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news of the weird

by Chuck Shepherd

“Dementiaville”:

Swiss health officials have authorized construction of an assistedliving “village” of 1950s-style homes and gardens designed to “remind” patients with Alzheimer’s and similar afflictions of surroundings that they might actually recall and with which they might be more comfortable and secure than they are with modern life.

The 150-resident grounds, near the city of Bern, will be similar to a Dutch facility set up in 2009 in a suburb of Amsterdam. “To reinforce an atmosphere of normality,” reported London’s Independent in January, the Swiss caretakers will dress as gardeners, hairdressers, shop assistants and the like.

Can’t Possibly Be True

• The varsity girls’ basketball teams at predominantly white Kenmore East High School near Buffalo, NY have, for several years, apparently, psyched themselves up in a pre-game locker-room ritual by chanting, “One, two, three, (n-word (plural))!” before running out the door and onto the court. Although the white players this year called the use of the word a “tradition” (passed down from year to year), and not a racial “label,” the team’s only black player not surprisingly had a problem with it and reported it to school officials. According to a December Buffalo News report, it was always a players-only tradition, and no adult was aware of the chant, but upon learning of it, officials immediately imposed player suspensions and team penalties.

• The US Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax matters revealed in January that the IRS certified 331 prison inmates as registered “tax preparers” during a recent 12-month period, including 43 who were serving life sentences. None of the 43, and fewer than one-fourth of the total, disclosed that they were in prison. (The agency blamed a 2009 federal law intended to encourage online filing of tax returns, noting that “tax preparer” registration can now be accomplished online by passing a 120-question test.) (USA Today reported in February 2011 that prisoners filing false or fraudulent tax returns scammed the IRS for nearly $39.1 million in 2009.)

• The Olympic committee will not be calling: (1) Mr. Badr Al-Alyani told a Saudi Arabian newspaper in November that he was nearing the world record for squirting milk from his eye. The current champion, Mehmet Yilmaz of Turkey, reached 2.7 meters (almost 9 feet), and Al-Alyani reports one squeeze of 2.3 meters. He said he “will continue training.” (2) In San Francisco, there is an annual refereed “Masturbate-a-thon,” and the supposed world record, set in 2009, is held by Masanobu Sato, who remained aroused for nine hours, 58 minutes. In a series of videos released recently, Sato calmly explained how he “practices” for about two hours every morning while his live-in girlfriend goes about her business (in one video, ironing). Sato said he trains by swimming twice a week and has “gained about (11 pounds) in muscle,” which helped him with “stamina.”

• David Belniak, now serving 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter for killing a woman and her adult daughter and her husband in a Christmas Day 2007 car crash, filed a lawsuit from prison in January against the victims’ family, demanding justice from them in the form of compensation for medical expenses and his “pain” and “anguish.” Police records show Belniak was driving between 75 and 85 mph when he rear-ended the victims’ stopped car (and that he had alcohol, Xanax and cocaine in his system). Attorney Debra Tuomey, Belniak’s sister, represents him and called her brother’s imprisonment “government sanctioned assassination.”

Inexplicable

• Not one second longer with that wench: A man identified as Antonio C., 99, filed for divorce in December against his wife of 77 years, Rosa C., age 96, in Rome, Italy. According to an ANSA news agency report, Antonio became upset when he discovered 50-year-old letters from an affair Rosa once had.

• Christopher Bolt pleaded guilty in September to felony destruction of property in Loudoun County, Va., for spray-painting more than 50 vehicles. Some were marked with the number “68,” which a sheriff’s detective explained was probably because Bolt had initially sprayed “69” but realized it “didn’t look right.”

Unclear on the Concept

• Brogan Rafferty, 16, in jail in Cleveland, Ohio, awaiting trial for assisting in at least one murder in a robbery scheme, wrote to his father in December (in a letter shared with the Plain Dealer newspaper) that he was certain God would not allow him to suffer a long prison sentence. That would mean, he wrote, that “all my meaningful family members would be dead” when he got out. “(N)o way God would do that to me.”

• Benjamin North, 26, was apprehended by deputies in Humboldt County, Calif., because they were pretty sure he was the man who used a stolen credit card at a Safeway supermarket in December. They knew this because North, for some reason, insisted that the purchase be credited to his personal “Safeway Club” card, which he presented to the cashier along with the stolen card.

Fine Points of the Law

• Gayane Zokhrabov, then 58, was knocked down by the flying corpse of Hiroyuki Joho, 18, during a rainstorm in Chicago in 2008, and in December 2011 filed a lawsuit against Joho’s estate for compensation for the various injuries she suffered that day (broken leg, broken wrist, shoulder pain). Joho’s corpse was “flying” because he had just been fatally struck by a fast-moving train as he dashed through the storm across several tracks — while Zokhrabov was waiting on a nearby station platform. A judge initially ruled that Zokhrabov’s injuries were not a “foreseeable” result of Joho’s crossing the tracks, but in December, a state appeals court reinstated the lawsuit.

• PayPal confirmed to a Toronto Star reporter in January that its refund policy required the shattering of a violin that may well have been a pre-World War II classic easily worth the $2,500 the seller was asking. The buyer had balked after paying, claiming the violin was counterfeit and produced one expert’s opinion to that effect, demanding that PayPal refund the money, which it did, provided that the buyer first “destroy” the property. (According to PayPal, the laws of many countries, including the US, prohibit mailing knowingly counterfeit goods, and hence, PayPal’s could not simply order the violin returned to sender. The seller, certain that the violin was authentic, was left with neither it nor the money.)

Least Competent Criminals

Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) Police in London stepped up their search for the man who tried to rob the Halifax bank in October but escaped empty-handed. He had demanded 700,000 pounds from a bank employee and then, intending to hand over the bag that he had brought for the money, instead absentmindedly handed over his gun. Realizing his mistake, he dashed out the door. (2) Verlin Alsept, 59, was arrested in Dayton, Ohio, in January and charged with trying to rob a Family Dollar store. He had demanded all the money in a cash register and, apparently as an attempt to intimidate the clerk, he pulled out a .38 caliber bullet from his pocket and showed it to her. She was, of course, undaunted, and he walked away (but was arrested nearby).

Update

In Jerusalem, It’s Good to Be a Man: Ultra- Orthodox Judaism, already responsible for excluding or segregating women on public transportation, advertising images and even use of sidewalks, struck again at a January medical research conference in Jerusalem. Despite their obvious interest in the conference’s topic (“Innovations in Gynecology/Obstetrics and Halacha (Jewish Law)”), all women in attendance were required to sit apart from males, and no female was allowed to address the audience from the podium.

© 2011 Chuck Shepherd. Universal Press Syndicate

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