Monday, March 22, 2010

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

Exceptionally Inexplicable Dispatches from Last Week
March 22, 2010
(datelines March 13-March 20) (links correct as of March 22)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Steering Impressionables to Sadism, Plus Thy God/My Landlord, One Cheer for North Korea, and the Half-Ton Woman

People Basically Still Do What They're Told
Results of the psychologist Stanley Milgram's famous 1961 experiments (convincing subjects to apply up-to-severe pain to others based only on an arbitrary "authority figure"'s telling them to, even if it bothered them to torture people) still seem to apply. A French documentary on a fake "reality TV" show ("The Game of Death") ordered contestants to apply increasing, near-lethal pain to others. Between the enthusiastic-babe of a hostess and the roaring, goading audience, the torturers earnestly did their duty. Good thing it was all faked, or The Hague's Court would be all over 'em. BBC News /// Milgram's experiment (Wikipedia.org)

Return of the Freeman Mentality in Montana
Super-libertarian types' latest too-clever-for-the-room strategy has some who are on the verge of real-estate foreclosure in essence foreclosing on themselves by re-mortgaging the property to God, who is apparently easier to deal with than the old lender (e.g., willing to post-date the mortgage to the year 6012). Presumably, they're hoping to stay on the land while the old lender and the new one fight it out. They have some other ideas, too, if you don't like that one, and there's always the old standby, of drawing up their own monetary documents, which they see no reason for the bank not to honor. Yet another possibility: They're just all nuts. The Missoulian

The Superiority of North Korean Society
For one thing, no annoying cell phone conversations in public. For another, a senior official in charge of monetary policy was executed by firing squad for screwing up the economy. (In the U.S., we give those people bonuses.) (The late Pak Nan-gi had arranged for the recent serious devaluation of the won, which overnight made 100 of them worth 1 of them.) The Guardian (London)

People With Too-Desperate a Need for Closure
About 90% of Pet Dignity's business, the owner told USA Today, simply involved respectful disposal, but 10% comes from full-scale funerals honoring the deceased "family member" (mostly dogs, cats, and birds) Casket plus viewing plus burial plus headstone runs from $500 to $3,000, including a chaplain, special chapels accommodating 100 or so mourners, and cemeteries with a gazebo, among other things. USA Today

The Biggest Gainer
"I love eating, and people love watching me eat," says Donna Simpson, age 42 and 602 lbs., Old Bridge, N.J. When London's Daily Mail broke the story on Monday, many of us smelled a rat, but by Wednesday, Oprah, Dr. Phil, Entertainment Tonight–the usual suspects–were vying for exclusives, and Donna was meeting reporters but not granting interviews until her deals were signed. She actively aspires to reach 1,000 pounds, she says, even though a dietician estimated that adding two pounds a day would not only require immobility but 12,000 calories a day. And as previously reported in News of the Weird, there is a subculture of "chubby-chasers"--people who get off on watching and fantasizing about heavy people, and if you're one of those, you probably already know about SuperSizedBombshells.com [ed.: Not Safe For Work, or Stomachs], where people pay Donna to watch her eat and do housework. Star-Ledger (Newark) /// Daily Mail

People With Issues

Jennifer Mercado, 20, sitting on a New York City jury in judgment of an alleged credit-card thief, was charged with stealing a fellow juror's AmEx card from his coat pocket. (Bonus: Jennifer: "He said I could use it and spend $500 on it." [He: "I most certainly did not."] Jennifer: "See, it's a 'he said,' 'she said' thing.") New York Daily News

Mary Merton, 43, pleaded guilty to embezzling $800,000 over 8 years from the New York law firm she bookkept for, but then she kinda-sadly wrote to her ex-bosses: "I do not want to put you on the spot, but I would ask that you consider keeping me employed. Not because of the money, but because I truly enjoy my job and want to continue to work for the both of you to make up for my imperfections." Times Herald-Record (Middletown, N.Y.)

A 17-year-old boy in Kennewick, Wash., was arrested for breaking into Bella Office Furniture and heisting a few things. Police found him by tracing his activity on Bella's computer account, which he had used to access his MySpace page and list for sale some of the items that he was about to steal (also to look at porn, of course). Tri-City Herald (Kennewick)

Larry Long, 33, was arrested in Paducah, Ky., after his 5-week-old son was found lying in Long's oven, where he had been for several hours. (It wasn't on, or even warm; Long had apparently overdosed on marijuana and temporarily misplaced his mind.) Paducah Sun

Iowa Criminals Missing the Big Picture: (1) It didn't seem to bother Scot Davis, 52, that everybody knows your name at the All in the Family bar in South Des Moines, Ia. After a night of carousing (and passing out business cards for his work as a contractor), Scot left, then returned with a shotgun and robbed the place. "Scot, what the [expletive]?" said Gladys the bartender. He fled, but that was Thursday. They've likely got him by now. (2) And it didn't seem to bother five robbery-minded teenagers that they were riding around in a big black SUV registered to one's daddy and covered with advertising for Big Earl's Gold Mine, a Des Moines strip club. They kidnaped a 20-year-old man, robbed him, and let him go. Found 'em easily. Des Moines Register /// KCRG-TV (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Below The Fold

Another Recession-Proof Industry: the dinosaur-dung wristwatch industry! Artya, of Vesenaz, Switzerland, thinks it can charge the equivalent of about $11,290 (plus, it has a strap made with skin from an American cane toad). Associated Press via Google News

The Utah legislature is loosening its regulatory stranglehold on . . . private citizens' collection of falling rain. It has been illegal for years, but now ordinary Utahns, if they register with the state, and buy a standardized barrel to collect it in, can save rainwater. Seriously. Associated Press via KIFI-TV (Idaho Falls, Id.)

On the one hand, sheriff's candidate John White can fight crime effectively because he knows crime (having served time for bank robbery). On the other hand, it'll be hard to fight crime in Musselshell County, Mont. (county seat: Roundup, Mont.), for a sheriff who's prohibited from carrying a gun. Billings Gazette

Milton High School beat Westlake, 56-46, for the Georgia 5A boys' basketball championship. Westlake might have had a better chance if their star, state player-of-the-year candidate Marcus Thornton, hadn't had to sit after spraining his ankle in pre-game warm-ups–landing wrong while hip-bumping with a teammate. Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Why has a retired (and totally clean) Brooklyn, N.Y., couple in their 80s been raided by police more than 50 times since 2002? After several investigations, cops discovered that when they were testing their computer database years ago, they entered an address at random to see if the system worked, and Walter and Rose Martin, who happened to live at that address, were in the wrong place at the wrong time. For the last eight years, despite several tries, the cops haven't figured out how to get the Martins' address completely out of the system. Seriously. New York Post

Australia's New South Wales government has issued an official certificate declaring that "Norrie" (formerly known as Norrie May-Welby) is a genderless human–the first reported anywhere, they think. Two doctors had to certify that Norrie is physically and psychologically androgynous. She couldn't be happier! Sydney Morning Herald

The Pervo-American Community

Police in Jersey City, N.J., believe Nintikuma Patel, 27, is the one who has been following young Hispanic women on the street and then urinating on their legs. Seriously. Jersey Journal

Police in Scranton, Pa., distributed an artist's sketch of the young guy who allegedly picked up a teenage girl in his van, drove her to a parking lot, had her sign his penis in ink, and then drove her back to where he had picked her up, otherwise unharmed. Scranton Times-Tribune

Timothy Flood, 46, was arraigned in Forsyth, Mo., accused of exposing himself to two kids. In the course of the adventure, Flood supposedly placed a "squirrel's skull" on the head of his penis, after which he "eats the squirrel's eyeballs," according to the arrest warrant. Branson Daily News

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


Uphill Challenges for Their Lawyers: (1) Billy Pierce Jr., 36, was charged with threatening his old man with a pair of "bone-cutting scissors" (that he was about to use to cut his own hair). (Bonus quote: "[I'm in a] homicidal mood.") (2) Does this look like a guy who might be guilty of "assault"? (3) Thomas Althoff, 33, taken to jail for driving on a suspended license, managed (allegedly) to smuggle in Xanax tablets "in the fat rolls on his stomach." WTSP-TV (St. Petersburg) /// The Smoking Gun /// WTSP-TV (St. Petersburg)

Babe Magnet: Tony Perkins, 47, who authorities believe somehow sweet-talked 100 women to have sex with him in the last five years, ever since he was diagnosed with HIV. So far, 15 charges, though none of the women is HIV-positive. (Bonus: Police said Perkins recently sent "mass text messages" to women, seeking more hook-ups.) WRTV (Indianapolis)

More Things To Worry About

A court in Hobart, Australia, facing a father of two girls (age 10 and 8) who insists on his weekend visitation rights even though he's a convicted sex offender (child-porn possession), came up with this solution: Dad can't be alone with either of the girls, and the girls' bedroom has to be lockable to keep him out at night. News.com.au (Sydney)

Update: Jonathon Sharkey, 45, who got the press to report that he's related to Vlad the Impaler (aka Count Dracula) and calls himself a "vampyre" and has run for President, Senator, and governor, is now living in Florida and may renew his presidential aspirations. Plus, bragging about his 19-year-old fiancee: "I haven't dated a girl older than 19 since 2006. It's good to be me." WTSP-TV (St. Petersburg)

David Stopher is recovering from a stroke, which often affects a victim's brain in strange ways. Stopher's main symptom right now: He can't turn down salesmen. For instance, recently, he's had 10 concurrent cell phone contracts (six with the same company). He thinks he must have made a "sucker" list by now. Daily Mail (London)

Travel Tip: If overnighting in Memphis, skip the Budget Lodge. On Monday (March 15th) they finally found the body of a woman who had been staying at the Lodge and who had gone missing since January 27th–stuffed in the metal box frame of a bed that had been re-occupied (and "cleaned") at least five times since January 27th. Commercial-Appeal

And For Further Review . . .

"Nothing Says Springtime Like a Penis Festival": So headlined this year's notice of a weird-news evergreen (by GlobalPost.com) of the annual fertility festivals in Japan (which News of the Weird periodically references for its new readers). In previous centuries, farmers celebrated by hoisting iconic penii and vaginas into the air, hoping they would bring good harvests (and healthy offspring). Now, of course, the festivals are mainly for the tourists, especially the kids (!), for sales of souvenir-trinket penii and vaginas. (Bonus: Link to the page is preceded by an ad for the industrial technology company Siemens. Heh-heh . . heh-heh-heh.) GlobalPost.com [extremely Not Safe For Work]

Newsrangers: Hal Dunham, Brian Wilson, Bob Scopatz, Steve Dunn, Kris Holt, Paul Daly, Bruce Leiserowitz, John Beyrau, Peter Smagorinsky, Chris Paone, Phillip Choisser, and Brian Cunningham, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Weird 2.0
March 16, 2010
(datelines March 6-March 13) (links correct as of March 16)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

"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.


Texas Public School Officials Set to Inbreed Knowledge: A solid majority of the state's Board of Education don't much believe in "evolution" or in "separation of church and state" or in the weaknesses of capitalism, and they are determined that their own kids, and all other Texans', learn the correct things. They are in the process of prescribing the content for the state's textbooks (as opposed to what other states do, which is to select among what scholars in the relevant fields write). New York Times

Possibly joining the Texas Board of Education soon is a genuine cipher candidate, Tony Cunningham, who won a district's Republican primary with 58 percent of the vote, even though the Party establishment knew nothing about him (which in one sense makes him perfectly well qualified to write school textbooks). Plus, Cunningham admits to filing for the office only because he mistakenly thought it was a paid gig–based on numbers on the back of the form, which were actually a schedule of fees.) San Antonio Express-News

Sticks and Stones and Words May Break My Bones: The county school board chairman in St. Petersburg, Fla., called the gang of disruptive kids that made life miserable for teachers and students in one middle school "hoodlums"–a word that for some reason created waves of indignation among community leaders who specialize in becoming offended. Hence, based on the whims of a few, another perfectly serviceable dictionary word nears retirement. St. Petersburg Times

The Continuing Campaign to Make Americans Perfect: New York state Assemblyman Felix Ortiz of Brooklyn introduced legislation to prohibit restaurant chefs from adding salt to their dishes. Whatever is individually virtuous must be mandatory. WNEW-TV (New York City)

A New York Times investigation found that the federal government has given more than $100 billion in the past decade to U.S. companies while they continue to do business with Iran (while the U.S. government tries to get other countries to crack down on such companies). New York Times

