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News of the Weird

by Chuck Shepherd

Dutch designer Eric Klarenbeek, 29, has developed jewelry consisting of tiny crystals or flowers that hang directly from the eye via micro-thin medical wire attached to either prescription or blank contact lenses and, in the light, give the appearance of tears streaming down the cheek. He expects to hit the market soon, according to an October report in London’s Daily Mail, at a price of the equivalent of around $325. Though the adornments appear to be painful or dangerous, Klarenbeek said users of his prototypes so far have been “amazed” at their comfort.

Can’t possibly be true • Residents of an Austin, Texas neighborhood undergoing a federally mandated sewer replacement noticed that, for several weeks starting in September, the work crews would spend the first three hours of their 12-hour days digging a huge hole in the street, and the last three hours re-filling and paving over it (repeating the process each day). The 20by-20-by-20-foot hole in Monroe Street was too big to be covered with metal plates, and the city’s “policy” of minimal traffic disruption required repaving for nighttime use, at least doubling the cost of the work. • Pay those dentist’s bills! (1) In October, a 58-year-old patient accused the Rush Green Dental Practice in Romford, England of injecting Novocain in preparation for an extraction but then refusing to pull the tooth until he had handed over an additional 30 pounds ($47) cash. (The patient had to go home to get his ATM card, according to a Daily Mail report, and did not make it back until the Novocain had begun to wear off.) (2) Police in the Bavarian town of Neu-Ulm said they were investigating a dentist who allegedly barged into the home of a 35-year-old patient in September, tied her hands, forced her mouth open, and removed dentures worth the equivalent of about $500 because the woman’s insurance company had declined to pay. • Blind justice: An administrator of criminal-case appeals in Louisiana committed suicide in 2007, partly (according to his suicide note) because of guilt that, for 13 years, he had complied with a judge’s order to deny, sight-unseen, all appeals filed by defendants who were acting without lawyers. (Under state law, only death row convicts get assistance for appeals; all others, even convicted murderers, either fend for themselves or forfeit the appeal right, no matter how indigent.) According to the administrator (the extent of whose claims are still being investigated by the state Supreme Court), none of the supervisory judges involved in denying the 2,400 appeals ever read a single word in them.

People who need attention (1) In October, Travis Fessler of Florence, Ohio broke the Guinness Book record by holding 11 Madagascar hissing cockroaches in his mouth for the mandatory 10 seconds. (2) Briton Sarah Burge, 49, broke the Guinness Book record for the most cosmetic surgery, having now spent a total of 539,500 pounds ($850,000) on more than 100 procedures, according to an October report in London’s Daily Mail.

Unclear on the concept In November, after two years of controversy, the school board in Jacksonville, Fla. voted 5-2 to retain the designation of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, which is named for a Confederate general who was also an early Ku Klux Klan leader. Advocates for change described Forrest as one of America’s biggest Civil War slave traders, but a local Confederacy historian said his research indicated that Forrest was “nice” to his slaves and that “[t]hey loved him.”

It’s good to be a British prisoner (1) The Sun reported in September that officials at London’s Holloway Prison had recently staged a morale-boosting costume dance party for female inmates, even though Holloway houses Britain’s worst female murderers. As a result, families

of murder victims learned that the killers had a jolly good time dressed up as, for example, vampires and ghouls covered with fake blood. (2) Britain’s Prison Service issued guidelines recently calling for guards to refer to their male charges by “Mr.” and their surnames, to foster “decency” and “respect.” Inmates should be treated, said one official, “like [we expect] our children to be treated.”

Local government follies (1) Police in Cobb County, Ga. said in October that County Commissioner Annette Kesting had asked local “high voodoo priestess” George Ann Mills to perform a “death ritual” on her longtime political rival Woody Thompson (“cancer” or a “car accident” preferred). Mills acknowledged helping Kesting on some “family” issues, by sacrificing three hens and a rooster, but said she would never help take a human life. (2) In Flint, Mich., two people (an assistant to the mayor and a local activist) accused City Councilwoman Jackie Poplar of assault following a rancorous council meeting. Poplar allegedly sprayed the pair with a can of Raid, proclaiming, “Pests! We need to get rid of these pests!”

Mechanically inclined perverts (1) Akira Hino, 51, was arrested in Tokyo in September and charged with stealing a woman’s underpants, using a fishing rod to reach a laundry pole on an apartment balcony. Police found more than 500 women’s undies in his apartment. (2) A 34-year-old primary-school teacher was convicted in September for a 2007 incident in Clydebank, Scotland in which, during a drive to work, he was arrested after he stopped in front of a high school and was caught watching students while fondling himself with an electrical vibrator plugged into his car’s cigarette lighter.

Least competent criminals Jose Diaz Jr., 35, was arrested and charged with shoplifting from a Wal-Mart in Madison Township, Ohio in October after attempting to run from the store with a digital camera. He first crashed into the glass front door (which looked open, but was closed), cutting himself badly, but then exited into the parking lot, where he almost immediately ran into a cement post, allowing security personnel to catch up with him.

Recurring themes The latest evidence that, for men, size is important: (1) Following a men’s room argument in Durban, South Africa in September, five men of Indian descent left a bar, returned with guns and killed three patrons. According to police, the altercation started when one Indian man at a urinal called attention to a white South African man’s “small” size, and the incident escalated. (2) In August, the indecent-exposure conviction of a Houston urologist was upheld on appeal despite the doctor’s insistence that he is so “small” (2.8 inches) that it would have been impossible for his sex organ to be seen by anyone, even if he had tried to expose himself.

The only way out Initially, authorities ruled the March shooting death of Texas restaurant executive Thomas Hickman, 55, a kidnap-murder, since he had been shot in the back of the head and the body dumped in the New Mexico desert. Later, however, investigators found the murder weapon nearby, attached to balloons that had snagged on cactus, and in July concluded that Hickman had killed himself but rigged helium-filled balloons to carry the gun away as he lay dying (a plan that resembled a 2003 episode of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”).

A News of the Weird classic Researchers at Plymouth University in England, with a small Arts Council grant, could not quite test whether an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters could produce the works of Shakespeare, but did see what six Sulawesi crested macaque monkeys would write with a computer over a four-week period. According to a report in The Guardian, the apes produced about five pages of text between them, mostly consisting of the letter S. According to professor Geoff Cox, the monkeys spent a lot of time sitting on the keyboard.

Copyright 2008 Chuck Shepherd Distrbuted by Universal Press Syndicate

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