Tuesday, April 27, 2010

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