Monday, April 18, 2011

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
April 18, 2011
(datelines April 9-April 16) (links correct as of April 18)
© 2011 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

"I Brought You Some Funyuns, Your Honor" Plus Incendiary Porno and Cancer-Curing Tobacco

★ ★ ★ ★!

Next Up, the Crucial Question of 'How Long Since They Had 'em Some?': Researchers from Columbia University and Israel's Ben Gurion University examined trial judges' calendars over a 50-day period and found a remarkably proportional diminishing of criminals' chances for parole as the morning or afternoon wore on. That is, the researchers hypothesized, the louder that judges' stomachs growled, the lower the perp's chances for freedom. ABC News

Westboro Baptist Updates: The good news for the Phelpses is that there is now evidence that someone, anyone whose name is not "Phelps" actually appears to agree with them--specifically, Ms. Zoe Bethel, who is a high school student in Middletown, Ohio, and who was given a hard time by administrators for wearing a T-shirt bearing Westboro's signature slogan. The bad news for Westboro, though, came at one of their soldier-funeral protests, at Fort Meade, Md., in a deliciously ironic reaction by Margie Phelps-Roper (Pastor Fred's point person, daughter, and lawyer). As the Westboro message was quickly being drowned out by a large, wild "flash mob" of performance artists and rational Christians (and a revving-up biker gang), Margie just muttered, "What the heck's wrong with these people?" Dayton Daily News /// The Capital (Annapolis)

The Death Penalty Deters: Yr Editor knows that's impossible (P.C.-wise), but listen to jilted lover Dmitry Smirnov, who admitted tracking Ms. Jitka Vesel from British Columbia to Oak Brook, Ill., and then, he told police, killing her. According to the prosecutor, Smirnov had researched Illinois's death penalty (abolished by statute on March 9th, following numerous embarrassing misconvictions) and proceeded only when certain he would not have to walk the last mile for his crime. Chicago Sun-Times

No Cure For Cancer . . Well, Except for Cigarette Smoke: Indonesia is Big Tobacco's Promised Land. U.S. firms have subsidiaries there; most people smoke; and the 400,000 deaths a year from it are quickly attributed to other things. Enter Dr. Gretha Zahar, a healer who touts cures for autism and various cancers, and emphysema, with a therapy in which she actually blows cigarette smoke into the patient's lungs through a tube. (But they're "divine cigarettes," infused with "nanotechnology" that removes cancer-causing "free radicals" by manipulating mercury levels.) Big Tobacco having been very, very good to Indonesia over the years, Dr. Zahar's clinic is in good standing. Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News

Absurdities

The Saudi Sheiks Sent Their Regrets: Pastor Marshall Mabry of the Beacon of Light Christian Center in Dublin, Ga., scheduled a prayer vigil for lower gas prices (to meet at the pumps down at the Kroger). Associated Press via Atlanta Journal-Constitution

You Thought We Were Over This: According to a high-school student volunteer, who was helping out in the community for upcoming Easter activities, a Seattle public elementary school (not identified) was about to name its Easter eggs the oh-so-correct "Spring Spheres." MyNorthwest.com (Seattle)

Oh, the authorities hated it last year in St. Petersburg, Russia, when graffiti-ists so juvenile-ly painted an outline of a huge male member on a big drawbridge facing the "FSB" (in a past life, KGB) building so that all the agents saw it when the bridge was raised. It was of course immediately scrubbed down. Now, the FSB is liking it even less since it, however brief its existence, just won (via photograph) the Innovation prize by an arts organization in Moscow. [ed.: Can that even happen? Putin's still around, isn't he?] The Guardian (London)

Our Most Creative Profession? NovelistsRabbis: Granted, those Sabbath rules can be a pain in the tochis, but do you realize the brainpower that goes into searching for loopholes that will allow the non-shellfish-eating to live normally on Saturdays? Here's a rabbi-professor in Germany who says just maybe, using an encephalography headset with 16 sensors measuring the brain's signals that are sent to a car-engine-mounted computer, an observant Jew could actually drive around on the Sabbath because it would only be his thoughts that were powering the car. The Local (Berlin)

Losers

Can't Possibly Be True: Harold Luken, 45, was picked up as perhaps the least-competent, least-suitable bank robber in New York City history. It started when he walked in to a Bank of America and yelled, "I am gonna rob the bank. I have a gun, but I'm gonna wait on line." And the siege (of laughter) ended a few minutes later when he said, "OK, I will go to Citibank. I will rob them instead!" New York Post

Oh, Dear!

The Singaporean soldier [ed.: I looked it up; they do have an army.] apologized (and was assigned "counseling") after a news crew saw him walking with his maid in tow, carrying his backpack for him. BBC News

And Margie Phelps-Roper Nodded, Knowingly: Details unknown, medical condition unknown (but life-threatening): A porno booth at the Golden Gate Adult Superstore in San Francisco burst into flames, sending the user to the critical care unit. KPIX-TV (San Francisco)

A letter carrier in Seattle was suspended, and a cleanup crew ordered to the scene, after a resident caught the man ducking into the resident's shrubs in the middle of the day and taking a dump. (Yes, of course there's video.) KGW-TV (Seattle)

Civilization In Decline

As Alabama legislators debated tougher penalties for cockfighting, it emerged that the state actually has a cockfighting lobby, led by the Alabama Gamefowl Breeders Association. (Bonus: They're powerful. They got their way!) AlabamaLive.com (Birmingham)

Yr Editor is confused: Is it always blasphemous to destroy a copy of the Quran--or only when infidels do it? Pastor Terry Jones presided over such a destruction in the F State three weeks ago, which caused all hell to break loose in Kandahar, with devout Muslims showing their fury by burning shops and a school (and thus, unavoidably, countless Qurans). Christian Science Monitor

A United Nations treaty is being drafted to give formal recognition to "Mother Earth" to put, y'know, trees, ants, bugs, etc., on the same footing, rights-wise, as humans. Post Media News via Canada.com [LINK CORRECTED]

In the good ol' F State, a jobs program emerged for the hard-to-employ: Homeless men have been agreeing to get smackdowns from dominatrices for S&M fetish videos, for $25 for 12 minutes of slaps and $50 for knock-downs (but zero if they tap out before 12 minutes). How was the scheme discovered? People noticed a lot of homeless men walking around with limps, black eyes, split lips. St. Petersburg Times /// SheFights.net [Shame on you for clicking! Shame!]

The Pervo-American Community

Daniel Bradshaw, 45, was charged with vehicular homicide (AWI), and, given the condition the cops found him in when they arrived at the scene, it might be said that he finds deadly traffic collisions a turn-on. KTVX (Salt Lake City)

Former prominent United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter was jury-convicted of online-sex-solicitation from an "underage girl" (aka "cop"). (Bonus: His wife was in the courtroom as the jury watched him wag his personal weapon on webcam.) Reuters

Rabbi Gavriel Bidany, 47, is Israeli but under arrest in New York for in-flight groping of the "groin area" of a sleeping female. His explanation: "It's a mistake. I'm asleep." Problem: He then used almost the same explanation minutes later when she caught him again, copping a feel higher-up. Latest defense, according to his lawyer: totally innocent. (Contrast: Here's an American who last week actually accepted responsibility for his wandering in-flight hands [ed. although Yr Editor is not familiar with the significance of moving "napkins around inside of his pants"].) The Smoking Gun /// WNBC-TV (New York City)

Below The Fold

Cavalcade of Rednecks (I): At a traffic stop near Ottawa, Ontario, a 33-yr-old driver was arrested on a warrant violation, with an additional citation because his front-seat passenger was relaxing on a living-room rocking chair not bolted to the van's frame. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News

Cavalcade of Rednecks (II): In Clayton County, Ga., Robert Hohenberger admitted shooting his neighbor's dog (with a BB gun) because he got tired of the dog messing up his lawn. Neighbor Leticia Mendoza said the dog couldn't have pooped that time because he had, according to the police report, "relieved himself before she let him out of the house." [emphasis added] WSB-TV (Atlanta)

Somewhere in desolate southern Mexico (for people en route to Cancún the hard way), two really old guys are the last two on Earth who speak the Ayapaneco language, and academic linguists are becoming overwrought. (Bonus: The two guys don't even much like each other.) The Guardian (London)

If you're under age 35 or so, get an elder to explain this to you, but last week the California Highway Patrol arrested an (alleged) drunk driver named Eric Estrada. North County Times (Escondido)

Recurring Themes

According to the drop-dead-authoritative The Smoking Gun, the Suk Kim Ho, 46, who was busted for prostitution in Columbus, Ga., last week is the same woman who was busted for prostitution in Tampa in 2009 [NOTW M104 (4-5-2009)], though her rap sheet on that one read Ho Suk Kim. (Yr Editor is pretty sure she'll need a better name change if she expects to get out in front of these raids.) Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus) /// The Smoking Gun

Afghanistan's national game is the sorta-hockey-ish buzkashi [NOTW 67 (5-19-1989); NOTW 734 (3-3-2002)], played on horseback passing a goat's head instead of shooting a puck, but the big news is that Western influence has pumped up the game's commercialization (product endorsements, big contracts with the warlords, "signing up" star players). Wall Street Journal

Founder/curator Sigurdur Hjartarson's life's calling is Iceland's Phallological Museum, which makes world news every time a door opens there [NOTW 607 (9-24-1999)], such as the recent addition of the very first human penis to the 275-schlong collection of whales', seals', bears', etc. (Remaining mystery: What's so damn special about Pall Arason's, anyway?) Associated Press via New Zealand Herald /// Phallological Museum

Editor's Notes

NOTW Stylebook (an occasional musing): Twin brothers Edward and Edwin Berndt, 48, of Houston, Tex., made the news last week when authorities found their mom's body on the floor of the family home. Turns out that she had spontaneously collapsed on January 10th (during the college football championship game) and that the brothers had merely continued on, watching the game. She spoke to them from the floor for a day or two, then probably died on January 13th, but the brothers said they got scared and left her there (despite the olfactory signals that were alerting all the insects on the block). And, as several of Yr Editor's correspondents suggested, the brothers are good-quality "jury duty" material, especially since their barber (i.e., mom) was no longer able to tend to them. But here's the thing: From the very first news report, the brothers were described as, y'know, mentally challenged. I realize that probably a good many of the subjects that I write about are at least borderline mentally ill and/or "developmentally disabled," but such authority is usually not obvious or clear from the first reports, and I will not assume that if a person appears crazy, it must be because of professionally-diagnosed craziness. (I've been around the block; I've seen too much craziness by otherwise-normal people . . even by, um . . well, me.) But, if early on in the story, the reporter has acquired the information that the perpetrator is mentally ill or "challenged," I drop the story. Thus, I do not regard the Berndts' adventure to be News of the Weird. KHOU-TV

Newsrangers: Ken Berkun, Peter Smagorinsky, Sandy Pearlman, Hal Dunham, Michael Bellesiles, Cameron McManus, Michael McDonald, Rick Popko, Bill Bishop, Michael Siemer, and Milford Sprecher, and the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors