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[NEWS OF THE WEIRD]

by Chuck Shepherd

THEY DIDN’T SEE THIS COMING?

(1) German Rolf Buchholz, who owns the Guinness Book world record for most body piercings (453), said he was upset to be denied entrance into United Arab Emirates in August to fulfill a performance of sorts at Dubai’s Fairmont Hotel. Buchholz said officials gave no explanation, although in addition to the piercings (example: at least 50 beads stuck to his lips), he has also implanted horns in his forehead. (2) Caius Veiovis, 33, is similarly concerned about his forehead horns. While preparing for trial in Hamden, Massachusetts, in a gruesome 2011 triple murder, he has decided to freshen up somewhat by removing the spikes from his nostrils, but still needs the judge’s help to warn prospective jurors not to presume guilt from his six horns.

THE CONTINUING CRISIS

“” After several contestants in the 2013 world swimming championships in Barcelona, Spain, remarked that the racers in lanes 5 to 8 seemed to swim faster than those in lanes 1 to 4, two researchers investigated further and concluded, in July, that there was a rogue current on the lane-8 side of the pool. In fact, most of the losers swam in lane 1, and the lane 8 swimmers produced a glut of medals, and, wrote the researchers, a current would be “the only cause that we can propose to explain these findings.”

“” The New Normal: In America, TV pundits merely shout at each other, but twice recently in Middle East TV debates, discussants have roughhoused on the air. Journalist Shakir al-Johari was involved both times, on the Jordanian 7 Stars channel in May and on Dubai TV in July. In the first, the studio was wrecked, according to Al-Arabiya news service, and the latter incident was calmed only after al-Johari threw his chair at lawyer Saleh Khrais.

“” From the Foreign Press: (1) After police issued a plea for help in July to identify the perpetrators of a porn movie filmed inside an Austrian church and in which actors’ faces were obscured, a serious fan of Austrian porn spoke up, naming the 24-year-old female lead. The nude breasts of the star, he said, were unmistakably those of “Babsi,” a popular actress, and she was subsequently charged with trespassing in the church. (2) Wilfred Mashaya told a magistrate in Harare, Zimbabwe, in June that he wanted to divorce his wife because, when they sleep together, “She would not even make any sexual sound” “” which was, to him, unbearable. The magistrate took the case under advisement.

COMPELLING EXPLANATIONS

“” Not Our Fault: In July, two of the four fertilizer manufacturers operating in the vicinity of the April 2013 massive explosion and fire in West, Texas, filed motions contesting the city’s lawsuit against them. According to the companies, it was actually the city’s ill-trained first responders and volunteer firefighters who caused many of the injuries.

“” A Matter of Scale: (1) Police in Cologne, Germany, wrote a bicycle-equipment infraction against Bogdan Ionescu in April because his bike had no rightside handlebar brake. But since Ionescu has no right arm, he fought the ticket, and in July received a police apology. (2) David Rainsford, 44, is contesting the fee charged for a routine eye exam by Specsavers in Cramlington, England. He wants a discount because he has no right eye. (However, Specsavers says Rainsford’s glass eye can pose risks for the good eye and that the area surrounding both eyes must be checked, as well.)

LEADING ECONOMIC INDICATORS

“” Despite all that has transpired in Ukraine this year, the country’s defense industry manufacturers continue to sell military gear to Russia (including “key parts for ship engines, advanced targeting technology for tanks and upkeep for Russia’s heaviest nuclear missiles,” according to an August Washington Post dispatch). The Ukrainian government may be hostile to Russia, but workers at companies such as Motor Sich fear loss of jobs in an already deep recession. Said a Motor Sich spokesman, “We have our own (political) party, the party of Motor Sich.”

“” Dilemmas of the 1 Percent: In July, New York City approved construction of a 33-story condominium/apartment tower housing both luxury units (219, facing the Hudson River) and “affordable” units (55, facing the street) “” with separate entrances so the beautiful people could avoid the more downscale. (The developer, Extell, said it deserves credit for carving out the “affordable” units because the luxury units are more profitable.)

“” Considering the height restrictions zoned into London’s super-prime real estate, the only practical way for some owners to expand is to go underground (as deep as five stories’ worth of “basement”), which requires heavy digging machines. However, by the time the excavation is finished, the machines are mired at the bottom of a huge pit with no easy way to bring the behemoths up. Consequently, on some jobs, reported the New Statesman in June, property owners have elected merely to leave the machines buried under what would be their sub-basement.

“” The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species recently estimated that nearly 50,000 African elephants were killed for their tusks in the last two years, continuing the century-long drastic decline in wild pachyderms.

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has thus proposed new rules to curb ivory imports into the United States, to discourage American buying. However, in July, the National Rifle Association warned that the FWS rules would be “disastrous” for America’s collectors of antique pearl-handled guns and urged members to fight the regulations (even though, as NRA advocates acknowledged, few gun owners would be affected).

IRONIES

In August, a criminology professor at Rome’s La Sapienza University arranged a two-hour guest lecture on “emergency practices” by an “experienced” hand “” Francesco Schettino, the captain currently on trial in Italy for his role in the sinking of the cruise ship Costa Concordia in 2012, when 32 people died. Said the captain: “I was called to speak because I am an expert. … I know what to do in these sorts of situations.” (Schettino will have to refute alleged evidence that “what to do” included running straight for the nearest lifeboat.)

LEAST COMPETENT CRIMINALS

Bright Ideas: (1) Bradley Hardison, 24, on the lam in the Elizabeth City, North Carolina, area from two break-in charges, nonetheless decided to enter a newsworthy contest in August “” a public “doughnut-eating” competition, in which police officers and firefighters were his competitors. Hardison managed to win, downing eight doughnuts in two minutes, thus attracting even more attention. After one officer recognized him, he fled but was easily caught. (2) Recurring Theme: Raymond Betson became the most recent perp (in July in Swanley, England) to intend to break into a store (this time, a money-lending store) by ramming the wall with a digger “” but broke through the wrong wall (and then another wrong wall after that). Police were summoned by the commotion and arrested him.

READERS’ CHOICE

(1) The tornado that ripped through Kingsport, Tennessee, on July 27 damaged Jerrod Christian’s house, leaving furniture and tools strewn about his lawn. Unfortunately, according to police who filed four charges against him the next day, some of the items (an air compressor, a welder, a ratchet, an air hose, a weed trimmer) belonged to his neighbors, who had long suspected (without proof) that Christian had burglarized their homes. (2) Russian researchers launched several critters into space on July 19, including a male and four female geckos (to follow their mating capabilities), but by July 25 reported that they had lost contact with the satellite, drawing comical concern (most notably, from TV’s Stephen Colbert). Although the communication link was restored several days later, with the geckos reportedly still copulating, ultimately only the mission’s fruit flies survived the satellite’s return to Earth.

Thanks This Week to Alan Magid, Suzi McCoy, Sarah Del Collo, Tracy Westen, and Christine Van Lenten, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors. !

‘© 2014 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate.

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