News of the Weird

Week of December 23, 2012


The head of the Perse School in Cambridge, England, recently instituted a "10-Second Rule" for minor disciplinary infractions: Students could avoid punishment if they quickly produced a clever explanation for their misbehavior. "Getting children to talk their way out of a tight corner in a very short period of time" said Ed Elliott, encourages creativity and could produce a generation of British entrepreneurs. Said a supporter, "Often the ones who get further are the artful dodgers," who "bend the truth." (Elliott warned, though, that "out-and-out falseness" would not be tolerated.) [BBC News, 11-19-2012]

Can't Possibly Be True

-- Family Values: (1) A Tampa, Fla., mother and daughter (ages 56 and 22, with their familial ties verified by a Huffington Post reporter), shoot scenes together for their pornography website ("The Sexxxtons"), including threesomes with a man, but the women insist that they never incestuously touch each other. (2) Tiffany Hartford, 23, and George Sayers Jr., 48, were charged in Bethel, Conn., in December with selling unauthorized videos of Hartford having sex with another woman. That other woman charged, and a DNA test confirmed, that Sayers is Hartford's father and that the two have a baby (although both deny knowing they were father-daughter at the time they had sex). [Huffington Post, 12-5-2012] [New York Daily News, 12-5-2012]

-- Sheriff's officials in Deerfield Beach, Fla., arrested nine people in October and charged them in connection with a betting ring that set point spreads and took bets not only on pro and college games but on kids' games of the South Florida Youth Football League. Six thousand children play in the 22-team association. [Associated Press via CBS News, 10-30-2012]

-- Too Silly To Be True: (1) Police in Geraldton, Australia, reported in November that they had captured a thief they were chasing in the dark through a neighborhood's backyards. As the thief came to a fence and leaped over it, he happened to land on a family's trampoline and was propelled backward, practically into cops' laps. (2) Guy Black, 76, was charged in Turbotville, Pa., in October with threatening housemate Ronald Tanner with a chainsaw. Tanner, defending himself with the only "weapon" within reach -- an umbrella -- managed to pin Black with it as the chainsaw jammed. (Most people who bring an umbrella to a chainsaw fight would be less successful.) [Australian Broadcasting Corp. News, 11-14- 2012] [Associated Press via WPVI-TV (Philadelphia), 10-22-2012]


-- Deputy NYPD Commissioner Paul Browne told reporters in November that, in the 24 hours of Monday, November 26th, not a single criminal shooting, stabbing, or slashing was reported in the five boroughs. Browne said no police official could remember such a day, ever. (The city is on track to finish 2012 with fewer than 400 homicides--compared to the record year of 1990, when 2,245 people were murdered.) [New York Daily News, 11-28-2012]

-- "Braco," a Croatian-born "healer" (although he rejects the term), seems to make legions of sick or troubled believers feel better merely by entering a room and gazing at them in silence for a few minutes before leaving. (A Washington Post reporter, seeking relief from his allergies, attended a 100-person session in Alexandria, Va., in October, but found no improvement.) "Whatever is flowing through him," said one transfixed fan, "is able to connect with a part of us." Said another enthusiast, "The thing that makes Braco unique is he really doesn't do anything." [Washington Post, 10-12-2012]

Unclear On The Concept

-- In October, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals petitioned Irvine, Calif., to create a roadside memorial for the truckload of live fish that had perished in a recent traffic accident. (After all, fish, like humans, use tools, tell time, sing, and have long-term memories, wrote PETA.) On the other hand, the traffic casualties that day were en route to the Irvine Ranch Market to be sold as food. [Orange County Register, 10-29-2012]

-- The governing Council of Brentwood, England, professes a "reputation as one of the most transparent" in the country, but in November, responding to a Freedom of Information request for documents on a government contract, it merely released 425 totally-blackened ("redacted") pages. The official explanation was that all of the papers concerning construction of a movie theater were deemed "commercially sensitive" and "not in the public interest." (Following an outcry, the Council re-thought the FOI request and disclosed "considerably more information," according to the Daily Telegraph.) [Daily Telegraph, 11-29-2012]

Michigan Egos On Parade

(1) Detroit police chief Ralph Godbee was suspended in October after an affair with a subordinate became public. Godbee's predecessor had been fired for the same reason (among other reasons), and in fact, Godbee had previously had an affair with the same subordinate who had been implicated with his predecessor. (2) The former mayor of Flint, Don Williamson, who resigned in 2009 while being targeted in a recall election, recently erected a large bronze statue of himself outside his home in Davison Township. (3) In June, former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, having served 99 days in jail on obstruction-of-justice charges and still awaiting a federal corruption trial, asked Michigan prison officials to relieve him of "community service" parole obligations -- because he had a number of paid speeches scheduled out of town. [Detroit Free Press, 10-2-2012] [Associated Press via West Virginia Gazette (Charleston), 11-2-2012] [Associated Press via Austin American- Statesman, 6-5-2012]


-- Shortly after drug-possession suspect Patrick Townsend, 30, was arrested in Lakeland, Fla., in November and had allegedly confessed into a detective's digital recorder, Townsend managed to snatch the unattended recorder from a table, took a restroom break, and flushed it down the toilet. Townsend's subsequent advice to the detective: "Tighten up on your job, homie." ("Destroying evidence" was added to Townsend's charges.) [The Ledger (Lakeland), 11-23- 2012]

-- Casey Anthony was acquitted by a jury in Orlando in 2011 of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in part because investigation of her computer did not yield incriminating evidence (e.g., suspicious search terms in her Internet Explorer's history). However, in November 2012, with Anthony protected by the Constitutional prohibition against "double jeopardy," investigators admitted they had overlooked the computer's other web browser (Firefox). There, on the date of Caylee's disappearance, were pages containing such search terms as "fool-proof suffication" (sic) and "asphyxiation." [USA Today, 11-25-2012]

Readers' Choice

High School Inspirations: (1) Trent Bauer became a mid-season replacement as starting quarterback for Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Lexington, Ky.) after beginning the season merely as the team's bulldog-costumed mascot on the sidelines. In his first game, in October, he threw two touchdown passes in a 22-19 victory. (2) Also in October, South Plantation (Fla.) High School's third-string quarterback, Ms. Erin DiMeglio, was voted the school's homecoming queen. In her first game this season, she had come off the bench in a brief stint and completed two passes. [Herald-Leader, 10-15-2012] [New York Daily News, 10-13-2012]

Thanks This Week to Harry Thompson, Sandy Pearlman, Raan Young, Bruce Leiserowitz, Tim Trewhella, Francee Fulller, and Hal Dunham, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

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