News of the Weird

by Chuck Shepherd

TheEuropean Union allows fruits and vegetables to be sold only inprescribed sizes and colors (such as its 35 pages of regulationsgoverning 250 varieties of the apple, or rules that cucumbers must bestraight and bananas curved). In June, British marketer Tim Downcomplained that he was forced to discard 5,000 kiwi fruit because theywere 1 millimeter in diameter too small and one-fourth ounce too light.(It is illegal even to give them away, as that would undermine themarket price.) “Improvements” in the EU system continue, according to aJuly Washington Post dispatch from Brussels: Despite 10 pages ofstandards on the onion and 19 amendments, the Dutch Ministry ofAgriculture recently issued a report urging further refinements, using29 pages and 43 photographs.

Great art!

ArtistMichael Fernandes’ exhibit in Halifax, Nova Scotia in June caused acommo tion because it was merely a banana on a gallery’s window sill,and Fernandes had it priced at $2,500 (Cdn) (down from his originalthought, $15,000). Actually, Fernandes changed bananas every day(eating the old one), placing progressively greener ones out todemonstrate the banana’s transitoriness. “We [humans] are alsotemporal, but we live as if we are not,” he wrote. Despite the steepprice, two collectors placed holds on the “work,” requiring thegallery’s co-owner, Victoria Page, to get assurance from callers. “It’sa banana; you understand that it’s a banana?”

Government in action!

—In May, the school board in Barrie, Ontario notified Children’s AidSociety to intervene with mother Colleen Leduc and her daughterVictoria, 11, because of sus pected sexual abuse, angering theconscientious Leduc, who until that point had taken extraordinarymeasures to protect the girl, who is autistic. Upon investigation, itwas revealed that the suspicion came from a teaching assistant who saidher psychic had told her that a girl with a “V” in her name was beingabused by a man aged 23 to 26. Leduc now refuses to trust Victoria topublic schools because “they might want to take out a Ouija board orhold a seance.”

—The June transfer of a prisoner from lockup to Britain’s NorthamptonCrown Court, just across the street, required summoning the closestprison van (57 miles away) to come give him a ride. The prisoner(accused thief Mark Bailey) could not sim ply be walked across thestreet because officials feared that public, custodial exposure (a“perp walk”) would embarrass him, in violation of his “human rights.” —The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has a longstanding policy of notco-op erating with the federal government’s enforcement of immigrationlaws, but in June that stance abruptly backfired, according to a SanFrancisco Chronicle report. Illegal im migrants who are minors and whocommitted felonies such as drug-trafficking in San Francisco have notbeen bound over for federal deportation but have either been qui etlyflown home, with an escort, at city expense, or placed in Californiagroup homes. In June, when San Bernardino County officials realizedthat one of its youth group homes contained drug dealers, San FranciscoMayor Gavin Newsom halted the program and promised the city wouldimprove its relationship with immigration officials.

Police blotter

—Police, including SWAT officers, were called to an apartment in Mesa,Ariz. in June after neighbors reported a fight between a man and womanthat included yelling and breaking things inside. When they arrived,they found only a 21-year-old man, conducting the fight by himself,alternating a high-pitched voice with a low-pitched one. He wasreferred for a medical exam. — Need for speed: (1) Ontario’s recent lawagainst street-racing snared two note worthy drivers in April: a26-year-old man who was cited when he passed a marked police car whiledoing 178 km/hr (106 mph) and the driver of a garbage truck, racing at112 km/hr (double the posted speed limit). (2) A 3-year-old girl wasseriously injured in Huntsville, Ala. in May in a collision caused,said witnesses, by a speeding contest between two men, both employeesof Comcast Corp., driving company vans.

Questionable judgments

—In March, a jury acquitted the former parking manager for Fresno,Calif., Bob Madewell, of all misuse-of-funds charges, including onecount for reducing the mi nor league baseball Grizzlies’ parking feesin exchange for tickets for his brother and himself, and another countin which he paid a female worker $300 in city funds to let him touchher breasts. Juror Trish Riederer, in an interview with the Fresno Bee,said she and her fellow jurors believe that Madewell did everythingthat prosecutors say he did but that the city did not have clearprocedures in place about Madewell’s scope of authority. —Teachers out of control: (1) Fifth-grade teacher Susan Romanyszyn, 45,was arrested in Bucks County, Pa. in January and charged with 17 countsof threatening bombings and gun violence after she was assigned toteach fourth grade, instead. (2) Sixth-grade teacher Roshondra Sipp ofJackson, Miss. aroused parents’ ire in May for forcing the class tovote on who among them would be most likely to die young or getpregnant while still in school or get HIV or go to jail. Then, Sippposted the results, enraging parents whose little charmers made thelists.

Creme de la weird

“[A]person with a sneeze fetish can find erotic pleasure in those fewseconds,” ac cording to the ABC News Medical Unit, in an April report,when “the eyes close as the body prepares to forcefully expel air,” but“experts are stumped as to why.” An internet “sneeze fetish forum”allows members to wax rhapsodic (“She has the cutest sneeze ever”) andrecall pleasurable experiences (such as the thrill of discovering thatone’s new college roommate has allergies and will be sneezingfrequently), and many use language and suggest visions that mimicsexual behaviors.

Least competent criminals

Failureto communicate: (1) The man who tried to rob the Cafe Treo in Salt LakeCity in April likely told the employee to “fill” the bag, but when theemployee reached over and earnestly started to “feel” the bag(according to police), the robber said, “You’ve gotta be kidding me”and ran out of the store. (2) Another man who came away empty handedhad tried to rob a Walgreens in Port Richey, Fla. in July, handing aclerk what appeared to be a holdup note, except that nothing waswritten on it. The clerk, sensing the forgetful robber’s cluelessness,boldly dialed 911 right in front of him, causing the man to flee.

Recurring themes

RonaldMcDade, charged with raping a teenager in Lansdale, Pa. in January,petitioned to be allowed to submit a plaster cast of his penis to thejury, to demonstrate that, since he is an “extremely large” man(according to his lawyer), he could not physically have penetrated thegirl without causing genital injury (and no such injury was found).News of the Weird has reported previously on rape defendants offeringto give the jury either a photograph, or a live exhibition, to make thesame point.

Thinning the herd

(1)An 18-year-old man was killed in March while riding in a shopping cartand holding onto an SUV racing down a Winter Park, Fla. street, when ithit a speed bump. (2) A 13-year-old skateboarder was killed in May at arailroad crossing in O’Fallon, Ill. when (according to police) he wasunsuccessful in beating a train to the crossing. (3) An 18-year-old manwas killed in June in Blaine, Wash. when the steamroller he was takingfor a joyride at a construction site overturned and fell on top of him.

Copyright 2008 Chuck Shepherd Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate