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

Money Buys Tender Flesh (and Alan Dershowitz), Plus Ugly Criminals, Roadkill Beer, and Pink Vigilantes

★ ★ ★ ★ ★!

Ephebophilia Legalized in Florida: Well, if you're hedge fund billionaire Jeffrey Epstein (friends: Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak, Prince Andrew, the Council on Foreign Relations), and you can pay your teenagers from abroad enough not to complain, you get a laughably mild "house arrest" for a year, and then case closed. The FBI and local police said there were up to 40 youngsters, but the federal prosecutors thought they'd make bad witnesses, especially after Alan Dershowitz for the defense started sliming the girls one-by-one as soon as the prosecutor ID'd them. [ed.: Essay Question: Is it Epstein's Jewishness that makes him the Dershowitz-required "oppressed person" in this case?] (Bonus: And anyway, who can't find enslutting evidence about girls on Facebook?) Daily Beast

Brilliance, in Five Words or Less: Candidates running independent of a party in Wisconsin are entitled to five words alongside their name on the ballot (because "Republican" and "Democrat" are so rich in meaning). Use them wisely. Ms. Ieshuh Griffin, running for the Milwaukee city council, chose "NOT the 'whiteman's bitch.'" (No can do, officials said.) Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Everything But the Colon Repair Kit: A senior embalmer at the Memphis Funeral Home saved up the tools he used in 1977 on The King and will offer them at auction in August (including rubber gloves, forceps, lip brushes, comb and eye liner, arterial tube, aneurysm hooks, stuff like that). Reuters via MSNBC

A Genuine "Writing" Contest: Former BBC reporter Reg Turnill sponsored a £1,000-prize short-story competition to honor H.G. Wells, but it attracted not a single entry. The problem, Turnill acknowledges, is that, in trying to honor sound creative-writing habits, he required that all stories be written out by hand. Kent News

But There's Also Good News in Literature: For the Toronto Burlesque Festival last week at the Gladstone Hotel, five models stripped down for "Naked Girls Reading." They chose their own texts, and it turns out they actually do know how to read. The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

The Theory Behind Your Weekly Jury Duty: It's anthropometry, or physiognomy, or something like that, according to the July Fortean Times. Ugly people commit more crimes than we attractive people do (flat noses, "thieves"; one-sided grins, "brutality"). We lookers have more options in life to stay on the side of light. Better job opportunities. Better first impressions. Apparently, the ugly soon lose hope at the unfairness of it all. [ed.: I wish there was something I could do for you ugly people, but I'm just one man.] Fortean Times


Napalm in the Morning: To the police chief in Florala, Ala., answering a disturbing-the-peace call, the smell was strong. Several gas cans were open throughout the house. Juliana Bryant, 33, said that was because she "liked the smell." (She was jailed.) Mobile Press-Register [citing Andalusia Star-News]

Mr. Sitha Hen, 35, was caught in the act in Mannheim Township, Pa., trying to break into the Labor Ready temp agency in the middle of the night . . by chiseling through the brick wall. (Bonus: OK, why?) Lancaster New Era

Mr. Jimmy Lee was sentenced to 32 weeks in jail for breaking into Khonat's Newsagents in Blackburn, England. They caught him when he came back in to ask if anybody'd found his choppers, which he had left at the scene. Blackburn Citizen

Horatio Toure was arrested in San Francisco, about 10 minutes after he stole a cell phone from a woman . . who was where she was only because she was testing her company's GPS-tracking system in real time . . and guess what, Horatio? It works. San Francisco Chronicle

Recurring Themes: (1) Dine 'n' Dash (except don't forget to take your purse when you dash). (Bonus: Livin' Large--a $39 tab at the Waffle House) (2) If you shoplift a security camera from a store that sells security cameras, they've probably got security cameras trained on you. (3) Don't forget your getaway-car keys. (Bonus: When police arrived, the bank robber was still there, furiously trying to smash through her window with a tire iron.) Associated Press via News-Leader (Springfield, Mo.) /// Associated Press via KCRG-TV (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) /// Chico (Calif.) Enterprise Record

Strange World

In Jerusalem, Arab Sabbar Kashur, 30, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for rape for "deceiving" a Jewish woman into the sack by claiming to be a Member of the Tribe when he's not. (But whatever standard the judges came up with to decide this will inevitably put all of us smooth-talking men on the defensive.) Haaretz (Tel Aviv)

A British brewery issued End of History beer, so called because (a) it's 110 proof and (b) it's served in taxidermied roadkill, a "completely new approach to beer," said the co-founder. The Independent (London)

U.S. tourist Jean Barnard, in her sixties, was on holiday in Australia, on a Qantas hopper to Darwin, and as she took her seat, a 3-year-old next to her yelled a death scream directly into her ear. She's now "stone cold deaf" and suing Qantas in a lawsuit that's crawling along. (Bonus e-mail from Barnard to a pal: "Had it not been for [my exploding eardrum and the fact that I was swallowing blood], I would have dragged that kid out of his mother's arms and stomped him to death. Then we would have had an 'international incident.'") Australian Associated Press via

The Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is among its most, er, "traditional," meaning husbands still routinely beat the hell out of their wives, but for several years now, Ms. Sampat Pal Devi, now 40, has organized the gulabis ("pinkgang," vigilantes in pink saris) that visit the husbands and fathers and attempt reasoning (and if that fails, return in large numbers, armed with bamboo sticks). In her four years' operation, Pal has seen women's influence grow in positions of leadership throughout Uttar Pradesh and India. (Bonus: That's unfortunate, she says, because women are often more corrupt than the men they replace, and wives and daughters still prefer to get help from the gulabis and not the government.) Slate

Your Editor doesn't understand the problem, but it says here that the townspeople are tired of tourists ripping off their signs and have now commissioned a theft-proof granite marker. Why in the world would they be having that problem in County Dorset, in the village of Shitterton? Daily Telegraph

That's Messed Up

Did the red-light camera in Columbus, Ohio, catch you? That'll be $95, please. What? You're innocent, and you demand a hearing? OK, that'll be $95, please. (If you win, you get your money back, theoretically, but only under the legal doctrine of "taking our own sweet time about it.") WBNS-TV

Undoubtedly the nation's thinnest-skinned office-holder is Alderman Stephen Hipskind of Elmhurst, Ill. When citizen Darlene Heslop spoke to a committee meeting and didn't get what she wanted, she "rolled her eyes," "sighed," and walked away. Hipskind immediately demanded that the City Attorney explore whether Heslop could be charged under the "disturbance and disorderly conduct" section governing the city's meetings. Chicago Tribune

Washington, D.C.,'s school system is in catastrophic decline. The chancellor just fired 241 teachers. [ed.: How could that be? Just a couple of years ago, before Michelle Rhee took over, nearly every one of D.C.'s teachers was rated "outstanding" (even though the system, itself, was the country's most expensive and worst-performing). How could the teachers have deteriorated so quickly? The only solution: Fire Michelle Rhee. Bring back the outstanding teachers!] New York Times

The Pervo Community

It was bad enough that a 33-year-old transvestite was caught mounting a dog in the dry moat of Britain's historic Pendennis Castle in Cornwall. But then also last week, Anthony Julies was in Wynberg Magistrates' Court in Cape Town, South Africa, after being caught having sex with a neighbor's poodle. (He didn't even stop when the neighbors gathered around to shame him, because, he said, it "wasn't right" to start something and then stop. Also, he said, "[T]he dog mustn't flaunt herself like that." Daily Telegraph /// Independent Online (Cape Town)

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

Is Lori Turner, 39, the sort of person who would try to scam a McD's (by distracting the clerk, removing a burger from her take-out bag, stuffing it down her pants, then complaining that she didn't get it)? Spartanburg Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, S.C.)

If your idea of an animal rights activist/vegan is a Berkeley hippie., Walter Bond, 34, would like you on his jury. The Smoking Gun

Updates & Recurring Themes

Update: Kwame Kirkpatrick just can't stay out of trouble. The ex-mayor of Detroit is doing hard time for lying in court [NOTW M169, 7-4-2010], and now he's about to have jail privileges taken away because, during his last visit from his wife, he violated rules by copping a feel. CNN

Update: News of the Weird first mentioned Kopi Luwak in 1993 [NOTW 301, 11-12-1993], but it seems about once a year, an entry-level reporter somewhere in the world will discover that, hey, there's a coffee made from beans swallowed and excreted by an Asian civet (cat), and (after washing and roasting) it's so-o-o-o smooth-tasting, and ain't that wild, and let's do a story about it! Recently, Indonesia's highest Islamic authority considered a fatwa against Kopi Luwak but now says the coffee is OK as long as--duh--you wash the beans. The Jakarta Globe

Update: Wesley Snipes was convicted of three misdemeanor tax-avoiding charges in 2008 and sentenced to a year each, to run consecutively, and appealed, calling the sentence too harsh, but now the appeals court has turned him down. [ed.: And it was too harsh . . except that what the judge knew that the jury didn't was that Wesley had smart-assed his way for years with IRS agents, calling them morons for underappreciating his bogus legal theories that he is beyond the tax laws. The jury compromised on what should have been a boom-lowering, perhaps based on low-balling Wesley's IQ because he "fell for" such a scheme. All the sentencing judge did was make sure that Wesley got the max allowable on the three counts the jury settled for.] St. Petersburg Times

Update: Those three overpaid city officials in Bell, Calif., from last week? They've resigned after outraged citizens marched on city hall. (Bonus: The citizens aren't done yet!) Los Angeles Times

Recurring Ways to Die Undignified Deaths: (1) An 85-year-old man in Whitewater Township, Ohio, is the latest to be found dead in his yard with his feet sticking up, having fallen in head-first while working on his septic tank. (2) Irshad Khan and an assistant are the latest of the seemingly endless supply of clumsy Muslim jihadists, having accidentally blown themselves up in Pakistan. (3) In Marin County, Calif., a 17-year-old boy fell to his death on the Coastal Trail, perhaps, authorities say, while busy on his cell phone. Cincinnati Enquirer /// BBC News /// KTVU-TV (Oakland, Calif.)

And for Further Review . . .

You know the stories. A parent forgets that his tiny toddler is in the back seat and leaves him there while at work or shopping, and sometimes the baby doesn't make it. This is actually regarded by some people in America as a morally hazy area. It seemed clear to Your Editor that it was weird to be so distracted even though you are supposedly "caring for" an infant in your car. Subsequently, I read stories, and a few readers wrote me, pointing out that, hey, we're all busy, and we lead complicated lives, and it's not that hard to forget about your tiny little urchin in the back seat, that it's happened to them or to someone they know. Oh really? OK, enter David Bell of Menlo Park, Calif., who has studied up such things as attention span and the psychology of learning and now will sell you a VizKID that you stick in the front seat when your urchin is in back. $19.95. OK, good for David. But it's not a morally hazy subject. San Jose Mercury News /// VizKID

Newsrangers: Alyssa Ure, Gerald Sacks, Trace DeHaven, Jessica Robinson, Nigel Parry, Mark Hazelrigg, Kelly Egnitz, Raymond Johnston, J.W. Gantz, Jim Dukes, and Stacy Moore, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors