News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF MAY 20, 2007

LEAD STORY

Religiously strict Saudi Arabia can't have traditional Western-style beauty contests, but there was a pageant in April in remote Guwei'iya, about 75 miles from Riyadh: a beauty contest for camels. More than 250 owners brought more than 1,500 camels to be judged by such standards, said one organizer (according to a Reuters dispatch), as "the nose should be long and droop down" and "the ears should stand back, and the neck should be long" and "the hump should be high, but slightly to the back." Prizes included more than 70 SUVs.

Your Government in Action

-- Among the long-term disabilities that have been drawing compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (at a time when the returning wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan are meeting bureaucratic delays in getting their own disabilities properly compensated): 124,000 veterans receiving monthly checks because of hemorrhoids (according to a March Scripps Howard News Service report) and "thousands" of veterans since 1972 having received regular monthly checks to cover venereal diseases that they contracted on their own time while on active duty, including those treated for depression at having caught the disease (according to an investigation by the same reporter, published in May).

-- Fifty-six New York City principals and assistant principals and more than 500 schoolteachers have records so dismal that no school will take them on its rolls, leaving the school system the choice of either commencing long, expensive termination procedures for each or (as the schools chancellor has chosen to do) placing them into lower-status and make-work jobs (at their previously high rate of pay), according to a March report in the New York Daily News.

-- Close Enough for Government Work: (1) U.S. Department of Agriculture officials admitted in March that since the early 1970s, 250 of the nation's 6,000 meat-processing plants, which are all required by law to be inspected daily, have been inspected as rarely as biweekly (probably because they were too far away for an inspector to get to), according to a March Reuters report. (2) KUSA-TV reported in March that a Transportation Security Administration undercover team was able to sneak simulated liquid explosives past screeners at Denver International Airport about 90 percent of the time during a three-day test in February, in nearly every case because, though machines detected the explosives, the undercover agents talked the screeners out of personally searching them.

Signs of the Times

-- The University of Minnesota campus newspaper reported in February that some students are combining trips to the blood bank to make donations with quick trips to local bars for a drink or two, because they report a quicker and more powerful "high" immediately after blood loss. Said one, "As soon as the needle's out of my arm, I'm out the door (headed for a bar). The rest of the night's a good one."

-- Reuters reported in January that an increasingly popular beauty treatment of women in Singapore is having their eyebrows plucked and hair drawn back artistically by injected ink (similar to tattoos) in a process known as eyebrow embroidery, which the Straits Times newspaper estimated was an industry worth the equivalent of over $3 million.

Police Blotter

-- Cops Getting No Respect: (1) Taryn McCarthy, 21, in the course of a contentious January arrest for DUI in Portsmouth, N.H., was further charged with five counts of simple assault, including four separate incidents of grabbing a state trooper's genitals. (2) Felicha Marin, 18, was charged with shoplifting shoes from a store in Richmond, England, in March, and (according to a report in the Edgware & Mill Hill Times) in the skirmish surrounding her arrest, she was charged with assault for "spray(ing) an officer with milk from her right breast."

-- Honesty Is (Sometimes) the Best Policy: Connecticut state trooper candidate Jon Van Allen decided that he would have a better chance to be hired if he were totally truthful on his application and in person and decided to tell his interviewer something no one else knew: that he had on two occasions fondled an adolescent girl as she slept and that he had been duly ashamed. Van Allen was immediately rejected for the job and arrested in April based on the admission, even though the girl said when questioned that she had no recollection of any of it.

Creme de la Weird

New York Mets baseball fan Frank Martinez, 40, was ejected and then arrested at Shea Stadium in April after he allegedly shone a high-beam flashlight into the eyes of Atlanta Braves player Edgar Renteria during a game. A former neighbor, interviewed by the New York Post, said Martinez was once evicted from his apartment because he would commandeer the hallway after a Mets victory, and into the middle of the night, screaming "M! E! T! S!" as he paraded from one end to the other.

Least Competent Criminals

Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) Eric Cunningham, 18, was arrested and charged with robbing a Hess gas station at gunpoint in Orlando in April, done in by his forgetting to take his gun case with him as he fled; inside was the receipt for his gun, made out to "Eric Cunningham." (2) Jazrahel King, 29, was arrested in Norwalk, Conn., in April when he tried to use, as a trade-in for a larger vehicle, the very Jeep that he had allegedly stolen from that very Wholesalers of America dealership several weeks earlier (and which still showed the temporary plate Wholesalers had put on it).

Update

Last year, a BBC News correspondent in Sudan reported that village elders in the Upper Nile state had punished Charles Tombe, who had been caught being amorous with a goat, by requiring him to pay a dowry to the goat's owner, to endure a "wedding" to the goat, and to treat the goat as his "wife" to embarrass him. The dispatch ran worldwide and was the most popular story on the BBC News' Web site for 2006. BBC News reported in May 2007 that the goat, "Rose," which had given birth to one kid in the interim (clearly, not fathered by Tombe), had recently passed away after choking on a plastic bag.

Names in the News

(1) The Des Moines, Iowa, woman who was the victim in December of an Iowa Methodist Medical Center policy on disposal of amputated body parts (the woman wanted to take her toe with her): Gladys Goose. (2) The 41-year-old woman charged with assault in February, in a suburb of Tampa, Fla., after she allegedly grabbed a high-heeled shoe and smacked her boyfriend in the head several times: Kari Barefoot. (3) The name dog breeders apparently give to the increasingly common crossbreed of a shih tzu with a bulldog (according to a March story in London's Guardian): bullshih.

Fine Points of the Law

At a special session of Arizona's Court of Appeals in April, judges heard arguments on whether a bag of methamphetamine had been legally seized by police, who had a search warrant but not the authority to inspect body "cavities." The bag had been partially protruding from a certain cavity, and an officer pulled it out. The defense lawyer argued that the only legal precedent involved items hidden between posterior "cheeks" (i.e., where contraband would not be so secured), and thus that pulling it out was an invasion of privacy. However, the prosecutor, claiming that the bag was in plain sight and would have fallen out eventually, asked rhetorically, "Where does the butt end and the anus begin? ... The buttocks is just the bell end of the trumpet, and I don't think you (judges), for constitutional reasons, want to go there."

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