In January, a baby was born to Canadians Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, but seven months later, they still have not revealed to family or friends whether little "Storm" is a boy or a girl. The couple are intending to raise Storm free of gender-specific cultural stereotypes (i.e., such things as domesticity, aggressiveness, preferences for arts or mathematics) because society tends to overvalue "boy" norms. On a larger scale, in Stockholm, according to a June Associated Press dispatch, the 33 Swedish preschoolers at the Egalia school socialize in daily environments scrubbed of all gender references. For example, boys and girls alike play with kitchen toys and building materials, and when playing "family," parental roles are interchangeable. Critics say the children will be left unprepared for the "real" world.
-- Who Knew? "The streets of 47th Street are literally paved with gold," said one of New York City's gold wranglers, as he, down on all fours and manipulating tweezers, picked specks of gold, silver and jewels that had fallen off of clothing and jewelry racks as they were rolled from trucks into stores. The man told the New York Post in June that he had recently earned $819 in redemptions for six days' prospecting.
-- New, on the News of the Weird Food Cart: (1) grasshopper tacos (at San Francisco's La Oaxaquena Bakery, but pulled in June by local health authorities, who were concerned that the bakery was importing Mexican insects rather than using American ones); (2) cicada ice cream (at Sparky's Homemade in Columbia, Mo., but also yanked off sale by local health authorities in June); (3) maggot-melt sandwiches (which are just what you suspect -- cheese and dead maggots -- at the California State Fair in July).
-- In June, scientists at China's Agricultural University in Beijing announced that they had produced human breast milk from genetically modified dairy cows and expect supplies to be available in supermarkets within three years. Employing technology once used to produce the sheep "Dolly," researchers created a herd of 300 modified cows, which yielded milk that was reported as "sweeter" and "stronger" than typical cow milk.
-- Growing Up Early: (1) A loaded handgun fell from the pocket of a kindergarten student in Houston in April, firing a single bullet that slightly wounded two classmates and the "shooter." (2) Prosecutors in Grant County, Wis., filed first-degree sexual assault charges recently against a 6-year-old boy, stemming from a game of "doctor" that authorities say he pressured a 5-year-old girl into in 2010. (3) Lakewood, Colo., police, attempting to wrest control of a sharpened stick that a second-grade boy was using to threaten classmates and a teacher, gave him two shots of pepper spray. (The boy had just finished shouting to police, "Get away from me you f---ers.")
-- Tippecanoe County (Ind.) judge Loretta Rush, interviewed by the Journal & Courier of Lafayette, Ind., in June, underscored parental drug use as a major risk factor in a child's drifting into substance abuse. "I had a case where a child was born with drugs in his system," recalled Rush. "Both parents were using. We were looking for (placing the child in any relative's home), but both sets of grandparents were using. So (the) great-grandmother's in the courtroom, and I had asked her if she would pass a drug screen, and she said she would not ...."
-- In June, officials of California's Alvord Unified School District announced that their brand-new, $105 million high school, Hillcrest, would remain unused for the coming school year (and perhaps beyond) -- because the budget-strapped state does not have $3 million to run the school for a year. (In any event, it costs $1 million per year just to maintain the building to prevent its deterioration.)
-- Full-Circle-Outsourcing: A Mumbai, India, company, Aegis Communications, announced in May that it will hire about 10,000 new employees to work in its call centers fielding customer service problems for U.S.-based companies. However, those jobs are not in India. Aegis will outsource those jobs to Americans, at $12 to $14 an hour, at nine call centers in the United States.
-- Self-described Las Vegas "performer" Staysha Randall took 3,200 different piercings in her body during the same sitting on June 7 to break the Guinness world record by 100 prickings. (Veteran Las Vegas piercer Bill "Danger" Robinson did the honors.) Coincidentally, on the very same day in Edinburgh, Scotland, the woman with the most lifetime piercings (6,925) got married. Elaine Davidson, 46, wore a full white ensemble that left bare only her face, which was decorated green and sported 192 piercings. The lucky guy is Davidson's longtime friend Douglas Watson, a balding, 60-something man with no piercings or tattoos.
News of the Weird has mentioned various overseas prisons where crime kingpins serve time in relative comfort (through bribery or fear), but according to a June New York Times dispatch, Venezuela's San Antonio prison (which houses the country's drug traffickers) is in a class of its own. San Antonio's four swimming pools frequently host inmates' families and "guests," who lounge with barbecue meals and liquor. Paid "bodyguards" pass the time shucking oysters for alpha-dog-inmate Teofilo Rodriguez. DirecTV dishes serve the cells. Drug-smuggling via guards is so prevalent that Venezuelan locals actually visit the prison to buy the surplus (which they carry out because guards only "search" them upon entering). Rodriguez's enforcement is backed up by an openly displayed arsenal of guns. Said a Russian drug trafficker-inmate, "This is the strangest place I've ever been."
People Who Accidently Shot Themselves Recently: Sean Murphy, 38, destroyed most of his finger trying to shoot off a wart (South Yorkshire, England, June). A Secret Service agent (assigned to Nancy Reagan) shot himself in the hip holstering his gun (Ventura, Calif., February). A 17-year-old boy, playing with a gun in bed, shot himself in the testicles (Orlando, February). A training officer at the Ohio Peace Officer Academy shot himself in the thigh (December). Sheriff Lorin Nielson of Bannock County, Idaho, shot himself in the hand (December). Johnathan Hartman, 27, holstering his gun in his back pocket (after threatening his girlfriend), shot himself in the butt (Billings, Mont., December). A man trying to scratch his nose with a pellet gun shot himself in the face (Amherst, Mass., November).
(1) A 24-year-old man, riding a party bus for a friend's bachelor night in Detroit in June, was killed on Interstate 94 when he popped open an emergency escape hatch on the bus's roof and peered out at the sights. His head slammed into an overpass. (2) A 59-year-old woman, who had borrowed a steam roller to help with maintenance on a road near her home in Whatcom County, Wash., in June, lost control of the vehicle, sending it into a ditch, where she was thrown and fatally rolled upon.
Cliches Come to Life (Bureaucrats' Edition): (1) In November (2005) in Murfreesboro, Tenn., U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employees Joseph Haymond and Natalie Coker were charged with taking kickbacks on the purchase of 100,000 rolls of red tape (that is, red security tape used on packages of VA medications). (2) According to a November (2005) Washington Post profile of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the agency has, since 1790, granted about 30,000 patents to people who have submitted unique designs to improve upon, if not reinvent, wheels.