by Chuck Shepherd

• Big-time traffickers who smuggleillegal immigrants into the US fromMexico rely on GPS devices to evadethe Border Patrol, but starting in June,border-jumpers who travel on their owncan have protection, too. Three Universityof California, San Diego facultymembers have designed inexpensivecell phones with special software tolocate water, churches and medicalfacilities in the treacherous Southwestdesert (while avoiding law enforcement)and will give the devices toMexican charities. The phones, whichwill also feature “welcome to the US”poetry, are expected to save the livesof many of the hundreds who die eachyear on their dangerous journeys, butillegal-immigration protesters are demandingthat the academics be arrestedfor assisting in crimes.The continuing crisis• A man identified in China’sChongqing Evening News in Novemberas Mr. Zhang, 32, admitted he is competitivewith his wife and “never wantsto lose an argument,” but inevitablyhis contentiousness leaves him with“bruises and scars all over” becauseMrs. Zhang is a kung fu master. Afternegotiations led by Mrs. Zhang’s parents,she agreed by contract to limit anybeatings to no more than once a week,with a parent-administered penalty forexceeding that.• American Jonathan Littell wasawarded the 2009 “Bad Sex in Fiction”award by Britain’s prestigious LiteraryReview, having written passageslike these in his novel “The KindlyOnes”: “I came suddenly, a jolt thatemptied my head like a spoon scrapingthe inside of a soft-boiled egg.” Later:A woman’s genitalia resembles “aGorgon’s head … a motionless Cyclopswhose single eye never blinks. If onlyI could still get hard, I thought, I coulduse my prick like a stake hardened inthe fire, and blind this Polyphemus whomade me Nobody. But my cock remainedinert, I seemed turned to stone.”• The Kirklees (West Yorkshire, England)Environmental Health departmentcited farmer Ronald Norcliffe, 65, in2008 for inadequate lighting in his barn,which inspectors said failed to meetthe “psychological needs” of his onecow and her calf. In his formal appeal,heard in October 2009, Norcliffe noted(unsuccessfully) that he has had a cleanrecord as a farmer for 30 years andthat in fact, he still lives fine withoutelectricity in his own house. After hisdefeat, Norcliffe’s lawyer sighed. “Istill have no idea how much lighting isappropriate for a cow.”• In December, a court in Istanbul,Turkey found 39 people guilty of tryingto overthrow the government after atrial that lasted, on and off, for 28 years.More than 1,000 defendants had beenrounded up after challenging a 1980military coup. The original trial lasted10 years, but the case languished in anappeals court for 13 years while judgesawaited 100 folders of evidence that hadsomehow gone missing. The 39 weregiven life sentences, but were immediatelyreleased based on time alreadyserved. The European Union has urgedthat Turkey upgrade its judicial systemas a pre-condition for membership.• Intelligent design: As with all copulatingspecies, female Muscovy ducksbattle male Muscovy ducks over whichcontrols fertilization. Patricia Brennanof Yale, writing in a recent Proceedingsof the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,found that the female Muscovyavoids forced sex by having evolved aclockwise-spiraled corkscrew vaginathat foils male intruders (but relaxing itfor preferred mates, so that they don’tget stuck in vaginal “cul-de-sacs”).Brennan’s team worked with highspeedvideo and mock-up glass tubingof the respective organs.News that soundslike a joke• Plastic surgeon Mark Weinberger,who skipped town in Merrillville, 2004 to avoid mounting malpracticelawsuits and Medicare fraud charges,was finally cornered living in a tenton the southern slopes of Italy’s MontBlanc in December. As authorities approachedto arrest him, Dr. Weinbergergrabbed a knife and plunged it into hisneck, but perhaps owing to his rustyskills (or incompetence, if the malpracticeclaims are accurate), missed themajor artery and was captured.• The Great Yarmouth Sea LifeCentre in Norfolk, England loweredthe water level in its giant aquariumfor Christmas becausethe big turtles (whichare herbivores) werescheduled to receive theirannual holiday treat ofbrussels sprouts. Officialsknow from experiencethat if they fail to lowerthe water level, the gasbubbles from the powerfulturtle emissions willlift the water high enoughto trigger the emergency tank-floodingbuzzers.Just can’t stop myself!• In November, Oprah Winfrey’smother, Vernita Lee, and the luxuryfashion store Valentina Inc. announceda settlement of the latter’s lawsuit overLee’s $155,547 outstanding tab. On aprevious tab of $174,285 in 2002, Leehad agreed to make periodic repayments,but the store apparently allowedher to open another account, and as thenew balance swelled, Lee sued, claimingthe store should not have re-extendedcredit to her.• In December, pedophile TheodoreSypnier (the first-ever New Yorker toturn 100 years old while behind bars)was released from prison even thoughhe continues to deny that he has doneanything wrong. He was sent onceagain to a halfway house near Walden,NY run by Rev. Terry King, who tookSypnier in twice before and warns thatSypnier is still highly dangerous. “Asa father,” said King, “I would not wantmy child anywhere near him.” Notingthat Sypnier continues to reject counseling,King said, “He’s been adamantthat, ‘I’m 100, and I’m not gonnachange.’”Least competent criminalsFailed to keep a low profile: (1)A news summary of traffic stops onChristmas Eve in Alice Springs, Australianoted that 11 people were chargedwith DUI, including one man who wasspotted driving despite his car’s hoodbeing broken in the “up” position andhaving smashed through his windshield.The driver maneuvered downthe street by craning his neck out theside window. (2) Two weeks earlier, inTrumbull, Conn., police arrested ChristopherFrazao, 27, after watching himdrive despite a windshield full of snow(except for a small openinghe could peer though). Asearch of the car revealedmarijuana and other drugs,as well as items believed tohave been stolen in recentburglaries.Having fun now!• On the heels of the“Balloon Boy” fiasco inwhich a super-ambitiousfather exploited his childto win a reality TV job, Jim Dunn ofNorth Vancouver, British Columbiasubmitted a demo reel to reality-showproducers featuring him and his entirefamily turned into gasoline-soakedfireballs. Dunn, one of Canada’s leadingfilm stunt men, and his wife andthree kids, ages 15, 12 and 9, have allperformed as stunt doubles (thoughit was the first fire for the youngest,who was 7 when the video was shot),and abundant safety precautions weretaken (with no resulting complications).In his career, Dunn has sufferedsix leg fractures and a cracked skull,and needed two bowel resections.A News of the Weirdclassic (April 1993)• Psychology professor RussellCarney of Southwest Missouri StateUniversity told the Associated Pressin August 1992 that he had developeda technique for improving memoryand told the reporter how he could facilitatethe recall, say, that a particularpainting was done by Degas in 1865.First, think of an object that soundslike “Degas” (day-GAH), for example,“dagger,” and then memorize the lasttwo digits of the year by learning thesentence “Twin new moons rose low,just clearing four pine saplings,” inwhich the first word begins with aT and stands for “1,” the second, N,stands for “2,” and so on. Thus, 1865becomes “65,” which becomes “just”“low,” which could translate to J-L,which could be “jelly,” which wouldproduce a “jelly dagger,” to which thesubject tries to find a resemblance,somewhere, in the Degas painting.Simple as that!Copyright 2010 Chuck ShepherdDistributed by Universal PressSyndicate !