News of the Weird

Week of January 1, 2012

LEAD STORY

A regional development commission in Michigan, purchasing equipment for 13 counties in May using homeland security grants, bought 13 machines that make snow cones, at a total cost of $11,700 (after rejecting one county's request for a popcorn machine). Pressed to justify the purchases, officials pointed out that the machines make shaved ice, which might be useful for medical situations stemming from natural disasters and heat emergencies (but that they also make snow cones to draw crowds at homeland security demonstrations).

NOTE: Once again this week, check out a few more recent instances of Recurring Themes of weird news (plus important updates of previous stories):

-- Once again, a genius tried to pass a piece of U.S. currency in an amount not even close to being legal tender: a $1 million bill. (The largest denomination is $100.) Michael Fuller, 53, was arrested in Lexington, N.C., in November when a Walmart cashier turned him in after he attempted to buy electronics totaling $475.78 (apparently expecting change of $999,524.22).

-- Most News of the Weird epic cases of "scorned" lovers who seemingly never give up obnoxiously stalking their exes are of Japanese women, but "dumped" Americans surface occasionally. In October, Toni Jo Silvey, 49, was arrested in Houston when her ex (artist Peter Main) reported that she made 146 phone calls in one day and more than 1,000 (and 712 e-mails) in three months, following their 2009 breakup over his seeing a younger woman. She was also charged with attacking his home with a tire iron, eggs and a sword.

-- "Take Your Daughter (Son) to Work" days are still popular at some companies, to introduce children to their parents' cultures. Inadvertently, even criminals mimic the phenomenon. Joseph Romano, 2-year-old son in tow, was allegedly selling drugs when police picked him up in September in Tunkhannock Township, Pa. And Edward Chatman Jr., 32, who was arrested for raping a woman in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in August, had brought his 6-month-old baby with him when he climbed through the woman's window (though, police said, he stashed the kid in another room during the assault).

-- A cutting-edge treatment when News of the Weird first heard of it in 2000 is now mainstream for those suffering extreme diarrhea due to a lack of "predator bacteria" in the colon (perhaps caused by antibiotics). Among the primary treatments now is a transplant -- a transfusion of "fecal flora" from the gut of a bacteria-normal person, to restore the natural balance (introduced by a colonoscope after the stool is liquified in a blender). Following months of failed alternatives, Jerry Grant, 33, said in October that his transplant, at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., worked remarkably well. (A recent study reported success in 70 of 77 patients.)

-- The law of child support changes only slowly in the U.S., but maybe less so in Australia. American courts are reluctant to end payments even if the man later disproves paternity (citing the harm to the child if the payments stop). However, in October, the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne, Australia, acting on fertility-test results, ordered a mother to reimburse the man she swore was the father after he proved he had been sterile. The woman also "recalled," after extensive therapy, that she might have had a one-night stand with a stranger around the time of conception.

-- Perversion Du Jour: The 10-year-old law-enforcement crackdown on Internet child pornography has lately hit a technicality-based roadblock. Several times recently, perverts have beaten charges after creating "child pornography" that consisted of nude adult female bodies onto which facial photos of young girls had been pasted. This handiwork was apparently arousing to two Lakeland, Fla., men, Danny Parker, convicted in 2011, and John Stelmack, convicted in 2010, but both ultimately had their convictions overturned because no actual child was involved in sex.

-- Forgetting to pay the monthly rental fees on a storage locker can have serious consequences if the locker was used to store embarrassing or even incriminating materials. News of the Weird reported one such hapless client in 2007: a central Florida political activist under investigation whose locker yielded a rich trove for a local reporter. Similarly, perhaps, Dr. Conrad Murray (then under suspicion in the death of Michael Jackson) reportedly missed three payments on a Las Vegas storage locker, and prosecutors recovered items that appeared to contribute to their case (although it is not clear that any of the items were ever presented in court).

-- Hospital protocols may be changing, but too slowly for Doreen Wallace, who fell in the lobby of the Greater Niagara General Hospital in Ontario in October and broke her hip. Though it was less than 150 feet from the lobby to the emergency room, hospital personnel, following rules, instructed her to call an ambulance to take her around to the ER, though the nearest such ambulance, in the next city, did not arrive for 30 pain-filled minutes. Hospital officials said they would handle things better in the future.

-- A New York City jury awarded the family of a late teenager $1 million in November in its lawsuit against the city for mishandling the boy's brain after his 2005 death. Following "testing," the medical examiner kept the brain in a jar on a shelf, where it was inadvertently spotted by the victim's sister during a school field trip to the mortuary (treatment the family considered extremely disrespectful). The case calls to mind that of Arkansas rapist Wayne Dumond, who had been castrated by vigilantes in 1984 and whose genitals the local sheriff had recovered and kept in a jar on a shelf in his office as a symbol of "justice." Dumond subsequently (in 1988) won $110,000 in a "disrespect" lawsuit against the sheriff.

Updates

-- Jennifer Petkov of Trenton, Mich., is still charming the neighbors. An October 2010 Detroit News summary of a years-long feud between Petkov and various neighbors reported that she had been mercilessly taunting the family of Kathleen Edward, then 7 and suffering from the degenerating brain disorder Huntington's disease, which had taken her mother the year before. The more Kathleen's disability showed, the greater was Petkov's Facebook-page glee. In October 2011, Petkov, after a short promise of civility, returned to mocking Kathleen and the memory of her mother, such as in recent Facebook postings: "You thought the (past) 4+ years were bad you (sic) haven't seen nothing yet!" and "Block party when that kid dies."

-- In October, Colorado state Sen. Suzanne Williams settled more-serious 2010 traffic charges by pleading no contest to a misdemeanor and paying $268 to a court in Amarillo, Texas. State troopers had accused Williams of driving with unbelted grandchildren in her SUV when it drifted across a center line and hit another vehicle, killing the driver and ejecting the kids. The Texas troopers suggested that Williams scooped up the worse-injured grandchild, returned him to the SUV and belted him into a child seat, which was especially significant because Williams had sponsored a mandatory child-safety belting law in Colorado in 2010. However, the grand jury declined to indict her, and she refused to discuss the case further.

-- No Longer Weird: Some Recurring Themes appear so frequently as to be boring even to the creator of News of the Weird. For instance, people steal scrap metal for sale to recyclers, even if it winds up disrupting the infrastructure. Two brothers, Benjamin and Alexander Jones, of New Castle, Pa., were charged in October with having dismantled an entire, little-used, 15-ton bridge in the area, anticipating a big payday, but ultimately clearing only about $5,000 from laborious work with blow torches. (But Kirk Wise, 45, told the Phoenix New Times in August that he had earned about $95,000 in the previous year and a half selling scrap metal -- though he admitted blowing most of it on methamphetamines.)

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