news of the weird

by Chuck Shepherd

• Among the promotionsoffered by NewYork City’s upscaleMarmara Manhattanhotel is a “birth tourism”package exploitingthe US Constitution’s14th Amendment.For about $35,000,a foreign expectantmother with a visa canspend her delivery week in luxury accommodations(including medical care) — and assure herbaby automatic US citizenship. (That child couldthen become an “anchor,” subsequently makingit easier for the parents to acquire “green cards.”)

Also, the Washington Post reported in Julythat three agencies in China, with US affiliates,offer similar packages to their affluent citizens,whose primary concern seems to be providingtheir children access to a US education as analternative to China’s expensive, competitivesystem. (Historians agree that the purpose ofthe “citizenship right” in the 14th Amendment,ratified in 1868, was to recognize former slavesas citizens.)

More Tales of The Miracle Drug

• (1) A naked, 47-year-old man was takento an El Paso, Texas burn center in July after“friends” won a bet and got to set his prostheticleg on fire, and it spread to his body. The manadmitted to police that he had lost fair-andsquare,by downing “only” six beers. He wastreated for several days and released.

(2) In June,two 34-year-old men in Horsham, Australiaunderwent surgery as a result of a plan hatchedduring a drinking bout. They had both wonderedif it hurt to get shot and thus obliged each other.

Cultural Diversity

• Black magic failed to secure the WorldCup for Africa this year, but on the other hand,the weak host team, South Africa, managed anopening round draw with Mexico and an upsetvictory over France. Sangomas (traditional“healers”) spreading muti (powders, potions,animal bones, especially from speedsters likehorses and ostriches) had been out in force.World Cup stadium security was tight, but inAfrican league soccer games, it is not uncommonfor sangomas, pre-game, to bury animalparts on the field, or to have players urinate on itto improve the karma.

• British safety ninnies: (1) Britain’s headconstable told a police chiefs’ meeting in Junethat they were being “buried” under a “telephonedirectory”-sized (6,497 pages) compilation ofrules and regulations telling street bobbies inmassive detail such things as how to apply handcuffsand ride bicycles.

(2) The local governmentthat runs the Ebdon Road Cemetery in Westonsuper-Mare, England ordered the removal ofthe small cross marking the grave of RosemaryMaggs, who died in May. The local council hasprohibited crosses in the cemetery, citing safety.

‘• Things you didn’t think happened: (1)Although 85 percent of Americans are coveredby health insurance, the figure in Rwanda is 92percent. In that country’s 11-year-old system,everyone pays $2 a year — obviously just forbasics. However, Rwandans’ main problems aremore easily treatable — infections, malnutrition,malaria, unsafe childbirth — and not expensivediabetes, obesity, cholesterol-clogged arteries.

(2) In Israel’s West Bank, Palestinians have ahighly competitive race-car season, and oneteam on the rise this year is the sexism-fightingfemale squad led by driver Suna Aweida. “Drivingis driving,” she told BBC News in June.

• In July, acknowledging pressure from localAsian activists, officials at the Exchange mall inRochdale, England said they would remove thetoilets from two of the facility’s restroom stallsand build “Nile pans,” also known as “squat toilets”— also to Westerners referred to as “holesin the ground.” The officials said they were tryingto serve the many Pakistani and Bangladeshiimmigrants living in Greater Manchester.

Latest religious Messages

• One of Britain’s 200 or so “consecratedhermits” might soon be homeless as the ownerof her cottage in rural Shropshire County haslisted it for sale. Karen Markham, 44, lives byrules set down by St. Benedict, the founder ofwestern monasticism, that require her to rise at 4a.m., pray and chant for three hours, then contemplatein silence. For recreation, she weavesrugs using wool from local sheep, according toa May report in the Daily Telegraph.

• American sangomas: (1) In July, a fifthgradeteacher at Jacox Elementary Schoolin Norfolk, Va. resigned under pressure afteradministrators discovered she was rubbing“holy oil” on students and their desks duringschool.

(2) Teachers Leslie Rainer and DjunaRobinson were removed from teaching duties atBlanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach,Fla. in March after they were seen sprinkling“holy water” onto a colleague, a self-describedatheist. Other witnesses disputed the details, butthe two were charged under the school’s “antibullying”policy for aggressiveness toward theother teacher.QuesTionable JuDgMenTs• At press time, the city council of Barre, Vt.

continues to debate extending its pet “leash” law to cats, following a woman’s complaint that a neighbor’s cat continues to foul her yard with droppings. In the few towns that try to enforce leash laws on cats, a main rationale has been to protect friendly birds. (The late US statesman Adlai Stevenson, when he was governor of Illinois, once rejected such a law, terming leashing “against the nature of the cat.”) • Hard time, hard luck: Harry Jackson, 26, was in jail in Woodbine, Ga. in March, on several minor charges such as driving on a suspended license. However, acceding to pressure from fellow inmates, brought on by the jail’s nonsmoking policy, Jackson agreed to break out, steal cigarettes at a nearby convenience store, and break back in, undetected. “[D]on’t come back empty-handed,” one inmate supposedly warned him. Jackson was apprehended climbing back in over a fence. In May, a judge sentenced him, for the earlier charges plus the escape and subsequent burglary, to 20 years.

THe WeIrdo-amerIcan communITy

• John Mark Karr burst onto the national scene in 2006 when he famously, falsely, confessed to murdering little JonBenet Ramsey 10 years earlier, but since then, his life has been even more bizarre. He has spun through a series of romances with JonBenet-like youngsters, the latest with Samantha Spiegel, who was 9 when they met and is now 19 and recently got a restraining order against him. Karr is currently known as “Alexis Reich” in preparation for his gender-reassignment surgery, which Spiegel says Karr wants only in order to make it easier to befriend, and seduce, younger and younger girls. According to another ex-girlfriend, Karr asked her to solicit little girls to join a cult he was starting called “The Immaculates,” to fulfill fantasies including taking baths with young girls.

redneck cHronIcles

• From Florida’s Panhandle region: (1) A 24-year-old man was arrested in Crestview, Fla. in April after he allegedly removed a window air-conditioner and crawled into a house in which his wife was staying. They had recently separated, and he told police that he had not “gotten any” in three weeks and was going to “get some.” (2) In June in Okaloosa County, passenger Courtnea Bradley, 21, roughed up the driver while the car was moving, making it swerve wildly, thus allegedly endangering her baby in the back seat. At the subsequent traffic stop, a defiant Bradley allegedly told officers, “My [expletive] family is one of the richest around, and we will have y’all’s [expletive] jobs.”

a neWs of THe WeIrd classIc (augusT 1991)

• In May (1991), 19 members of the Michigan House of Representatives (led by the chairman of the Judiciary Committee) introduced a resolution designed to deal with obnoxious social problems, but without creating expensive regulatory programs. The resolution would establish, at the State Archives, a “Registry of Bothersome Practices,” on which people could contribute to an official list of complaints about such things as elevator music and magazine blow-in subscription cards.

‘ 2010 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate