News of the Weird

Week of April 24, 2011


A tank and several armored vehicles with dozens of SWAT officers and a bomb robot rolled into a generally quiet Phoenix neighborhood on March 21, startling the residents. Knocking down a wall, deputies raided the home of Jesus Llovera, who was "suspected" of running a cockfighting business, and, indeed, 115 chickens were found inside, but Llovera was alone and unarmed, and his only previous connection to cockfights was a misdemeanor conviction in 2010 for attending one. "We're going to err on the side of caution," said Sgt. Jesse Spurgin. Adding to neighbors' amazement was the almost-fanciful sight -- riding in the tank -- of actor Steven Seagal, who had brought his "Lawman" reality TV show to Phoenix.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

-- Product Giveaways: (1) New sign-ups for higher-end Dish satellite TV systems at the Radio Shack in Hamilton, Mont., also receive free Hi-Point .380 pistols or 20-gauge shotguns (after passing a background check, paid for by the store). The owner said his business has tripled since introducing the premium in October. (2) Bobblehead dolls may be popular baseball giveaways, but as part of the local "Green Sports Alliance" demonstrating concern for the environment, the Seattle Mariners announced in March that for several games this season, fans would get free bags of compost (made from food and other items discarded at Mariners games).

-- It started as a class project at Brown University, but after a launch party on March 19 (and a sold-out first run of 500), Julie Sygiel's Sexy Period menstrual-leak-fighting panties are on sale ($32 to $44, depending on the style -- "cheeky," "hipster" or "bikini"). Sygiel said "sexy" is less to suggest sensuality than to help women cope with the time of the month when they feel "not at (their) best. We want to banish that moment."

-- A Chinese Capitalist's Learning Curve: In the early hours of the destruction at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant in March, rumors abounded that millions of people might need iodine products to fight off radiation. A restaurateur named Guo in Wuhan, China, seeing the price of iodized table salt rise dramatically, cleverly cornered a market with 4 1/2 tons of it, trucked to his home, where it filled half the rooms. According to a March 25 China Daily report, the price has returned to pre-Fukushima levels -- much less than what Guo paid, and he can neither return the salt (lacking documentation) nor sell nor transport it (lacking the proper licenses).

Weird Science

-- From a March report: "Forty million years ago, a female mite met an attractive partner, grabbed him with her clingy rear end, and began to mate -- just before a blob of tree resin fell on the couple, preserving the moment for eternity." The resin-encrusted mites were discovered recently by researchers from the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (who noted that, in those days, the female dominated mating, but that evolution has reversed that role).

-- Medical Marvels: (1) Supatra Sasuphan, 11, of Bangkok, was recently noted as the world's hairiest girl by the Guinness Book of World Records for her wolf-like facial hair as one of only 50 people in history to be recorded with hypertrichosis. Though she has of course been teased and taunted at school, she told a reporter in February that the Guinness Book recognition has actually increased her popularity at Ratchabophit school. (2) According to a team of University of Montreal psychologists, a 23-year-old man, "Mathieu," is the first documented case of a person wholly unable to feel a musical beat or to move in time with it. The scientists report for an upcoming journal article that Mathieu sings in tune but merely flails with his body, bouncing up and down much more randomly than do people who are merely poor dancers.

-- From the September 2010 issue of the journal Endoscopy, reported by three physicians at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia: A 52-year-old woman undergoing a routine colonoscopy was shown on the screen to have a cockroach in her traverse colon. A literature review revealed no previous cases of cockroaches (but, e.g., ants, wasps, bees). Though the cockroach was not welcome, the doctors acknowledged that in some other countries, they are delicacies.

-- Scientists Just Wanna Have Fun: A team of whimsical researchers at the University of Osaka (Japan) Graduate School of "Frontier Biosciences" has produced a strain of mice prone to "miscopying" DNA -- making them susceptible to developing sometimes-unexpected mutations, such as their recently born mouse that tweets like a bird. Lead researcher Arikuni Uchimura told London's Daily Mail that he had expected to produce, instead, a mouse with an odd shape, but the "singing mouse" emerged. Previously, the team produced a mouse with dachshund-like short limbs.

Leading Economic Indicators

-- People With Too Much Money: (1) During New York City's Fashion Week in February, "fanny packs" made a comeback (though certainly not under that name), according to a Wall Street Journal report, ranging in price from a $325 Diane von Furstenberg to an Hermes "Kelly Bandeau" model, expected to sell for $4,675. (2) An unidentified "coal baron" in northern China purchased an 11-month-old, 180-pound red Tibetan mastiff recently from a breeder in Qingdao for the equivalent of about $1.52 million. "The price is justified," said breeder Lu Liang. "We have spent a lot of money raising this dog, and we have the salaries of plenty of staff to pay."

-- What Federal Cutbacks? In March,, combing federal government job announcements, found more than 1,000 in Washington, D.C., including a Facebook manager for the Interior Department ($115,000 annually), a student internship at the Housing Finance Agency ($48,000) (the same salary as being offered by the Pentagon for mailroom clerks), and managers of equal-opportunity employment programs at the Peace Corps ($155,000) and the Transportation Department (almost $180,000).

Smooth Reactions

A suspicious wife (who lives apart from her husband because of work requirements) flew to the couple's principal home in Wilmette, Ill., on March 4 and, finding her husband's new girlfriend's clothes hanging in their closet, scissored out the crotch area of all her pants, doing about $2,000 in damage, and leaving the remnants in the driveway before returning to her East Coast home. According to police, neither the husband nor the girlfriend chose to file complaints, and the case is closed.

Least Competent Criminals

Clever, But Didn't Think It All the Way Through: (1) Daryl Davis, 30, was arrested in Springfield, Pa., in March and charged with stealing a pickup truck off of a dealer's lot. According to police, Davis had carefully forged an owner's credential for the truck at another dealership and obtained a "duplicate" key, allowing him to drive the truck off the second dealer's lot. However, when he made the original bogus credential, he had used his own name and photograph and was easily tracked down. (2) LaShay Simmons, 22, was charged in March in Houston with theft of about 250 Sprint phones by (according to police) ordering 10 to 20 phones at a time under the names of legitimate businesses, but then calling Sprint back later to change the delivery location. However, she always made the callbacks using her own easily traceable Sprint phone.

A News of the Weird Classic (August 1995)

In June (1995), Barbara Ricci was voted by fellow contestants as "Mrs. Congeniality" in the Mrs. New York State pageant, receiving 22 of the 28 votes. However, six months earlier, she had gone to trial in Mount Vernon, N.Y., on charges that she tried to run down with her car the 11-year-old daughter of a neighbor with whom she had been feuding (resulting in a hung jury). And two years before that, a police officer had charged her with punching and kicking him at a school board meeting (and she pleaded guilty to harassment).

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