A Miami Herald-St. Petersburg Times investigation found at least 86 illegal immigrants occupying beds in the F State's limited mental health facilities–thus denying space to actual home-grown citizen-incompetents, who are on a long waiting list. Could the illegals be deported? Maybe not. Although they have only the weakest of legal standing, their advocates can almost always say insane immigrants would be treated worse back home and therefore the lovable, benevolent U.S. can't send 'em back without violating their "human rights." Miami Herald

We know now what President Obama means when he talks about our health care system's wasting money on "needless" tests. Take, for instance, the battery of expensive tests that he just had for his annual physical. At age 48 and in magnificent health (except for that smoking thing), he still got a full battery, as if he were at risk for several bad things (according to experts interviewed by the Associated Press). [ed.: OK, the President of the United States is entitled to deluxe medical "care"–but the distinction between "care" and "tests" is central to the cost-reduction that is at the heart of the Obama reforms.] Associated Press via AOL

Greek workers took to the streets to demand that the government, on the verge of bankruptcy, not touch their pensions! These pensions include "early" retirement (age 50 for women, 55 for men) for 580 "dangerous" occupations, including radio and TV announcers (bacteria on the mics!–seriously) and musicians who play wind instruments (gastric reflux!–seriously). The European Union is called on to bail the Greeks out, but Germans in particular (retirement age: 67, going up) object. (Bonus: Greece's "national debt," "officially" 113 percent of gross domestic product [that's high!] is really 875 percent if you add "future obligations.") (Double Bonus: For the U.S., the numbers are 83 percent and 500 percent, respectively.) (Triple Bonus: But we knew all of that long ago–that if Congress had to comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, the federal government would be functionally broke–and its leaders by now probably saying hello every morning to Enron's Jeffrey Skilling.) New York Times

[Weird 2.0 is a kinda-upmarket rendition of News of the Weird / Pro Edition. No perverts, no drunks, no stupid criminals. Just scary important stuff.]

Monday, March 15, 2010

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

Exceptionally Inexplicable Dispatches from Last Week
March 15, 2010
(datelines March 6-March 13) (links correct as of March 15)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Snail-Mucus Worshipers, Plus Cosmetic Caulking, the Wages of Bullying, and Fun with Door Locks

More Uncomplicated Americans
Guru Charles Stewart, 48, was arrested in Miami for smuggling in Giant African Snails, which if caressed by the sick could, according to his preaching, heal (provided that the afflicted believe). However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture knows for sure that the snails carry bacteria in their mucus that provoke violent vomiting. Nonetheless, it's a lifestyle choice. WFOR-TV (Miami)

Shhhhhh, Don't Tell the Jury!
The truck driver took his family with him on a day-plus hauling job, but at a rest stop, he accidentally ran over his little daughter, who now probably needs total care for the rest of her life. Since the driver was "on the job," his company's insurance must pay $24 million. But the judge never told the jurors that it was not any old company driver, but the girl's own ridiculously careless daddy who ran her over. The judge didn't want to "prejudice" the jury. They didn't find out about daddy until they got home and saw it on the news. Sacramento Bee

More "Texas Justice"
More evidence that Texas simply does not accept the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment: 60 years in prison for possession of 1.3 grams of crack (about half the weight of a U.S. dime). 35 years for possession of 4.6 ounces of marijuana (lenient; the prosecutor had demanded 99). Houston Press /// Tyler Morning News

The Vatican Is Not Safe, Says Its Chief Exorcist
Satan is in the house! Father Gabriele Amorth has done 70,000 exorcisms (batting average undisclosed) and so should know better than anyone where the devil hangs out. The Times (London)

Only in the Netherlands
The NU'91 union feels the need to organize a public campaign in support of nurses, who fear their job descriptions are in immediate danger of being expanded to include providing onanistic assistance to disabled patients. Suppository-insertion still OK. Reuters

Could Be True (After all, it was on the Internet!): According to the News & Star of Carlisle, England, bureaucrats for the Department of Work and Pensions, feeling overwhelmed, were instructed by supervisors that, during the heaviest call-in time (noon-2 p.m.), they should answer the phones by pretending to speak automated messages telling the caller to ring back later. News & Star

Meanwhile, Over on the Left Tail of the Bell Curve . . .

Customers in a drive-thru lane at the Sun Trust Bank branch in Brunswick, Ga., were pretty sure that Eugene Palmer, 40, meant to rob it and so called 911. They observed Palmer approach a door, then pull down his ski mask, and try to get in. The door was locked, and Palmer fled. After nabbing him, the police said Palmer didn't seem to realize that the door is always locked because it's a drive-thru. Florida Times-Union

Suspected car burglar Travis Neeley, 19, caught inside a stranger's vehicle in Lake City, Fla., tried to escape, but every time he'd reach to open a door, the owner, standing alongside with the remote control key, re-locked it. Neeley finally gave up and quietly awaited the police. United Press International

Recurring Theme: Residential dope farmers continue to be numb to the powerful smell, though the odor is quite distinct to passersby, including police passersby. Philadelphia Inquirer

Below The Fold

What kind of architect designs a fabulous new school gymnasium and yet leaves outside-viewable space between the locker area and the shower room? The architect pointed out the efficiency of the design, but, said a school board member, "The first time a person looks in there and sees a naked kid, we're going to have a problem." Buffalo News

China: When you have 1.3 billion people, at least one of them is bound to have a horn growing out of her forehead. Daily Mail (London)

The Federal Stimulus: $71,000, to fund a researcher at Wake Forest studying the brains of cocaine-addicted monkeys, and $147,000, to pay part of the salaries for six other Demon Deacons studying whether yoga and similar therapies can alleviate menopausal hot flashes. News & Observer (Raleigh)

Ralph Conone, 68, was jailed in Columbus, Ohio, on $150,000 bond, accused after a series of shopping trips to Wal-Mart, during which he randomly punched little kids in the back of the head simply because he felt like it. Seriously. Columbus Dispatch

In the old days, being a target of bullies didn't pay well, but here is a school district in Michigan that will shell out $800,000 to Dane Patterson for emotional abuse the boy suffered off and on from the sixth grade up. Detroit Free Press

Nothing gets past the cagey cops in Holiday, Fla. They arrested Rebekah Tracht-Kader, 21, for possession of pot, based primarily on finding a small box of pot in her room, labeled "Rebekah's Pot." St. Petersburg Times

Who knew that mouse-sized tree shrews are actually toilet-trained? Not "trained," exactly, but they have figured out that they can symbiotically score some cool nectar if they drop down inside the large Philippine pitcher plant to take dumps, in that the pitcher thrives on shrew-doo. (Bonus dumping news from the week before: A spa in Santa Fe, N.M., got some buzz for its facials made with Japanese nightingale poo [$115 basic, $159 deluxe].) BBC News /// Respectful Insolence blog

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


Shane Tinsman looks innocent enough, but he might be the "naked burglar" who "ma[de] himself at home in Columbia County" WJXT-TV (Jacksonville, Fla.)

More Things To Worry About

Maybe it hasn't been such a terrific day for you, but at least, when you were out on your morning walk, you didn't get attacked by a wild, rabid otter, like this guy. Sarasota Herald-Tribune

President Obama Expecting a Fight Over School Reform: According to this Federal Business Opportunities solicitation, the U.S. Department of Education needs to buy 27 short-barreled shotguns. (They didn't say.) Federal Business Opportunities

Some rooster-fight promoters, citing rising expenses, have switched over to six-inch-long saffron finches, instead, which are much more convenient. Downside: They must be enticed to fight, by placing a hot babe finch nearby, which causes the male finches to battle to the finish. USA Today

Six women reported to hospitals in New Jersey after getting buttocks-enhancement injections with industrial (not medical) silicone, i.e., bathtub caulk. Cosmetic surgeons say that even medical-grade silicone is particularly poor at "enhancing" that body part upon which one sits. Newark Star-Ledger

And For Further Review . . .

Just in time for Easter, consider this well done annotated list of the 10 best relics of Christianity still on display (and/or tour) and which are still able to induce devotional trances in the believers. The big 10 run the gamut from Jesus's swaddling clothes to the actual "holy nails" used in the crucifixion, to Mary's breast milk, and to little Jesus's foreskin (citing Luke 2:21 for proof of circumcision). TheSmartSet.com

Newsrangers: Suzanne Jordan, Peter Hine, Mary McAninch, Larry Seltzer, Neil Garland, and Brennan Diettrick, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Weird 2.0
Spawn of News of the Weird / Pro Edition
March 9, 2010
(datelines February 27-March 6) (links correct as of March 9)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

[SPECIAL BONUS: There's another group of stories
following Weird 2.0. (News That Sounds Like a Joke)]


Evidently, it's big news 8½ years after 9-11 that a respected Muslim cleric has issued a fatwa condemning suicide bombing, backed by 600 pages of Quranic scholarship. Nonetheless, everybody knows that the most important basis for fatwas remains not murder, but insults! CNN

Twenty-three super-principled members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted (23-22) to officially condemn Turkey. It's not for anything anyone alive did. The country is being smited because the 23 have concluded that, based on their study of history, the Ottoman Empire committed "genocide" in 1915-1923 and that it's up to the U.S. House of Representatives not to let them, whoever they were, get away with it. Agence France-Presse via Google News

America has done a creditable job at reducing manmade pollutants over the last 40 years, but it is falling way behind on one: farm animal manure. In the old days, small farms could recycle their manure over their own fields. Now, megafarms produce megapoop but don't have megafields to spread it on. The government tries to set standards, but the way this works is that the megafarms' lobbyists object, using "the small family farms" as their human shield against further regulation. Washington Post

And speaking of The Way Things Work, the federal government way-overpays its workers (in salary, benefits, and due-process-of-law protections) compared to the private sector in most occupations accounting for the bulk of the federal workforce. However, the unions howl and trot out those few occupations where federal workers are paid less (e.g., doctors, lawyers, senior managers). A USA Today analysis concluded that, on average, a fed gets $7,000 a year more in salary, plus better benefits. (And, although you don't get a guaranteed lifetime job, it helps during a recession that your boss can print his own money.) USA Today via News-Journal (Wilmington, Del.)

In New York and about half the states, domestic violence by choking is only a citation offense or a misdemeanor, not rising to a felony unless there is tangible, documentable injury (i.e., more than fear, more than discomfort, more than red marks). Year after year, the New York state legislature ignores anti-domestic- violence advocates and continues to treat spousal chokings as it does traffic tickets. New York Times

Tex-Ass Justice (continued): What does it take to get Texas law-enforcement officials to admit they made a mistake such that they would actually pardon someone they've convicted? We found out last week. It helps to be dead. Tim Cole was pardoned for a 1985 rape he never committed. Another guy confessed to the rape in 1996, but having another perp on hand is never enough for Texas officials; they ignored him. Cole died in prison in 1999. In 2008, they got around to the DNA, which exonerated Cole . . and implicated . . the guy who confessed in 1996. Houston Chronicle

Pennsylvania is known as "East Utah" for its restrictive liquor package-store laws. You can only buy beer for take-home if you get a case at a time from a "distributor" or buy it at a "bar" (at bar-type mark-up). Now, the large grocery chains Giant Eagle and Wegmans have gone to the trouble of opening fake-out "bars" inside their stores so they can sell beer. (But since the alleged purpose of the state's restrictions is fear of underage drinking, the chains are requiring that driver's licenses be scanned for each purchase. That means they potentially store much more information than just date-of-birth.) The beer distributors, of course, think this is basically a fine system. BoingBoing.net

[Weird 2.0 is a kinda-upmarket rendition of News of the Weird / Pro Edition. No perverts, no drunks, no stupid criminals. Just scary important stuff.]

Newsrangers: Laurence Polk, Peter Hine


News That Sounds Like a Joke
Some Weeks, News of the Weird / Pro Edition just isn't enough
March 9, 2010
(datelines February 27-March 6) (links correct as of March 9)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Global Warming (and Bathtub) Alert: Scientists from the University of Fairbanks discovered that about 8 million tons of methane is bubbling up from the frozen tundra north of Siberia. (They don't know whether the gas has been coming up all along or just started.) Reuters via ABC News

Toyotas Are Safer: Near Arlington, Wash., a 59-year-old man driving his 1978 Buick left the road and careened down an embankment. His steering wheel had come off in his hands. KOMO-TV (Seattle)

A Swiss condom manufacturer believes that a market awaits in the person of younger teenage boys who are sexually active but find adult sizes too loose. It will begin making a "small" for 12- to 14-year-olds. Unaddressed question: Are there 12- to 14-year-olds actually anticipating sex who would let themselves be seen with a "small"? Daily Telegraph (London)

Arelisha Bridges, 45, was charged in Atlanta with murdering her 26-year-old husband following a domestic altercation. Bridges is a registered lobbyist for an anti-domestic-violence organization. (On the other hand, she's probably not a very good lobbyist, as her total expenses for the year amount so far to $20.) Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Covington, Ky., psychiatrist Douglas Rank was arrested two weeks ago when his own personal demons bubbled over, resulting in his going bloodily samurai on his girlfriend. Apparently, several of his patients are in such bad shape that they've called the jail to see if Dr. Rank can keep his regular appointments while in lockup. Kentucky Enquirer

The Times of India reported that a 55-year-old man checked in to a Kolkata hospital, suffering from a 21-day (and counting) erection. It's a serious story, with warnings and care instructions about priapism. But the name of the hospital is the Wockhardt. The Times of India

Paul Railton was fined £66 ($100) and assessed three driver's license points for walking his dog on a country road by holding the leash out the window as he motored along. His lawyer admitted there was "an element of" of laziness involved. Associated Press via MSNBC

Germain Bowman-McDonald filed a lawsuit against a wig store in New York City based on a July incident when a plastic mannequin head fell on her left foot. The nerve damage that resulted, she said, has left her unable to curl the toes of that foot. Her husband filed a separate lawsuit asserting that the injury has prevented their having satisfactory sex (i.e., no toe-curling for him, either). New York Daily News

The Aristocrat! Toni Tramel, 31, jailed in Owensboro, Ky., for public intoxication, had "assault on a police officer" added to her booking sheet. She had squirted her breast milk at her female jailer. WBKO-TV (Bowling Green, Ky.)

Newsrangers: Kaitlyn Buckway, Kathryn Wood, Kiki Yablon, Graham Rankin, Steve Wagner, Larry Seltzer, Peter Smagorinsky, and Mark Yeager.

Monday, March 08, 2010

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

Exceptionally Inexplicable Dispatches from Last Week
March 8, 2010
(datelines February 27-March 6) (links correct as of March 8)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

The Cheese Whiz, Plus Howling Women, Time-Delay Quadruplets, and Perhaps Too Much Mons News

His Media Instincts Better Than His Dishes?
A-List New York City chef Daniel Angerer stepped up the buzz by acknowledging that, yes, he is preparing cheese from his nursing wife's breast milk. It's open-source, though: He published the recipe, and offered aspiring cordon bleus some of the couple's "back-up" milk that their 8-week-old won't be able to get to. "[W]hoever wants to try it is welcome." New York magazine

Know Your Prophets
(1) The omniscient Sean David Morton, who has "called ALL [ed: his capitaliz.] the highs and lows of the [stock] market giving EXACT DATES [his capitaliz.] for rises and crashes over the last 14 years," was sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He didn't call any of that, even though he was supposedly trained in "remote viewing" by monks in Nepal. However, he did manage to lighten investors' bank balances by about $6 million. (2) More measured is Lenny Dykstra [ed.: yep, the baseball player], who debuted his yearly investment service ($999). He acknowledges that he's not a registered advisor, but says "his proven track record has caught the attention of many." (3) Minister "Calypso Louie" Farrakhan resurfaced, reminding his Nation of Islam that he has helped them over the years by uniquely recognizing warning signs like the earthquake in Chile, which currently portends trouble for President Obama. "The word 'prophet' is too cheap a word. I am a light in the midst of darkness. It ain't ego; it's my love for you." New York Times /// Wall Street Journal /// Associated Press via Salon.com /// YouTube [Farrakhan sings calypso]

The Staff of Life
Sarah Burge, 49, is well-known in Britain as the recipient of more than 100 invasive cosmetic procedures (cost: at least £500,000 [$750,000], which should surely render her perfect by now). Not wanting to be a hypocrite, she acceded to her daughter's cries of vanity, by administering her Botox at age 15. Hannah is now 16 and still deathly afraid that, without "B," she'd "get that frozen-face look" when she's older. Daily Mail [includes before and after photos of Mom]

Two Things You Didn't Expect
(1) Afghanistan has a National Environmental Protection Agency. (2) Last week, it moved to save the endangered large-billed red warbler and 13 other critters, running its "save the" list up to 48. Scientific American

Your Periodic Roundup of "Intelligent Design"
(1) Deepak Paswaan, 7, in Bihar, India, is looking for (a) a qualified surgical team and (b) a little health-care reform to pay for it, to remove the parasitic twin he was born with. (There's a Not Safe For Stomachs, all-eight-limbs photo.) (2) A woman in England had triplets, arriving two years after the birth of her first daughter, and doctors determined that all four had come from the same egg. Time-delay quads! (3) And it says here that this little fella was born without pores, creating predictable problems plus skin resembling fish scales. Daily Telegraph (London) via Fox News /// BBC News /// Daily Telegraph (London)

Meanwhile, Over on the Left Tail of the Bell Curve . . .

It doesn't work, but it's what he knows how to do: Jonathon Smith, 22, was arrested in Fairbanks, Alaska, after his fourth consecutive try at scoring a used truck by presenting a forged check (that is, arrested while out on bail from the previous failures). Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Barney Fife, Back to Life: Adair County (Ky.) Sheriff's deputy Charles Wright was fired on the opening day of the new county judicial center after he accidentally locked himself in a cell and tried to shoot the lock open. WKYT-TV (Lexington)

In the District of Calamity II, a Detroit firefighter got written up after he lost a $600,000 fire truck responding to a call. He must have skipped over the part in the handbook about not parking on railroad tracks. Detroit News

Unclear on the Concept: An undercover agent for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, nosing around a neighborhood in Kissimmee, Fla., was busted by local sheriff's deputies and had to reveal his ID. The ICE agent's undercover persona: "FBI agent." Orlando Sentinel

Allen Nguyen, 22, allegedly stole lottery tickets from a store on Thursday; found out on Friday that one of his cards was a $50 winner; and then tried to cash it in . . . at the same store he stole it from. Orlando Sentinel

Bad enough that Megan Barnes, 37, got caught driving her car the day after a judge had suspended her license for five years and ordered the car impounded. The reason she drew state troopers' attention was that she rear-ended a car while she was shaving . . her bikini lines. Key West Citizen

Below The Fold

New Frontiers in "Breast Augmentation" Surgery: Maria Alaimo, 47, aiming only for 36C's, wound up (said her lawyer) with "essentially four breasts," due to lumping. Trial in her New York City lawsuit against Dr. Keith Berman, for $5 million, commenced last week.[LINK CORRECTED] New York Daily News

Write Your Own Punch Line: Every year around this time, women gather at the Attukal temple in Trivandrum, Kerala, India, to shriek—literally. This year there were three million prideful howlers, seeking the graces of goddesses Kali and Saraswati. BBC News

The family of the late Alison Hume learned during the inquest in Scotland last week that the firefighters who were on the scene when she accidentally fell down a mine shaft in 2008 had equipment on hand to save her, but couldn't because government rules specify that they can only do that kind of rescue for their own colleagues. Instead, Hume had to await a "mountain rescue" squad. She died at the scene. BBC News

Preparation for the End of Days: Testifying at a pre-trial hearing in New Jersey, the estranged wife said that the husband had for years been raping the couple's five daughters, but that everyone was too scared to stop him. He had thought his reasoning was solid: The world was ending soon, and the more female Ayindes there were, the better the chance that the bloodline would survive, and three of the daughters did bear him six more Ayindes. (Bonus cheap shot: Mr. Ayinde's first name is Aswad.) (In a less-reliable news report last week from the town of Goya, Argentina, Francisco Lotero, 56, and Miriam Coletti, 23, entered into a death pact with each other, taking down their two kids and then themselves, but the youngest, age 7 months, survived her particular bullet. According to neighbors, the couple took The Only Way Out because of fear of global warming.) [ed.: It's "less reliable" because it's from an Argentine paper called the Clarin, then cribbed by something called the Latin American Herald Tribune, then cribbed by London's Daily Telegraph, which made it acceptable to be cribbed by the New York Daily News. Similar reportorial corners were cut on the boy-with-no-pores story, above.] The Record (Hackensack, N.J.) /// Latin American Herald Tribune

Kitchen-Sink Theory of Litigation: In Aurora, Colo., in 2008, an illegal immigrant, at 80 mph, smashed into another motorist, sending her careening into a Baskin-Robbins store, killing that driver and her passenger and a 3-year-old getting ice cream with his mother. The immigrant was convicted last week, but of course he's uninsured. Thus, little Marten Kudlis's parents have filed a lawsuit seeking compensation from: the immigrant; his common-law wife's parents (he was driving their car); the local electric company (the collision brought Marten's head together with a piece of their equipment); the state Department of Transportation and the city of Aurora (they maybe over-widened the highway seven years ago, leaving too little of a set-back in front of the store); the property owner; the lessee Baskin-Robbins; the estate of the driver hit by the immigrant (she tested positive for meth); and several law enforcement agencies (who after all failed to have deported the immigrant before he could cause this mayhem). Denver Post

The Pervo-American Community

U.S. Ingenuity on Display: See the "network of gadgets" found inside David Delagrange's pants after he was picked up for allegedly taking upskirt photos in Castleton Mall in Indianapolis. (Bonus: Upskirts are not illegal in Indiana because Delagrange took them in a public place.) WANE-TV (Fort Wayne)

The FBI closed its files on the late Bruce Ivins, who the Bureau said in its best judgment was the only one responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks in the wake of 9-11. The front of the file concluded that Ivins (who committed suicide in 2008) was motivated by political and psychosocial issues and had proposed a "gold standard"-like money valuation but based on cannabis rather than gold. Further back in the file, though, were revelations that he was a cross-dresser, obsessed with "blindfolding" and bondage, and had a collection of fetish magazines and 15 pairs of women's semen-stained panties. Also, he had told investigators that he had a longstanding "obsession" with the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and twice broke into KKG chapters to steal "ritual books" used by the sorority. The Smoking Gun

And representing the Pervo-Welsh Community: Andrew Dymond, 46, appeared in court last week in Swansea, Wales, accused of possessing a little bit of porn, a little bit of child porn, a little bit of bestiality porn, and one photo of a man having sex with a dead squid. South Wales Evening Post

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


Making Things Difficult for Their Lawyers: (1) John Angerer (jailed last week on a 2006 murder charge). (2) Michelle Parkhurst, 37 (charged with soliciting a hit man to kill a police informant). (3) Eric Spandorf, 43 (an "online minister" charged with possession of child porn). Anchorage Daily News /// Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.) /// Tampa Tribune

More Things To Worry About

Epic Police Chase (or, judging from another angle, Montcalm County, Mich., is a good place to maybe get away with something): A 41-year-old man, with an arrest warrant for contempt of court, didn't go quietly. Either he was as elusive as Jason Bourne, or the deputies were Police Squad; your call. Here's a 450-word report from WWMT-TV in Grand Rapids showing how, time after time, over a couple of hours one night, they corner him, and time after time, he gets away. WWMT-TV

Not to Worry: The first report was that the guy was electrocuted by the stream while urinating inadvertently on a live, downed power line. [ed. Thanks to readers for the ton of tips.] But the autopsy spoiled everything: He must've grabbed the wire in his hand. In fact, "scientists say" that you can't die by the stream like that. Still, he's dead, and it was his one-car crash into the power pole that loosened the wire. Associated Press via Tacoma News Tribune

And a Correction [from NOTW / Pro, 2-15-2010]: It was wrongly reported everywhere that South Carolina's registration law for subversive organizations had only recently kicked in. Actually, the law has been on the books since 1951, and it's not clear yet why someone chose to publicize it out of the blue this year. (Bonus: No one had ever registered under the law until the recent story got out. In February, 10 jokers tried to sign up.) The State (Columbia, S.C.)

Reality TV in Australia: A show called "Hungry Beast" on Australia's ABC TV explored the nip/tuck procedure called labiaplasty, and it's safe to say that Americans will never see anything like it on our ABC TV. The subject is serious, though—how a few women get so obsessed that they endure the pain and silliness of reconfiguring their private part to make it more "attractive" to men. [ed.: The video is so-o-o Not Safe For Work that I'm not even making a link. Make your own link if you're really interested, by typing "http://vimeo.com/" (without the quotation marks, of course) and then, following the com/, typing 9924049 and then you're on your own. The news report link is quite safe, though.] Herald Sun (Melbourne)

And For Further Review . . .

You might believe that, whereas dogs do what they're told, cats have strict zones of indignation that they will not enter. If so, you will be shattered by these cat fashions from Japan (and the two tolerant models, obviously doped up on cat Ativan). GlobalPost.com /// The Cute Show video

Newsrangers: Jan Wolitzky, Scott Huber, Jim Dukes, Angela Hasty, Lynna Hughes, Gil Nelson, John Vacek, George Rubin, and Carl McGlone, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Weird 2.0

"To see what is in front of one's nose requires a constant struggle"—George Orwell
"Nero Fiddles While Rome Burns"—Rome Daily Inquirer, July 18, 64 A.D.


March 2, 2010
(datelines February 20-February 27) (links correct as of March 2)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Homeland Security's cheerleader captain, Janet Napolitano, loves the "E-Verify" system that, lickety-split, tells an employer whether a worker's social security number is valid. Said she, "E-Verify is absolutely where we're going" in security. Problem: 54% are false positives, in that the SSN was real but had been stolen. Associated Press via Yahoo News

FEMA continued to do a heckuva job even after Hurricane Katrina. For instance, it needed a facility in Brentwood, Tenn. Guys with flashlights drove around the Nashville area, inspected a property without electricity, with an intermittently-operating boiler, and without potable water. Deal! $122,000 rent for three months. Quickly, worker sick leave became a problem because of sewage leaks and chemical contamination, so they had it repaired (adding $607,000 in expenses). That's all according to Homeland Security's inspector general (but FEMA blamed it all on the General Services Administration). Politico.com

Last August, "compassionate" Scotland's officials released the Lockerbie bomber, terminally ill, so he could pass his last days at home in Libya. Now, his "three months to live" are six and counting, and he's pretty comfortable, according to this report. Daily Telegraph

The National Security Agency, checking out the computer system of the Secret Service, found it worked at a lightning-like "60 percent" capacity, with a 1980s-style mainframe. It'll cost $187 million to update, and Homeland Security has allocated a whole $33 million. ABC News

Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission warned that schools are not to require gender-specific clothing styles, such as making younger girls wear skirts. That's because of the few kids who have decided already that they're transgenders and thus might be made to feel uneasy. We can't have uneasiness. The Times

Defining Integrity Down: Briton Roger Day, 62, was convicted of wearing 17 Army medals he didn't come close to earning, but the judgment was overturned because the prosecutor had charged him under an old law that was recently updated, and he consequently decided, what the hell, just turn Day loose. Day: "I am vindicated. I am now considering taking legal action against all those who muddied my name." The Times

Win-Win? (You decide.) An Australian Broadcasting Corp. reporter is the latest to visit the issue of where all those women's hair extensions come from. Answer: Hindu temples accept hair (Some have head-shavers on duty 24/7!) in lieu of money as offerings to the gods, for prosperity. Then the temples sell it to brokers at the equivalent of about US$80 to $120/lb, and it eventually makes its way to Europe and then to salons everywhere. Australian Broadcasting Corp. News

The latest think-tank figures put the yearly total of patients who enter U.S. hospitals infection-free, but who never make it out alive due to infection, at 99,000. (The other 1.6 million patients [annually] who got infected at the hospital, didn't die.) Reuters via Yahoo News

The CW Group International, LLC, would like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, such as by explaining to Guinea's murderous army that they simply must start playing fair. Hence, CWGI prepared this Power Point presentation setting out the rules of civilized warfare, e.g., Don't shoot at civilians. (Of course, traditional African-warlord/civil war/genocide rules require that civilians be tortured and killed.) Foreign Policy

The 5th Commandment can be a bitch. "Honor thy father and thy mother"? Sure. But the gospel according to fundamentalists Michael and Debi Pearl teaches that the best way to convey that is with a section of quarter-inch plumbing supply line, administered forcefully to various parts of your child's body. Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz were charged two weeks ago in Oroville, Calif., for beating one young daughter to death and torturing another, and last week Elizabeth decided she needed a heavyweight lawyer. All they were trying to do, said the Schatzes, was lovingly help their kids to be God-fearing. Mercury-Register (Oroville)

[Weird 2.0 is a kinda-upmarket rendition of News of the Weird / Pro Edition. No perverts, no drunks, no stupid criminals. Just scary important stuff.]

Monday, March 01, 2010

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

Exceptionally Inexplicable Dispatches from Last Week
March 1, 2010
(datelines February 20-February 27) (links correct as of March 1)
by Chuck Shepherd
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Wrong Place Right Time, Plus a Tanned Pig, a Gassed Thief, and God Bless My Huge, Naked Body

Told Ya! Ya Wouldn't Listen!
Mr. Koua Fong Lee, serving 8 years for vehicular homicide in Minnesota, may have a reprieve. He told us all along that his Camry had accelerated all by itself—that it was impossible to stop it from killing those three people. Actually, he was driving an unrecalled 1996 model, but he's in play if the problem is cruise-control electronics. Associated Press via San Francisco Chronicle

Truly . . Only in America
The saga of the most calamitous split-second glimpse of areola in the history of the world continues. The U.S. Court of Appeals, acting on Supreme Court instructions, agreed to formally reconsider its 2008 decision to reject the FCC's half-million-dollar fine against CBS for the Janet Jackson episode at the 2004 Super Bowl. 2004! (Then, back to the Supreme Court? Then . . .?) Bloomberg News via Business Week /// Not Safe For Work Original Video

Tex-ass Justice: End-Running the U.S. Supreme Court
If you're on trial, and your prosecutor is secretly banging your judge, that might be important. Charles Dean Hood, who ultimately got the death penalty, tried to prove such an affair for over 15 years, but the small town kept it quiet. Finally, in 2008, the judge confessed. Hood asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to at least take the death penalty off the table, but the most-defendant-unfriendly tribunal in America ruled that Hood had "waited" too long to raise the issue. He "waited"? With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to take the case, the Texas court re-thought it and came up with an altogether-different (though overrated) justification for removing Hood from death row. SCOTUS may still take the case, though. New York Times

Naked Worshiping
From time to time, a reporter discovers that a few old-line nudist camps conduct on-premise church services on Sunday mornings (something about how God didn't make you born wearing clothes). Here's a TV news report from the White Tail Resort (near Petersburg, Va.). [Ed.: No money shots, but still probably not safe for work, and definitely not aesthetically safe.] WVEC-TV (Virginia Beach)

Did a Certain Ex-Governor Get an Abortion Before Conceiving Trig?
Virginia state Delegate Bob Marshall, speaking at an anti-Planned Parenthood photo-op, helpfully informed us that kids "born . . . with handicaps" are God's revenge for an earlier abortion. Richmond News Leader

Can't Possibly Be True
The Dean's Office of Yale College (of Yale U.) is formally soliciting Penthouse-Forum-type musings from undergrads on the school's "sexual culture," or, according to a faculty member, "student strategies for creatively navigating" that culture. The director of the Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies supports it, too, and suggests somehow that she is expecting "70 to 80" specific perspectives. The work-product is not an under-the-counter magazine but a website section to be called "sex@yale" (but it will be open to lurkers everywhere). Yale Daily News

Editor's Note

Coming tomorrow [probably], and nearly every Tuesday [less likely, but still possible]: Chuck's Weird 2.0!

Meanwhile, Over on the Left Tail of the Bell Curve . . .

It wasn't the first time that clever thieves had rigged a van with a false floor, to siphon gasoline from a service station's underground tank, but it might have been the first time that the perp failed to respect the power of gasoline fumes inside a closed-up van. Arizona Republic

Tacky Tacky: Ursula Hall is running for a judgeship in Houston despite a dismal biography and a tone-deaf outgoing answering-machine message. She already has a law school flunk-out and a managerial firing behind her. Her qualifications to be judge: "experience," "judicial demeanor," and being "quite bright." Houston Chronicle

A paraplegic in a wheelchair maybe ought not be so aggressive, fighting with his abled pal over who gets to smoke the biggest rock of crack cocaine. He needed to settle for one of the smaller rocks. KXAN-TV (Austin, Tex.) via WAVY-TV (Hampton Roads, Va.)

Recurring Themes: Once again, cops presume you drunk if you drive around with no wheels on the front of your car (or if you drive with the severed gas hose sticking out of your tank). Once again, cops presume you are a burglar if you get stuck in the chimney of a stranger's house. Once again, cops like it that burglars accidentally punch 9-1-1 while on the job. The Sentinel (Carlisle, Pa.) /// Associated Press via Yahoo News /// Seattle Times /// WOFL-TV (Orlando)

Below The Fold

In Latvia, the first day of school each September is known as "Knowledge Day," traditionally celebrated by day-long benders, even by the underaged. The newly sensible Parliament is considering a Knowledge Day alcohol ban. Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News

All of us who are underpaid do not appreciate knowing that Google employs a team of professional doodlers whose only job is to figure out cool ways to design the word "Google" on the search page. CNN

Pigs Living Large (briefly): In the course of examining the expenses of a female Missouri Ponzi-ist known as the "Midwest Madoff," prosecutors discovered she once paid $900 for a tanning bed for her show pigs. Also last week, it was reported that progressive farmers in China are requiring that their hogs be caressed, bathed with soft music, and receive a day of rest following travel. (However, that's just to make the pork tastier because the day after that, they all get slaughtered.) St. Louis Post-Dispatch /// Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News

If you're a felony sex offender in Minnesota, you can't be a physician (state law!) but you can be a chiropractor and don't even have to tell patients you're a registered scuzz! Star Tribune

Shhh! "We've secretly removed the border warnings from this bridge in Port Huron, Mich., and there's no turnaround lane. So, if you find yourself on the ramp to the bridge, you'll wind up in Canada, whether you want to or not. Let's see if these Americans, carrying 7 lbs. of marijuana, notice." CNews.canoe.ca (Toronto)

Another British National Health Service Classic: The 79-year-old woman with age-related macular degeneration in her right eye is being treated at a hospital in Coventry. Now, though, it looks like mac-d has hit the left eye, too. So, the bureaucrats say the left eye has to be treated at a different hospital, 20 miles away. BBC News

The Pervo-American Community

Safeway employee Nicholas Lorenzo, 25, was arrested on the job in Louisville, Colo., as he, standing behind the, um, meat counter, engaged a lady customer in conversation while unzipped and enjoying himself. Denver Post

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


Uphill Challenges for Their Lawyers: Stanley Mumby, 52, Sacramento (charge: beating Mom with a wooden sword). Kristopher Santillo, 21, Dartmouth, Mass. (charge: bank robbery). John Wallace, 46, Warr Acres, Okla. (charge: possession of illegal mushrooms). Christopher Sheehan, 51, Sarasota County, Fla. (charge: threats against state officials). Tony Alexander Pete, 43, Ogden, Utah (charge: home invasion and theft). KOVR-TV (Sacramento) /// WFXT-TV (Boston) /// The Oklahoman /// Sarasota Herald Tribune /// Salt Lake Tribune

But this one's trickier: The cherubic Emily Stearns, 19, might be a student-council-president-type—or she could be a big-time drug retailer on the mean streets of Danbury, Conn.(bonus: and a hit-man solicitor!). Danbury News Times

More Things To Worry About

Thorpe Park in Surrey, England, aiming to upgrade the realism of its "Saw Alive"-themed horror ride, wants only the most putrid pungency for the exhibit's stench and is seeking foul-smelling urine from the general public, and it's even giving tips on how contributors can jack up their aromas. "Winner" gets £500 ($757). Daily Mail

After residents of Japan's Tokushima prefecture complained about stray dogs and cats, the government bought some gas-chamber-equipped vans to speed up the evacuations. The poor fellas are dead by the time the van gets to the crematorium. The Guardian (London)

The age of sexual consent within the Vatican State is . .12 (15 if there's a relationship of dependence, like, oh, say, priest and altar boy). But if Italian cops get hold of the Vatican perp, they can convict even if the victim is a "consenting" 12- or 13-year-old. TheAtlantic.com (Andrew Sullivan blog)

And For Further Review . . .

All hail magnificent obsessionists! Like this guy. The website is in Japanese, but here's BoingBoing editor Lisa Katayama: "i-ramen.net is an amazingly meticulous web site that chronicles one man's daily consumption of different kinds of instant noodles since 1997. It appears from the way they're numbered that he is now on his 4,308th bowl. For each new type of instant noodle, he creates a thorough chart that includes a full ingredients list; comments on texture, flavor, quantity, and price; and a starred rating." That puts this nerd on a footing with other meticulous cataloguers, such as the pedophile Dean Schwartzmiller, who not only had time to molest perhaps a thousand boys (though he said most were just fantasies) but also genuinely had time to compile notebooks containing 1,500 pages of descriptions and ratings of his victims. BoingBoing.net /// i-ramen.net/ /// Associated Press via MSNBC (on Schwartzmiller, 1-29-2007)

Newsrangers: Sam Gaines, Stephen Taylor, Hal Dunham, Bob Pert, Brennan Diettrick, Ruth Brown, David Bonan, Tim Champagne, Andre Matthiesen, and Tracy Hammond, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors