News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF MARCH 31, 2013

LEAD STORY -- Fines to Fit the Crimes

In March, Microsoft was fined 561 million euros (about $725 million) by the European Commission after, apparently, a programmer carelessly left out just one line of code in Microsoft's Service Pack 1 of European versions of Windows 7. That one line would have triggered the system to offer web browsers other than Microsoft's own Internet Explorer, which Microsoft had agreed to include to settle charges that it was monopolizing the web-browser business. (Also in March, the government of Denmark said that Microsoft owed it about a billion dollars in unpaid taxes when it took over a Danish company and tried to route its taxes through notorious tax havens such as Bermuda. According to a March Reuters report, Denmark is among the first European countries to challenge such U.S.-standard tax shenanigans and is expecting payment in full.) [The Guardian (London), 3-6-2013] [Reuters, 3-4-2013]

Recurring Themes

-- Being identified with the number 666 (the "mark of the beast" in the Bible's Book of Revelation) continues to trouble the righteous. Walter Slonopas, 52, felt required to resign as a maintenance worker for Contech Casting in Clarksville, Tenn., in February after receiving his W-2 form, which he noted was the 666th mailed out by Contech this year. (However, perhaps Slonopas is not so innocent. He had been working for Contech for less than two years, yet had already been "assigned" the number 666 twice -- on the company's payroll books and the company's time-clock system.) [USA Today, 2-7-2013]

-- The Iconic Phantom Black/Hispanic Perpetrator: In February, victims of crimes in San Antonio, Texas, and Terrebonne Parish, La., complained to police that they had been assaulted by, respectively, a "Hispanic male" and an "unknown black man" -- whom the victims admitted later did not exist. San Antonio police learned that their victim had been accidentally, embarrassingly, shot by a friend mishandling his gun. Louisiana authorities found that their victim had not been abducted and raped (and had her baby stolen). Rather, she had wanted to hide her miscarriage from family and friends and invented a phantom attack as more acceptable. [KENS-TV (San Antonio), 2-6-2013] [WWL-TV (New Orleans), 2-28-2013]

-- Chinese New Year, especially, turns out not so festive if busy young professional women are unable to show off a boyfriend to their parents. Thus, men offer themselves as fake boyfriends for the equivalent of about $50 a day, plus extras including about $5 an hour to accompany the woman to dinner, $8 for a kiss on the cheek, and $95 to spent the night -- on the couch, of course, since "sex" is not part of the concept. Recently, a reality TV series appeared for men needing women for home visits -- often they are gay men who have not "come out" to their parents. [BBC News, 2-6-2013]

-- Backward Incentives: Society continues to suffer from questionable company policies that encourage precisely the wrong behaviors. Bartender Twyla DeVito said she knew that one of her regulars at the American Legion Post in Shelby, Ohio, was too inebriated to drive home and thus telephoned police, alerting them to a potential drunk driver. An officer responded, observed the driver, and arrested him when his blood-alcohol read twice the limit for presumed impairment. Two days later DeVito was fired because, as her boss allegedly said to her, "(I)t's bad for business to have a bartender that will call the cops." [WBNS-TV (Columbus), 2-22-2013]

-- The Fabulous British Government "Safety Net": Heather Frost, 36, and mother of 11, is getting a brand-new, specially designed house through the Tewkesbury (England) Borough Council, which deemed inadequate the duplex that the family had been using at taxpayer expense for five years. Frost had complained that she needed larger quarters because one daughter now owns a horse and needs to stable it (and, said a stable worker, had almost acquired two more horses, but that deal fell through). [Daily Telegraph (London), 2-19-2013]

-- Fathers caught up unfairly in state laws on child support have appeared in News of the Weird, but Lional Campbell's story seems unusually harsh. Authorities in Detroit continue to bill Campbell for past-due support (which Campbell admits he owes even if unsure how much), but only recently did he discover that they were counting $43,000 past-due to support "Michael," who had died 25 years ago at age 3. Campbell said he had thought the support was for another child, born seven years after Michael, but it turns out neither the authorities nor Campbell knows precisely which fatherhood Campbell is paying for. The latest audit reduced Michael's $43,000 balance to about $6,500. [WXYZ-TV (Detroit), 2-15-2013]

-- Third-World Penis-Snatchings Continue to Vex: In Tiringoulou (pop. 2,000) in the Central African Republic, phantoms are thought often to steal penises, or shrink them, but according to a March dispatch in the magazine Pacific Standard, the stories' origins may simply reflect distrust of outsiders. Townspeople over-attribute worldly powers to strangers, and when outsiders' business deals go sour, men check their genitals. Also, animal-organ poachers operate nearby and arouse suspicion that they may be after human genitals, as well. (Asking for perspective on this weirdness, though, the Pacific Standard reporter wondered what Tiringoulou citizens might think about Americans who, for instance, starve themselves "near to death because their reflection in the mirror convinces them that they are fat.") [Pacific Standard via Alternet, 3-14-2013]

-- More Poor Planning: (1) In San Diego, Calif., in February, two people broke into a Hooters after closing and stole a jukebox, apparently, said police, mistaking it for an ATM inside the darkened restaurant. (2) Jose Perales Jr., 24, was charged with breaking into Dr. John's Lingerie Boutique in Davenport, Iowa, in February. Surveillance video revealed he was wearing men's clothing when he entered, but left in a dress and blond wig. In fact, while changing clothes, his bare back was visible, revealing "Perales" tattooed on his shoulder. [KGTV (San Diego), 2-22-2013] [Quad City Times (Davenport), 2-23-2013]

-- Loretta Lacy, 49, perhaps set some kind of record in January as she sped from Sioux Falls, S.D., to Racine, Wis. (about 500 miles away) just to make her granddaughter's school dance. Although her daughter told a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter that her mother "can make it from A to B faster than maybe the average person," Lacy collected four speeding tickets during one 2 1/2-hour stretch, including for speeds of 88, 99 and 112. Of course, she arrived late. [Star Tribune, 1-30-2013]


-- Sherwin Shayegan might be again acting out his well-known (to News of the Weird readers) obsession of coaxing strangers (usually teenage boys, especially athletes) to give him piggyback rides. A Bettendorf, Iowa, police report obtained by in February showed his arrest on an unrelated charge, but police noted that Shayegan had attended a college basketball game in Moline, Ill., the night before -- and such a scenario has been fertile ground in the past for Shayegan's easing himself into locker rooms to hop on a back or two. [, 2-01-2013]

-- News of the Weird mentioned in October that China and Japan are currently engaged in an ownership dispute over two islands in the South China Sea and had dispatched ships to the region to accompany their countries' verbal blustering. (Taiwan also claims the islands.) The Japanese daily Nikkan Spa reported in December that China's very recent takedowns of Internet pornography from Japan was likely caused by the spat. In comments on Internet porn sites, some Chinese subscribers patriotically vowed to give up watching Japanese sex videos, even if it meant going without one of their favorites -- the Japanese star Aoi Sola. [Nikkan Spa via, 12-6-2012]

-- News of the Weird has noted the street-wise pointers offered by al-Qaida's online magazine Inspire, and the new issue, released in February, offers yet more tips for causing infidels mayhem. This issue ignores large-scale destructions (such as bringing down airliners) and focuses on smaller chaos, such as torching parked cars, greasing up sharp-angled roadways to force cars to skid, and outfitting pickup trucks with knives affixed to the grill. Insight also cautions the jihadists to use care to protect themselves in the process -- advice which, based on experience, will not be heeded. [Wired Danger Room, 3-1-2013]

Thanks This Week to John McGaw, Gerald Sacks, and Thomas Sullivan, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

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