News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


LEAD STORY -- Best Water Ever

New York City's tap water is already widely regarded as world-class, in safety and taste (and subjected to a half-million tests a year by the city's Department of Environmental Protection). However, two entrepreneurs recently opened the Molecule water bar in the city's East Village, selling 16-ounce bottles of the same water for $2.50, extra-filtered through their $25,000 machine that applies UV rays, ozone treatment and "reverse osmosis" in a seven-stage process to create what they call "pure H2O." The owners of Molecule are a restaurateur/art dealer and a "social-justice activist" who is a "former world champion boomerang player," according to a July Wall Street Journal profile. [Wall Street Journal, 7-18-2012]

Can't Possibly Be True

-- In 2011, the Liberty County, Texas, home of Joe Bankson and Gena Charlton was raided by sheriff's deputies, the FBI, state officials and a trailing media crew (alerted by the sheriff), checking out a tip that "25 to 30" children's bodies were buried on the property. No evidence was found, and in a June 2012 lawsuit for defamation, Bankson and Charlton claim that the sheriff had organized the raid knowing full well that the tipster was a self-described "prophet" who had disclosed that her information came from "Jesus and the (32) angels" who were present with her. The sheriff said he did everything "by the book" and that a judge signed the search warrant confirming "probable cause" to believe that at least one crime (if not 25 to 30) had been committed. [Courthouse News, 6-8-2012; Simple Justice blog, 6-19-2012]

-- In July, the online magazine Salon profiled Virtuous Pedophiles -- an effort by two notably articulate men who insist that their sexual fascination with children would never extend to personal contact. Said one (who claims "advanced degrees from prestigious universities"): "We do not choose to be attracted to children (but) we can resist the temptation to abuse children sexually." He added, curiously, that "many" of the Virtuous Pedophiles "present no danger to children whatsoever." Lamented the group's co-founder, "Almost any group in the world can hold a convention, look out on a sea of faces, and say, 'These are people like me,'" but because pedophiles are treated with such scorn, "we can't." [Salon, 7-1-2012]

Democracy Follies

-- North Carolina state Rep. Becky Carney, an environmental activist, inadvertently cast the deciding vote in July to open up natural-gas hydraulic fracking in the state. The legislature had passed the bill earlier, but it was vetoed by Gov. Bev Perdue, and the House needed exactly 72 votes to override the veto and enact the bill. Carney's tireless lobbying of colleagues appeared to have helped halt the overriders at 71 votes, but when it came time to push the buttons, Carney accidentally became the 72nd. She could be heard on her microphone in the chamber, saying, "Oh my gosh. I pushed green." [The Atlantic blog, 7-3-2012]

-- "It's Just Politics": (1) Mark Schimel told reporters in Albany, N.Y., in May that it was nothing personal that caused him to run for the Republican nomination to the state assembly from Nassau County -- where the incumbent is his estranged wife, Democrat Michelle Schimel. Mark's mother seemed quite upset at her son. "I can't believe he'd do a thing like this (to Michelle)," she told a reporter. "I'm going to talk to him." (2) Democratic attorney Christopher Smith is the presumptive nominee for a Florida Senate seat from Fort Lauderdale, and it was just a coincidence, said Republican leadership in June, that their candidate is attorney Christopher Smithmyer. Registered Democrats dominate the district, but Smithmyer may win some votes by confusion. [New York Daily News, 5-13-2012] [Tampa Bay Times, 6-9-2012]

-- Coming Soon to American Democracy? (1) In March in Ireland, Bundoran Town Councilor Florence Doherty became exasperated with colleague Michael McMahon, who opposed a bill to strengthen whistleblowers' rights. "(T)his country doesn't need whistleblowers," McMahon said. Doherty replied, "Of course it does, you asshole." In a later radio interview, Doherty repeated her word-of-the-day four times. (2) In a live TV debate in July, Mohammed Shawabka, a member of the Jordanian parliament, became enraged when his opponent, Mansour Seif-Eddine Murad, called him a secret Israeli agent. Shawabka removed a shoe and hurled it at Murad, who ducked, but then Shawabka pulled a silver pistol from his waistband and waved it around (though no shots were fired). [Donegal Democrat, 3-7-2012] [Associated Press via Fox News, 7-9-2012]

-- Mainstreaming: In May, the brother of Jane Svoboda, 52, called for sympathy after a video surfaced of her addressing the Lincoln (Neb.) City Council with nonsense comments about Whitney Houston, Hillary Clinton and "corpse(s) found without clothes." The brother noted that his sister lives in an assisted living community and has been diagnosed as schizophrenic. Nonetheless, as the Lincoln Journal Star pointed out, Ms. Svoboda continues to be a registered lobbyist at the state capitol. [Lincoln Journal Star, 5-12-2012]

Unclear on the Concept

William Voss has a tough job, noted a Bloomberg News report in June. He is CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, which relentlessly campaigns for improving airline safety regulations, but admits that his primary obstacle is ... safe airlines. (The last major-airline accident in the U.S. was 11 years ago, leading to complacency by airlines, passengers and regulators.) "If anyone wants to advance safety through regulation," Voss said, "it can't be done without further loss of life." [Bloomberg News, 6-25-2012]

Leading Economic Indicator

Perspective: The median annual per-capita income in the New York City borough of the Bronx is about $18,000. In the adjacent borough of Manhattan, as the New York Post reported in May, a resident of a certain condominium on East 11th Street was about to pay over 50 times that amount -- just for a parking space. The space is a deluxe one, though: about 12 feet by 23 feet by 15 feet high, meaning that it can be configured to store more than one car. [MSNBC, 5-20-2012]

Recurring Themes

Yet another woman made the news recently for having loaded up, over several years, in breast augmentation surgery. Paula Simonds, 44, of Miami, who is known professionally as model Lacey Wildd, is approaching her goal of having breasts large enough to place her in the top five in the world. However, the quest is grossing out her six kids -- two young, two grown and (especially tough) two in high school, where the taunts flow freely. Currently, Simonds measures herself as an "L"-cup, headed for a "triple-M." [Daily Mail, 6-14-2012]

Least Competent Criminals

-- James Allan, 28, was sentenced to three years in prison in Oxford, England, in July for robbing a news shop. Allan's getaway was delayed when he insisted, repeatedly, on pushing the front door open when he obviously should have been pulling. Finally, exasperated, he yanked off his balaclava, exposing his face to the surveillance camera, kicked the door, breaking the glass, and escaped. Police arrested him about three hours later nearby. (The 2000 British movie "Snatch" featured just such a memorable scene of push/pull helplessness.) [Oxford Mail, 7-3-2012]

-- When the assistant manager arrived early on June 26 to open up the Rent-A-Center in Brockton, Mass., he encountered a man with his head stuck underneath the heavy metal loading bay door (obviously as a result of a failed burglary attempt during the night). "Hang tight!" the manager consoled the trapped man. "The police are on their way." Manuel Fernandes, 53, was arrested. [The Enterprise (Brockton), 6-26-2012]

Readers' Choice

(1) Our Lady of Sorrows Academy in Phoenix, playing for an Arizona state boys' baseball title in May, decided to forfeit the game rather than field a team against Mesa Preparatory Academy -- because Mesa's second-baseman was a girl, Paige Sultzbach. (In two regular-season meetings, Mesa had honored Our Lady's beliefs by benching Sultzbach.) (2) The Judson Independent School District near San Antonio fired a kindergarten teacher in June for arranging an unorthodox solution to a colleague's bullying-student problem. The teacher ordered the class's 24 other students to line up and slap the bully (and encouraging the students to "hit him harder") to reinforce the message of "why bullying is bad." [ (Phoenix), 5-9-2012] [Associated Press via ABC News, 6-18-2012]

Thanks This Week to Gary DaSilva, Jim Weiss, and Perry Levin, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

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