[NEWS OF THE WEIRD]
The Entrepreneurial Spirit!
— Failed European Business Models: (1) Grande Hotel San Calogero, the planned centerpiece of a Sicilian tourist renaissance, is still nowhere close to opening — 61 years after construction began. It took 30 years to build, but then developers fought for 10 years over its management, and only later was a serious drainage deficiency discovered (repair of which Rome’s news site The Local reported in July remains unfunded). (2) Construction of the ultramodern Don Quixote airport (in Ciudad Real, Spain, about an hour from Madrid) was finished in 2006, but the $1 billion facility never opened, and in July, was sold to a Chinese investor for the equivalent of $11,000. (Bonus: Fictional character Don Quixote was, himself, noted for delusions of grandeur.)
— Unclear on the Concept: Overlooked by the roundup of “state fair” foods listed in News of the Weird two weeks ago was the debut in June, at California’s San Diego County Fair, of the deep-fried Slim-Fast bar. A 200-calorie “diet bar” is breaded in pancake batter, fried, dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate.
— A woman in a suburb of Beijing filed a lawsuit against the China Dragon Garden graveyard recently over her shock to find that not only was her own name affixed to a headstone in gold lettering but about half of the 600 plots were eerily marked for prominent (and still living) people to move into. It was a marketing plan, according to cemetery workers, to convince customers of the upscale neighbors (such as basketball star Yao Ming) waiting for them in the afterlife. (China’s aging population, and Beijing’s land scarcity, have driven up prices, intensifying competition and corrupt practices, according to a Los Angeles Times dispatch.)
The Continuing Crisis
Texas’ highest criminal appeals court agreed on July 17, hours before Clifton Williams was to be executed, to a postponement until they could consider the significance of perhaps-faulty higher math presented to his jury in 2006. Prosecutors had claimed at his trial that the likelihood of another black man having Williams’ DNA profile was 1 in 43 sextillion (43 followed by 21 zeros, or 43 billion trillion).
Texas officials have recently recalculated the FBI-developed database and concluded that it was somewhat more likely that a second black man had Williams’ profile — 1 in only 40 billion trillion.
(1) Jason Patterson, upset that New Zealand’s health care administration has rejected paying for gastric bypass surgery, announced in July that he will protest publicly by going on a hunger strike. “The first two to three days (will be) really hard,” he told Channel 3 News. (2) Local officials in China’s Xinjiang region informed Muslim shopkeepers and restaurateurs in May that they will henceforth be required to sell alcohol and cigarettes (even though Islam forbids their consumption). An official told Radio Free Asia that the government aims to weaken religion.
Some owners may be petting their cats
all wrong, cautioned recent research in issues of the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science by scientists from University of Lincoln in England and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For example, felines seem to prefer face-caressing, especially between the eyes and ears, and are especially aroused, negatively, by tail-petting, especially at the base. Cats appear to be pickier about how their owners pet them than strangers, according to a Washington Post review of one article. The Wisconsin research revealed that cats better appreciate (or are annoyed less by) music written especially for their pitch (an octave higher) and tempo (mimicking purring) than traditional classical music.
— Careless Governing: (1) Maine enacted legislation in July to make immigrant asylum-seekers eligible for the state’s General Assistance fund — contrary to Gov. Paul LePage’s aggressive promise to veto the bill. The governor had misunderstood state law and believed legislation would be regarded as vetoed if he merely failed to sign it for 10 days. LePage appeared stunned on the 11th day, according to press reports, that he had had the veto law backward and that asylum-seekers are now eligible for benefits. (2) News reports from Georgetown, Texas, politely did not identify the councilman by name, but Mayor Pro Tem Rachael Jonrow confirmed that the man neglected to turn off his mobile microphone during a May meeting as he excused himself for a restroom break. Jonrow said she stoically ignored the men’s room sounds on the PA system — until the noise from a toilet’s flushing seemed to release the councilmembers’ pent-up laughter.
— Epic Clumsiness: (1) A guest at the upscale W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, had to be rescued by firefighters in July when he fell off of one machine in the hotel’s exercise room and got his head caught in the one next to it. Rescuers arrived with torches and saws, but managed to pull and push and manipulate the man’s head free (though he had “significant” injuries). (2) A 27-year-old man, entertaining friends at his home in Colmar, France, on the country’s National Day on July 14, suffered serious injuries when he fell from his third-floor balcony — while, said his friends, leaning over to spit on police officers below.
Michael Crawford, 68, was arrested when he arrived in Phoenix in July expecting, according to the sheriff’s office, to have sex with a horse. Crawford had allegedly posted an online ad seeking horse owners who would allow him access for brief flings. In arranging the meeting with the undercover deputy, Crawford had volunteered that he would be bringing five shirts with him for the horse to urinate on, as memories of the trip.
Least Competent Criminals
Irresistible Self-Promotion: Jason Stange, 44, who became a fugitive last year by walking away from a Spokane, Washington, halfway house while on probation for bank robbery, was re-arrested in July in Olympia, Washington, after featuring himself in an extensive newspaper pictorial about a local movie he was starring in. Stange could have chosen a more veiled stage name, but (since it was a horror movie) billed himself merely as “Jason Strange” — making detection easier for U.S. Marshals.
Earlier, even Norway’s world’s-friendliest prison system had refused to honor the educational rehabilitation demands of Anders Behring Breivik, the massmurderer of 71 (mostly children) at a camp in 2011. Breivik had been sentenced to 21 years in prison — the country’s maximum, or less than four months per victim — but he was subsequently turned down when he sought to register, behind bars, as a political science student at Oslo University.
However, in July, prison officials relented and will allow the enrollment — although he will still be subject to his prison restrictions against Internet and email use.
A News Of The Weird Classic (June 2010)
In a 2009 traffic accident, retired Montgomery County, Maryland, county judge Edwin Collier and his wife, both in their 80s, were severely injured by driver Rene Fernandez, 45, who pleaded guilty to DUI-caused injury (in 2010). Judge Collier had met Fernandez earlier, in 1998, when Fernandez appeared in his courtroom to answer for his three DUI-related arrests in the previous three-month period — but Judge Collier let him off with probation instead of a more meaningful punishment that might have had greater effect on his future DUI behavior. (Update: The 2010 judge gave Fernandez 18 months.) !
Thanks This Week to Chuck Hamilton and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
© 2015 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate.