News of the Weird

Week of April 3, 2011


Gen. Than Shwe of Myanmar, leader of Asia's most authoritarian regime, made a rare public appearance in February but dressed in a women's sarong. Most likely, according to a report on AOL News, he was challenging the country's increasingly successful "panty protests" in which females opposed to the regime toss their underwear at the leaders or onto government property to, according to superstition, weaken the oppressors. (Men wear sarongs, too, in Myanmar, but the general's sarong was uniquely of a design worn by women.) An Internet site run by the protesters urges sympathetic women worldwide to "post, deliver or fling" panties at any Burmese embassy.

The Continuing Crisis

-- The "F State's" Legislature at Work: (1) Florida Senate Bill 1246, introduced in February, would make it a first-degree felony to take a picture of any farmland, even from the side of the road, without written permission of the land's owner. (The bill is perhaps an overenthusiastic attempt to pre-empt campaigns by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.) (2) Though Florida faces a serious budget shortfall, another Senate bill, 1846, would authorize the state to borrow money for golf courses and resorts in at least five state parks and would require that the courses be designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus' firm. (Update: SB1846 was too excessive even for Florida and was withdrawn.)

-- No Sense of Shame: (1) Nurse Sarah Casareto resigned in February from Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, and faced possible criminal charges, after allegedly swiping the painkiller fentanyl from her patient's IV line as he was undergoing kidney-stone surgery (telling him once to "man up" when he complained about the pain). (2) Karen Remsing, 42, stands accused of much the same thing after her November arrest involving an unspecified pain medicine delivered by IV at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children's Hospital. However, Remsing's case was different in that the IV line being shorted was that of her own, terminally ill, 15-year-old son.

-- New Orleans clothing designer Cree McCree, an ardent environmentalist, ordinarily would never work with animal fur, but the Louisiana state pest, the nutria (swamp rat), is culled in abundance by hunters, who leave the carcasses where they fall. Calling its soft-brown coat "guilt-free fur that belongs on the runway instead of at the bottom of the bayou," McCree has encouraged a small industry of local designers to create nutria fashions -- and in November went big-time with a New York City show ("Nutria-palooza"). Now, according to a November New York Times report, designers Billy Reid and Oscar de la Renta are sampling nutria's "righteous fur."

Bright Ideas

-- In late 2010, a Georgia utility contractor discovered an elaborate "Internet-controlled network of web-accessible cameras" and three shotguns aimed into a food-garden plot on a Georgia Power Company right of way (as reported by the Augusta Chronicle in January). The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division and U.S. Homeland Security took a look, but by then, the structure had been moved. (Homeland Security speculated that the set-up was to keep feral hogs away from the food stock.)

-- Principal Angela Jennings of Rock Chapel Elementary School in Lithonia, Ga., resigned after an investigation revealed that she had temporarily unenrolled 13 students last year for the sole purpose of keeping them from annual statewide tests because she feared their scores would drag down her school's performance. (When the test was over, Jennings re-enrolled them.) The resignation, effective in June, was revealed in February by Atlanta's WSB-TV.

-- Artists Adam Zaretsky and Tony Allard told AOL News in February of their plans to create "bio-art" based on an epoxy-preserved "glob" of feces excreted by the counterculture novelist William S. Burroughs (who died in 1997). The pair would isolate Burroughs' DNA, make copies, soak them in gold dust, and, with a laboratory "gene gun," shoot the mixture into blood, feces and semen to create "living bio-art." (Zaretsky was less certain when asked what was actually being produced, suggesting that they may call their work a "living cut-up literary device" or just a mutant sculpture. Zaretsky is a Ph.D. candidate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Allard is a college professor in San Diego.)


-- Questionable Redemption: For two philanthropic gifts totaling $105,000, Jim Massen, 80, a retired television repairman and farmer in Windsor, Ontario, has perhaps salvaged his good name, overcoming a 1990 guilty plea (and one-year jail sentence) for molesting three teenage boys. The gifts, acknowledged in February, mean that a scoreboard clock, an administrative office, the street leading to the complex, and a walking trail will all be named for him.

-- Theory of Evolution: Last year, the highly qualified agriculture expert Ricardo Salvador was passed over by Iowa State University to run its Center for Sustainable Agriculture, even after the person who finished ahead of him declined the job. According to a June Chronicle of Higher Education report, Salvador had committed an unpardonable faux pas during the hiring process -- by stating the obvious fact that cows everywhere, historically, eat "grass." (Since Iowa's dominant crop is corn, "grass" was the wrong answer.) When a Chronicle reporter asked the dean of Iowa State's agriculture school whether cows evolved eating grass, the dean said she did not have an "opinion" about that.

People Different From Us

(1) Over the last 10 years, newspaper vendor Miljenko Bukovic, 56, of Valparaiso, Chile, has acquired 82 Julia Roberts face tattoos on his upper body -- all, he said, inspired by scenes from the movie "Erin Brockovich." (2) On Feb. 21, Jessica Davey, 22, of Salisbury, England, saw that her car had been wrongly immobilized with a boot. Angry at probably missing work, she locked herself in the car, thus impeding the tow truck, and remained for 30 hours, until a parking inspector dropped by and removed the boot.

Least Competent Criminals

Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) Arkeen Thomas, 19, broke into a home in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in March, but the residents were present, and the male resident immediately punched Thomas in the mouth, sending him fleeing. (Minutes later, a woman identified as Thomas' mother arrived, picked up her son's gold teeth that had been knocked out, and left.) (2) In March, Briton Luke Clay, 21, was sentenced to eight months in prison by a Nottingham Crown Court judge for a home invasion. Luke and his brother fled the home empty-handed after the resident, Joan Parmenter, 79, knocked Luke down with one punch to the jaw.

Recurring Themes

Another "Sovereign" Citizen: In February, the Sarasota (Fla.) Police Department fired veteran homicide detective Tom Laughlin, almost a year after he had filed formal papers identifying himself as part of the "sovereign" movement, whose members believe they are beyond the control of any government and can establish their own financial system (which usually makes them much richer -- on paper), among other assertions. (The U.S. Constitution is cited as their authority, but only the original and not the popular version, which is a sham secretly switched with the original by President Abraham Lincoln.) In a subsequent interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Laughlin, who had a strong record as a detective, acknowledged that maybe he had gotten carried away.

A News of the Weird Classic (July 2006)

In April (2006), a dead, decaying cow got caught on a tree branch at a dam near West Milford, W.Va., and remained there for "several weeks," according to an Associated Press report, grossing out neighbors, while five government agencies split hairs to keep from getting involved. Could the West Milford city government move the cow? (No, outside city limits.) State Department of Natural Resources? (No, they handle only wild animals.) State Environmental Protection agency? (No, the cow presents no ecological danger.) State Agriculture Department? (No, it's a local issue.) Regional Water Board? (No, just no.) Finally, workers from the state Division of Highways, along with volunteer firefighters, removed the cow.

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