news of the weird

by Chuck Shepherd

“Why are you still alive?” is the question doctors ask Ozzy Osbourne, the hard-rock singer and reality-TV star, who says he is now clean and sober after a lifetime of almost unimaginably bad’habits. In June, he started two new ventures: undergoing the three-month process of genetic mapping (to help doctors learn why, indeed) and becoming a “health advice” columnist for London’s Sunday Times. At various points in his life, the now-cholesterol-conscious, vegetarian Osbourne said he drank four bottles of cognac a day, smoked cigars like they were cigarettes, took 42 prescribed medications and many more “backstage” drugs that he could not even identify. Osbourne also has a Parkinson’s-like genetic tremor, was once in a medically induced coma after an accident, and endured anti-rabies shots after famously biting into a bat on stage (“I thought it was a rubber toy”).

IronIes’• An intense lightning storm on June 14around Monroe, Ohio destroyed the iconic62-foot-high statue of Jesus (the “King ofKings” structure of the Solid Rock Church)alongside Interstate 75. While townspeoplemourned, it was also noteworthy what thelightning bolts completely missed: the largebillboard, on the other side of the road,advertising the nearby Hustler Hollywoodpornography store.• Despite a scary moment in May, Massachusettsstate Rep. Mike Moran said hestill supports “comprehensive” immigrationreform (taken to mean that restrictions on illegalimmigrants be tempered with a special“path to citizenship” for those already here).Rep. Moran’s car was rear-ended (though hewas not seriously hurt) by illegal immigrantIsaias Naranjo, who was charged with DUIand speeding. According to police, Naranjo,27, who was dressed in a Mexican partycostume, laughed when told of the charges,informing officers that they could do nothingto him since he had already made plansto return to Mexico. (Furthermore, Massachusettsis forbidden by state law fromeven notifying US immigration officials ofNaranjo’s case.)• Over the years, according to a JuneChicago Sun-Times report, US Rep. MarkKirk of Illinois has freely used “swagger andbraggadocio in talking about his 21 years ofmilitary service” as qualification for office.When one contrary fact after another abouthis record was pointed out by reporters,Kirk explained, “I simply misrememberedit wrong.” He admitted that, contrary to hisnumerous public statements, he was notactually “in” the Iraq Desert Storm war; didnot actually “command the Pentagon WarRoom” when he was assigned there as aNavy Reservist; and was not actually onceNaval “Intelligence Officer of the Year.” Heis now vying for the US Senate seat onceheld by Barack Obama.’• In May, Douglas Ballard and JosephFoster were indicted for allegedly sellingfraudulent loans in exchange for bribes,while they were vice presidents of theAtlanta-area “faith-based” Integrity Bank.The bank opened in 2000, touting Christianprinciples, giving Bibles to new customers,and encouraging prayer at employee gatherings.(The bank closed in 2008, thought thenmerely to be the victim of sour real-estateloans, and in fact the bank’s more-spiritualfounder, Steven Skow, had left the bank by2007.)not my fault(1) British actor Nicholas Williams, 33,was acquitted of domestic assault in Juneeven though he had, among other things,“waterboarded” his girlfriend by pullingher shirt over her head and holding herunder a shower during a two-hour rampage.Williams persuaded the judge that the antismokingdrug Champix made him unableto control himself or even to remember theevents of that evening. (2) Laith Sharma, 49,admitted in June that he had stalked and fixatedupon, “for marriage,” a 14-year-old girlin Windsor, Ontario, but doctors’ testimonywon him a sentence of mere house arrest.Sharma, they said, suffers from the popularlyknown “maple syrup urine disease,” socalledbecause the excreted scent is a markerfor brain damage that prevents impulsecontrol.• Compelling explanation: Tony Chrumwas the one apprehended for allegedlybuying $160 worth of cocaine from a manwho turned out to be a police informant inLincoln County, Mo. in May, but his brother,who is Winfield, Mo. police officer BudChrum, 39, was the mastermind. Accordingto police and unknown to the informant, Budhad needed to replace 2 grams of cocainefrom the police evidence locker because he

had accidentally spilled something on it, and Tony agreed to help.

our liTigious society

“If Google told you to jump off a cliff, would you?” asked a Fortune magazine columnist, describing the lawsuit filed in May by Lauren Rosenberg, asking for damages of more than $100,000 against Google Maps after she was struck by a car. Rosenberg had queried the map service for a “walking route” between points in Park City, Utah, but a short stretch of the suggested route lacked sidewalks. Rosenberg was hit while walking in the street. Though Google and other map services “warn” users against walking in the street, Rosenberg’s route was delivered on her small Blackberry phone screen.

WhaT aBouT our “human righTs”?

• Update: News of the Weird reported in 2005 on a Welshman’s invention of the “Mosquito,” a device that emits an irritating, pulsating, very-high-pitched noise and is marketed to shopkeepers to drive away loitering children and teenagers, since the pitch is audible to them but rarely to anyone older than in the mid-20s (because audio range contracts as we age). In June, following an investigation, the Council of Europe (which oversees the European Court of Human Rights) declared the Mosquito a “human rights violation,” in that the sounds it emits constitute “torture.”

• Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service announced a proposed anti-social behavior order against Ellis Drummond, 18, to prohibit him from wearing low-slung trousers in public that allow his underwear to show, but Drummond challenged it in Bedford magistrates’ court. In May, Judge Nicholas Leigh-Smith ruled that such an underwearsuppressing order would violate Drummond’s “human rights.”

leasT compeTenT people

• Jihadists: They blow themselves up by mistake (such as Pakistani terrorist Qari Zafar did in June); they botch airline shoe-and underwear-bombing and buy the wrong fertilizer for urban car bombs; they brag too much; and they watch far too much internet pornography. Evidence amassed by Daniel Byman and Christine Fair, writing in the July/August issue of The Atlantic, has led them to suggest that America and its allies should treat jihadists as “nitwits” rather than as “savvy and sophisticated killers” (the latter being an image that helps them with recruiting). It is possible, the authors conclude, that there has not been a truly competent jihadist terrorist since Mohammad Atta led the Sept. 11, 2001 missions.

• Matadors: Christian Hernandez, 21, making his big-time bullfighting debut at Plaza Mexico in Mexico City in June, ran from the ring trembling in fear at the first sign of his bull. He was then coaxed to return and man up, but once again fled and immediately submitted his resignation. Though Hernandez was contrite (“I didn’t have the ability. I didn’t have the balls.”), he was arrested for violating his contract and released only after he paid a small fine.

a neWs oF The Weird classic (march 2007)

The West Tennessee Detention Facility (Mason, Tenn.) made a video pitch for California inmates, hoping some would volunteer to be outsourced under that state’s program to relieve overcrowding. The hardtimers should come east, the video urged, because of West Tennessee’s “larger and cleaner jail cells, 79 TV channels, including ESPN, views of peaceful cow pastures, and … the ‘Dorm of the Week,’ (with its inmates) staying up all night, watching a movie and eating cheeseburgers or pizza,” according to a March (2007) description in Nashville’s Tennessean. “You’re not a number here,” said one inmate. “You come here, it’s personalized.” (California’s outsourcing program is facing a lawsuit from the prison guards’ union, anxious about job loss.)

‘ 2010 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate