News of the Weird

Week of January 2, 2011


Biologists Studying Rare Species Have to Be Quick: Researchers learned from reports in early 2010 of a new monkey species in Myanmar, with a nose so recessed that it habitually collects rainfall and constantly sneezes. However, according to an October National Geographic dispatch, by the time scientists arrived to investigate, natives had eaten the monkey. (The sneezing makes them easy for hunters to detect.) (Researchers studying a rare species of Vietnamese lizard had an easier time in November. After learning of the species and rushing to Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, a two-man team from La Sierra University in Riverside, Calif., found the lizards being routinely served in several restaurants' lunch buffets.)

Can't Possibly Be True

-- Parents of the 450 pupils (aged 3 to 11) at Applecroft primary school in Welwyn Garden City, England, were given individualized yearbooks recently with all the children's faces obscured by black bars over the eyes (except for photos of the recipient's own children, which had no obstructions). The precautions (described by one parent as "creepy," like kids were "prisoner(s)") were ordered by headmistress Vicky Parsley, who feared that clear photos of children would inevitably wind up in child pornography. Last year, Parsley famously prohibited parents from taking photographs during school plays -- of their kids or any others -- for the same fear.

-- Among the few commercially successful enterprises in North Korea is its General Federation of Science and Technology's video game unit, which has produced such popular programs as a bowling game based on the American cult classic movie "The Big Lebowski," and another based on the "Men in Black" film series. Bloomberg News revealed in September that a major international partner of the federation's marketing arm Nosotek is the News Corporation -- the umbrella company of Rupert Murdoch's vast enterprises that include the conservative Fox News (which is generally provocative toward the North Korean government).

-- Joy of Democracy! (1) The women's group Femen 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 street protests, to remove their tops. (2) The Socialist Party in Spain's Catalonia region offered an election video in November on the joy of voting, in which an attractive, increasingly excited woman simulates an orgasm as she fills out her ballot, climaxing at the moment she drops it into the slot. (3) The nativist Danish People's Party called in November for an anti-immigration film that featured bare-breasted women sunbathing, as one way to convince religious fundamentalists abroad not to immigrate to Denmark.


-- Nicholas Hodge, 31, was arrested in Winona County, Minn., in November after he entered the home of an acquaintance at 2:40 a.m. and refused to leave, complaining that a person who lived there owed him something. According to the deputy's report, Hodge was cuffed while sitting on a toilet "in the kitchen." The deputy added, "I'm not sure why they had a toilet in the kitchen."

-- "Sex strikes" (the withholding of favors) are employed from time to time, especially in underdeveloped countries, to influence political leaders' decisions. However, these almost always appear in patriarchies in which females have little influence beyond the power of sexual denial. In December, Stanley Kalembaye of Uganda's National Resistance Movement, battling to unseat the ruling party, publicly called for the nation's men to withhold sex from their wives unless the wives promise to vote for the Resistance.

Unclear on the Concept

-- In November, outgoing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist initiated pardon proceedings (granted in December) excusing now-deceased singer Jim Morrison of The Doors for his 1969 indecent-exposure conviction in Miami Beach. However, Crist has ignored petitions from still-living, still-incarcerated convicts who almost certainly suffered unfair prosecutions. Orlando Sentinel crusader Scott Maxwell has reported on several dozen people convicted in part by trainer Bill Preston's dogs, who supposedly tracked crime-scene scents through water and other obstacles, sometimes months later and despite much site contamination, directly to the defendant on trial. Judge after judge permitted Preston's "expert" testimony until one demanded a live courtroom test, which Preston's dog utterly failed. In 2009 two convicts were released after DNA tests proved the dog's sniffs were erroneous, but as many 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 13th 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, N.H., 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, S.C. ("I don't care what anybody else thinks") (October). Jesus in a cherry tree limb in Midway, N.C. ("(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, N.H. (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.


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.

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