D.) Forum

"South Africans Smoke Vulture Brains for Lotto Luck" [Who knew vultures were so smart?] Agence France-Presse via Google News

Someone With a Worse Sex Life Than You

Colt Heltsley, 20, was turned down by an Ohio appeals court after trying to claim that his "privacy" was invaded when sheriff's deputies staked out a group of porta-potties at the Preble County Fair in 2008, since such "invasion" exposed Heltsley's peeping habit. There were rips in the potties' walls, and Heltsley was the only suspect spotted working the holes. Cincinnati Enquirer [with mug shot!]

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

Is Gregory Oras, 37, of Oldsmar, Fla., guilty? The charge is preposterous, since no one would possibly think to abuse 9-1-1 by calling merely to demand that police drive him to another bar. (Evidence withheld from your view: Gregory's other tattoos, including the word "cannibalism" on his fingers, a dancing skeleton, a naked women, a pumpkin head, a dragonfly, an elephant, the Batman symbol with breasts, a snowman, naked pixies, a squirrel, a two-headed child, and, on his back, the word "doomed"). St. Petersburg Times

More Things To Worry About

"Traditional Marriage": Israel's Rabbinical Court Administration announced it had granted a man divorce number 11 (next-most: 7). (Bonus: He says he's back on the market, gals! "I send out a hook in all directions, and the fish come on their own.") BBC News

A shopping center in Shijiazhuang, China, opened a women-only parking lot, with spaces 3 feet wider than normal and female attendants to "assist" lady drivers. A center representative told Agence France-Presse that women have a "different sense of distance." (Bonus: A German academic has just concluded that men's superior "spatial coordination" makes them "5%" better at parallel parking than women. The feminist icon Germaine Greer was said to have called the study "pointless" but wanted to remind everyone that "women also have bosoms which makes it very difficult to turn around.") Daily Telegraph (London) [citing Agence France-Presse] /// Daily Mail (London) [Dec. 21]

Another Thing That Doesn't Work in New Orleans: the city-owned Holt Cemetery, where a relative brought WWL-TV out to show that a grave Holt dug was so shallow that part of her sister's body was sticking up through the dirt. (The casket top had caved in, but that's another story.) WWL-TV [with video]

And For Further Review . . .

Intelligent Design: As with all copulating species, female Muscovy ducks battle male Muscovy ducks over who controls fertilization. Patricia Brennan of Yale, writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, found that the female Muscovy avoids forced sex by having evolved a clockwise-spiraled corkscrew vagina that foils male intruders (but relaxing it a bit for preferred mates, so that they don't get stuck in vaginal "cul-de-sacs"). The real story, though, is the exacting research design, with high-speed video and mock-up glass tubing of the respective organs. Clearly Brennan enjoys her work. /// Not Rocket Science blog [with Safe-for-Work videos]

Newsrangers: Peter Hine, Lance Ellisor, Sam Gaines, Perry Levin, Peter Smagorinsky, and Dan McGauley, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors