News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

WEEK OF MAY 12, 2013

LEAD STORY -- Frontiers of Parenting

Caribou Baby, a Brooklyn, N.Y., "eco-friendly maternity, baby and lifestyle store," has recently been hosting gatherings at which parents exchange tips on "elimination communication" -- the weaning of infants without benefit of diapers (as reported in April by the New York Times). Parents watch for cues, such as a certain "cry or grimace" that supposedly signals that the tot urgently needs to be hoisted onto a potty. (Eventually, they say, the potty serves to cue the baby.) Dealing with diapers is so unpleasant, they say, that cleaning an occasional mess becomes tolerable. The little darlings' public appearances sometimes call for diapers, but can also be dealt with by taking the baby behind the nearest tree. One parent even admitted, "I have absolutely been at parties and witnessed people putting their baby over the sink." [New York Times, 4-18-2013]

Can't Possibly Be True

-- Washington, D.C.'s WRC-TV reported in March that a woman from the Maryland suburbs showed a reporter a traffic citation she had just received, ticketing her for driving in the left lane on Interstate 95 in Laurel while going only 63 mph -- compared to the posted ("maximum") speed of 65. The citation read, "Failure of driver ... to keep right." The station's meteorologist noted that winds that day were gusting to 40 mph and that the woman might simply have been trying to control her car. [WRC-TV, 3-13-2013]

-- The principal and head teacher at a Godalming, England, special-needs school were reported by employees in March for allowing a student with self-harm issues to cut herself, under staff supervision. (Unsted Park School enrolls kids aged 7 to 19 who have high-functioning autism.) Teachers were to hand the girl a sterilized blade, wait outside a bathroom while she acted out, checking up on her at two-minute intervals, and then dress the girl's wounds once she had finished. The school reportedly abandoned the policy six days after implementing it. [ (Guildford, England), 3-25-2013]

-- Last year, according to Chicago's WBBM-TV, Palmen Motors in Kenosha, Wis., sold a brand-new GMC Terrain SUV to an elderly couple, 90 and 89, in which the husband was legally blind and in hospice care, on morphine, and the wife had dementia and could barely walk. According to the couple's daughter, it was her brother, David McMurray, who wanted the SUV but could not qualify financially and so drove his mother from Illinois to Kenosha to sign the documents while a Palmen employee traveled to Illinois to get the father's signature (three weeks before he passed away, it turns out). An attorney for Palmen Motors told the TV station that the company regretted its role and would buy the vehicle back. [WBBM-TV, 3-13-2013]

Democracy Blues

-- The city council of Oita, Japan, refused to seat a recently elected member because he refused to remove the mask he always wears in public. Professional wrestler "Skull Reaper A-ji" said his fans would not accept him as authentic if he strayed from his character. Some masked U.S. wrestlers, and especially the popular Mexican "lucha libre" wrestlers, share the sentiment. (At press time, the issue was apparently still unresolved in Oita.) [Daily Telegraph (London), 3-13-2013]

-- At a Jan. 8 public meeting, Cooper City, Fla., Commissioner Lisa Mallozzi, annoyed with local activist (and former commissioner) Gladys Wilson, told her (according to video and audio of the meeting), "(B)low me." Wilson, 81, said later she did not understand what the phrase meant; Mallozzi said later that she meant only that she needed to blow her nose. [WPLG-TV (Miami), 1-14-2013]

Unclear on the Concept

-- Passive possession of child pornography is not a victimless crime, authorities say, because by definition a child had been abused in the creation of the image, but that reasoning was no relief for New Zealander Ronald Clark, who was sentenced to three months in jail in Auckland in April for watching pornographic cartoon videos of short-statured elves and pixies. A child-protection activist acknowledged that no child was harmed in the creation of the Japanese anime artwork, but insisted that it was still injurious because "(I)t's all part of that spectrum." Clark said he wondered if he might also be convicted for viewing sexual stick-figure drawings. [ (Auckland), 4-21-2013]

-- John Leopold, the former county executive of Anne Arundel County, Md., serving 30 days in jail for illegally forcing his government security detail and another employee to perform personal errands, apparently wasted no time in March displaying a similar attitude toward his jailers. He quickly demanded that the jailers serve him a breakfast of Cheerios, skim milk, bananas and orange juice instead of the scheduled fare. (Last year, Anders Breivik, the imprisoned 2011 mass murderer of 77 in Norway, famously began a hunger strike when rebuffed over his 27-page list of demands, including Internet access and a series of menu and climate-control improvements.) [Associated Press via Yahoo News, 3-20-2013] [BBC News, 11-9-2012]

Suspicions Confirmed

California street gangs stage fights whose locations can be accurately predicted using the same algorithm that anthropologists use to predict where lions and hyenas will fight in the wild to protect their own territories. A UCLA researcher, using the standard "Lotka-Volterra" equation on 13 equal-sized criminal gangs in the Boyle Heights neighborhood in east Los Angeles, produced a table of probabilities showing how far from each gang's border any fights were likely to occur. In the period 1999 to 2002, the formula correctly showed that about 58 percent of shootings occurred within 0.2 miles of the border, 83 percent within 0.4 miles, and 97 percent within 1 mile. [Daily Mail (London), 3-26-2013]


Animal-rights activists have had success in recent years making covert videos of abuses on farms and in slaughterhouses, showing defenseless animals being cruelly mistreated in patterns unlikely to be caught by government inspectors making orderly, rare visits. However, as The New York Times reported in April, legislators in Iowa, Utah, Missouri and almost a dozen other states believe that the greater problem is that such videos "defame" the operators of these farms and slaughterhouses, and the states have proposed to criminalize the activists' conduct, which might be "trespassing" in that they gain access only by subterfuge, for instance, pretending earnestly to apply for jobs. The typical state legislation would also require that any such video must immediately be turned over, not to government or the media, but to the operator -- allegedly, so the abuse could be dealt with, but also coincidentally denying the activists their most valuable tool. [New York Times, 4-7-2013]

Least Competent Criminals

-- Just Because It Worked Once: Carl Bellenir, 48, was arrested in San Luis Obispo, Calif., in February after he had successfully cashed in, at a Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, several rolls of pennies that had been stuffed into rolls labeled for dimes. Bellenir apparently did not realize that the rolls would be examined later in the day and so returned the very next morning to the same bank and tried it again. Police were called, and Bellenir fled, but he was captured down the street at a Bank of America trying the same trick. [Tribune News (San Luis Obispo), 2-7-2013]

Strange Old World

-- Dateline Saudi Arabia: (1) A newspaper in the capital city of Riyadh reported in April that three men from the United Arab Emirates were booted out of a religious festival by Saudi morality police because they were thought to be "too handsome" and would make Saudi women improperly attracted to them. (2) Another Saudi daily reported in April that a schoolteacher had agreed to marry her suitor but only provided that the man take on two of her colleagues as extra wives. (Saudi Arabia allows men as many as four.) The newspaper reported that the woman had rented three apartments in the same building, signaling that the deal had perhaps been sealed. [, 4-16-2013] [Gulf News, 4-21-2013]

Readers' Choice

Kent Hendrix heroically rushed to the aid of a female neighbor being assaulted by an acquaintance on their residential street in Millcreek, Utah, in April and scared the man off (though he soon turned himself in). Hendrix is a bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, more to the point, a black belt in karate, and even more to the point, was aiming his favorite samurai sword at the attacker. Said Hendrix, "His eyes just got huge ... that he was staring down 29 inches of razor." [KSTU-TV (Salt Lake City), 4-23-2013]

Thanks This Week to Cheryl Juba, Kevin Kawaguchi, Peter Wardley, and Paul Krause, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.

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