Democracy in Finland: The Intopii computer firm of Helsinki announced in February that it has installed software to assist voters, who, studies suggest, tend to select candidates who look like themselves. When a voter uploads his or her photo, the Web site will use facial-recognition software to find those among the 800 candidates in March parliamentary elections who most resemble that voter, to ease the difficult burden of citizenship in a democracy. And in March, incumbent parliamentary candidate Jyrki Kasvi launched the new version of his campaign Web site, written entirely in the Star-Trek language Klingon.
-- People Confused by "Mother": The head teacher of Johnstown Primary School in Carmarthen, Wales, ordered in February that there be no Mother's Day cards in school this year because it might be upsetting to students without a mother. Also in February, a government-funded advisory report to Britain's National Health Service recommended that medical staffs not use the terms "mum" and "dad" (and use "guardians" or "carers"), especially since the terms might be confusing or alienating to children of gay couples.
-- In February, the grand mufti of Egypt, Aly Gomaa, told a TV talk show audience in Cairo that he endorsed a recent fatwa by noted scholar Soad Saleh that it is religiously acceptable for women to undergo surgical hymen restoration. Perhaps even more controversial, according to Cairo's Daily Star Egypt newspaper, was Gomaa's corollary, that any Muslim man who insisted on his prospective wife's virginity should be prepared to prove his own.
-- The local government's tourist information center in Swindon, England, told author Mark Sutton that his World War I-themed book, "Tell Them of Us," could not be sold in its bookstore unless Sutton demonstrated that he had liability insurance, not for potentially libelous passages but in case readers, for example, suffered paper cuts turning the pages. Said Swindon Borough Council spokesman Richard Freeman, "We have to cover every eventuality."
-- At least a few parents with pronounced genetic abnormalities (e.g., deaf people, dwarfs) have in recent years sought specialized in-vitro fertilization that would improve their chances for a child with the same abnormalities, according to a December Associated Press report (citing a September survey by a Johns Hopkins University research facility). One adult female dwarf told the AP reporter defiantly, "You cannot tell me that I cannot have a child who's going to look like me." Slate.com, extrapolating from the survey, posited that at least eight fertility clinics have provided the service, though many other clinics say they would decline.
In February, the government of southwestern China's Fumin county decided to improve the feng shui (the harmony of the physical environment) for villagers next to mined-out Laoshou mountain, not by planting trees but by spray-painting the mountainside green. An employee at the county "forestry" department declined to comment to an Associated Press reporter.
-- Steven McCuller, 20, was arrested twice in a two-week period for burglary in Pascagoula, Miss., but it was the earlier January arrest that was the more controversial. George Stevenson, 33, a security guard on duty at the Eastwood Townhomes complex, saw McCuller on the grounds late at night and chased him until the pursuit took both men to the nearby Arlington Elementary School, where Stevenson apprehended McCuller and waited for police to arrive. McCuller was charged in that matter, but Stevenson, also, was arrested and charged both with trespassing at a school and carrying a weapon (his service gun) on school grounds (even though, obviously, no students were present).
-- Robert Moore, 37, was arrested in Floral City, Fla., in January, and according to police, he conceded that he had lost his temper and tried to kill his wife after he found out that she had obtained an abortion without informing him. (The charge thus reflects a basic internal battle within the accused over precisely how sacred life is.)
For a story, a KGTV reporter in San Diego called several telephone numbers advertised in local media offering to supply trendy, "boutique" puppies (e.g., Maltese, Bichon Frise) at cut-rate prices, and among the numbers was a seller in Nigeria, who said he was practically giving away the Bichons for just the cost of shipping ($1,000 to $2,000). The reporter, who was recording the call, asked to hear the dog actually barking before he sent any money, and the seller complied. When the reporter played back the barking for acoustics engineers, they all agreed: The Bichon's woof-woof perfectly matched the characteristics of the Nigerian seller's voice.
Everyone Has a Dark Side: (1) Ms. Georgie Audean Buoy, 82, pleaded guilty in February in The Dalles, Ore., to having sex with an 11-year-old boy in her foster care. "(T)his is not the Audean we have known for the last couple of decades," said her pastor at the Covenant Christian Community Church. (2) Denver's City Attorney (and a former state court judge) Larry Manzanares was placed on leave in February after a search found one of the state's stolen laptop computers in his home. Manzanares told KMGH-TV that he had bought it but had no receipt. Said he, "It was rather foolish of me to even think about buying a computer from a fellow in a parking lot." (Manzanares has resigned, and a special prosecutor is now investigating.)
A 15-year-old boy in Hamilton, Ontario, was finally rescued after dangling from a rope, nearly naked, upside down, in the minus-5-degree (F) cold, after a February attempt to spray graffiti on a new bridge went bad. He got his inspiration while tobogganing alone, at about 8 p.m., and left his gloves and cell phone in the sled as he rappelled over the side of the bridge, but when the rope slipped and entangled him, he found himself upside down and then lost some clothes as he tried to wriggle free. At about 10 p.m., when a party was breaking up at a nearby home, someone finally heard his screams for help.
News of the Weird has mentioned instances in which serious assaults have necessitated medical tests for the victim and have fortuitously revealed latent problems that were even more serious than whatever the assault produced. (Some of the latent problems might well have proved fatal had they not been discovered.) In February, a recreational hockey player in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, viciously cross-checked referee Dale Neudorf, sending him to the hospital, where doctors just happened to discover a brain tumor, which was still being assessed at press time. And in October, a New York City mugger nearly choked Jennifer Chow to death, sending her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a latent thyroid cancer. (In March, she reported being cancer-free.)
(1) A 50-year-old man fell through the ice at Donner Lake near Truckee, Calif., in February and drowned. Police said he was ice-skating about 100 yards off shore while wearing 2-foot-tall stilts (thus, the stilts were wearing the skates), and couldn't recover after falling through. (2) California Highway Patrol officers at the scene near Yuba City said the 28-year-old driver that crossed into oncoming traffic and fatally crashed into a Hummer in February was, perhaps, working at his laptop computer while driving. Though the screen was shattered in the crash, the computer was open in the seat beside him and plugged into his car's cigarette lighter.
(Visit Chuck Shepherd daily at http://NewsoftheWeird.blogspot.com or www.NewsoftheWeird.com. Send your Weird News to WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com or P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, FL 33679.)