Monday, June 21, 2010

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

Prime Cuts of Underreported News from Last Week, Hand-Picked and Lightly Seasoned by Chuck Shepherd
June 21, 2010
(datelines June 12-June 19) (links correct as of June 21)
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

New Medication Surcharge, Plus Condiment Crimes, Clown Therapy, and a Real "Killer App"

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Can't Possibly Be True: Not only do your taxes make possible free, expensive medical care for uninsured humps who wake up every morning with no plans except to do unhealthful things all day, and not only do your taxes pay for their free, expensive meds so they'll be a little less likely to wind up back in the hospital for more free, expensive care, but now your taxes may go to set up a rewards program so that forgetful or obstinate humps who don't take their free, expensive meds get a "financial incentive" to take them. Yes, it's come to this: In test projects now, we're paying these humps $10 to $100 a day just to remember to take their meds. And you know what? It's probably a good deal for us taxpayers. New York Times

We're Lucky Terrorist Jihadists Are So Clumsy: In the same week as Somalia's al-Qaeda-lookalike organization might have finally jumped the shark by ordering all good Muslims not to watch the evil World Cup, The Atlantic published an essay on how undeservedly strange it is that we Americans seem petrified by jihadists despite evidence that they're more likely to blow themselves up than us (well, that is, after they've sated themselves with computer porn, which they consume in abundance). Mohammad Atta might have been the last competent holy warrior. BBC News /// The Atlantic

The Week in Phraseology: political urinal mints . . . penis-recognition algorithm . . . charity groin wax. WZVN-TV (Fort Myers, Fla.) /// Popular Science /// SWNS.com

Barry Scheck's Road to the Holy Grail, One More Time: A retired Texas judge, assigned to decide the fate of an inch-long strand of hair from the scene of a 1989 murder, ordered DNA testing on it, and if it comes back with someone's besides Claude Jones's, it will become official (though still on a technicality): Texas will have wrongly executed someone (in that Gov. George W. Bush dispensed with Mr. Jones a decade ago). (It's still a "technicality" because it will not establish Jones's actual innocence, but, without that strand of hair, Jones would have been legally ineligible for the death penalty even if he had done the murder.) Associated Press via Cleveland.com

Don't Know Much About Science Books . . ♪ . .: (1) Israeli researchers say they've shown that making batteries out of potatoes is quite cost-efficient for less-developed countries. (2) A Peruvian artist said he could re-engineer an historic glacier in that country just by painting the nearby mountains white. (Bonus: It sorta makes sense!) (3) Whale poop, released along the ocean's surface, causes absorption, by plankton, et al, of about twice as much carbon as whales release, themselves. Haaretz (Tel Aviv) /// BBC News /// Discovery.com

Losers

Joy Cassidy, 74, was arrested in Boise, Id., as the one who dumped mayo down the book drop at the Ada County library. Turns out she's now a "person of interest" in at least 10 other "condiment-related crimes" in the area. Associated Press via CBS News

Jose Romero, 17, was charged with the attempted robbery of a Speedy Stop in Austin, Tex. The crime didn't work, but Your Editor reports it here for you to imagine the scene when Jose walked in, sidled up to the clerk, and demanded money while trying to intimidate by pointing to his waistband, where he had stuffed his caulking gun. Austin American-Statesman

Have you ever wondered what must certain people's lives be like (such as the people who would do these things)? (1) Let's say, you're a guy who gets violent because the United States engages in the tyrannical act of taking a census every 10 years. (2) Let's say, you're a guy who gets violent because the Burger King ran out of lemonade. (3) Let's say, you're a guy who gets screamingly riled up at a cop just because he caught you not scooping up after your dog–so riled up that you chase him down and rub scoopings on his windshield. Really . . what must these people's lives be like? The Daily Herald (Columbia, Tenn.) /// Naples (Fla.) Daily News /// WickedLocal.com (Brookline, Mass.)

Strange World

Britain's traveling John Lawson Circus introduced a side venture: a "clownselor" to conduct anxiety-reduction sessions to help people over their coulrophobia that is said to be Britain's third-leading phobia. Fox News

Two super-smart college students at Scotland's Edinburgh University tricked up a notebook computer with a killer app–a syringe to deliver fatal doses of something or other. And it worked fine. And their families have no idea why the kids did it. Daily Mail

God's Will: (1) A soccer fan in the South African village of Makweya was murdered by his pious wife and two pious children because he failed to give up the TV remote. They wanted gospel; he wanted World Cup. (2) The Lord's wrath, in the well-known form of a lightning bolt, brought down the renowned 62-foot high statue of Jesus along Interstate 75 outside Monroe, Ohio. Associated Press via Yahoo Sports /// Springfield News-Sun

Some teddibly, teddibly (politically) correct employee at the London museum overseeing the new exhibit "Winston Churchill's Britain At War Experience" decided to Photoshop out Sir Winston's famous cigar from an iconic military picture. Daily Telegraph

Toreador Christian Hernandez, 22, retired–hung up the ol' (barely-used) sword in Mexico City–after two fights. Literally, his butt was last seen diving over the fence. Said Christian later, "I didn't have the ability. I didn't have the balls." Daily Telegraph (London)

That's Messed Up

Wasn't Ever Issued a "Maternal Instinct" Gene: Christina Muniz, 29, was arrested in Surprise, Ariz., as she was packing for her move to California, to fulfill her dream of becoming a stripper. What about her two kids? Doesn't want them. They're yours, she told the cops. As the 11-year-old boy tried to hug his mom, she punched him in the stomach. ABC News

It's Good to Be a Canadian Swindler of Kids: Mary Hardwick was convicted of embezzling $12,000 from a kids' hockey team in Canada but given probation because, you know, she had been depressed . . a "death in the family" . . stuff like that. On further inspection of her record . . She had pinched over $2,000 from a junior hockey team in 2007 and $20,000 more from a junior team in the Greater Toronto Hockey League. Toronto Star

More Terrorizing to Our Troops Than the Taliban: Bobbi Finley was arrested on a dine-and-dash in New Orleans, and suddenly the fugitive warrants started pouring in from around the country. Turns out that at least 40 U.S. military men have had their bank accounts cleaned out by Bobbi, including 9 who actually went to the altar with her. KGTV (San Diego)

The Pervo-American Community

The Town Administrator of Shirley, Mass., is apparently (allegedly) a longtime audio/video gadgeteer and chronicler–of the comings and goings in the women's restroom at Town Hall. Kyle Keady, 46, was caught with an extensive collection Boston Globe

And the president of the Detroit School Board, Otis Mathis, asked to rescind his recent resignation–and believes he can work through his "issue" while remaining on the job. The "issue" is his habit of "touching and fondling" himself while in private meetings with school superintendent Theresa Gueyser. WXYZ-TV (Detroit)

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


A week of unusually difficult challenges for various defense attorneys: Perps include William Gordius (restroom peeping in Bangor, Me.), and David Haskell, 18 (caught inside an ATM in Haverhill, Mass.) (and apparently all broken up about it), and Brian Andrews, 31 (wielding an ax at a 4-year-old's birthday party in Elyria, Ohio). WCHS-TV (Portland, Me.) /// WHDH-TV (Boston) /// WEWS-TV (Cleveland)

Updates & Recurring Themes

Recurring: They've discovered a 7-year period in which the payroll office of the Washington, D.C., government deducted life insurance premiums from paychecks but never sent the money to the insurance companies. Policies were canceled. However, it being the District of Calamity, it's never clear whether it was corruption or ineptness. Washington Post

Recurring: A 3rd-grader in Coventry, R.I., trying to honor the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, created a baseball cap with a large American Flag and little Monopoly-sized charms on it, except that the charms were military, and therefore there were itty-bitty guns, so you know how this ended. At least they didn't suspend him. (Bonus additional confusion about America's military purpose: At a Congressional hearing last week, Gen. Petraeus, deep into an inspirational message on U.S. soldiers and Marines fighting two wars simultaneously, with mounting death tolls, was questioned by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona . . on whether the military will be stepping up on renewable energy.) Associated Press via Indianapolis Star /// HotAir.com

Recurring: Clitoral Surgery in Africa Is Inhumane; Clitoral Surgery by an Ivy League Research Hospital, OK: Cornell pediatric urologist "Dix Poppas" (Bonus: his real name!) has as his specialty helping women deal with the trauma of oversized clitorises–by nicking a little bit off the "stem" (but not the "bud") [ed.: not to get too scientific on you]. America's Leading Sexual Authority, the one and only Dan Savage, condemns the Ivy League approach, as well. The Stranger (Seattle)

Recurring: Poor Dog/Rich Dog: Conchita is the latest little bitch to get the run of a mansion after her owner dies (along with a $3 million trust fund so she won't have to become accustomed to an ordinary dog's lifestyle). She's also got that gold Escalade (which was a hand-me-down from owner Gail Posner, who said she originally was to buy Conchita a Range Rover but decided instead to keep it and let Conchita have the Caddy). Posner's human son is beside himself because he "only" got $1 million from the estate (though he may now wish he had been nicer to his mom). Wall Street Journal

Weird 2.0
"To see what is in front of one's nose requires a constant struggle"—George Orwell
"That's close enough for government work"—unknown
"Nero Fiddles While Rome Burns"—Rome Daily Inquirer, 7-18-64A.D.


