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news of the weird

by Chuck Shepherd

Biologists studyingrare species have tobe quick: Researcherslearned from reportsin early 2010 of anew monkey speciesin Myanmar, with anose so recessed thatit habitually collectsrainfall and constantlysneezes. However,according to an October National Geographicdispatch, by the time scientists arrived toinvestigate, natives had eaten the monkey.(The sneezing makes them easy for hunters todetect.) (Researchers studying a rare speciesof Vietnamese lizard had an easier time in November.After learning of the species and rushingto Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, a two-manteam from La Sierra University in Riverside,Calif. found the lizards being routinely servedin several restaurants’ lunch buffets.)Can’t Possibly be true• Parents of the 450 pupils (aged 3 to 11) atApplecroft primary school in Welwyn GardenCity, England were given individualizedyearbooks recently with all the children’s facesobscured by black bars over the eyes (exceptfor photos of the recipient’s own children,which had no obstructions). The precautions(described by one parent as “creepy,” like kidswere “prisoner[s]”) were ordered by headmistressVicky Parsley, who feared that clearphotos of children would inevitably wind up inchild pornography. Last year, Parsley famouslyprohibited parents from taking photographsduring school plays — of their kids or any others— for the same fear.• Among the few commercially successfulenterprises in North Korea is its GeneralFederation of Science and Technology’s videogame unit, which has produced such popularprograms as a bowling game based on theAmerican cult classic movie The Big Lebowski,and another based on the Men in Blackfilm series. Bloomberg News revealed inSeptember that a major international partner ofthe federation’s marketing arm Nosotek is theNews Corporation — the umbrella company ofRupert Murdoch’s vast enterprises that includethe conservative Fox News (which is generallyprovocative toward the North Korean government).• Joy of democracy! (1) The women’s groupFemen is growing in popularity in Ukraine(according to a November Reuters dispatch),helped in large part by its members’ willingness,during the group’s ubiquitous streetprotests, to remove their tops. (2) The SocialistParty in Spain’s Catalonia region offered anelection video in November on the joy of voting,in which an attractive, increasingly excitedwoman simulates an orgasm as she fills out herballot, climaxing at the moment she drops itinto the slot. (3) The nativist Danish People’sParty called in November for an anti-immigrationfilm that featured bare-breasted womensunbathing, as one way to convince religiousfundamentalists abroad not to immigrate toDenmark.inexplicable• Nicholas Hodge, 31, was arrested inWinona County, Minn. in November after heentered the home of an acquaintance at 2:40a.m. and refused to leave, complaining that aperson who lived there owed him something.According to the deputy’s report, Hodgewas cuffed while sitting on a toilet “in thekitchen.” The deputy added, “I’m not surewhy they had a toilet in the kitchen.”• “Sex strikes” (the withholding of favors)are employed from time to time, especiallyin underdeveloped countries, to influencepolitical leaders’ decisions. However, thesealmost always appear in patriarchies in whichfemales have little influence beyond thepower of sexual denial. In December, StanleyKalembaye of Uganda’s National ResistanceMovement, battling to unseat the ruling party,publicly called for the nation’s men to withholdsex from their wives unless the wivespromise to vote for the Resistance.unclear on the Concept• In November, outgoing Florida Gov.Charlie Crist initiated pardon proceedings(granted in December) excusing now-deceasedsinger Jim Morrison of the Doors for his 1969indecent-exposure conviction in Miami Beach.However, Crist has ignored petitions fromstill-living, still-incarcerated convicts whoalmost certainly suffered unfair prosecutions.Orlando Sentinel crusader Scott Maxwell hasreported on several dozen people convicted inpart by trainer Bill Preston’s dogs, who supposedlytracked crime-scene scents throughwater and other obstacles, sometimes monthslater and despite much site contamination,directly to the defendant on trial. Judge afterjudge permitted Preston’s “expert” testimonyuntil one demanded a live courtroom test,which Preston’s dog utterly failed. In 2009two convicts were released after DNA testsproved the dog’s sniffs were erroneous, but asmany as 60 similar convictions still stand.• News that sounds like a joke: The good news for investigators covering the November shooting of a 53-year-old man in Fort Bend County, Texas is that there were several witnesses who helped an artist sketch the shooter’s face. The bad news was that the shooter was wearing a full-face Halloween mask the whole time. Nonetheless, the sketch of a man’s head, with the face fully covered by the indistinct mask, was distributed to the media by the Fort Bend Sheriff’s Office.

• Glenn Crawley, 55, who describes himself as a “man of the water,” flipped his catamaran off the coast of Newquay, England in September for the 13 th time and had to be rescued, running the costs of attending to his miscues to the equivalent of nearly $50,000. Although officials have pleaded with him to give up sailing (terming him “Captain Calamity”), Crawley said: “I do what no one else is doing. So I’d appreciate it if people would get off my case and give me some support.”

Least Competent Criminals

Not ready for prime time: (1) Bonnie Usher, 43, was arrested in Manchester, NH in November and charged with robbing a Rite Aid pharmacy after being spotted in her car fleeing the store’s parking lot. The robber’s easy-to-remember license plate: “B-USHER.” (2) Walter Allen Jr. was arrested in Houston in November after attempting to purchase two Bentley cars at the Post Oak Motor Cars company. Allen, using his own driver’s license, presented a check for $500,000 from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (which was, of course, bogus since the Federal Reserve does not bank with checks).

The Jesus and Mary World Tour (all-new)

Recent Playdates: Mary, on a barbershop wall in Bakersfield, Calif. (Finder’s reaction: “like a miracle, actually”) (November). Jesus in an MRI image in Greer, SC (“I don’t care what anybody else thinks”) (October). Jesus in a cherry tree limb in Midway, NC (“[A]m I nuts or not, I don’t know”) (October). Jesus in a chicken’s feathers in Rowley Regis, England (Mom pointed out the “ring of thorns”). Jesus on a stone in the road in Granbury, Texas (“[E]ven the rocks will cry out,” Luke 19:40) (July). Jesus on a lifeguard flag in Candia, NH (July). Mary on spilled baby lotion in Riohacha, Colombia (July). The final date on the tour is now set for May 21, 2011, according to evangelist Harold Camping, who in July told his followers to prepare.

Update

Alan Patton, 59, of Dublin, Ohio, was arrested again in November — this time under the state’s newly passed “Alan Patton” law (inspired by his earlier arrest) for hanging around men’s rooms to collect (and then consume) fresh urine from young boys. Earlier laws afforded insufficient punishment, legislators had said, leading to the new law. Explained one detective, after Patton’s 2006 arrest, “Listening to him describe [his fetish], it’s like listening to a crack or cocaine addict. He’s addicted to children’s urine.”

A News of the Weird Classic (September 2002)

September (2002) reports in the New York Post and the Toronto Star, quoting parents’ website “reviews” of the Mattel $19.99 Nimbus 2000 plastic-replica riding broomstick from the (then-)latest Harry Potter movie, highlighted its battery-powered special effect — vibration. Wrote a Texas mother: “I was surprised at how long [my daughter and her friends] can just sit in her room and play with this magic broomstick.” Another said her daughter fights her son for it but complains that “the batteries drain too fast.” Still another mother, age 32, said she enjoyed it as much as her daughter.

‘© 2011 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate

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