Tuesday, April 27, 2010

[NOTE: For those of you who have signed up for the Google Group chucksweeklyintel, whose very first mailing was this morning, and who didn't get it as of 9:30 a.m. New York time, and are checking this page to see if the issue has been done yet . . the answer is that, yes, it's been done (see below) and mailed out BUT . . it's long, and I know it triggered my gmail spam filter and thus may have triggered other platforms' spam filters. If it didn't come to your Inbox, please visit your platform's spam box for the Google Group mailing of today. If I knew how to make the post dance around the filter, I would, but I don't. Maybe you know and can help me? Or, maybe no one has a spam issue at all, and I'm jumping to conclusions. Anyway, thank you for your support, and don't text while driving.]
Chuck Shepherd's
Weekly Intelligence Briefing

April 26, 2010
(datelines April 17-April 24) (links correct as of April 26)
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

I obsess over news, approximately the way a cat lady obsesses over cats. I read my ass off to feed my weekly syndicated News of the Weird and my weekly online-syndicated News of the Weird / Pro Edition, which contain the cream of underreported gems of the absurd and the ironic. I figure, if you knew what I know, you'll be more interesting, less naive, more intellectually and sexually appealing, and a better citizen of 21st century Earth. So here's your Briefing on what I learned last week. You're welcome. Copyright 2010 by Chuck Shepherd.


Are there any people more fatuous than parents who "unschool" their kids (as opposed to home-schooling, in which parents genuinely believe they can "lesson-plan" better than teachers can)? ABC's Good Morning America brought in a Massachusetts couple who took turns condescendingly telling other parents that they should "trust [the] kids," that kids need no structure, no rules–that they'll surely learn on their own everything that's important to them. Just what society needs: even more kids growing up to think they're the center of the universe. ABC News

Fabulous Concierge Service: Britain's Rodney Morgan family, intending to drop major dollars for a stay at the 5-star Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla., wanted assurance that he and his party would not be served by "people of colour" or people with "foreign accents." (Bonus: According to this lawsuit, the Ritz said, Yes, of course! Will do!) The Times (London)

Democrat Gregg Kravitz, running for a Pennsylvania state legislative seat, was sexually "outed" by his primary opponent, who accused Kravitz of being straight, and in the 182nd district, being straight is a liability. Kravitz said he's "bi," which set off a cacaphony of gaydar detectors. (And the organization sponsoring the Gay Softball World Series disqualified a team called "D2," which finished second in 2008, because it violated the maximum-ringers rule. A team can have only two straights, not two straights and a bi. That team needs to go find a Bi Softball World Series.) Philadelphia Inquirer /// Seattle Times

Will today (Monday) pass without a major earthquake? The week before last, a senior Iranian cleric blamed the 'quakes in Haiti and Chile, among others, on the creeping Western fashion sense of Muslim women. Jennifer McCreight then launched a Facebook page, seeking commitments from women worldwide to don their best cleavageware outfits on Monday, April 26th, to empirically test the cleric's theory. [UPDATE: Assuming that Jennifer recruited successfully . . it looks like the cleric called it. Muslim pro tennis star Sania Mirza ought to be playing the tour this year in a burqa. Yikes.] News.com.au /// Agence France-Presse via Courier Mail (Brisbane) /// Reuters /// Sania Mirza

Testifying for a Georgia bill to ban unconsensual microchip-implanting in humans was a very helpful citizen complaining about her own plight. "Just imagine, if you will, having a beeper in your rectum or genital area . . . and your beeper numbers displayed on billboards throughout the city." (By this time, the bill's supporters in the room are averting their eyes, staring at the crown molding, imagining the Georgia Bulldogs' 2010 prospects.) "This microchip was put in my vaginal-rectum area . . . by researchers with the . . . Department of Defense." Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The too-big-for-his-britches former state Republican Party chairman in Florida, Jim Greer, was outed by a fellow GOP official for ordering an assistant to walk into a Republican National Committee meeting every few minutes with urgent messages from Gov. Crist. Turns out the messages were just blank pieces of paper. (It's important to look important.). Orlando Sentinel


So the way to hide your baggied-up supply of marijuana that you're afraid they'll find when the ambulance delivers you to the hospital . . is to cram it into the mouth of your 7-month-old. (The tot started choking.) The Gazette (Waterloo, Iowa)

Cops caught the pharmacy burglar Jacob Collins making off with a stash of Oxy, but they think he meant to steal "Oxycontin" and not the "Oxybutynin" he actually took [ed.: It's for "overactive bladder," but maybe Jacob has a problem like Sean Almond has. Sean robbed the Kangaroo Mart in Suffolk, Va., but had to delay his getaway by stopping off behind the store to take a leak.] Press of Atlantic City /// Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)

AWI: Middletown, Ohio, police, checking out a domestic disturbance, found a man bleeding from the ear and his wife lying in bed with a parrot standing on her face. Reported the Dayton Daily News, she was "unable to remove the bird from her face." Dayton Daily News

Ridiculous . . or Ingenious? Thomas Hovis Jr., 52, fleeing deputies in Albion, Ind., thought he had found a nifty hiding place where they'd never think of looking. He was wrong. They found Hovis standing neck-deep in a manure pit in the outbuilding of a farm. WANE-TV (Fort Wayne)

The Aristocrats! (1) Alfred Needham, 50, was arrested for allegedly running over the boyfriend of a woman who was riding with Needham. The boyfriend had come to his gal's defense after Needham and the woman traded punches in a fight over which of the two had worse B.O. (2) In Crestview, Fla., a 44-year-old man was charged with assault on his girlfriend (i.e., In a fight, he "sealed off one nostril and [blew] the contents of the other nostril all over her"). WBZ-TV (Boston) /// Northwest Florida Daily News

So, are you a Target shopper or a Wal-Mart shopper? Sean McClendon, 33, was arrested at an Oklahoma City Target after he pursued a woman around the store, exposed his buttocks, and shook 'em for her. And Christina Cifaldi, 22, peed on the fashions she took into a changing room at a Wal-Mart in Cape Coral, Fla. Police are not really sure what Sean had in mind, but they have no clue at all about Christina. The Oklahoman /// News-Press (Fort Myers)

The Pervo-American Community: (1) Andrew Wildman, 28, became a former civics teacher at Cedar Cliff High School, Camp Hill, Pa., after at least eight students reported that he generously gave extra credit for things like getting girls to lick the chalk dust off his fingers. (2) Daniel DuPuis, also 28, is an elementary and middle-school music teacher who admitted to at least five instances of masturbating into the trash can in his classroom. A janitor reported him because the trash can "smelled like semen." Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pa.) /// Holland Sentinel (Holland, Mich.)

Presumed Innocent . . Until the Mug Shot Was Released: Steven Ferrini, 60, doesn't look like the kind of guy who would drive around wearing a vibrating butt plug, with the control switch wired to his pants pocket. Or does he? Tahoe Daily Tribune (South Lake Tahoe, Calif.) /// The Smoking Gun

But Erica Dillon, 31, looks capable of anything you can think of. The charge is sexual assault on a 14-year-old boy, and if the kid didn't know before this that guys should always carry around an emergency paper bag, he knows now. Philadelphia Inquirer

Strange World

If you are a man thinking of applying to the police force in the Indonesian province of Papua, better not have had enlargement procedures for your you-know-what. (The unnatural size causes "hindrance during training," said a spokesman.) However, it's Indonesia, so they're probably more concerned with the not-empirically-tested enlargement technique of "wrapping the penis with leaves from the 'gatal-gatal' tree so that it swells up 'like it has been stung by a bee,'" according to a local expert. Reuters via MSNBC

Hugo Chavez's 2nd-favorite South American president (after himself), Bolivia's Evo Morales, has warned countrymen that eating "European food" will make them bald and that munching on chicken (because farmers feed them female hormones) will turn macho males into girly men. (Also not empirically tested: whether, if farmers switch to male hormones, chicken will turn gay men straight.) Agence France-Presse via Australian Broadcasting Corp.

There's an active surfing community (n=about 40) in Gaza. The waves aren't as high as Huntington Beach's, but the surfers must expertly navigate the patches of untreated sewage flushed into the Mediterranean. (Bonus: A Jewish U.S. surf enthusiast, sympathizing with the Palestinians' lack of equipment, tried to donate 15 surfboards in person, but Israeli border guards said GTFO.) BBC News

Coal? Nuclear? Windmills? William Taylor in Northern Ireland said he can provide 6 percent of the world's power needs . . if only farmers would buy his treadmills for cows. (Seriously.) Popular Science via Inhabitat.com/

If life gives you lemons . . .. In the midst of the biggest locust swarm in 30 years in the Australian state of Victoria, a café in Mildura began offering "locust" as a pizza topping. [ed.: Would you prefer anchovies? OK, then . . ..] Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Philippine president Gloria Arroyo named a new head of the agency that finances housing for government employees–her personal manicurist, Anita Carpon (but she's a really good manicurist!). Agence France-Presse via Google News

That's Messed Up

Wozniak and those guys in the 1970s and 1980s did it all wrong. The better way, according to a University of Michigan researcher, is to design supercomputers based on the way a cat's brain works, which engineer Wei Lu says is "83" times faster than a computer. [ed.: I demand a recalculation! Not of the "83." Of the "1." I think it's actually "0."] New York Daily News

Kayla Gerdes, 18, high on painkillers, careened off the road and through a yard, killing the 69-year-old homeowner. When Gerdes came down from her high, she was suitably remorseful, except: "The thing that made me feel not so bad was [that] she was old. I mean, 70 years is a long time to live." Associated Press via WINS Radio (New York City)

Felony Gardening: Attorney Sandra McFeeley, 67, said she was just trying to beautify some vegetation in Dallas's Wynnewood Parkway Park, but the city has a harsh get-off-our-lawn policy. Conservationists backed the city, lauding the wild, unkempt flora. Since McFeeley wouldn't stop, she was arrested. "I met some neat people [in jail]," she said. "I'd never been in a perp walk before. It was cool." Dallas Morning News

Speaking of gardening, the recently retired bad boy of sumo, Asashoryu, announced that he has a new passion and will show it off in May at Britain's biggest flower show. He and partner Kazuyuki Ishihara will present an arrangement. Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News

Paula Wolf, 41, was finally identified and detained as the person wreaking havoc in Stevens Point, Wis., with her blowgun. According to the Associated Press, she told a cop that she shot strangers on the street just because she "liked to hear people say ouch." Wausau Daily Herald

Sounds Like a Joke: Ricardo West, 22, who performs as a Michael Jackson impersonator, was arrested in Allen Park, Mich., and charged with 12 counts of sexual abuse of an 11-year-old boy. WXYZ-TV (Detroit)

Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, describing her ongoing bout with Morgellons disease: "Fibers in a variety of colors protrude out of my skin like mushrooms after a rainstorm; they cannot be forensically identified as animal, vegetable, or mineral. Morgellons is a slow, unpredictable killer–a terrorist disease: It will blow up one of your organs, leaving you in bed for a year." Los Angeles Times /// Wikipedia

The long arm of British law came down on Paul (I'm a "complete twit") Hutton, 40, who was stopped for DUI while "driving" an electric "Barbie car," marketed to toddlers and whose max speed is about 4. (He is taking a car repair course, and was fixing the Barbie as a project, and after he finished, he decided to take it out for a spin.) Daily Telegraph

Updates & Recurring Themes

OK, the bureaucrats at the Securities and Exchange Commission spend all day surfing pornography websites, just like the bureaucrats at the National Science Foundation, who were busted last year. The SEC-ers' diversions might be worse, considering that if they hadn't been so horny, they might have noticed that adjustable-rate mortgages were about to blow up AIG and Wash Mutual, among others. (On the other hand, the SEC investigation hasn't yet produced as delicious a defense as the one from the NSF official who said he signed up for overseas Internet porn because he wanted to help poor, vulnerable girls in female-oppressive cultures to put food on the table. ABC News /// NOTW M141 (12-20-2009)

Weird 2.0

"To see what is in front of one's nose requires a constant struggle"—George Orwell
"A little learning is a dangerous thing"—Alexander Pope
"Nero Fiddles While Rome Burns"—Rome Daily Inquirer, 7-18-64A.D.

New York City's Mayor Bloomberg: Y'all wealthy New Yorkers shouldn't be trying so hard to shelter your taxes because our budget deficit is hurting us. Oh, my use of offshore tax shelters? That's different. New York Observer

It looks like the Seattle Police Department hides inconvenient evidence and is not above doctoring the evidence they admit to having. The cops' big mistake was not recognizing that among the group of semi-inebriated foamball golfers disturbing the peace was a security guru who, now properly motivated, would eventually discover secret files and clumsy police attempts to delete parts of a video. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

East Timor has a lot in common with U.S. conspiracists. There, they're frightened of "ninjas"–the embodiment of the imaginary menaces stalking the country. Here, it's the Kenyan-born, one-world socialist who probably helped carry the explosives into the World Trade Center on September 10th. Time

Breast cancer gets no break in WellPoint health insurance policies–even though its CEO has a pair, herself. Just as Assurant Health (formerly Fortis) was revealed to be targeting HIV treatments as Step One in a road to reneging on insurance policies (known as "rescission"), WellPoint apparently targets breast cancer treatments. When WellPoint's (and Assurant's [NOTW/Pro (Weird 2.0), 3-23-2010]) algorithms find a new diagnosis, an emergency package of magnifying glasses drops down from the ceiling, and company goons begin perusing the policies for any undotted i's and uncrossed t's that will justify canceling the policies. Reuters

Based on federal indictments of mobsters in New Jersey, several things are apparent: (1) The glass ceiling to Gambino family upper management has been shattered. All hail Suzanne Porcelli, 43. (2) The Gambino family's farm system was weak, because ever since the experienced capos and lieutenants got sent to the slammer, bad decisions have been made. (3) Among the poor decisions was getting the Gambino family into child prostitution–which everyone knows was way beneath the dignity of the most vicious of dons, who famously kept hands off of women and children. CNN

A local conservation group in the Washington, D.C., area estimates that as many as 80 percent of male bass fish in the region now produce eggs. Most likely reason: discarded female-hormone-containing products, getting into the waterways. (Bonus: Evo Morales has got it goin' on, after all.). The Guardian (London)

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is way too small to regulate what it has responsibility for, so Congress gave it authority to let large manufacturers apply to be licensed to perform safety tests on their own products (whereas, without such approval, a manufacturer has to pay an independent lab to test them). Mattel has obtained two such waivers, for company labs overseas. (Smaller manufacturers can't possibly qualify for them because the tests are so expensive.) Mattel thinks that provision in the law is a real hoot–so much so that it spent $1.5 million lobbying Congress for it. That $1.5 million is less than the civil penalty Mattel had to pay recently for violating the ban on lead paint in its toys. Associated Press via Star Tribune

Courtroom testimony by "expert witnesses" is such a charade [ed.: I guess "kabuki theater" is the current in-vogue metaphor]. Carlos Simon-Timmerman was looking at 20 years in the Big House for bringing a "child porn" DVD into Puerto Rico from a trip to Venezuela. The girl was a teenager, and how do they know she was underage? The border agents in San Juan said they thought she was under 18, and prosecutors found an "expert witness" who said, yep, underage. Remember: Each element of a crime must be proven "beyond reasonable doubt." Luckily, the star of the video, Ms. Lupe Fuentes, agreed to fly to Puerto Rico at her own expense to testify that, while she looks young, she was 19 when she made that damned video. One of life's delicious slam-dunk moments. New York Post

In honor of Earth Day, a Kansas City Star reporter did a walk-through of a local park with an environmental planner to see how long the trash is expected to linger on the planet. That cardboard hot-coffee sleeve will disintegrate in 3 to 6 months. That plastic water bottle, 450 years. That aluminum Coca-Cola can, 80 to 500. Happy Earth Day. Kansas City Star

Now comes Tornello Fontaine Pierce El-Bey, 43, suing Greensboro, N.C., because a cop dared to cite him for an expired license plate. Turns out El-Bay is a member of the Washitaw Empire, with about 200 hard-core members, based in Louisiana, and as such, he says he's exempt from everything (and besides, various prosecutors say, the Empire is involved in multiple illegal schemes.) (Bonus: And El-Bay is another one of those people who believes he's due damages for copyright breach every time anyone writes down his name without permission.) Greensboro News & Record

On a lighter, more inspirational note, all you readers who ignore pro golf ought to be aware that British golfer Brian Davis a week ago yesterday disqualified himself from a playoff for a big tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., when he violated a technical rule by nicking some vegetation while playing a shot out of the rough. Winning that playoff would have been his first tour victory, and would have been worth $1 million, but he took himself down. The thing is, perhaps not a single person would have noticed his slight brushing against a reed on his backswing. The Times (London)

And For Further Review . . .

If you're thinking of opening a bar, think mainstream design. Otherwise, you might hire an architect like the Dutch artist Atelier Van Lieshout, who gave us BarRectum, a long and winding rendition of the human digestive system, with the "tongue" at one end and the "sphincter" at the other. It is/was open for business outside a Vienna museum. Problem: Most patrons have to sit in the "rectum" area. Problem: The emergency exit is the poop chute. [ed.: Authentication Alert: This might have been opened in 2005, or maybe just recently. They need a real reporter on this; I'm not that.] BoingBoing.net/

Editor's Notes

Editor's Current Neuroses: (1) I love to give credit to readers who tip me to stories, but I get so many e-mail tips that it's difficult to keep up sometimes. Sorry. (2) I have this thing about not crediting your "identity." I'll only write down something that looks to me like a good-faith first name and last name. You could squeeze a fake name past me, but I'm not thanking your cute fake name. Sorry again. (3) I really intend Editor's Notes to have some substance to them, but I'm slow building up to that. It'll get better, but maybe only slowly. Sorry again.


Dale Ireland, Gerald Sacks, Adam Stein, Bruce Leiserowitz, Jon Doughtie, Sandy Pearlman, Peter Swank, Hal Dunham, Steve Dunn, Rahima Schwenkbeck, Rob Snyder, Sarah Stephens, Michael Bellesiles, Peter Hine, Beth Biggs, Andrew Davis, Kathryn Wood, Neb Rodgers, and Debra Taylor, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chuck Shepherd's
Weekly Intelligence Briefing

April 19, 2010
(datelines April 10-April 17) (links correct as of April 19)
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

News is to me what cats are to cat ladies. I read my ass off, through the fog, to feed my weekly syndicated News of the Weird and my weekly online-syndicated News of the Weird / Pro Edition (the cream of underreported gems of the absurd and the ironic). This is what I learned last week. Read it, and you'll know what I know–and it won't take you all week to get there, as it did me. Copyright 2010 by Chuck Shepherd.


Federal agents uncovered an elaborate bestiality ring (involving horses) in Washington state. (Say what? No, that one in 2005 was a different elaborate bestiality ring [involving horses] in Washington state. That was in Enumclaw. This is near Bellingham.) KING-TV (Seattle) /// Seattle Times [2005]

A 34-year-old woman was convicted in Nevada of forcing a 13-year-old boy to fondle her breasts. She was sentenced to life in prison. (Seriously.) (She might've gotten less if she'd just killed him.) Elko Daily Free Press

"Babies with three [biological] parents may be key to preventing genetic disorders." Three, biological. Britain's Newcastle University is on the case. The Times

A large crucifix hanging in a Catholic church in Oklahoma shows Jesus with either extremely well- and oddly-defined abs, or a penis growing out of his belly. One or the other. The Oklahoman

The great, great California town of Bolinas ("We don't exist, so stay away." "Bolinas? Never heard of it." "Get off all our lawns." "Leave us the hell alone.") is back in the news because one of the town's 580 water meters has become available, and if you have a water meter, you can stay. Estimated auction price: $300,000. New York Times

I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you; I want you to get the monthly Supplemental Security Income payments you deserve for your disabled 3-year-old son. (Well, gee, thanks!) The very next month, though, Medicaid dropped Mom's upcoming bone marrow surgery for her cancer because that new SSI check put her just barely over the qualifying-income line. (Update: She's back in the queue.) WFOR-TV (Miami)

Awesome: Tactile Minds, a "magazine" consisting of 17 raised, (allegedly-) erotic images of naked men and women . . for the blind. (Heartwarming But Ridiculous: A blind journalism student in Canada said her class in photo-journalism is "not as hard as I thought it would be.") Daily Telegraph (London) /// The Record (Kitchener, Ontario)

Fine Points of the Law: U.S. Army soldier was convicted of murders by a North Carolina court in 1986 and sentenced to die, but appealed, and on retrial, was acquitted. Home free! Except that the Army called him back into service, and they tried him for the murders (exception to "double jeopardy"), and once again, he's sentenced to die. Associated Press via Washington Post

Carleton University researchers, studying caterpillars, found several very useful functions for the 'pillars' habit of purposely dragging their butts along the ground. In case you thought they were just being lazy. New Scientist

Immortal Words: "The whole building is about to collapse anytime now. . . . Only potential survivor, the fabulous Fab . . . standing in the middle of all these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades he created . . .." (from an e-mail by Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre, cited by the Securities and Exchange Commission in its landmark civil fraud lawsuit against Goldman filed Friday). (By the way, Fab might like to hear any advice you have on alternative careers for him.) Wall Street Journal


Old scenario, New explanation: A probable burglar, stuck in a vent at a convenience store until it opened next morning, told cops he was not burglar-ing but merely playing hide-and-seek with his buddies, and evidently he won because they all quit and went home and left him there. News Journal (Wilmington, Del.)

Six women testified that a Pittsburgh judge stalked them, but the judge's lawyer explained that the man is 51 years old, "socially inept," hasn't dated in many years, and "doesn't pick up on social cues," i.e., "Never in a million years" equals "She's hot for me." Associated Press via WPMT-TV (Harrisburg)

Mayor Patti Galle of West Linn, Ore., ran as someone "degreed in English," so when the state started investigating her record, she quickly, cheerfully bought a degree online and had the folks backdate it to 1973. Problem solved, right? The Oregonian

Surveillance video showed the burglar breaking in, then (when he heard sirens) trying to climb out through the ceiling, then falling through to the floor, then climbing up again, then crashing down again, then climbing up again, then hitting the floor once again . . and three more unsuccessful tries . . 0-for-6 in all. KOTV (Tulsa)

It's clear to police in New Hampshire that Michael Mowry and Jethra Guzman did those four residential burglaries across the border in Berwick, Maine . . because they were wearing their New Hampshire ankle monitors the whole time. Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.)

Once again, "beer" plus "Philadelphia spectator" equals "trouble." For revenge against the man whose complaint got his buddy ejected from the stadium, Matthew Clemens, 21, allegedly projectile-hurled onto the man's 11-year-old daughter. (Bonus: The "man" is a police captain.) Philadelphia Inquirer

Presumed Innocent . . Until the Mug Shot Was Released: Michael "He Said/She Said" McLachlan 35, might be guilty of sexual assault of a 5-year-old, but on the other hand, as he said, she could have been the aggress– . . . nah . . . nah, forget it. Ocala Star-Banner

Strange World

A new leech species was found in Peru, notable because it has fangs and prefers to hang out in your nose. (Bonus: notable also for its "extremely small genitalia") Discovery Channel via MSNBC

That Sacred Institution: "Woman killed by son-in-law who had previously been her husband." "A British woman whose husband and son were executed by Saddam Hussein was battered to death by the man she remarried but had later become her son-in-law . . .." Daily Telegraph (London)

Progress in Saudi Arabia: Soon, very soon, female Saudi lawyers will be able to walk into court by themselves. (Until the law takes effect, though, they must continue to be accompanied by a male so that he can vouch for the woman's identity.) WomensENews.org

Fine Points of British Law: If you accidentally overpay your taxes, you won't necessarily get the money back because the Revenue & Customs office is authorized to penalize you, and a handy, easy-to-calculate penalty amount would be whatever it is you overpaid by. Daily Telegraph

Primark, a popular UK discount chain, quickly pulled the padded bikini bras off the shelves . . because they were designed for 7-year-olds. Associated Press via Herald Sun (Melbourne)

Farm worker Mick Wilary, the clumsiest man in Great Britain, got hurt again. Both legs were crushed under a JCB excavator. (Previously: Broken ankles, broken ankles [again], cracked ribs, a cut-off finger, stab wounds, split-open head, broken collar bone, broken fingers) Daily Telegraph

It's So Funny is the translated title of a "comedy" TV show in North Korea. Last week: "extolled the virtue of beans, while avoiding any flatulence humor." "If we soldiers see beans, we become happy." Commented a defector: "They are still talking about beans," as they were when I left 20 years ago. Reuters via Washington Post

Chocolatier Nadia Ellingham, of Edinburgh, Scotland, creates . . haggis-flavored chocolates. [ed.: No, I don't know why anyone would do that] BBC News

Much more practical: A Japanese firm introduces portable hand-held noise machines especially for use in the bathroom, to mask the sounds of elimination. Weird Asia News [no, no–some of their stories are authentic!]

That's Messed Up

A Church of Sweden pastor, doing his duty by working a nighttime suicide hotline, got caught dozing off while "listening to" the distraught caller. The Local (Stockholm)

The local housing association in Oxford, England, showing stepped-up budget concern, told the 70-year-old tenant he should pay some extra rent forward, just in case, y'know. Oxford Mail

A third-grade teacher in Auburn, N.Y., was busted for making some of his pupils buy him lunch every day in exchange for giving them extra time on the class computers. (He said the lunches were "loans," but cops say he never paid any back.) WSYR-TV (Syracuse)

Quite a "misunderstanding": Another third-grade teacher (in Maple Shade Township, N.J.) misconstrued a mandate for all students to "participate" in Women's History Month, turning it into a requirement that everyone–boys included–dress in women's fashion period pieces. Fox News

Scott Schaper of Olathe, Kan., lives a charmed life. He cussed a cop over a traffic ticket, then gave him the finger . . and now, for that, the city's giving him $4,000 (thanks to an ACLU lawsuit claiming that the finger is protected speech). KHSB-TV (Kansas City)

The Age (Melbourne, Australia), reporting on new technology shaping the breast-implant business, dropped this little historical tidbit: The first guinea pig in the 1960s for whether silicone breast implants were safe was . . a dog . . Esmerelda. (Seriously, I guess.) The Age

Your Moment of Zen/WTF/No Way in Hell: "Career Problems. Mental Health Problems. Life Problems." "I am a Certified Life Coach in Ashburn, Virginia. I specialize in career assessment, attention deficit disorder, pervasive developmental disorders, mood disorders and substance abuse disorders. I work with these problems every day in my practice." www.Jayson-Blair.com/ /// Wikipedia

Updates & Recurring Themes

Election of another dead man, this one as mayor of Tracy City, Tenn. That's a pretty serious rebuke of Barbara Brock, the incumbent. Chattanooga Times Free Press

Another kinky, probably accidental bondage death: designer Alejandro Bulaevsky, 26, wearing knee-length black latex suit and gas mask and handcuffed from behind. New York Post

Three terror-invoking words, once again: "unlicensed dental practice." Falls Church, Va. Entrance to a basement office through the door hidden behind a refrigerator. Did a root canal. Falls Church News-Press

There is such a thing as Foreign Accent Syndrome, where trauma to the brain causes one to mysteriously filter all speech through an accent, even if you've never used that accent before. But there isn't really such a thing as that Croatian teenager waking up from a coma speaking fluent German, which she didn't know before she went under. Pants on fire. Daily Telegraph (London) /// Foreign Accent Syndrome [Wikipedia]

Updates: (1) New York City and the teachers' union reached agreement to close the "rubber rooms," where suspended teachers report for "duty" every day, at full pay and benefits, and just sit. (2) Renova, the upscale Portuguese toilet-paper maker, is back with "mood" TP, in several fluorescent colors, for people who do their business with flair. (3) They laughed when South African activist Sonnet Ehlers (maybe "Sonette") introduced her solution to the country's runaway epidemic of rape, but her now-classic latex vise shield is doing big business. New York Times /// NOTW M156 [4-4-2010] /// CharlesandMarie.com /// NOTW 939 [2-5-2006] /// Global Post /// NOTW 908 [7-3-2005]

Weird 2.0

"To see what is in front of one's nose requires a constant struggle"—George Orwell
"A little learning is a dangerous thing"—Alexander Pope
"Nero Fiddles While Rome Burns"—Rome Daily Inquirer, 7-18-64A.D.

California budget cuts are crimping the styles of LAPD detectives. With overtime out even on murder investigations, Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson likely has to break off interrogation Thursday at 5 p.m. and just have everybody come back Monday morning. Associated Press via San Diego Union-Tribune

AlterNet.org figured out that, based on 2009 earnings, the incomes of the top 25 hedge fund managers could pay for 680,000 entry-level schoolteachers (serving 13,000,000 students). AlterNet

Embarrassing: It is possible, concluded the Congressional Research Service, that the wording of the new health care law has inadvertently kicked Senators, Representatives, and Congressional staff of their precious Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Actually, CRS isn't sure. But then, neither are the drafters of the law. New York Times

Australia's Daily Telegraph reported that "security" at the airport in Dubbo, N.S.W., includes a key-punch lock at the general aviation entrance, but if you forget the access code, don't worry about it because it's taped to the keypad. Daily Telegraph [with photo]

The Securities and Exchange Commission's New York office took major heat for failing to look even a little bit more closely at Bernard Madoff when suspicions first surfaced in the 1990s. Now the SEC inspector general said the Fort Worth office had a similar see-no-evil approach toward Ponzi-ist Allen Stanford as far back as 1997. Miami Herald

Recently-arrived Italian military trainers in Afghanistan reported that the U.S. contractors who preceded them somehow had not gotten around to informing the Afghans that AK-47 and M-16 sights are adjustable. (Remember the reports on how terrible the marksmanship was of Afghan soldiers?) McClatchy News Service

A rural county in southwestern Mississippi, not known for producing rocket scientists, actually figured out how to end-run Brown v. Board of Education (1954), a "solution" that has eluded some of our finest segregationist minds for decades. But the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is on the case. Washington Post

In Indiana, the Poor Man's version of the synthetic collateralized debt obligation: a life insurance policy whose beneficiary doesn't really care if the insured lives or dies. She "accidentally" drowned in a bathtub (but she was a shower-only woman), and the last person to see her alive was the young man who had bought a $15 million policy on her (and who had started paperwork to buy $24 million more). So the question is presented . . why would any insurance company write such a big policy for a guy so dubiously "connected" to the insured? I got three letters for ya . . A, I, and G. Wall Street Journal /// Wall Street Journal [follow-up]

And For Further Review . . .

From time to time, London's Daily Mail dusts off its file photos from Safari World outside Bangkok, where the orangutans engage in mixed martial arts matches (actually, "exhibitions"; the "matches" are fixed). (Bonus: A ring girl–well, an orangutan in a bikini–holds up the card with the round number on it.) [ed.: If you laughed at these photos, or even smiled, or even nodded approvingly, and certainly if you forwarded the story, your IP address will be reported to me, and I will cancel your NOTW privileges, with absolutely no refund!] Daily Mail

Editor's Notes

It's depressing how many websites and blogs, and especially the quasi-news-organization websites and blogs, uncritically ran "news" last week that poor Amanda Flowers had come down with Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome from an off-label use of her Wii Fit board. The secondary originator, ANI (based in India), runs a lot of legitimate news, and the same is true of the primary originator, the UK's Daily Star. But the report is just not structured like a "news" story. In my gig, stuff works only because people actually did these things. ANI via Yahoo India


Larry Seltzer, Sandy Pearlman, Hal Dunham, Chaz Johnson, Peter Hine, Bruce Leiserowitz, Gerald Sacks, Brian Cunningham, and Pierre Langenegger, and the News of the Weird Senior Advisors (Jenny T. Beatty, Paul Di Filippo, Ginger Katz, Joe Littrell, Matt Mirapaul, Paul Music, Karl Olson, and Jim Sweeney) and Board of Editorial Advisors (Tom Barker, Paul Blumstein, Harry Farkas, Sam Gaines, Herb Jue, Emory Kimbrough, Scott Langill, Steve Miller, Mark Neunder, Bob Pert, Larry Ellis Reed, Stephen Taylor, Bruce Townley, and Jerry Whittle).
Chuck Finally Addresses His Mismanagement of His Google Groups Empire!

Republicans, Democrats Bi-Partisan (All Agree That Chuck's Deskwork Sucks)

THE F STATE, April 20 — Chuck Shepherd has finally figured out how to eliminate errors and redundancies and errors in his various Google Group mailings, so Listen Up!

There are now three Groups. (Any others have been eliminated, as a result of an 18-month study-commission finding.) Most of you are already signed up for what you want. But if you're not signed up, you must–if you wish to follow Chuck's work–sign up for one, or two (No one needs all three, as will be explained). (Oh, some of you could also read his "News of the Weird" column in what they call a "newspaper," but if you still read "newspapers," you probably don't own a computer, so . . ..)

Group One: sends out on Sundays the weekly syndicated News of the Weird column that's now in its 23rd year (and next Sunday's, on April 25th, will be its 1,159th consecutive issue). That Google Group is known as NewsoftheWeird (one "word," no spaces).

Group Two: sends out on Mondays [this week only: Tuesday!] the weekly syndicated online-only News of the Weird / Pro Edition, an enhancement over the News of the Weird column in the sense that (a) it's "real-time" (only stories from the previous week), (b) each story is hyperlinked back to the original news source, and (c) somewhat-edgier stories have a better chance of appearing in Pro Edition than in the News of the Weird column. That Google Group is known as ProWeird (one "word," no spaces).

Group Three (Brand New!): sends out on Tuesdays Chuck Shepherd's Weekly Intelligence Report, based on Pro Edition but including all the stories that made Chuck's penultimate cut for Pro Edition but didn't make the final cut. (On the other hand, readers might disagree; some stories that got left behind on the final cut might be better than Chuck gives them credit for.) And the Weekly Intelligence Report will certainly include the stories that would have made Pro Edition except for their tastelessness. Weekly Intelligence Report is the only one with extensive "Editor's Notes" of "personal" remarks from Chuck. This Google Group (Brand new! None of you is signed up for it yet.) is called ChucksWeeklyIntel (one "word"; no spaces).

Recommendations: If you're a casual News of the Weird fan, the group NewsoftheWeird may be plenty for you, especially if you're already signed up for it and are pleased at the level of time you spend on weird news. If you're a little more intense and/or a little more evolved about this, and have a little more time to spend, get both ProWeird and NewsoftheWeird. If you're way more intense and/or evolved, and can spend the time, and might actually be interested in what Chuck has to say every week, get both ChucksWeeklyIntel and NewsoftheWeird. (No one needs both ChucksWeeklyIntel and ProWeird because ChucksWeeklyIntel includes ProWeird. If you want to "upgrade" your ProWeird membership to ChucksWeeklyIntel, Mr. Google will have to handle that and not Chuck. If you "upgrade" to ChucksWeeklyIntel without also quitting ProWeird, you'll just get all three mailings every week, and no one needs all three.)

Of course, you can also read these weekly masterpieces elsewhere without signing up for anything:

One, the News of the Weird column is available in the daily or weekly newspaper where you've been reading it for years (if you have)–until the world as we know it ends and there are no more newspapers–and available online starting Sundays at

Two, News of the Weird / Pro Edition is available starting Mondays at
(but beware that that's a blog, and if you don't catch the post bright and early Monday, you might have to scroll down and down and down to find it each week)

Three, Chuck Shepherd's Weekly Intelligence Report is available starting Tuesdays [this week only: late Tuesday!] at
(replacing Pro Edition, which will no longer run on that blog)

If you're not already signed up for the Group(s) you want, here's how to do it. Go to the Group page(s) you want:

At each Group page, click Join this group on the right rail.
(If you do not have a Google account, (a) congratulations for keeping under the radar for so long, but (b) you'll have to sign up for one to join a group and get its free e-mails. Chuck knows that some people don't like Google, but, come on, they just told China to STFU, so cut 'em some slack, OK?)

E-Mail addresses:
When you receive any Google Group e-mail, an Unsubscribe address is at the bottom. If you quit the Group, you must use that address. (To change addresses, you must Unsubscribe and then return to the above page(s) to re-join at your new address.) Chuck, himself, does not do "subscriptions." However, other than that Unsubscribe e-mail address, no other Google Group address, on any of these three groups, works. Other than to Unsubscribe, if you need to send e-mail on any other issue, use either the address you've always used to write Chuck, or MinisterChuck at gmail dot com.

Thank you and Drive Safely,
Chuck Shepherd
(who, in this message, has been practicing his "writing in the third person" technique; how'd I do?)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Good to Know . . .

Chuck Shepherd ceaselessly combs the news to feed his weekly syndicated News of the Weird (the cream of underreported gems of the absurd and the ironic). This is what he learned last week. (Datelines April 3-April 10. Links correct as of April 12.)

April 12, 2010


Latest outsourced work that you didn't think could be outsourced: grading papers in Bangalore for a college professor in Houston. The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Daily Mail profiled the British countess who is pushing to legalize drugs (and who has been a practicing trepaner for over 40 years [ed.: She drilled a hole in her head to increase oxygen intake, and therefore creativity], and who talked the Count into it, too). Daily Mail

A parable for our times: David DeVore gave up an Actual Job (real estate) to become an Internet Nothing (making six figures by marketing his David After Dentist YouTube video of his 7-yr-old son [also David] in a goofy daze after a drug-aided tooth removal) (Bonus: $20 T-shirts and other D.A.D. memorabilia are selling in 20 countries). Washington Post

The district attorney in a podunk Wisconsin county formally warned the school board that he'd arrest teachers who follow the state-authorized sex-ed curriculum–because they are contributing to the delinquency of minors. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Intellectually-challenged TV actress Heidi Montag bragged that she has had 10 cosmetic surgeries, including a "back scoop"–something which, when queried, she admitted that she never really knew what it was. [ed.: The procedure's not that bad, but still– . . ..] San Francisco Chronicle /// TheStir.CafeMom.com/ [a surgeon explains]

Fine Points of the Law: (1) The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the state's child porn law is so unspecific that police seeking search warrants will now have to describe, in some detail, the kind of stuff they're looking for. (2) Canadian judge John Douglas, rendering a decision: "If [the defendant] was charged with being a colossal asshole, I would find him guilty. Of assault causing bodily harm, I find him not guilty." Associated Press via KETV-TV (Omaha) /// Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News

Update: It's explicit now that Humboldt County (which is to U.S. pot farming what Wall Street is to U.S. investment banking) wants marijuana kept illegal because its black market is teeming, and legalization would let megafarms drive them under. Los Angeles Times

