News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


LEAD STORY -- Body Piercing: So Safe and Easy, Anyone Can Do It

Like most states with active trade associations of barbers and beauticians, Iowa strictly regulates those professions, requiring 2,100 hours of training plus continuing education -- but also like many other states, Iowa does not regulate body piercers at all (though it forbids minors from getting tattoos). Thus, the puncturing of body parts and insertion of jewelry or other objects under the skin can be done by anyone, with or without formal training, under no one's watchful eye except the customer's. (A few cities' ordinances require a minimum age to get pierced.) Said one professional piercer to the Des Moines Register for a March report, "The lack of education in this industry is scary." [Des Moines Register, 3-11-2012]

Government in Action

-- Controlling the Waters: (1) A February bill in the Wyoming legislature to prepare the state for possible secession authorized a task force to consider establishing a state army, navy, marine corps and air force, and one amendment added the consideration of purchasing an aircraft carrier. Wyoming is, of course, landlocked, but it does have the 136-square-mile Yellowstone Lake, though that body of water is high up in the Teton mountains. (The aircraft- carrier amendment was defeated even though 27 representatives voted for it.) (2) Texas announced in February that it would deploy six gunboats to patrol the Mexican border's Rio Grande river. Said a state Department of Safety official, "It sends a message: Don't mess with Texas." [Billings Gazette, 2-27-2012] [CNN, 2-29-2012]

-- With a National Institute of Justice grant, the Houston Police Department was able to learn precisely how embarrassingly bad it had been in investigating rape cases. In February it conceded that, as of December, it had on hand 6,663 untested rape kits (some from the 1980s) taken from rape victims at the time of the crime but then apparently ignored. (Not all are significant: In some rapes, a perpetrator has already confessed or been convicted, and still other victims recanted, and in still others, the statute of limitations has run out.) [KPRC-TV, 2-14-2012]

-- After every snowfall in recent years, Doug Rochow of Ottawa, Ontario, has routinely taken his shovel and cleared two paths in a park near his home (since the park is apparently a low priority for municipal snow-clearing), but in March, the city ordered him to stop. Rochow said his aim was to keep people from hurting themselves on uncleared paths (thus perhaps saving the city money on lawsuits). The city's reverse-logic position, according to a Toronto Star report, was that if Rochow cleared the paths, more people would be encouraged to use them, increasing the city's exposure to lawsuits. [Toronto Star, 3-5-2012]

Great Art!

-- It wasn't on a scale with an infinite number of orangutans using an infinite number of iPads, but the conservation group Orangutan Outreach has begun to supply certain zoos with iPads, hoping to encourage apes' creativity and social networking. At the Milwaukee Zoo, a handler holds the device while an orangutan operates a painting app with its fingers. ("Orangutans like to paint, and they're capable of using this (tablet)," he said, adding the benefit that "there's no paint to eat.") At the Memphis Zoo recently, said an Outreach official, the apes seem happy when they recognize images of other apes on the iPad. The Toronto Zoo's iPad is expected soon. [Toronto Star, 2-29-2012]

-- In March came word from Taiwan that the prominent Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts had awarded a prize worth the equivalent of $13,500 to student Wong Tin Cheung for creating the face of a man by using the artist's own urine. His piece, "Blood Urine Man," presented to judges in a toilet bowl, used urine of different colors, supposedly to match the pigments of the Marvel Comics superhero Iron Man. [Newser, 3-19-2012]

Police Report

-- Difficult Fact-Check: According to the Utah Highway Patrol, a one-car crash in February left the following injured in serious condition: Ms. Me Htwe and Mr. Hsar Kpaw Doh and Mr. W.T. Htoo, along with the driver, Mr. Tar Eh. (Ms. Mula Er, 14, died of her injuries.) All were from Heber City, Utah. [Salt Lake Tribune, 2-28-2012]

-- "(E)very single cop in the state has done this. Chiefs on down." That practice, referred to by the unidentified Minnesota law enforcement officer, is the personal use of the police database that is supposedly off-limits for all except official business. According to an imminent lawsuit (reported by the weekly City Pages in Minneapolis), former officer (and apparently still a "hottie") Anne Marie Rasmusson, 37, learned that 104 officers in 18 different agencies in Minnesota had accessed her driver's license record 425 times. Rasmusson's lawyer said the reality is that officers tend to treat the confidential database more like a "Facebook for cops." [City Pages, 2-22-2012]

Hot Commodity in Pennsylvania

(1) In January, police in Bridgeville, Pa., investigated a series of vehicle break-ins, including one of a car belonging to Kathy Saunoras, who reported that only her dentures were taken. (2) Two weeks later, health worker Marlene Dupert, 44, was charged with yanking dentures out of the mouth of one of her charges at a nursing home in Selinsgrove, Pa. (3) Also in February, Evelyn Fuller, 49, was charged with robbing the First National Bank in Waynesburg, Pa. -- a crime necessitated, she told a police officer, because she needed money for new dentures. [Associated Press via WPVI-TV (Philadelphia), 1-26-2012] [Daily Item (Sunbury, Pa.), 2-18-2012] [Observer-Reporter (Washington, Pa.), 2-1-2012]

People With Issues

Only the Lonely: Adrian Baltierra, 51, was charged with solicitation in February in Bradenton, Fla., after, according to police, he approached an undercover female officer, who was posing as a prostitute, and agreed to a transaction. In exchange for $15, Baltierra would be accorded the opportunity to take a whiff of the "prostitute's" genital aroma (although street slang was used in the negotiation). [The Smoking Gun, 2-27-2012]

Least Competent Criminals

(1) Didn't See It Coming: Canadian Jasmin Klair pleaded guilty in federal court in Seattle in March to smuggling nearly 11kg of cocaine into the U.S. She had been arrested upon arrival at a bed and breakfast called the Smuggler's Inn, located about 100 feet from the border in Blaine, Wash. (2) Greedy: According to police in Lake Ariel, Pa., alleged burglar Christopher Wallace had loaded his van with goodies from a home's first floor, but instead of calling it a night, he re-entered to check out the second floor. Wallace was later rushed to the hospital after accidentally falling out a second-floor window, resulting in a broken back, hip and arm. [News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.), 3-20-2012] [Wayne Independent (Honesdale, Pa.), 3-19-2012]

Recurring Themes

Fathers of Our Country: News of the Weird has reported on several prolific men who sell their sperm to sperm banks, to be selected from catalogs by multiple mothers-to-be seeking high-quality breeding (and also one case of a middle-aged physician who collected women's money to find donors but then decided to self-supply his clients). Fremont, Calif., computer-security worker Trent Arsenault, 36, is America's most notorious "rogue" donor, offering his output absolutely free to same-sex and low-income clients who have difficulty procuring through sperm banks. He is so far the father of at least 15 children. Since 2010, the federal Food and Drug Administration has been trying to shut him down as an unregistered "manufacturer" of body tissue who must therefore adhere to federal safety regulations. Arsenault, according to a profile in New York magazine in February, is the son of disapproving parents (father, a Pentecostal minister), and in addition, is a virgin. [New York Daily News, 12-9-2011; New York magazine, 2-13-2012]

Undignified Deaths

On March 3, police in Kantale, Sri Lanka, found the body of Janaka Basnayake, 24, who with the help of friends had buried himself in a 10-foot-deep trench for an attempt to set a "world record" for the longest time buried alive. Clearly, his 6 1/2 hours underground was too ambitious. An Associated Press report noted that it was "unclear" whether an "official" record exists in this category. [Associated Press via Huffington Post, 3-5-2012] 

Thanks This Week to John Cohen, Steve Dunn, Brian Bjolin, Gary Locke, John Connell, Pete Randall, Skip Mendler, and John Votel, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

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