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NEWS OF THE WEIRD

by Chuck Shepherd

A woman offering child-care services in Melbourne, Fla. was dismayed to learn in August that a scam pulled on her by a diaperwearing man in his forties was not illegal. A man called her, on behalf of his disabled adult “brother,” who has a mental age of 5 and poor bladder control, and she began assisting him in her home during the day for $600 a week. She was later outraged to learn that the “brother” was really the caller and was actually normal (except for his perversion). However, as Brevard County Sheriff’s officials told Florida Today, since the woman consented to changing diapers and was fully paid for her services, they were unable to charge the man with a crime.

Can’t possibly be true • At press time, Rhode Island legislators were scrambling to fix an oversight in state law that came to light only earlier this year. While the state treats 16 as the age of sexual consent and the age at which most child labor laws no longer apply, the under-18 sex-worker law bans only “prostitution” and “lewd” activities, leaving girls age 16 and 17 free to work as strippers. (Nudity, by itself, is not “lewd” under constitutional law.) Other Rhode Island laws bar under-18s from, for example, serving drinks, working with power tools or buying pornography. (The city of Providence is also now trying to fix its own ordinance in which prostitution appears to be illegal only for streetwalkers, thus legalizing the trade for those working indoors.)

• The August issue of Gourmet magazine highlighted the apparently high quality of sushi prepared and sold at a BP gas station near the intersection of Ridgeway and Poplar in Memphis, Tenn. A sushi chef works on-site and reportedly sells 300 orders a day.

• Uganda’s independent national newspaper, The Daily Monitor, reported in May the arrest of hunter Nathan Awoloi, who was accused of forcing his wife to breastfeed his five puppies after their mothers, who were essential to his occupation, were killed. When Awoloi was released on bond, Caroline Odoi, Ugandan coordinator for the ActionAid International anti-poverty agency, led protests demanding his re-arrest because of evidence that one of Mrs. Awoloi’s own babies, who was nursing at the same time as the puppies, died of symptoms that resembled rabies. Police said the investigation was continuing.

Unclear on the concept • Admitted gang member Alex Fowler, 26, of Jasper, Texas, was arrested in July and charged with an attempted home-invasion robbery that went bad. Tough-guy Fowler, who has the words “Crip for Life” tattooed on his neck, was chased from the house by the 87-year-old female “victim” pointing a can of Raid insect repellant at him, threatening to spray. • Hong Kong’s largest political party, the Democratic Alliance for Betterment and Progress, said it was only trying to alert vulnerable women in August when it publicized a list of shopping mall locations in which females ascending stairs or escalators are particularly susceptible to having “upskirt” photographs taken surreptitiously by cell phone cameras. A spokesman said that perverts probably already knew about the locations.

Benumbed by Taxes • In April 2008, Jeanette Jamieson of Toccoa, Ga. finally paid off her state income tax lien (covering 1998 through 2005) of $45,000, but a year later was indicted for failing to file state tax returns for 2006 and 2007, when her income was at least $188,000. In Jamieson’s day job, she runs a tax preparation service. Also, for the past 24 years, until defeated in 2008, she was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. • According to the Detroit Free Press, City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson is a fierce advocate for getting more money to the impoverished city from state and federal grants, but was herself shorting the city treasury. Municipal records revealed that somehow she managed to be billed only $68 a year in property tax for a well-kept home in a neighborhood where her neighbors’ property tax ranges from $2,000 to $6,500 annually. She told the newspaper she never realized she was paying too little and assumed the low amount was because of “tornado damage,” even though Detroit’s last tornado was in 1997.

Good to know (1) Cussing is good for you: A study by psychology researchers at Britain’s Keele University in July showed that people who swear in response to a danger are better able to endure pain than those who use milder language. (2) Urinate in the shower to save the forests: The Brazilian environmental group SOS Mata Atlantica this summer began encouraging people to urinate in the shower to save the Atlantic Rainforest (one avoided flush per day saving 1,100 gallons of water a year).

People different from us Theresa Winters, 36, who lives in Luton, England with her unemployed boyfriend, Toney Housden, is pregnant (and chainsmoking) with her 14 th child (his 12 th ) and remains totally dependent on public assistance, which officials estimate has totaled “millions” of pounds. Social workers recently removed the kids still living with her (five were born with disabilities), and Winters defiantly told The Sun in July that, if they also take away her 14 th in November, she and Housden will just keep making more until she gets one to keep. Housden said he would “love” to go to work, but only for “the right reasons” (specifically, not, he said, to earn money for family counseling because that is the government’s responsibility).

Recurring themes The most recent examples of men who decided to steal money only after they had already identified themselves: (1) Jarell Arnold, 34, in line at the Alaska USA Federal Credit Union in Anchorage in August, showed his ID in order to check his balance, took the account slip from the teller, wrote his holdup note on it, gave it back and escaped with $600 (but only briefly). (2) A long-time customer of Penny Lane Records in Sydenham, New Zealand picked out a CD in August, asked the clerk to reserve it, and even wrote his name and address on it to make sure they held it. Moments later, he saw an opportunity, grabbed cash from the cash drawer and fled (but only briefly).

Update At press time, Hong Kong’s High Court was still pondering the final recipient of the estate of the woman once thought to be Asia’s richest, Nina Wang, who died in 2007 and left several billion dollars either to charity (a 2002 will, written in Chinese) or to Tony Chan, her personal feng-shui master (a 2006 will, written in English legalisms). Chan was her spiritual teacher and companion and assisted her in “contacting” her beloved late husband, and after she died, Chan also claimed that the two were lovers. Chan had reportedly convinced Wang to burn cash for good luck and to hide jewels in feng-shui holes dug around Hong Kong. The will Chan produced was termed a likely forgery, according to testimony by Chan’s own handwriting expert.

A News of the Weird classic (June 2004) Adventures with lubricants: In January 2004, a National Park Service ranger arrested Marvin Buchanon for drug possession along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Buchanon had been discovered sitting in a truck one evening, naked, covered with baby oil and with women’s underwear at his feet. And four months later, Roger Chamberlain, 44, was arrested in Binghamton, NY after having allegedly smeared 14 containers’ worth of petroleum jelly on nearly every inch of the walls and furniture of a Motel 6 room (and who was found shortly afterward at another motel, his own body covered with the substance).

Copyright 2009 Chuck Shepherd Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate

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