News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
All War Is Weird, But This ISIS War...
• As summed up by a Vox.com writer: “The absurdity runs deep.” America uses American military equipment to bomb American military equipment that ISIS captured (from inept Iraqi soldiers, inept in part since America disbanded Iraq’s professional military in 2003). America’s Kurdish allies, fighting ISIS, use inferior Russian weapons they captured in the 1980s. ISIS has a so-far-safer haven in Syria because America declined to arm moderate Syrian rebels, largely out of fear that radicals like the future ISIS would capture weapons America provided. “So now (America is) bombing the guns that (it) didn’t mean to give ISIS because (America) didn’t give guns to their enemies because then ISIS might get guns.”
• Thomas Clark, 28, of Crawley, England, beat one of society’s most foreboding charges in July when he was acquitted of voyeurism even after admitting that he had hidden that video camera in a workplace rest room, and even despite evidence that he formerly worked in the pornography industry. Clark persuaded a Horsham Magistrates Court judge that he suffered an extreme phobia of diarrhea and vomit and that, by hiding the camera, he was thinking only of ascertaining that the rest room was clean before he entered.
• In America, We’re All Great Parents: (1) Kayla McKenzie, 22, was charged with DUI in Bismarck, North Dakota, a condition that led her to crash into five separate vehicles or structures on Aug. 12—while, according to police, three unsecured children were in her car, including a year-old infant riding in her lap. Nonetheless, said the 0.252 blood-alcohol driver, “I look like a bad mother, but I’m not. I’m actually a really good mom.” (2) Rayvon Campos, 22, pleaded guilty in San Antonio in August to first-degree felony assault of his 1-month-old daughter that resulted in brain hemorrhaging. Nonetheless, he reassured the judge, “This is the first time I’ve ever been in trouble. ... I’m a real good dude.”
• A fire hydrant at 393 University Ave. has brought in more parking ticket revenue (since 2008) than any other hydrant in Toronto—$289,620 on 2,962 violations, according to an August Toronto Star report. While hydrants are usually located at curbside to facilitate fire-engine access, the one at 393 University Ave. was placed about 20 feet from the curb, in the middle of a sidewalk, and obscured by a tree in a planter about 8 feet long. (Nonetheless, the law’s wording treats the hydrant, for illegal-parking and revenue-earning purposes, as if it were curbside.)
• A woman hiking in Down Valley Park near Placerville, Colorado, told Denver’s KUSA-TV in August of her narrow escape from a mountain lion that had stalked her for a half-hour (crouching menacingly each time she attempted to retreat). At the closest point, recalled Kyra Kopestonsky, it was about 8 feet away. At that point, she told the reporter, “I don’t know why,” but “I just started singing opera really loud.” The mountain lion “sort of put its ears down and ... backed away.” (Only then was she able to call a friend, who alerted rescuers.)
• Arrest Him at Your Peril: In July, a jury in Brooklyn, New York, awarded Kevin Jarman, 50, $510,000 from the city for the broken ankle he suffered during his arrest for shoplifting in May 2011 (a charge to which he eventually pleaded guilty). Among his other New York City income: a $20,000 settlement for false arrest on a drug charge in 2013 and another, for $15,000, in 2005.
• I Know the Feeling, But: (1) Gloria Baca-Lucero, 48, was arrested in Albuquerque in July after allegedly holding a Comcast cable installer’s tool bag at gunpoint in her home. She said she believed that her service call was free, but the installer told her otherwise, and she apparently decided to detain the tool bag. (2) German truck driver Michael Harry K., 58, went to trial in August in Wuerzburg, Bavaria, charged with firing his gun in the direction of drivers more than 700 times in five years out of displeasure with their poor road habits. He never actually hit anyone (but police said he caused at least one serious injury by frightening a driver into a collision).
• Immature: (1) Princeton University professor John Mulvey, 67 (who teaches financial engineering applications), was charged in July with stealing 21 yard signs around the town of Princeton—signs for a computer repair business owned by a man with whom he was feuding. (2) Nathan McCoy, 21, sought by police near Boise, Idaho, in July on a probation violation, took off running, forcing officers to chase him onto the Eagle Hills Golf Course. McCoy sought “refuge” in a pond, standing waist-deep as deputies tried to coax him out, but even with the pond surrounded, it still took McCoy a half-hour of standing there to conclude that he did not have a Plan B.
The Boy Who Wasn’t Bullied Enough in School
• Walker Harnden, 19, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, was recognized in April for a Guinness Book record for the highest note ever whistled (B7). Harnden, who told the Raleigh News & Observer that he has “irritated his parents and friends for years,” admits that he whistles “all the time”—up to four or five hours a day.
The New Normal
• In 2010, the village of West Lafayette, Ohio, barred residents from keeping fowl and farm animals, but Iraq war veteran Darin Welker, 36, believes his post-war depression and trauma are unusually well-assisted now that he has befriended 14 pet ducks that he keeps at home. The Department of Veterans Affairs, which paid for Welker’s back surgery, stopped short of providing physical therapy and counseling, causing him more than ever to rely on the ducks, which he says motivate him to get out of the house and provide them with caretaking services. Village officials, however, cited him in June for misdemeanor fowl-housing.
• “Streamers,” according to workers at the state-of-the-art solar plant in California’s Mojave Desert, are birds that cross the path of the 300,000 garage-door-sized mirrors that magnify the sun’s rays on their way to producing steam to power 140,000 homes. Those birds, instantly fried, vanish in plumes of smoke at the rate of perhaps one every two minutes, according to an August Associated Press dispatch from Ivanpah Dry Lake near the Nevada border. According to federal wildlife officials, the plant’s bright light attracts insects, which then attract even more birds. The operator, BrightSource Energy, said there is no feasible way to protect the birds.
Least Competent Criminals
• Questionable Decisions: (1) Ryan Mullins, 22, was arrested in Swansboro, North Carolina, in August when he came to an officer’s attention at 5:30 a.m. Police said he had broken into a pharmacy, had stolen the 100-pound safe, and was dragging it behind his car when the officer routinely pulled in front of him. Nonetheless, Mullins decided to try and pass the officer. (2) Robert Haught Jr., 42, was captured after a high-speed chase through Burlington, Massachusetts, in August, with police recovering “stacks” of stolen credit cards and suspected- stolen high-end electronics from the car. Haught had attracted police attention by parking his car (with a mismatched license plate), unattended, with engine running, in a handicapped parking spot.
A News of the Weird Classic (May 2010)
• Briton Robert Dee, feeling humiliated at being called the “world’s worst tennis pro” by London’s Daily Telegraph (and other news organizations) sued the newspaper for libel in 2009. After taking testimony in February 2010, the judge dismissed the lawsuit, convinced by Dee’s having lost 54 consecutive international tour matches (each in straight sets). Fearful of an opposite result, 30 other news organizations had prematurely apologized to Dee for disparaging him, but the Telegraph had stood its ground (and was, of course, humble in victory, titling its story on the outcome, “’World’s Worst’ Tennis Player Loses Again.”)blog comments powered by Disqus
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