Monday, December 27, 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
December 27, 2010
(datelines December 18-December 25) (links correct as of December 27)

SPECIAL [BRIEFER] HOLIDAY EDITION: Less for you to read! Fewer distractions for those with other holiday duties! (Regular-length distractions resume January 3rd)

The Vaginal Steam Bath, Plus Mice That Chirp and the Church of Scum

★ ★ ★ ★!

The Concept Is "Not Insane": A California M.D. gave that reassuring endorsement to the latest health craze in L.A.: the vaginal steam bath (with mugwort tea and wormwood, among other herbs, wafting up into the nether region). (Men can lower themselves onto the vapors, too, to soothe the perineal area, especially those with a super-active perineal area.) It's an ancient Korean treatment, at about $50 for a half-hour squat (or, for Koreans in the ethnic shops, $20). (The question is why, since Koreans have been populating Los Angeles for 50 years, we're only now being told of this essential therapy.) Los Angeles Times

If the Extraterrestrials Check Who's Outside, They May Change Their Minds: Word-of-mouth (some of the mouths agape with vacancy) has prompted a growing population of conspiracists to congregate in Bugarach, in southwestern France, near the mountain inside which (as everybody knows) extraterrestrials have been holing up, waiting for the signal (hint: 12-12-2012) to come out, gather the chosen Earthling survivors, and head back to the Mother Planet. Probably, the idea was for them to select smart, hardy people, but peering at who's assembling around Bugarach, they may just flee in despair. (Or, normal people could be wrong, and Bugarach could be the only place to survive Armageddon.) The mayor is starting to worry, though, as his lovely village of 189 is slowly overrun with conspiracists. Daily Telegraph (London)

Update: They Say You'll Be Able to Make Dinner in a Printer: A lab at Cornell University is said to be leading the field in developing a 3-D Food Printer, which outputs sort of a schematic (the exact recipe for the dish), and you squirt some artificial food from a syringe onto the proper places, and cook it up, and voila! It's good that we have people who think of stuff like this. BBC News /// BoingBoing [Oh, dear! More 3-D printing!]

The Church of Tell It Like It Is: Denver's Christian catch-all for society's misfits and ne'er-do-wells is thriving after 10 years: the Scum of the Earth Church (its real name!) (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:11-13). It must have been a cool assignment for a writer to compose a story with so many "Scum [this]" and "Scum[that]" references, but on the ground, there's quite a bit of salvation going on, backed by "authentic" Christianity (instead of mindless ritualization), and as a fallback position, it's a magnet for the area's disaffected youth (as in, what could a kid possibly do to tick off his parents more than to join the Scum of the Earth Church?). Westword (Denver)

Coming Soon to Everywhere: The UK just experienced its first successful "savior sibling" procedure in which parents bred a second kid for the main purpose of creating cells to treat an already-endangered kid. That has been legal in the U.S. for a decade but kept low-key so as not to annoy the you-know-whos, who seem not to be fully aware that this happens when the in-vitro-fertilization doctor grows multiple embryos, tests each one to find the one or two with the proper cells, implants those, and then--oh, dear!--discards the others. Plus, the Los Angeles lab Fertility Institutes announced in 2009 that it would accept clients who weren't interested so much in savior-ing as they were in, um, creating babies with, y'know, blonde hair and blue eyes, or whatever. BBC News /// Fertility Institutes [a free Fox News summary of a not-free 2009 Wall Street Journal article]

And Still More Things To Worry About

Burger King UK's big holiday promotion this season: a regular Whopper adorned with Brussels sprouts! Marketing Magazine (UK)

Oops! A prominent Boston hospital admitted that three times in the last three months, surgeons had miscounted vertebrae and screwed the patient up worse than when they started. (Spine surgery is apparently one of the easier procedures to get completely wrong--for those of you out there needing such surgery.) They have checklists and "time outs" for doctors to count the vertebrae, but obviously . . ..) Boston Globe

Oops, Again! Minor-league rap artist Trevell Coleman wanted merely to get right with the Lord, to get "closure" for having shot a man 17 years ago, and so turned himself in to the NYPD--only to be told for the first time that his victim had actually died in the shooting. (Uh-oh, he said. Guess "I'm not going home after this.") New York Post

Dilettante researchers at the University of Osaka, doing waves of genetic modifications just to see what they come up with, intended to grow mice with distorted limbs but produced about 100 that "tweeted" like birds. Oh, well. Agence France-Presse via Google News