Chuck Provini has a cutting-edge idea for clean energy and shopped it to all the proper places in the U.S. energy hierarchy, looking for development money. Nothing. One agency tried to shake him down for $750,000 just to put in an application. Hard even to get phone calls returned. Fortunately, though, there is money available for clean energy–lots of it, easily accessible, put up by people who understand that out-of-the-box thinking will be required on the energy frontier. But unfortunately, that source of money is . . the Chinese government. They flew Chuck out immediately, wined and dined him . . deal!. Provini, a through-and-through American (a Marine!) is chagrined that he'll now be saving the planet on behalf of China. ABC News

About 85% of Americans have health insurance, putting us only slightly behind . . Rwanda . . which covers 92% of its people (at the equivalent of $2.00 a year, providing not nearly what U.S. care covers, of course, but consider that most of Rwanda's health problems are diarrhea and other parasitical infections, unsafe childbirth, etc. (as opposed to, you know, the third artery stent that a lifelong smoker has to have). New York Times

It's not that "government" screws up everything. In Arizona, it's saving lives! They have 250 lucky squirrels–Mount Graham red squirrels, once thought to be extinct, and they're being kept alive by an effective state program. Arizona has allocated $1.25 million to build a rope bridge in their habitat so they can cross a highway that would otherwise consign an estimated five of them a year to roadkill. (Bonus Cynical View: They're American-born squirrels; if they were immigrant red squirrels– . .) ABC News

Not among California's many fiscal problems is strapping GPS devices onto sex offenders to keep women and children safe without the huge cost of incarcerating every molester. California has bought at least 7,000 devices, and more are coming. But it is a problem that they were recently 31,000 calls behind in responding when the GPS either goes dead, is cut off, or indicates an offender in a no-no zone. San Diego Union-Tribune

According to "international maritime treaties," most vessels (such as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which is classified as a vessel) aren't registered/flagged in countries where serious, costly "regulation" is possible. The DH carried a Marshall Islands flag. (Bonus: That's a real nation.) (Extra Bonus Gulf oil-cleanup bizarreness: Here's a Coast Guard chart that shows what Adm. Thad Allen, the "national incident commander," is up against–13 government agencies and 3 federal sub-departments.) Los Angeles Times /// Coast Guard blog via Flickr.com

The Gulf of Mexico is a big body of water. Hence, Dr. Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Haley Barbour and the other experts [ed.: and actually, Cecil Adams in The Straight Dope!] might be correct that the oil will some day become unnoticeable. Not so in Nigeria, where the sloppy contractors are working for ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell. Gio Creek and Bobo Creek are not big bodies of water, and the Nigerian delta has endured the equivalent of 50 Exxon Valdez spills over the last 50 years. However, if you're from rural Nigeria, you don't expect much, and you learn to swim and wash clothes in the salad dressing. New York Times /// The Straight Dope

And for Further Review . . .

After reading a quick rundown of 61-year-old Ozzy Osbourne's life, the first question that pops to mind is, Why is he still alive? Clonazepam, zolpidem, temazepam, chloral hydrate, Percocet, codeine, morphine, marijuana, alcohol, cigars–and those are just the ones he could identify (i.e., add to those anything that was passed around backstage, because Ozzy said he took 'em all). To Ozzy, a "parent-child conversation about drugs" was, "Hey, kid, can you get me some?" He's also a world-class hypochondriac and suffers from Parkinson's-like tremors. For these reasons (and because he's now reformed and sober), he's just been hired by London's Sunday Times as its health-advice columnist. (Bonus: In the name of science, Dr. Ozzy has also agreed to have a full genome sequencing.) Sunday Times Magazine (June 6th) /// DailyTelegraph [ed.: You soon will have trouble viewing The Times because Lord Murdoch is transitioning it behind a pay wall. As of June 21st, you can still get free access provided that you register.]

Editor's Notes

The News of the Weird flag is at half-mast. The new prime minister of the UK, Mr. Cameron, has announced a top-priority effort to eliminate the "joke" regulations and "compensation culture" that underlie the law's treatment of health and safety risks. I admit that I was similarly apprehensive when the UK agreed to be bound by EU regulations because I was worried that Brussels would smarten up those Brits, but the local councils' mindlessness has only improved (deteriorated). Still, without the certainty of a few "elf and safety" stories every week, Your Editor will soon have to work harder to find suitable content. Daily Mail

Newsrangers: Gerald Sacks, Perry Levin, Peter Hine, Conrad Heiney, Hal Dunham, Nedra Albrecht, Len Dozois, Craig Oakley, David Gregory, Bob Pert, Peter Smagorinsky, Ric Adams, Alan Chaikin, Albert Clawson, Bruce Leiserowitz, and Peter Swank, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors