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).