Is There an Easier Buck in America?: Doctors who overbill Medicare seem to do it effortlessly, with impunity, owing to a near-perfect storm of regulation: Medicare must pay bills within 30 days (limiting government's ability to red-flag), and billing records are by law confidential, even with no patient ID's on them. That's why a spiked-hair, leather-and-chained doctor in South Beach took in $1.2 million in 2008 from basically "rub[bing patients] backs and hav[ing] the government pay for it." In other areas of government excesses, the press and private organizations energize whistle-blowing; for Medicare, doctors know they need "fear" only beleaguered, underfunded federal investigators. Wall Street Journal

Physician-attorney Michael Newdow rings in the new year with his 14-year streak of never having won any of his lawsuits chastising America for insufficiently separating church and state. Estimated time gloriously spent: 10,000 hours (about five years' worth of full-time employment). 2010 mission: to ask SCOTUS to have "In God We Trust" removed from U.S. money. (Bonus: Many atheists wish he'd go away because if he actually wins one, Americans might just amend the U.S. Constitution and explicitly permit U.S.-God relations.) ChristianCentury.Org

Judge, to jury pool in Missoula, Mont.: "Can you pledge to take seriously this charge of possession of one-sixteenth of an ounce of marijuana?" (Substantial part of the jury pool: "Hell, no.") (Judge: How dare you! This is unprecedented!) (Bonus: Pat Robertson might not convict the little bugger, either.) (Double Bonus paraphrasing of comedian Ron White: "When I have one-sixteenth of an ounce of marijuana, I consider myself to be out of marijuana.") Billings Gazette /// Mediate (Pat Robertson on TV)

Indictments are so easy that, it is said, a good prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. In rural Florida, obscenity convictions are so easy, a mediocre prosecutor might possibly convict even a guy like Phillip Greaves (the author of that guide for pedophiles that Amazon famously yanked off in November [Pro Edition, 11-15-2010]), who wasn't even doing anything and who doesn't even live here. [ed.: Greaves has a number of well-established Constitutional rights working for him, but those are not recognized in Florida until the case makes its way through an appeals court or two.] WTSP-TV (St. Petersburg)

Redneck Chronicles: (1) Never fails--a little cat-litter-dumping spat turns ugly. (2) Direct-from-Central-Casting father and son fought with the son's missus after they gave her the "cheap beer" instead of the "good beer" (Bud). (3) County commissioners in Jackson, Ga., delayed a vote on new cell-phone towers, at the request of Commissioner Gator Hodges. (4) Ms. Brazzilia Rutherford, 35, was arrested after kicking the bedroom door off the hinges and terrorizing her whimpering husband with her guns. (5) A pissed-off female customer, ordered out of the Country Fair store, ran into the freezer and pissed-on $500 worth of food. (6) A big meth-lab bust in Rogersville, Tenn., was hampered by all the perp's monkeys that were running around the house. (1) Redding Record Searchlight /// (2) Orlando Sentinel /// (3) Jackson Progress-Argus /// (4) Philadelphia Inquirer /// (5) The Smoking Gun /// (6) Johnson City Press

Monday, December 20, 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
December 20, 2010
(datelines December 11-December 18) (links correct as of December 20)
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

SPECIAL SHORTER HOLIDAY EDITIONS (this week and next): Less for you to read! Fewer distractions for those with other holiday duties! (Regular-length distractions resume January 3rd)

Sophie's Choice 2010, Plus Sluttin' for Bone Marrow and Serenadin' the Pat-Downs

★ ★ ★ ★!

Mom Really Did Always Like Me Best: Toronto's National Post discovered that doctors can now almost routinely snuff out just one of your twins from the womb--in case having two would be, y'know, a bother. [Doctor: Which one shall I abort? Mother: Ehhh--surprise me.] National Post

How Is "Insulting Muhammad" Like "Marijuana Possession"? It's so easy to inadvertently slight the Prophet (in this-here story, merely tossing away the business card of a fella named "Muhammad" will do it), but the charge is used selectively "to settle grudges, persecute minorities, and fan religious extremism." ("Marijuana possession" is widely used in America to get crime budgets up and serve as a substitute for more serious but hard-to-prove charges.) Associated Press via San Francisco Chronicle

A Local Pimp's "Business Plan": A paper found on a suspected pimp by the Alameda County (Calif.) DA included these self-improvement notes: Take care of "my bitches more better"; Find "other ways to work my hoes"; "Stack money to the ceiling"; "Attend the Players Ball in Vegas (cross country pimpin!)." LA Weekly

Can't Possibly Be True: University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester is a fairly upscale joint (you would think). However, they hired short-skirted models to approach men in New Hampshire malls in full-flirt mode to talk them into giving DNA mouth swabs so that UMass Memorial could browse the results for bone-marrow matches. The catch? A 2006 NH law requires insurance companies to cover such tests (though legislators were told at the time the tests cost about $100; UMass Memorial's consultant was billing up to $4,300). When questioned by the New York Times, UMass Memorial shrugged. We need bone-marrow donors, they said, so what're ya gonna do? New York Times

"Books" and "DVDs" Are So 20th Century: At Toronto Public Library, you can check out humans for a half hour. They have a roster of people different from you, from whom you can learn things (like, say, a cop, or a city-dump supervisor), offering themselves for conversation [Yr Editor, too, is available, free-lance, but prepare to get dispirited.] YongeStreetMedia.ca (Toronto)

Absolutely Nothing Is Weirder Than a Society That Lets Cops Get Away with Framing People: Don't we want to get the real murderer off the street? Don't evidence-planting cops realize, personally, that they're just lazy pussies? Are Americans so frightened--and vapid--that they're OK with sending any warm body to jail for vicious crimes--even if it's the wrong warm body? And, judges: "My family, right or wrong" is one thing; "my legal system, right or wrong" is something else again. Kevin Cooper got turned down again recently for a rehearing, and it's an American's worst nightmare: Can the cops (here, the San Bernardino County, Calif., Sheriff's Office) plant evidence against an in-all-likelihood-innocent man, and send him to the needle, and courts of law will not save him? New York Times /// Wikipedia (Kevin Cooper)

And Still More Things To Worry About

Radiation therapy for thyroid disorder makes the recipient a danger for several days to children or pregnant women with whom the patient comes into contact and requires a 2- to 5-day quarantine. But that's for thyroid-disordered dogs getting radiation. If the patient is human, no quarantine--full body contact OK! Go figure. New York Times

Oklahoma Babylon: (1) (Recurring) Mark Richardson, Jr., 21 and 4-feet-9, was arrested in Oklahoma City for conning baby-sitters by claiming to be autistic and wearing diapers (but mainly just needin' some relief). [ed.: I ask you: Is that the face of a con artist?] (2) A convicted sex offender was apparently running a pay-as-you-go child-abuse center in Guthrie, with parents renting out their kids. (Seriously.) The Oklahoman /// KOCO-TV (Oklahoma City)

Sell That Which You Do Best: A Ukrainian firm charges the equivalent of about $18 to send you over a garrulous drinking buddy for the evening. Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News

Cognitive Dissonance: The most extravagant Christmas tree in the world is actually in the Muslim world (in Abu Dhabi, valued at the equivalent of more than $11 million). Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News

The Transportation Security Administration tried repairing its image at Los Angeles International . . but all they came up with was 17 employees in an agency choir, serenading travelers. USA Today

Leading Product Spinoff for WikiLeaks: The Pakistani company that makes, er, Butterfly feminine hygiene products quickly posted billboards in Karachi: "WikiLeaks . . Butterfly Doesn't." Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News

At an installation in Bloomington, Minn., John Ilg's sculpture "Honesty," in which the word is spelled out with 316 rolled-up dollar bills (tucked in chicken wire) . . was (of course) stolen. Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Houston's KHOU-TV found that, since 2006, 45 Immigration "detainees" (i.e., held for investigation because they had no green card or active visa) had asked for and received (free of charge, of course) hormones for sex-change. KHOU-TV

Nudity Specials: (1) A 52-yr-old postal worker in Whitefish Bay, Wis., stripped to deliver mail to a 21-year-old woman (but only because she seemed stressed and only to "cheer her up and make her laugh"!). (2) Robert Hurst is the man witnesses identified as being naked at night in a cemetery in Picayune, Miss.; his explanation (sorta) is that he was trying to photograph spirit-lights among the dead and that bare skin attracts them (photographically speaking). Of course. WhitefishBayNow.com (Waukesha, Wis.) /// Picayune Item

Losers

(1) The gent in the neck brace is Kevin Funderburk, 25, who was unsuccessful in the sex attack on a 71-year-old woman (armed with frying pan) . . . . . (2) Kyle D. Gore, 23, was charged with trawling for child sex online, directing responses to his secret e-mail "kdg31087@aol.com" (hint: 23+[19]87=2010) . . . . . (3) How to tell that Jason Davis, 30, isn't cut out for shoplifting: Apparently, the thrill gives him diarrhea . . . . . (4) Joe Colclasure was arrested for bank robbery after an employee intervened, causing Joe to slam the vault door on his own hand . . . . . (5) And the similarly dexterity-challenged Michael Barton, 29, was arrested after accidentally slashing himself shoplifting razor blades . . . . . (6) Recurring Theme: This time, it's Jessi Clark, 29, caught with drugs in her hoo-hah but protesting to cops that they're not hers. (1) Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kan.) /// (2) Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, Ill.) /// (3) The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa) /// (4) Desert Sun (Palm Springs, Calif.) /// (5) Associated Press via PhillyBurbs.com /// (6) Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.)

Newsrangers: Jonathan Cole, Josh Mauthe, Stuart Zukrow, Richard Hunding, Ludmilla Bade, Rich Heiden, Carolyn Sherve-Bybee, Bruce Leiserowitz, Felicia Hallman, Camille Victour, and Matthew Hill, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors

Monday, December 13, 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
December 13, 2010
(datelines December 4-December 11) (links correct as of December 13)
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Due Process of Law Meets Faulty Brain Wiring, Plus An Accountant Strips and Anthropologists Rumble

★ ★ ★ ★!

Catch-22, on the Big Stage: David Henderson served on the front lines in the Korean War, and among his souvenirs therefrom was a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, for which he has been getting government help. For enhanced benefits under a 2001 law, he had to apply by a certain 120-day deadline--which he missed, by 15 days, and is now permanently shut out. But wait, said his doctor. Doesn't anyone understand the meaning of "out of it"? He has lost touch with reality. 120 days? 135? Might as well be a thousand days . . or two million. (Justice Breyer: Does anyone think Congress put the deadline in to exclude someone like Henderson?) (Justice Scalia: La-la-la ♫ the statute doesn't say there's an exception ♫ so there's not an exception ♫) New York Times

I Know What I'd Do The 56-year-old man lay in the back of the ambulance, struggling to breathe, while the driver pulled in to a strip mall so close to the man's house that, flat on his back, he knew it was the Subway sandwich shop. Driver ran in, a few minutes later ran out, and onward to the hospital. Man survived and is fine. Ambulance company said all protocol was followed. (Backstory: Driver didn't stop for a sandwich. Driver stopped for sudden-onset diarrhea.) Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

U-S-A! U-S-A! Number . . Oh . . Oh, Dear! In math, an international assessment last year reported that the U.S. finished 31st (behind intellectual powerhouses Slovenia, Estonia, and Liechtenstein, but on the bright side, we kicked Latvia's dumb ass!). Better in science (We have all those Bunsen burners)! 23rd, but still in the shadow of those brainy Slovenians. OK, how about just comparing ourselves lately to Western nations, without those pesky, smart-ass Asians that were in the 2009 mix? Now, 13th in math, 24th (dead last) in science. Polacks (5th in math, 3rd in science) are probably teaching their kids ethnic sensitivity (to stop telling "American" jokes!). Wall Street Journal [perhaps subscription-protected] /// New York Times

Jobs Abroad for the Phillie Phanatic: A mainstream conservation agency in China now routinely dresses a minder up as a large panda bear for the purpose of socializing motherless baby pandas in preparing them for the wild. It is not known, they readily admit, whether the baby panda is fooled. [That's good; try to imagine what they'd be thinking if they knew.] Daily Telegraph (London)

We Ask, You Tell, You Prove: For a modern EU nation, Turkey's military-service homophobia is epic: Absolutely no gays allowed! However, since Turkey requires universal service, homosexuality is a way to avoid the military, for straights as well as gays. The government knows that, though, and gets all up in the face of anyone claiming exemption based on homosexuality. You have to prove it, and for some officials, the only really persuasive evidence is a photograph of yourself engaged in the act . . and then, only if you're receiving! (And they have to see your face, so stop biting the pillow and turn toward the camera!) (Bonus: But the Czech Republic is apparently the only EU country to still hook up the penile plethysmograph to verify the orientation of alleged gays who seek political asylum.) Foreign Policy /// BBC News

The Officially Sanctioned Jesus and Mary World Tour: No amateur sightings this week! The Roman Catholic Church declared that Mary, indeed, did appear once twice three times to a nun in Champion, Wis. (in 1859). Good to know. Associated Press via Forbes

And Still More Things To Worry About

Fine Points of Wisconsin Law: Brandi Jo Winkelman, 17, was arrested for "child abuse" for beating up a girl in school. (Bonus: The victim is older than Brandi Jo.) Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Good ol' European Union human rights rules have required that a prison in Poland pay out the equivalent of about $4,000 to a rapist whose meals contained meat. He claims to belong to a Buddhist sect that requires vegetarian. (Bonus: Before he was a Buddhist who wanted special treatment, he was a Catholic who wanted special treatment.) BBC News

Jake Schutter, 11, is back playing baseball, and swinging his metal bat, while his parents' lawsuit works its way through the courts. They're suing Easton, the bat-maker, because its metal bats (Jake's, too) are too dangerous because batters' hits (including Jake's hits) come off the bat too fast. (Jake got hit with a batted ball in May and has lost hearing in one ear. What a trouper!) Chicago Sun-Times

Tara Cohen, 38, got into some drug issues so she's being deported to her "native" Mexico (and by "native," the Immigration judge means the place from where she was brought to the U.S. at age ½ and which she knows as much about as you know about, say, Eritrea). Toronto Star

President Ian Khama, 57, of Botswana, is looking for a First Lady--but "not like this one," he said, pointing to the portly woman who is his Assistant Minister of Local Government. "She may fail to pass through the door, breaking furniture with her heavy weight and even break the vehicle's shock absorbers." (Given the job market in Botswana, the Assistant Minister merely chuckled.) ABC News

Ambassador Meera Shankar, India's rep to the United States, was singled out for a thorough TSA patdown (for the second time in three months) at the Jackson, Miss., airport as she returned to Washington from a university speech event. India's Foreign Minister went nuts, and Gov. Barbour wasn't too happy, either. WTOK-TV (Jackson)

What Passes For a Knife Fight on Academia's Mean Streets: Half the organization of anthropologists are furious at the other half because the governing board voted to de-emphasize the word "science" in their descriptions. There . . will . . be . . blood . . journals and notebooks flying across the room. New York Times

Unrepentant neo-Nazi John Ditullio is on trial in New Port Richey, Fla., charged with stabbing two neighbors to death because they were gay and/or friendly with blacks. Ditullio, already tattooed, added a couple more while awaiting trial, and the judge (i.e., the great state of Florida) is paying a cosmetologist $125 a day to cover them up, lest the jury get the wrong impression of Mr. Ditullio. On the other hand, everyone's tolerant of all the due process because they smell a lethal injection coming on, and no one wants it on them if Ditullio gets downgraded to life without parole. Among the evidence: a Christmas card to a victim's mother, taunting her for the "loss" of her son. (Bonus: The St. Petersburg Times stylebook apparently requires that a neo-Nazi residence be referred to as a "compound"--even if it's just a trailer.) St. Petersburg Times /// New York Times

Losers

Another teenage girl outsmarted herself trying to avoid a DUI: Got mom to switch seats with her as the deputy was approaching the car (but the deputy saw 'em, and besides, mom was UI, too). Gaston Gazette (Gastonia, N.C.)

The Pervo-American Community

Accounting Made Nasty: Raymond Taylor, 57, Kennesaw State University (in Georgia) business instructor, just (without mentioning why) decided in the middle of class to get close to nature. (Bonus: caught-in-the-headlights mugshot!) Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In the state of Florida, an appeals court ruled, it's legal for an elementary school principal to "manual-Photoshop" (i.e., using scissors and paste) ordinary portrait photos of 8-year-old girls over the raunchy nude photos of adult women. (A trial court had sentenced him to five years in prison.) Lakeland Ledger

Pervo-Brit: Driving instructor Barry Morgan, 58, was convicted (though not imprisoned) for his incentive program for young women drivers: For every mistake you make, Barry gets a free grope, plus, since he turned up the car's heater, might as well take off those tops. Daily Mail

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


To believe Jennifer Pizzuto, 35, guilty of a prostitution scam, you have to believe that she actually had some clients. Tough call. Allegedly, she and her boyfriend ran stings (Jennifer distracting them with her "charms," boyfriend robbing them). Asbury Park Press

It says here that this female funeral director did some awful things, covering up errors about remains, digging up and reburying one body, lying to clients and to the authorities. But, c'mon, is that the face of a bad person? I mean--whoa, momma! Free Marcee Dane! WLS Radio (Chicago)

Below The Fold

Betcha Can't Eat Just One Any: The Product of the Year at the Scottish Food and Drink Excellence [sic] Awards is set to appear on the international stage. Haggis chips. United Press International

Headlines: "Woman Kidnaped, Forced to Shop" /// "Missouri Home Damaged By Lawnmower Fire In Bedroom" WPVI-TV (Philadelphia) /// Associated Press via St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Squealers: (1) Mom, to police: No way did I threaten to shoot that pizza delivery guy for being late. Mom's daughter, to police: Yeah, you did, Mom. (2) Daughter, 60, to police: I took good care of my 98-year-old mom. Daughter's parrot (over and over, to no one in particular): "Help me! Help me! A-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" WPXI-TV (Pittsburgh, Pa.) /// Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)

Mixed Message: Larry Falter, owner of LTD Jewelers in Superior, Wis., is a man of deep faith and gives props to the Book of Revelation, hence, "50 percent off" for his "Second Coming" sale. (Bonus: So . . you can take it with you!) Duluth News Tribune

The author of Bizarre Thailand fills us in: At the Monkey Hospital in the provincial capital of Lopburi, monkeys get deluxe cremations because, of course, they'll soon be back as humans, and they'll remember who mistreated them. In Khon Kaen province's "Tortoise Town," the big entertainment is the shell-butting duels during mating season. Then, near Bangkok, there's the temple that an abbot has built with the 6,000 buffalo skulls he's collected. And-- . . well, you get the picture. CNN

The Christmas parade in Yr Editor's favoritely-named F State town of Niceville turned un-nice when a city worker leaped on a float halfway through the parade, grabbed the keys, and urged the driver, also a city worker, to step down and fight him. The spectator accused the driver of stealing his overtime pay for the last two years, so "Get out of the truck and I'll whip your ass." (Answer to obvious question: .266) Northwest Florida Daily News

No Longer Weird: (1) Another woman about to plop down on a toilet only to see, staring up at her, a critter (here, a squirrel). (2) More self-frightened UK school administrators: At Gillespie's Primary in Scotland, no playing in the snow during recess or lunch (too dangerous!). (3) And more now-ritual fistfighting on the floor of the South Korean parliament (over an expensive river-cleaning project). (4) Once again, the sad fate of a newly-spotted mammal species (a monkey in Myanmar): Before biologists could arrive to study it, natives ate it. (5) Once again, as U.S. Customs inspected the suitcase of the arriving "spiritualist" (from Ghana), up turned a mother lode (a hedgehog, elephant tails, chameleons, cat skins, sheets purposely soaked in chicken blood). (6) Once again, inexplicably, the musician entrusted with the multi-million-dollar Stradivarius violin guarded it like he would, say, an Army surplus book bag. (1) WBBH-TV (Fort Myers, Fla.) /// (2) The Scotsman (Edinburgh) /// (3) Reuters via Yahoo News /// (4) National Geographic /// (5) Baltimore Sun /// (6) CNN

Newsrangers: Christopher Nalty, Robert Hagwood, Sandy Pearlman, Richard Witt, and Hal Dunham, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors

Monday, December 06, 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
December 6, 2010
(datelines November 27-December 4) (links correct as of December 6)
© 2010 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

The Duke Bedeviler Won't Go Away, Plus Dachshund-Cracking and Art You Only Think You See

★ ★ ★ ★!

Free Crystal Mangum!: She is the dancer who thrilled the Duke lacrosse team in 2006. On the plus side: She has since graduated from North Carolina Central University and is raising three kids. Minus: Police say she beat up her boyfriend and set a fire in her bathroom while her kids were home. Two groups of pro-Crystal, she-was-raped locals remain active on her case and drive officials nuts with their rantings (It's a "lynching!" It's just "white power!"). Crystal's case was scheduled for court last week, and the friends think that, like the earlier outcome, this is all a set-up. (Bonus: Do you have a "publicist"? Crystal has.) Raleigh News & Observer

Inexplicable: The science blog Respectful Insolence turned up a call for volunteers issued by veterinary chiropractors, who are looking for 400 Dachshunds because they want to do some sort of exam and back-snapping and neck-straightening, or whatever it is that chiropractors do. Dachshunds! 400! Scienceblogs.com

Disabled-Thinking Zone: Can it be regarded as a smoking-gun catch to prove that Medicare ludicrously wastes money on a particular item, if Medicare officials already know they ludicrously waste money on it (and are about to fix several other, sorta-related items but admit that they're not fixing that item, meaning they're fully aware that they'll continue to ludicrously waste money on it)? The item is ordinary ol' wheelchairs, which retail for $100-$350 but which Medicare won't reimburse you for if you buy. It will pay 80 percent of the cost of rental, though, up to 13 months, at somewhere around $40-$125 a month. South Florida Sun-Sentinel

No Longer Weird Naaa, It's Still Way-Weird "Adhl" is the practice by which women cannot marry in Saudi Arabia unless they have the blessing of their parent/guardian, and for some otherwise-independent women, that permission is not forthcoming (for example, here, with a 42-year-old female surgeon, licensed in Canada, Britain, and Saudi Arabia, whose father keeps finding excuses to keep her eggs idle). In fact, she can't even buy a phone without her father's permission. (Bonus: Page 212 of the Prophet Sayings textbook for 11th graders gives this advice for boys-2-men: "Be jealous, beat her hands, protect her, and achieve superiority over her.") Associated Press via San Francisco Chronicle

Update: At a hearing scheduled to start today, a state court judge in Houston may declare Texas's death penalty unconstitutional for the reasons chronicled in News of the Weird over the years (no, not the one that says small-town Texas jurors are barely distinguishable intellectually from amoeba). Just say: The risk of wrongful executions is alarmingly high, which could not have been within the spirit of the U.S. Supreme Court's go-ahead of capital punishment in 1976. (Bonus: The judge, Kevin Fine, is a seriously-tattooed, recovering alcoholic/coke-head.) Huffington Post

And Still More Things To Worry About

Damn right I'm a hate group! However, "I'm sure I'm more about love than I am hate," said Baptist pastor Steven Anderson of Tempe, Ariz., but "I do hate homosexuals [and wish death upon them]." (Bonus: And then there's this guy, a county official in a Washington, D.C., suburb, who says TSA pat-downs are part of a "wide-scale homosexual agenda.") KNXV-TV (Phoenix) /// WTOP Radio (Washington)

More government-sponsored art: £1,500 to Polish artist Angieszka Kurant for this-here "invisible" painting . . which "hasn't been painted yet" (but since it's "invisible," how would anyone except Kurant know when it was done, anyway?). There's also his movie "shot without film in the camera." Deep. The Sun

The Los Angeles Times's Steve Lopez boils us over with the local transit authority's "policy" whereby cash found on a bus will be held for 30 days (to await legit claims) and then, if no one proves ownership, is given back to the person who found it kept by the agency "in order to discourage fraud." (Bonus: Lopez got 'em to change the policy before his very eyes just by demanding that the agency head explain himself. How often does that happen in America?) Los Angeles Times

Recurring Themes: (1) In Uganda, a call to arms for a sex strike--to withhold "services" to influence the upcoming national elections. (Bonus: It's not wives withholding; it's the husbands--threatening to deny ladies their immortal manhoods!) (2) She survived the rollover accident near Ocala, Fla., but couldn't avoid the Florida Highway Patrol trooper screeching over to see if anyone was hurt. She is no longer with us. (3) Mindlessly following his GPS to get home in Newfoundland, he took the shortest route . . which happened to be through a sliver of land in Maine . . which was unfortunate, since U.S. border security found a half a kg of marijuana. Reuters /// Star-Banner (Ocala) /// Associated Press via Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News

Update: An Ohio school board has agreed to pay $450,000 to the Dennis family (mom, dad, son) for the "mental pain and suffering" (and the son's "physical pain and sickness") caused by the kid's "science" teacher John Freshwater, who specializes in "creation"-type "science" (e.g., tossing Lego pieces into a pile and asking whether the pieces can assemble themselves or do they need a creator to do it). He once zapped a cross into Zachary Dennis's skin in the guise of teaching electricity [News of the Weird M058 (5-18-2008)]. Columbus Dispatch

Ailene Brown, 28, and Shmeco Thomas, 37, were busted in Edmond, Okla., for shoplifting--smuggling some of the items out of the store in their rolls of body fat and under their breasts (wallet, gloves, boots, jeans, big-screen TV . . .. KFOR-TV (Oklahoma City) via Orlando Sentinel

The French fast-food burger chain Quick [or whatever it's called] will offer, coming up for Christmastime, the foie gras burger in its 350 outlets for the equivalent of $6.57. Reuters via Yahoo News

Alan Fletcher, 51, was arrested after electrifying his front door with a booby trap. (Bonus: The reason he did it was to "prevent" that guy, whoever that guy is, that guy, from having sex with his wife.) Daily Telegraph (London)

The Three-First-Names Theory: Wanted for questioning in the murder of a woman in Largo, Fla.: The 26-year-old Larry Joe Jerry. (Bonus: Four First Names: He's LJJ Junior!.) St. Petersburg Times

Fine Points of the Law: (1) This Frenchman is off the hook for stealing a car because he committed the crime exactly one minute before his adulthood birthday commenced (according to the time on his birth certificate). It's off to juvy. (2) A 1970 error in revising a Virginia law makes it not a crime to fail to stop for a stopped school bus; what is illegal is your failure to get out and stop the bus altogether. (3) The exalted, genteel New Hampshire Supreme Court grappled with this thorny question of American jurisprudence: Does an inmate have to throw poop at a guard to be guilty of "assault"? (A: No. Leaving it on the floor is sufficient.) Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News /// Washington Post /// Associated Press via WCVB-TV (Boston)

Losers

Redneck Chronicles: In Safety Harbor, Fla., Joe Capes and Ronald Richards were busted for a late night fistfight over which side of the plate the late Mr. Conway Twitty swung from. St. Petersburg Times

You'd think that hiring people to pack and truck nuclear weapons to a Texas upgrade factory would be serious work, but the Dept. of Energy inspector general identified employees in 16 alcohol-related incidents on that job between 2007-2009. Kitsap Sun (Kitsap, Wash.)