A man named Malcolm Brenner, of Punta Gorda, Fla., wrote a book, self-published it (50 copies), and now has issued a cry for help. The book's about his 1970s physical and romantic fling . . . with a dolphin ("bonds that are so strong we don't understand how they work"). WBBH-TV (Fort Myers)

Optimist: Erlyndon Joseph Lo, 27, a law school graduate, was arrested for threatening to kill people at a Dallas abortion clinic (but he had the foresight to request a judicial order that morning to prevent police from harming him as he killed [ed.: SMU law school must be so proud!]). Dallas Morning News


Another Optimist: Drifter Justin Massler, convicted of stalking Ivanka Trump, told reporters he has a Plan B to win her heart legitimately . . by first becoming a millionaire, at which point she'll come to him. New York Daily News

Veteran softball player George Black, who plays the "hot corner," lost a fly ball in the sun [Bonus: a line drive!] and took it in the eye. He is suing the owner of the field for not keeping the sun out of his eyes. Globe and Mail (Toronto)

An unnamed man was arrested in Singapore as his plane landed, but his threats to bring down the aircraft using "mind power" will probably get him committed rather than jailed. On the other hand, hospitalization is not in the works for Deepak Chopra, despite his Twittering an apology to his 179,000 followers for causing the Baja California earthquake by meditating too hard. "Sorry about that," "Won't do it again–promise." Australian Broadcasting Corp. News /// AOL News

KATV in Little Rock reported on a mother and son cutting off a man's pinky finger with a cigar cutter for a reason that's utterly unclear. Anyway, the finger's gone, and they're in jail, and that's all you're getting from Harrison, Ark. KATV

A Jehovah's Witness traded he-said/he-said "assault" accusations with a Catholic-lite pastor in Fort Worth, Tex. One of them is bearing false witness; police said it's the pastor. WFAA-TV

The landlord and a tenant in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., have been on what the landlord calls "bad terms" lately. A sheriff's deputy said the landlord went too far . . by climbing on the roof, waiting, and then dumping a bucket of water on the tenant as he came out the door. Northwest Florida Daily News

Strange World

Warehouse workers for Denmark's Carlsberg beer went on strike . . after the company ended the tradition of providing up to 3 beers each per shift to make the day go faster. Reuters via The Province (Vancouver)

God's Will: A 24-year-old Muslim woman was killed at a go-cart track in Port Stephens, Australia, when her burqa (the full-body robe) got caught in the car's wheels and strangled her. Daily Mail (London)

A local council in Cardiff, Wales, created a self-contained "bike lane" that looks about 6-feet long, but as is predictable, the council has a perfectly earnest explanation of why they did it. Daily Telegraph [photo]

The latest world-class spin from the PR office in Pyongyang has K.Jay (the Great Leader, the Great General) now a world fashion plate, since the global elite are now supposedly rushing to wear those blue-gray tunics of his. Agence France-Presse via Herald Sun (Melbourne)

They found a new species of monitor lizard on Luzon in the Philippines, up to 6-feet long and (unlike the Komodos) a vegetarian (Bonus: and whose penis has two heads). National Geographic News

Some UK prisons report that they engage in the trendy "retoxification" of former drug addicts who have been dry while locked up. When they're about to be released, officials feed them methadone on the theory that no matter how cured they are, they'll hit the needle right away on the outside, and retoxifying them beforehand will help prevent overdoses. (Tories sigh and await next month's elections.) Daily Telegraph

The universal torture music: U.S. Marines needing to keep up the pressure on the Taliban in Marjah have turned to blasting Metallica and Thin Lizzy at them, 24/7 [ed.: and this is supposed to make the locals respect us?]. Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News

It's Good To Be A British Prisoner: According to Freedom of Information law releases to The Times of London, items of recovered prison contraband include the normal stuff like drugs, plus a tattoo machine and, for one security-conscious jailbird, a safe. The Times

The Pervo-American Community

A 27-year-old man told Oklahoma City police he was sexually assaulted in a misunderstanding with the perp, who thought the victim was looking for sex, but the victim said he only wanted to smell the guy's farts. The Oklahoman /// The Smoking Gun [explicit police report]

Tilden Lester, 50, an incest-chat-room regular, was arrested when he tried to set up sex with a man's (i.e., undercover cop's) two young daughters. (Bonus clue for cop: Lester's screen name is DrPeddelDfile.) Seattle Times

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

(1) Brian Darchangelo, Canandaigua, N.Y. (charged with DUI with kids in the car). (2) William Ferris, Cincinnati, Ohio (complained to police that he paid a hooker $50 but only got a blowjob). (3) Keith Hone, 41, Indianapolis (charged with beating up his wife and older daughter because his younger daughter had just had her lip pierced). (4) Presumed Smarmy: Dustin Winesberry, Boulder, Colo. (a registered sex offender who's still at it, including trying to seduce you gals with his mug shot). Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester) /// The Smoking Gun /// WISH-TV (Indianapolis) /// Daily Camera (Boulder)

That's Messed Up

Addiction: Harry Jackson pleaded guilty to a brief escape from Camden County (Ga.) jail and got a 10- to 18-year tack-on to whatever he was originally in for. The escape was necessary because he needed a cigarette, causing him to go over the wall, break into a convenience store, and get caught sneaking back in. Florida Times-Union

Laziness: In the old days, mafiosi disposed of their dead bodies cleanly (acid, hog food, burial under football stadiums), but in Linden, N.J., sanitation workers report they're finding body parts in garbage bags. Star-Ledger (Newark)

Modern Parenting: The science says it was a DUI car crash by mom; the family says mom was home at the time, and they rehearsed their 11-year-old daughter to alibi her. Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin

The 81-year old great-grandmother's Bucket List, apparently, contains "At last, demand child support from the man who knocked me up in 1950," which would be Urban Joseph Grass, now 82. Houston Chronicle

Joseph Velardo blatantly swiped a computer from Staples, which he thought would be his third felony, which he told police he is happy about because three felonies prevent a person from getting into law school. He didn't want to go, and this was his plan. (Bonus: It was only a misdemeanor.) WPTV (West Palm Beach)

Embarrassing: The guy swiped the money jar from the kid collecting dollars and coins for liver disease research, from a table in front of a Wal-Mart, but the kid's uncle chased the guy, overpowered him, and sat on him until police arrived. (Bonus: The uncle is wheelchair-bound.) WTSP-TV (St. Petersburg) [video, in that a reporter was on the scene, interviewing the kid when the jar was snatched]

They might as well not have a Registered Sex Offender list in Washington state . . if officials are going to send a 6-year-old girl to live with her RSO grandfather for 10 years (and now she's suing the state for those 10 years of his abusing her). ABC News

There are many ways to get yourself a beatdown. If you're bald, you could get Philip Levine to create artwork for your dome, like this guy. Toronto Star

Illinois real estate agent George Michael's property-tax case hits the fan next month, when the state said it will send him a bill for $225,000 for fraudulently claiming that his lakefront house is a church. He made NOTW in August [M124, 8-23-2009] when they caught him submitting a photo showing the house with a cross–not a cross on the building, it turns out, but on the photo, made with a marker pen. ABC News

California Assemblyman Dave Jones of Sacramento introduced a health care reform bill to regulate . . pet insurance (Bonus: Can't deny coverage for pre-existing conditions!). KXTV (Sacramento)

Weird 2.0

"To see what is in front of one's nose requires a constant struggle"—George Orwell
"A little learning is a dangerous thing"—Alexander Pope
"Nero Fiddles While Rome Burns"—Rome Daily Inquirer, 7-18-64A.D.

A Florida state senator introduced her "Jay Leno bill," to stop promoting middle schoolers to high school if they're as dumb about civics as the people Jay discovers on his "Jaywalking" segments. Inexplicable: why we tolerate that most naturalized citizens know more (because of the citizenship test) than many born-here Americans know. [ed.: Still, even the naturalization test is largely trivia.] Miami Herald

The Government's Gaming Gap: the constantly increasing inability of smart lawmakers to write regulations that smart industry lawyers can't render useless (or worse). Take, for instance, the FTC's recent "fix" of the deceptive (and annoying!) "Free Credit Report" troubadour TV ads. FTC Fix: If you offer free credit reports that come with a catch to them, you must disclose that credit reports are not totally free except at the FTC-authorized AnnualCreditReport.com. Game: Experian's "Free Credit Report" started charging "$1," donated to charity, and thus continues to exploit the catch while avoiding the disclosure. New York Times

A Worse Gaming Gap: Massachusetts's near-universal health-care system's penalties for not buying insurance are much smaller than the cost of any treatment, encouraging people to sign up when they need something and then drop out a few months later). [ed.: A second stimulus program–tax breaks for small businesses to encourage hiring–has been stalled for months, in large part because they can't figure out how to outsmart companies that would've hired without the break and companies that fire temps and then claim the break by hiring replacements.] Boston Globe

Discovered still on the books in California: a 1949 law that requires health officials to seek "cures" for homosexuality. Los Angeles Times

Discovered on the British police's surveillance video network (designed to protection against criminals): up to 14,000,000 cars photographed–and images stored!--every day (including views of the driver and front-seat passenger). The Times

Local governments responding poorly to severely slashed budgets: In Chicago Heights, Ill., a new $200 "crash tax" for any 911 call in which emergency personnel are dispatched, irrespective of circumstances. In Ashtabula County, Ohio, Judge Alfred Mackey, when asked what citizens should do in view of the loss of 63 of the county's 112 deputies (and with many of the remaining force tied up with law-required duties such as prisoner transfers): "Arm themselves. [We]'re going to have to look after each other." Phoenix sheriff Joe Arpaio is as tough as they come in incarcerating bad guys . . unless the perp has a significant health condition that might require expensive medical care–in which case, miraculously, Joe turns all-"have a nice day" on him. WBBM-TV (Chicago) /// WKYC-TV (Cleveland) /// Courthouse News Service

And For Further Review . . .

Here are on-the-scene photos of a fire in Hampton, N.H., last Thursday from the Manchester Union Leader. The photo on the right shows the man whose house was burning down, and, right behind him, also watching the fire, a man in a full gorilla suit. Union Leader

Editor's Notes

I'm tinkering yet again with Pro Edition. Basically the same. Some different section titles. More entries, shorter. (Less writing means less wear-and-tear on my alarmingly weakening brain.) (I also have some Syndicate issues.) To see what I'm thinking about, remember to go to my Blogspot page starting tomorrow.

Yes, I saw the story of the two women arrested at Liverpool airport for trying to move their dead relative to Germany, Weekend at Bernie's-style, but on closer reading, I see that the ladies' story is plausible. He may have died after they set out for the airport, and the dark glasses were to hide an eye condition that provokes people to stare at him. Who knows? The Guardian

Newsrangers: Geoff Egan, Greg Willette, Sandy Pearlman, Christopher Thompson, Matthew Fisher, Wes Jones, Douglas Boyle, Pierre Langenegger, Tom Slivan, and Muiris Dore, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors

Monday, April 05, 2010

Apology to the ProWeird mailing list:
I let postings slip on this list for two weeks, and I apologize. They were always available on Mondays and Tuesdays on WeirdUniverse.net, and they are now all available in date sequence, below, on this blog, but I won't e-mail the Google Groups list the three they missed, which were my Weird 2.0 of Tuesday, March 23; Pro Edition of Monday, March 29; and Weird 2.0 of Tuesday, March 30. Things should be back to normal.
Chuck Shepherd
News of the Weird/Pro Edition
"You're Still Not Cynical Enough"

Exceptionally Inexplicable Dispatches from Last Week
April 5, 2010
(datelines March 27-April 3) (links correct as of April 5)

The Art of Teenage Shopping, Plus Hecklers' Rights, Mortuary Golf, and Low-Payout Crimes

Haul Queens
In the spirit of basketball's Final Four, Blair Fowler, 16, is at the top of her game, too, taking it to the next level, giving 110% . . at shopping! "Haul queens" like Blair hit the malls and then display their purchases via YouTube (100,000 videos so far)–but without "bragging," which is regarded as tacky. One sociologist called it "the perfect marriage of two of Generation Y's favorite things, technology and shopping. [V]iewers don't have to spend the money, and you still get the thrill. It's a bit like pornography." (Blair's from Tennessee but attracted the attention of The Times of London's Los Angeles stringer, who noted Blair's "ability to deliver a high-pitched, 10-minute lecture on the merits of skinny versus lowriding jeans." The Times

Tina's Vote in November Counts Just as Much as Yours
Tina Mae Stone, married to the main man of the Hutaree Christian militia arrested weekend before last in Michigan, reportedly explained on her Facebook page part of why she's so damned mad at the U.S. government: "I'm peeved . . . our government passes a bill to spend more than 20 billion dollars to bring Hamas [jihadists] here and supplies them with food and homes that [sic] just wrong." "I'm so stressed I could KILL someone!!!!!!!" (Source of Tina's knowledge of the issue: an e-mail, in which the writer noted, conveniently, that the bill ["H.R. 1388"] was passed "behind our backs. . . . It wasn't mentioned on the news." [ed.: There's a reason it wasn't, Tina.] Detroit Free Press // Detroit Free Press (the Hutaree 9)

Canada's Kinda-Free Speech
Veteran comedian Guy Earle has a court date with the Human Rights Tribunal in Vancouver because he "discriminated" against two rude, obnoxious hecklers–but hecklers who are members of what is called in Canada a legally "protected class." Like any surviving nightclub comic, Earle has a repertoire of heckler-squelchers and fights nastiness with nastiness. And he had the audacity to refer, snidely, to the fact that males were not represented in that particular loving heckler couple. (Also in oh-so-delicate Canada last week, the student government of Queen's University in Ontario blasted the insensitivity of the school's hosting a fundraiser featuring guys doing pratfalls in inflatable sumo wrestler suits, which the students said was shameful, in that the incident disrespected Japanese culture.) Canadian Press /// National Post

American Much-Freer Speech
Insulting a "protected class" in the U.S. is not without its consequences, but at least it doesn't come with stand-alone punishment by government. Thus, Rev. Fred Phelps and the lesser Phelpses of the Westboro Baptist Church won't ever do time just for insulting a dead Marine by picketing his funeral with "God Hates Fags" signs (even though the late Marine was in all likelihood straight). Westboro might get sued, though, for inflicting emotional distress on the family. One judge ruled for the Marine father, but an appeals court (holding its nose) reversed, declaring that the Phelpses were just free-speeching. (But then, the Phelpses, as "winners" of the lawsuit, asked the court for reimbursement of its costs from the "losers," meaning the Marine dad, and the court ordered dad to pay $16,000.) (Update: Fox News's Bill O'Reilly said he'd take care of the tab.) Baltimore Sun

First Things First at a Bulgarian City Council Meeting
Dimitar Kerin was voted off of a key committee as punishment for playing the online game FarmVille during a Council meeting (after warnings–in that several members had been playing). FarmVille, though, requires quick, real-time decisions, since (wrote AOL News) "crops are going to mature and even die whether or not players are logged on. If they want to maximize their yield, they better be [continuously logged on and] ready to bring in their crops the second they're ready to harvest," even if that's in the middle of a city council meeting. Novinte (Sofia, Bulgaria) via AOL News

People Different From Us

In St. Paul, Minn., a domestic spat between Jacoby Smith, 33, and Tiesha Bell, 28, got out of hand ("We both need anger management," she said). Bell is missing both lower arms and both lower legs from a childhood illness, but, said Smith, she will "push me down and choke me with her nubs." This time, Smith smacked Bell "maybe twice" (his version) or many times (her version) before she applied the coup de grâce, emptying her bedpan on him. (In Port St. Lucie, Fla., Steven Plank, 52, ticked off at his father for using the stove out of turn, also applied the No. 1 weapon, grabbing the urine cup hanging on dad's walker and pouring it on him.) St. Paul Pioneer Press /// WPTV (West Palm Beach)

George Jolicoeur, 38, is a mess, but can't be brought to justice in Sanford, Fla., where he has pleaded no-contest in absentia to several counts of scamming stores with claims of tainted food. Jolicoeur weighs about 600 lbs., is in extremely poor health, and is nursing-home-bound. His crime spree started in 2007 when he falsely claimed that he had bought $50 worth of beef jerky that was moldy. (Even if that works, you still might only wind up with $50 worth of fresh beef jerky.) Orlando Sentinel /// Fox News [mugshot]

Cunning! A New York couple in their 60s bought box after box of Jell-O at about $1.40 each, took them home, ate the Jell-O, then filled the boxes with sand and returned them to get their $1.40 back. Husband was just the chauffeur; it looks like this was the wife's idea, and she is said to be not in her right mind. New York Post

Below The Fold

You know what they say about what "homophobia" really represents. Well, in Calgary, Alberta, psychiatrist Aubrey Levin was arrested for allegedly making sexual advances on a man (and is suspected in "dozens" of other incidents) in the course of his work at University of Calgary's medical school. In his previous life in South Africa, Dr. Levin was a notorious homophobe, conducting years of electroconvulsive shock "therapy" that he said would "cure" gays into going straight. (Also, in his spare time in Pretoria, he helped the apartheid government "deal with" dissidents.) The Guardian (London)

The European Union's trademarks office has approved the application of two German marketing executives to register their proposed beer under the name [ed. This is a family-friendly web post. The name is two words long; the second is Hell; and the first is the -ing form of the F-word]. The EU office reasoned that there's a town in Austria whose actual name is that first word, and "hell" is German for a light ale. (Never mind that that Austrian town has no brewery.) (Bonus: The mayors of the Bavarian towns of Kissing and Petting, and of the German town of Pissing, are now quite apprehensive.) Spiegel Online

The semi-pro English soccer league called Blue Square Premier announced they'll experiment in the coming season with letting referees call the game while riding Segways, which can move about as fast as the best players can sprint (and much faster than aging referees can lope). The Sun (London)

Last Monday, two students at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Mass., held the first fencing competition among blind people. Coach Felix Morales came up with the idea, with only minor modifications of regular fencing rules. (We all like to see the mainstreaming of people with disabilities, but still– . . .) (Also last week, coincidentally, Turkish singer Metin Senturk set the land-speed record for a solo blind driver [181 mph] in a Ferrari F430.) Boston Globe /// Reuters via Washington Post

A 30-year-old University of Illinois graduate student took The Only Way Out, from the 18th floor of the Burnham 310 building in Champaign, but had to demonstrate special resolve. He landed on an adjoining four-story building–at that point, still alive. What do the grittiest among us do when dealt bad fortune? He picked himself up, brushed himself off, and jumped again from that building–this time, successfully. [LINK CORRECTED] News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana)

Readers know from News of the Weird that brain tumors can leave a patient with hallucinations and bizarre behavior changes, depending on the particular region affected, but apparently so can an ovarian tumor. The patient, with no warning, claimed to be in labor and later to be proudly referring to her new, nonexistent baby, then later aggressively demanding that an exorcist be brought in. Surgeons (University Hospital in Cincinnati) found no triggers in her health or family history but did locate a tiny "teratoma" of cells growing out of control on an ovary and thus crossing up various body signals. [ed.: Still, don't be misled; the vast majority of bizarre behaviors that you and I encounter are not tumor-based, but rich human folly.] Cincinnati Enquirer

The Pervo-American Community

Teacher Fernando Gonzalez, 35, got seven years in a federal pen on possession of child porn, which came to the attention of authorities when Fernando was spotted inside his classroom at North Shore High School in Galena Park, Tex., blissfully "going blind" at the computer. His only explanation, when caught, was that he was forced to browse his child porn at school because his fed-up wife had banished his disks from their home. Houston Press

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

William Moore told his daughter that she could entertain her new boyfriend at their home but that he had to be out by midnight. At 3 a.m., Moore awoke to find her, as they say, "performing a sex act" on the guy. Someone then fired a shotgun blast at the boyfriend. Would that be Moore? (Bonus: Moore's daughter is 40-ish, but the boyfriend still had to be gone.) KENS-TV (San Antonio, Tex.)

More Things To Worry About

Safety First in Britain: A resident called up Bolton Metropolitan Council to inform them that there was a discarded mattress in a public place that needed to be removed. The mattress was eventually picked up by (guess which one) (a) two guys in a van, in a four-minute job, or (b) four workers using a 1.7 ton JCB digger (driver, banksman to guide him, and two supervisors) a week later, after a "risk assessment" official had come out to survey the scene. Daily Telegraph (London)

At the link is a municipal road sign from Treviso, Italy, advising motorists that they are entering a zone notorious for prostitutes. From the design of the sign, it is unclear whether these signs are "warnings" or "advertising." Daily Telegraph (London)

Questionable Judgment: R&B singer Erykah Badu figured she just had to shoot the video of her latest number (a) stripping nude, one item at a time, as she walked around downtown Dallas and (b) winding up at the semi-sacred Dealey Plaza, the site of John F. Kennedy's assassination. KDFW-TV (Dallas) via WTTG-TV (Washington, D.C.)

Partisan political aggressiveness continues, this time in Jefferson City, Mo., where state Rep. Linda Fischer (Democrat) is being challenged by Republican John Fischer, her husband, against whom she also has a judicial stay-away order for domestic violence (hence, no debate-appearances). (He denies physicality and insists that he's challenging her only on the issues.) Associated Press via Springfield News-Leader

Mexico City has enjoyed a rebirth of traditional Mayan games by citizens trying to prevent them from dying out. Said one, "We want our kids to rediscover our roots." At the top of the list, said USA Today, is pelota purépecha, which resembles field hockey except that the ball is on fire. (Bonus: They can play it at night even on fields without lights.) USA Today

Editor's Notes

Updates on News of the Weird stories: (1) BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, reported here last week to have denied coverage to a 14-day-old baby, citing a "pre-existing condition," changed its mind. (2) It took a while, but Antwon Womack finally opted out of the race for school board in Birmingham, Ala. You may recall Womack from NOTW M135 (11-8-2009) as the guy who got caught fudging/lying about several things in his campaign literature but then ballsily telling reporters that his campaign was not about accuracy but about "leadership." It turns out Antwon not only wasn't a college or high school graduate but might even have failed his GED. (3) The only convicted Lockerbie bomber, who has terminal prostate cancer and whom Scotland released from prison in August out of compassion, so he could live out his final days under house arrest in his native Libya [NOTW/Pro, 3-1-2010], has apparently made a "remarkable recovery" and celebrated his 58th birthday last week with a big bash. Some families of the 270 Lockerbie victims are beside themselves. [LINKS CORRECTED] Fort Worth Star-Telegram /// Birmingham News /// New York Daily News

And For Further Review . . .

Famously, for now almost 45 years, the Ahlgrim Funeral Home in Palatine, Ill., has tried to put a little joy in the bereavement racket with a playground of games in its basement (not available for use during actual services, though). Founder Roger Ahlgrim's centerpiece is a 9-hole miniature-golf course with death-themed holes. (Also, shuffleboard, Ping Pong, pool tables, video games, and a "haunted house" with a toy guillotine, spider webs, tombstones, and caskets.) News of the Weird informed readers of this amusement in 1991 (NOTW 163, 3-22-1991) and then again on Ahlgrim's 35th anniversary (NOTW 694, 5-27-2001), but here are some recent snapshots of the layout. UnnecessaryUmlaut.com

Newsrangers: Gary Davidson, Nigel Parry, Rebecca Malmstrom, Chris Fulmer, Patrick Fletcher, Aulton Smith, and Vic McDonald, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors