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News of the Weird

Sentimental Journey

Kevin Walters, 21, staged an emotional, though unsuccessful, one-man, chained-to-the-door protest in March to prevent the closing of a commercial rest stop along the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway near Des Plaines, Ill. Ultimately, the Des Plaines Oasis, housing shops and fast-food restaurants, will be demolished as part of a highway-widening project. Walters told WBBM Radio that his poignant attachment to the oasis was because his parents had told him it was where he was conceived as they returned home from a 1992 Phil Collins concert.

Cultural Diversity

• In tribe-controlled areas of India, children who disrespect their families by marrying outside their castes are still, occasionally, put to death despite strong national laws. However, enlightenment is advancing, and Mr. Sidhnath Sharma recently filed a lawsuit instead against his caste-straying son for “destroying the family tradition” and “lowering his father’s prestige.” Sharma, a lawyer in Patna, India, is demanding that the son pay a monthly royalty of the equivalent of $163 for the son’s now-unauthorized use of the father’s name.

• Fighter jets from France were forced in February to accompany the hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane commandeered by the co-pilot, who had diverted the plane to Geneva in order to apply for asylum. The Swiss air force would normally have taken over the mission in its own air space, but the incident occurred at 4:30am, and Swiss air force pilots were likely still asleep, as they work only “regular office hours,” beginning at 8am. (French military officials said they are accustomed to covering for Switzerland.)

• Sweden’s foul-smelling canned herring (surstromming) inexplicably raises passions among some traditionalists—which is why it was big news in February when a man found a bulging tin whose contents had been fermenting for about 25 years and reckoned he needed help to “disarm” it, lest it “explode” and damage his cabin. Ruben Madsen of Sweden’s Surstromming Academy agreed to attend the can-opening and assured the man that spewing, not explosion, was the likely outcome.

• In 2010, News of the Weird reported on the enthusiastically obese Donna Simpson, who ate meals in front of her webcam so that “chub chasers” could watch her (pay-per-view) growing larger before their eyes. Now comes a South Korean, Ms. Park Seo-yeon, 34, not at all overweight, also on pay-per-view, breaking bread with friend-challenged people desperate to avoid eating alone, however forced the circumstances. Reuters reported that Park’s “gastronomic voyeurism” earns her, some months, the equivalent of more than $9,000 for her series of two-to-three-hour meals, featuring real-time chatting.

Latest Religious Messages

• Pastor Allen Parker conducts services in the nude, for the nude, according to a February report on WWBT-TV (Richmond, Va.). Parker’s White Tail Chapel is located on a similarly named nudist resort in Ivor, Va., and even in winter, when disrobing visitors are scarce, the chapel is open for congregants. (In summertime, when naked people abound, the chapel’s services are often standing-room-only.) Baring the body to Christ is hardly unusual, Parker reminded, since that’s the way we all come into the world.

Questionable Judgments

• After a Feb. 11 explosion at a natural gas well in Greene County, Pa., killed one worker, burned for four days and caused massive traffic jams and other inconveniences, the public relations response of well-owner Chevron was merely to give away vouchers for pizza and soda at local hangout Bobtown Pizza. Environmentalists were outraged at Chevron’s “let them eat cake/pizza” attitude, but CBS News found quite a few locals who supported Chevron’s response. (For one thing, Bobtown’s pizza is apparently highly regarded.)

• Injudicious: (1) James Degorski, 41, serving life in prison for a cold-blooded mass murder during a botched restaurant robbery in Palatine, Ill., in 1993, was awarded $451,000 by a jury recently after a prison guard punched him in the face, necessitating complex surgery. Said a parent of one of Degorski’s victims, “If broken bones are worth a half-million, how much are [the seven victims’] lives worth?” (2) Former star soccer goalie Bruno Fernandes de Souza, 28, serving 22 years in prison in Brazil for the murder of his girlfriend and feeding of part of her body to his dogs, was granted work-release in March by prison officials—with the “work” assignment being to play soccer for a Brazilian pro team that, upon learning of the rehabilitation law, signed him to a contract and urged his release.

The Cutting Edge

• (1) Among the filings published in November by the US Patent and Trademark Office was Google’s 2012 application covering a throat tattoo—actually a mobile skin “microphone” with lie-detecting capability, presumably to encourage truthfulness from people as they speak. The application explains how to couple an electronic skin tattoo to a mobile device, using “flexible substrate.” (2) Among the “secrets” revealed recently on a BBC television special on South America’s beauty-queen obsession was one by Ms. Wi May Nava, first runner-up for Miss Venezuela 2013. Nava had a patch of plastic mesh sewn onto her tongue to create so much pain when she ate that she was forced to stick to liquids.

Fine Points of the Law

• An Iowa administrative law judge ruled in February that it might be reasonable to accidentally damage a stubborn vending machine that ate your money—but not by commandeering a forklift, raising the vending machine 2 feet off the concrete floor, and slamming it to the ground to dislodge the reluctant candy bar (a Twix). Consequently, Robert McKevitt, fired recently over the incident by Polaris Industries in Milford, Iowa, was deemed not entitled to worker compensation. (McKevitt admitted picking up the machine with the forklift, but said he just shook it and then set it down gently.)

• In November, a New York appeals court approved a Rockland County judge’s jury instructions, which had resulted in the jury’s absolving Brittany Lahm of fault when she flipped her car on the New York Thruway, killing one passenger and injuring others. Lahm was driving friends home from the beach when one passenger unexpectedly unfastened Lahm’s bikini top, leading her to stretch her arms to re-tie it, which caused her to lose control of the car. The judges ruled that the jury could (and ultimately did) consider that Lahm faced an “unforeseen emergency” and was not negligent. (The only fatality in the crash was the original unfastener.)

Life Is Too Long

• Among the websites whose stunning visual sophistication lies in stark contrast to their marginal importance in the world is “Carpets for Airports,” apparently still the go-to site for viewing and judging air terminal floor coverings around the world. Singapore’s carpet consists of an indescribably erratic, “psychologically terrifying” design, while Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport’s is “muted” and “calming”—appropriate for the nervous traveler about to experience an Andes mountains take-off. The least ambitious of all, so far, is Denver’s “featureless” non-pattern—settled on in 2001 after religious fundamentalists objected to the evolution-enabled images on its original carpeting.

The Aristocrats!

• Florida Selfies: (1) Spencer Toner, 79, was arrested for indecent exposure in a McDonald’s parking lot in January in Bonita Springs, Fla., after a complainant said Toner was watching pornography on a laptop computer and masturbating (a downside of McDonald’s early-on, company-wide adoption of Wi-Fi). Toner had demanded earlier that the complainant give him privacy. (2) In December, Francis Bianco, 76, was arrested shortly after noon for indecent exposure in the parking lot of a Winn Dixie grocery store in Fort Myers Beach, Fla. Bianco protested, claiming he was merely urinating (apparently, thought to be not as offensive). (3) William Gibson, 50, was charged with “lewd and lascivious” behavior in front of a store in Jensen Beach, Fla., in November after he began (according to the police report) “fluffing” his genitals and performing other genital-related activities.

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