Nearly a thousand Einsteins were persuaded by Arlan Galbraith of Ontario to give him an average of $20,000 each so he could help them corner the market for edible pigeon meat, which was to be the next big thing. He's been arrested for fraud. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News

The Pervo-American Community

Update: We had William Tyler Black in this space 11 weeks ago, for providing a Happy Ending for himself in a Sarasota, Fla., Wal-Mart. He agreed to a time-served sentence and to stay away from Wal-Marts. He also got the opportunity to announce, definitively, "I swear I'm not a pervert." The Smoking Gun

More from the H.E. department: Alexander Ofner, 39, was picked up at the Sea Turtle Cinemas in Bluffton, S.C., enjoying himself while watching . . the new Harry Potter film. Beaufort Gazette

Never bet that you've found a perversion without an extensive support group, no matter how unique it sounds. For British pervo Michael Crombie, 73, it's little-girl sex with the added kicker that he'd like to dunk 'em underwater for a few seconds. Nothing morbid. Not particularly dangerous. Just gets turned on by the bubbles. Sky News (London)

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


Here's Art Taylor, 18, who supposedly just minutes before swallowed a small baggie of cocaine. Metrowest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.)

Does this fella, Mr. Oloff, look like a copper-wire thief? How about if you knew his full name (Jesus Christ Superstar Oloff, 33)? WBBH-TV (Fort Myers, Fla.)

Bridget Mize, 35, stands a decent chance of beating the rap for bigamy. The prosecutor will have to prove that not one, not two, but three different men at various times asked Bridget to marry them. Shreveport Times

Below The Fold

At a museum in China, a Swiss art collector paid the equivalent of $45,000 for a statue of Venus de Milo but made from . . panda poop. (Bonus: The statue was actually built by children.) Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News

Recurring Theme: One more time (here, outside a Canadian university building), someone cleaning up mistakenly dismantled an actual art installation that he failed to appreciate. It wasn't a "pile of wood"; it was "art"! CP24.com (Toronto)

How to Tell You're in Nebraska: You open a newspaper and read a story about tree bark in wintertime. Associated Press via Sioux City Journal (Sioux City, S.D.)

NASA's findings last week that "life" can exist from a building block of "arsenic" rather than (as previously thought) "phosphorus" surely sabotaged Duane Snyder's big day . . at the Ramada Inn in South Haven, Mich. . . where he revealed that he had definitely been contacted by extraterrestrials in that he had found a block of ice along the road at the height of summer. Time /// AOL News

Awesome: It's not often that rescuers get to save a woman who's sitting in a pickup truck . . in a tree. Associated Press via CBS News

"I am not stupid. I know the law." So goes Ms. Angeles Duran, 49, who last week laid claim to the, er, sun. The only treaties she found said that nations couldn't own it, and that obviously means that private citizens can. She's generous, though--planning to keep for herself only 10 percent of the wealth she anticipates from licensing the rays (the current and future worth of which is . . all the money in the world). Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News

Nicholas Hodge, 31, an acquaintance of a woman in Winona County, Minn., decided he'd walk into her home at 2:40 a.m. a week ago Friday and not leave, forcing her to call the sheriff. From the Winona Daily News: "'He sat on a toilet in the kitchen and wouldn't leave,' sheriff's department investigator Kraig Glover said. 'I'm not sure why they had a toilet in the kitchen,' Glover said." Winona Daily News

Editor's Notes

Yr Editor, a resident of the F State (whose reputation for electoral shenanigans took a grossly unfair hit in 2000), would like to point out that in last month's elections, New York City simply lost 195,000 votes, poof!. They finally turned up last week. In The F State's "debacle," after two accounting firms re-counted every single one of the 6 million-plus ballots cast, one by one, the discrepancy was about 150-200 votes. (Oh, now, there might have been some mild disagreement about the definition of a legal vote that year, with Democrats arguing that ballots expressing "intentions" should have been counted and Republicans for strict enforcement of the standing rules, but Republican judges settled it. Safeguarding and tallying the ballots, though--Florida was on top of that!) New York Times

Bad sex is a tradition of British literature, giving Brits a leg up in the annual competition among novels in English for the passages that mostly render the universally enjoyable acts of sex as frightening, byzantine journeys into the unknown. The winner this year was Irishman Rowan Somerville, and the passage the judges deemed most awkward is this one: "Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too-blunt pin he screwed himself into her." Daily Telegraph

Time-Waster: Mug shot hall of fame, courtesy of Colorado Springs's station KRDO-TV

Newsrangers: Jan Lewis, Mike Mendenhall, Lisa Manikowski, Sandy Pearlman, Christopher Nalty, Roy Henock, and Tami Smith, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors