news of the weird

by Chuck Shepherd

“Tall, slim, facialsymmetry,” “goodteeth,” along withclassic makeup anddress and gracefulmovement,might comprise theinventory list for anybeauty contest winner,and they are also thecriteria for victorsin Niger’s traditional “Gerewol” festival —except that the contestants are all males and thejudges all females. Cosmetics are especiallycrucial, with symbolic black, yellow and whitepatterns and stripes (with white being the colorof “loss” and “death”). A special feature of thepageants, according to a January BBC televisionreport, is that when the female judges eachselect their winners, they are allowed to marrythem (or have flings), irrespective of any preexistingmarriage by either party.Can’t Possibly Be True’ • It was a prestigious hospital on a worthymission (to recruit hard-to-match bone marrowdonors to beef up dwindling supplies), but UMassMemorial Medical Center (Worcester, Mass.)went hardcore: hiring young female models inshort skirts to flirt with men at New Hampshireshopping centers to entice them to give DNAswabs for possible matches. Complaints piled upbecause state law requires insurance providers tocover the tests, at $4,000 for each swab submittedby the love-struck flirtees, and the hospitalrecently dropped the program, according to aDecember New York Times report.• In December, McCaskey East High Schoolin Lancaster, Pa. established a dynamic newprogram to improve their students’ educationaloutcomes: racial segregation. At least three ofthe 11 junior class homerooms were designatedas black-only with black girls “mentored” duringhomeroom period by black female teachersand black boys mentored by black male teachers(on the theory that kids will learn morefrom people who look like them).• Vietnam veteran Ronald Flanagan, in themidst of expensive treatment for bone cancer,had his medical insurance canceled in Januarybecause his wife mistakenly keyed in a “7”instead of a “9” in the “cents” space whilepaying the couple’s regular premium online,leaving the Flanagans 2 cents short. Said theadministrator, Ceridian COBRA Services, thatremittance “fit into the definition in the regulationsof ‘insufficient payment’” and allowstermination. (Ceridian said it warned the Flanagansbefore cancellation, but Ron Flanagansaid the “warning” was just an ordinary billingstatement that did not draw his attention.)Unclear on the Concept• From a December memo to paramedics inEdmonton, Alberta by Alberta Health Services:Drivers should “respond within the postedspeed limits even when responding with lightsand siren.” “Our job is to save lives,” AHSwrote, “not put them in jeopardy.” Accordingto drivers interviewed by Canadian BroadcastingCorporation News, police have beenissuing tickets to drivers on emergencies if theyspeed or go through red lights.• In January, Thalia Surf Shop of LagunaBeach, Calif. (named by OC Weekly in 2009as Orange County’s best) ran a special MartinLuther King Jr. promotion featuring “20 PercentOff All Black Products,” illustrated witha doctored photograph of Dr. King, himself,in one of the shop’s finest wet suits (black, ofcourse). (Following some quick, bad publicity,the shop’s management apologized.)• Questionable state regulation: (1) WilliamMacDonald, restricted by state law wherever heand his wife relocate to because he is a “registeredsex offender,” told the New York Times inJanuary that his case is particularly “galling,”in that his only crime was violating Virginialaw by having oral sex with consenting adults,which most legal scholars believe is not a crime(following a 2003 US Supreme Court decision).(Virginia still believes that its law is valid.) (2)Tennessee, the “second-fattest” state, accordingto a recent foundation report, continues to payfor obese Medicaid recipients to have bariatricsurgery (at an average cost of about $2,000), butto deny coverage for an overweight person toconsult, even once, with a dietitian.The Redneck Chronicles(1) Johni Rice, 35, eating at a Waffle Houserestaurant in Spartanburg, SC, was charged inJanuary with beating up two diners at anothertable over the quality of their conversation—a man and a woman who were discussing“women with hairy armpits.” Rice wasassisted in the pummeling by two otherdiners, and weaponized food was involved.(2) Among the annual events marking thenew year (similar to the ball-dropping at NewYork’s Times Square), according to a CBSNews report: a pickle dropped into a barrelin a North Carolina town, a dropped bolognain Pennsylvania, a dropped frozen carp inWisconsin, and, in Brasstown, the droppingof the opossum. (However, according to ClayLogan, founder of the event, the opossum ismerely lowered, not dropped.)

First Things First

• As of early November, 150 people had been killed by the 2-week-old, erupting Mount Merapi volcano in Central Java, Indonesia and the government had created shelters in stadiums and public halls for 300,000 jammed-together evacuees. By that time, however, some had petitioned authorities to open up private shelter locations so that the displaced could attend to certain romantic, biological needs. Apparently some evacuees had become so frisky that they had left the shelter and returned to their homes in the danger zone just so they could have sex.

• Jerrold Winiecki, 56, was lifted into an ambulance on Dec. 8 for the 25-minute ride to a hospital in a Minneapolis suburb, after paramedics were unable to keep his airway fully open because of infection. Minutes later, the struggling-to-breathe Winiecki noticed the ambulance stopping at a familiar location enroute — a Subway sandwich shop near his home, thus increasing his distress. The stop was brief; Winiecki later recovered; and doctors said the ambulance ride was not life-threatening. The ambulance company said proper protocols were met, in that the driver did not stop for food but to use a restroom because of diarrhea.

Least Competent Criminals

Three men and two juveniles were charged with burglary in Silver Springs Shores, Fla. in January following a December break-in that netted them electronics and jewelry and what they thought was a stash of cocaine. The men told police they had snorted some of the powder. The police report identified the powder as the ashes of the resident’s late father and of two Great Danes. (Some of the ashes were later recovered.)

Recurring Themes

Respect for all cultures: (1) In January, in Village One in Cambodia (about 12 miles from Phnom Penh), local residents alarmed by a spirit-possessed boy gathered, about 1,000 strong, for a good-luck wedding ceremony marrying two pythons — “magic” animals that have the power to bring fortune and happiness. (2) Customs and Border Protection officers at Washington DC’s Dulles Airport often receive international passengers carrying reminders of home — such as the visitor from Ghana who, according to a Baltimore Sun report, landed on Dec. 3 carrying a hedgehog, elephant tails, chameleons, skins from cat-like “genets,” sheets soaked in the blood of sacrificed chickens, and a package of dirt.

A News of the Weird Classic (October 1990)

Broward County, Fla. Judge Paul Marko, in a July (1990) divorce case, awarded Marianne Price, 33, possession of the marital house but prohibited her from having boyfriends over, adding that her husband could have the “entire [Miami] Dolphins cheerleading squad running through his apartment naked” if he wanted to, because that apartment was his. Marko then advised Price to start visiting singles bars: “I’ve been [in them]. I’m a single man. There are all kinds of bimbos… and… guys running around in open shirts with eagles on their chests. There are great guys out there.” Marko said he would order Price’s house sold if she allowed a male to live there: “I don’t want [you] all of a sudden taking up with some nice, sweet, little blond from Norway.” Marko later apologized.

‘© 2011 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate