The heavy hand of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service landed on 11-year-old Skylar Capo and her mom in June, after an agent happened to spot Skylar holding a baby woodpecker in her hands at a Lowes home improvement store in Fredericksburg, Va. Actually, Skylar had minutes before saved the woodpecker from the primed teeth of a house cat and was providing temporary TLC, intending to release the bird when the trauma had passed. The agent, apparently, was unimpressed, reciting a provision of the Migratory Bird Act, and two weeks later, another Fish and Wildlife agent knocked on the Capos' door (accompanied by a Virginia state trooper) and served Mrs. Capo a citation calling for a $535 fine. (In August, Fish and Wildlife officials relented, calling the agent's action a mistake.)
-- Though a university study released in June linked birth defects to the controversial mining industry practice of mountaintop removal, lawyers for the National Mining Association offered a quick, industry-friendly rebuttal: Since the area covered by the study was in West Virginia, any birth defects could well be explained merely as inbreeding. (A week later, the lawyers thought better and edited out that insinuation.)
-- Michael Jones, 50, told a magistrate in Westminster, England, in May that he did not "assault" a police officer when he urinated on him at a railway station a month earlier. Jones claimed, instead, that he was "urinating in self-defense" in that the water supply had been "poisoned by the mafia." The magistrate explained that Jones' argument "is not realistically going to be a viable defense."
-- Inmate Kyle Richards filed a federal lawsuit in July against Michigan's prison system because of the no-pornography policy in effect for the Macomb County jail (a violation of Richards' "constitutional rights"). Other states permit such possession, claimed Richards, who further supported his case by reference to his own condition of "chronic masturbation syndrome," exacerbated by conditions behind bars. Additionally, Richards claimed to be indigent and therefore entitled to pornography at the government's expense -- to avoid a "poor standard of living" and "sexual and sensory deprivation."
-- When Laura Diprimo, 43, and Thomas Lee, 28, were arrested for child endangerment in Louisville, Ky., in June, it appeared to be yet another instance of a mother leaving an infant locked in a hot car (91-degree heat index outside) while frolicking elsewhere (drinking with Lee at the Deja Vu club). According to a report on WDRB-TV, while the two were in the police car en route to jail, Lee complained that the back seat of the cruiser was uncomfortably warm.
-- Undignified, Ironic Deaths: (1) A 55-year-old man participating in a protest of New York's mandatory-helmet law was killed after losing control of his motorcycle and hitting his head on the pavement, even though doctors said he surely would have survived had he been wearing a regulation helmet (Lafayette, N.Y., July). (2) An 18-year-old man, celebrating on the evening of May 21 after it had become clear that the world would not end as predicted by a radio evangelist, drowned after jumping playfully off a bridge into Michigan's Kalamazoo River.
The Continuing Crisis
-- Save the Environment: (1) Germany's Green Party temporarily transcended mainstream environmental goals in June and specially demanded that the government begin regulating sex toys such as dildos and vibrators. Those devices, it said, contain "dangerously high levels of phthalates" and other plastics that can cause infertility and hormone imbalances. The party called for sex-toy regulation that is at least as strong as the regulation of children's toys. (2) "This is a clear case where making something environmentally friendly works for us," said Lt. Col. Jeff Woods, the U.S. Army's product manager for small-caliber ammunition. He told Military.com in May that new steel-core 5.56mm cartridges not only "penetrate" (kill) more effectively, but are less environmentally toxic than current lead-core ammo.
-- Judge Giuseppe Gargarella has scheduled trial for later this month in L'Aquila, Italy, for seven members of Italy's national commission on disaster risks who (though supposedly experts) failed to warn of the severity of the April 2009 central-Italy earthquake that killed 300 people. Judge Gargarella said the seven had given "contradictory information" and must stand trial for manslaughter. (One commission member had even recommended a high-end red wine that citizens should sip as they ignore small tremors -- which turned into a 6.3 magnitude quake.)
-- The veterans' support organization Home for Our Troops had recently started to build a 2,700-square-foot house in Augusta, Ga., to ease life for Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Gittens, who had suffered concussive head injuries in Afghanistan and is partially paralyzed. However, in June, the Knob Hill Property Owners Association, which had provisionally approved the design, changed its mind. "The problem is," one association member told the Augusta Chronicle, there are "5,000-square-foot homes all the way up and down the street" and that such a "small" house would bring down property values. "It just doesn't fit."
The Pervo-American Community
First Things First: Alan Buckley, 44, on holiday from Cheshire, England, was arrested in Orlando in June and charged with taking upskirt photographs of a woman at a Target store. Buckley's child had gotten sick and was admitted to Orlando's Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, and Buckley was apparently killing time at Target after visiting with the child (and was later identified by witnesses because he was still wearing his hospital visitor's sticker, with his name on it).
Least Competent Criminals
Clue-Droppers: (1) Steven Long, 23, was arrested in South Daytona, Fla., in May on suspicion of theft after a patrol officer spotted him pedaling his bike down a street with a 59-inch TV set on the handlebars. (2) Matthew Davis, 32, pleaded guilty to theft in Cairns, Australia, in June; he had been arrested on suspicion because police had noticed a large office safe protruding "precariously" out the back of his vehicle as he drove by. (3) Stephen Kirkbride, 46, was convicted of theft in Kendal, England, in June after a clothing store clerk, on the witness stand, pointed out that Kirkbride had in fact worn to court that day the very coat he had stolen from the store.
When News of the Weird wrote about the twin singers Lamb and Lynx Gaede ("Prussian Blue"), age 13, in 2005, they were singing Aryan-heritage songs at white-supremacist venues, under the guidance of their Hitler-admiring mother, April. Nowadays, the girls are off the road, according to a July report on The Daily, and have almost completely renounced their political fervor (to April's disappointment). Said Lamb, "I was just spouting a lot of knowledge that I had no idea what I was saying. My sister and I are pretty liberal now." Added Lynx, "Personally, I love diversity. I'm stoked that we have so many different cultures." Both girls have struggled with illnesses since their fame and credit a new treatment that they praise for easing their conditions: medical marijuana.
A News of the Weird Classic (May 2003)
In April (2003), students at the all-women's Smith College (Northampton, Mass.) voted to replace all of the female pronouns in the student constitution with gender-neutral pronouns. Although males are not admitted to Smith, many students believe, apparently, that they need to prepare for the day when students who were admitted as females later come to identify themselves as transgendered. (According to Dean Maureen Mahoney, a student admitted as a female but who later comes out as a male would still be welcomed at Smith.)
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