News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



And What Were Y-o-u Doing at Age 14? Among the students featured in Popular Science's September list of young inventors was Fabian Fernandez-Han, 14, of Conroe, Texas, who invented a bicycle that, when pedaled, also desalinates seawater (via reverse osmosis) from replaceable 15-gallon canisters. One hour of pedaling produces 20 gallons of drinkable water. Jack Andraka, 15, from Maryland, created a test for pancreatic cancer that is demonstrably much faster and more accurate than current diagnostics (using carbon nanotubes that can be specially activated by applications of the signature pancreatic-cancer protein, Mesothelin). [Popular Science, September 2012]

Can't Possibly Be True

-- School officials in Grand Island, Neb., told Hunter Spanjer that the way he signs his name violates the schools' anti-weapons policy and that he'll have to abandon it. Hunter is 3 1/2 years old, deaf, fluent in the language Signing Exact English, and uses a hand flourish as his unique signature (registered with SEE), except that officials say the flourish looks like Hunter is threatening with a weapon. At press time, Hunter's parents were still negotiating with officials. [KOLN-TV (Lincoln), 8-28-2012]

-- An unidentified mother of twins was photographed at the Thanksgiving Point Deli in Lehi, Utah, in September apparently toilet-training her toddlers at a table. Another patron witnessed the mother's bringing in what at first glance looked like booster seats, but then the mom undid the kids' jumpsuits and placed them on the potties. A spokesperson for the deli (located 10 miles south of Salt Lake City) said the incident was over by the time it was reported to her, but the witness put a photo on the Internet (picked up by TV stations) so that millions of people could disapprove of the mother's parenting. [KNTX-TV (Bowie, Texas), 9-6-2012]

-- Police in Seneca Falls, N.Y., arrested Dawn Planty in August and charged her with statutory rape. Planty came to officers' attention when she called 911 to ask if the dispatcher knew the age of consent in the state because she had had sex with a 15-year-old boy recently and wanted to clear her conscience. [WHEC-TV (Rochester), 8-21-2012]

Cuddly Geopolitics

-- (1) The Washington Post, reporting in August the existence of a newly declassified communication between a cooperating Guantanamo Bay detainee and his lawyer, revealed that the "high-value" prisoner had, without explanation, been rewarded with a pet kitty cat. (2) On July 4, two peace activists who own a small advertising agency in Malmo, Sweden, pulled off their most audacious stunt yet by hiring a small plane to drop 800 teddy bears emblazoned with democracy-promoting messages over the capital of Belarus. The country's strongman president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, later fired two generals for their inability to prevent the breach of the country's airspace. [Washington Post, 8-16-2012] [New York Times, 8-2-2012]


-- Many Americans are still outraged that no major banking officials were punished for the malpractices that produced the 2008 financial collapse. However, in July, Richard Eggers, age 68 and with an otherwise-unblemished record, was fired by Wells Fargo -- only because of a 49-year-old conviction for attempting to rig a laundromat machine by making a "dime" out of cardboard. Wells Fargo said its hands were tied by a new federal law requiring dismissal of anyone with past convictions for "transactional crimes" (aimed at identity theft and money-laundering). (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which administers the law, has a waiver procedure, but the process is complicated, and Wells Fargo said it feared being fined if it did not terminate Eggers promptly.) [Associated Press via Des Moines Register, 8-29-2012]

The District of Calamity II

-- Overtaking Washington, D.C., in Dysfunction: (1) Ever since Detroit prosecutor Kym Worthy found 11,000 "rape kits" lying idle on police shelves in 2009, she has been seeking funding to test them. In a progress report in August 2012, of the 400 kits deemed most likely to yield results, 21 "serial rapists" were identified. (Manpower to find the men is unavailable, and yet to be learned is whether any have committed additional rapes since 2009.) (2) Two hours after an early morning multiple-shooting in Detroit on Sept. 1, a 36-year-old man reported to a fire station to turn himself in. However, firefighters were unable to persuade police to come arrest him, and eventually, reported WXYZ-TV, the firefighters put the man in a taxi and sent him to a police station. [WDIV-TV (Detroit), 8-23-2012] [WXYZ-TV (Detroit), 9-2-2012]

Unclear on the Concept

-- A 30-year-old man told Providence, R.I., told police in August that he was the victim of a sexual assault, and police are investigating. The man said he had gone to the North Main Street Spa for a professional massage and was unable to avoid a sex act administered by his "masseuse," "Yo Yo." (The Providence Journal did not publish his name because he claims to be the victim of a sex crime.) [Providence Journal, 8-14-2012]

-- In July, Labor Party councillors in the Netherlands demanded that weather forecasters be punished for incorrect predictions -- since poor weather drives down resort business, resulting in slower hiring. One hotelier in Hoek van Holland lamented that the forecasters, ironically, were getting worse "(d)espite having more forecasting tools than ever before." (A week before that, tourist managers in Belgium reportedly called for "less pessimistic forecasts," and one urged meteorologists "to pay as much attention to sun as they do to rain.") [Daily Telegraph (London), 7-15-2012]

-- In a lower-level Norwegian soccer league match in May, player Talat Abunima was ejected for arguing with a referee who had just given him the benefit of a penalty. He was not fouled, he insisted. "(I) tripped over my own feet," he said later. "It was unbelievably clumsy of me and ... I felt I had to speak out." The referee first warned Abunima (a yellow card) for complaining and finally red-carded him, telling a local newspaper afterward, "It was a clear penalty. The player got it all wrong. I don't think the players know the rules properly." [Reuters via, 5-4-2012]

-- Sounds Like a Joke: (1) The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported in July that vandals had wrecked the pen that reptile farmer David Driver employed to confine his herd of 1,600 turtles -- and that they had all fled. (2) Apparently at their wits' end trying to get their rare Chilean flamingos to mate, handlers at the Drusillas Zoo Park in East Sussex, England, began piping in music at night, including songs by the human seduction machine, Barry White ("Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe"). [Chattanooga Times Free Press, 7-19-2012] [Press Association via West Australian (Perth), 8-10-2012]

Least Competent Criminals

-- Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) The two robbers who walked into the 7-Eleven in Arlington, Va., in August apparently neglected to coordinate in advance and thus left empty-handed. As the first man pulled a gun and demanded money, the second, a few steps behind, tossed a firecracker on the floor, apparently to intimidate the clerk. However, it mainly served to scare the gunman, who dropped his pistol and ran out the door. (2) A 40-year-old man swiped a cellphone while visiting a patient at the Kagadi Hospital in Uganda in August. The facility is currently treating the country's Ebola virus outbreak, and the phone was in the room of an Ebola patient. Doctors urged the thief to return to the hospital for treatment. [Washington Post, 8-30-2012] [Daily Monitor (Kampala) via New York Daily News, 8-27-2012]

Undignified Deaths

-- Ironies: (1) Five young men died in Ontario, Calif., in September when their car rolled over as many as five times after speeding through a red light at 1:45 in the morning. One of the occupants had sent Twitter messages during the ride referring to being "drunk," "going 120 drifting corners," and, daringly (in two messages), "YOLO" ("you only live once"). (2) A 47-year-old man was accidentally strangled in June in Eastern Cape province of South Africa. He had taken to wearing his recently deceased dog's leash around his neck in remembrance but, bending over, gotten the leash caught in a car's axle as it drove away. [KCBS-TV (Los Angeles, 9-2-2012] [Daily Telegraph (London), 6-11-2012]

Thanks This Week to John McGaw, Gary DaSilva, Sandy Pearlman, George Elyjiw, Conrad Golbov, James White, and Gary Abbott, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

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