News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
New Frontiers in American Vacuousness
• The WE cable network disclosed in August that it had ordered a nine-episode adaptation of a British series, Sex Box, in which a couple enters a large opaque chamber on stage and has intercourse. The pair, pre- and post-coitally, are clothed and seated before a panel of probably D-List celebrities, and will respond to questions and comment on their feelings and techniques (likely enduring praise and criticisms about their “work”). The series will debut sometime in 2015. (However, as the Daily Beast website pointed out, it might also be true that still, in 2015, even a split-second’s glimpse of a female nipple on any broadcast TV show would create a national scandal.)
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
• The “trendy” 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, located adjacent to the Berlin Zoo and offering some of the best views of the city from its floor-to-ceiling windows, has famously positioned the rest rooms of its Monkey Bar in front of the windows, also, and those heeding nature’s call are clearly visible to gawkers. Guests are merely warned, by the Trip Advisor website and by the hotel itself (with the admonition, “Please be careful. Not only the monkeys are watching”).
• London designer Gigi Barker recently unveiled the Skin chair (priced at the equivalent of about $2,500), made of leather but with a “pheromone-impregnated silicone base” that makes it feel (and smell, perhaps) like one is “lounging in the fleshy, comforting folds of a man’s belly.” The Skin was scheduled for exhibition this month at the London Design Festival.
• China’s insurance companies offer some of the world’s quirkiest policies, according to a September Reuters dispatch from Hong Kong. People’s Insurance Group, for example, will pay out in case a customer’s children display disappointingly “mischievous and destructive” habits. The Ancheng company offers a policy protecting a customer in case his mouth is burned eating “hotpot.” Ping An Insurance Group (actually, the world’s second-largest by market value) has recently offered an “accidental pregnancy before honeymoon” policy, and is one of three companies that competed to sell couples compensation in case a marriage is disrupted by a “concubine.”
Unclear on the Concept
• New Orleans Juvenile Court Judge Yolanda King, already indicted for falsifying her home address in her 2013 campaign for office, was spotted by a Times-Picayune reporter on Aug. 20 filing three registration papers for the Nov. 4 election in which she swore (under oath) to three different addresses—two of which appeared to be clearly erroneous. Her lawyer told the newspaper that the judge, who was suspended by the Louisiana Supreme Court following her indictment, had merely “misinterpreted” the instructions.
• As part of a nationwide distribution of surplus military equipment, 10 Texas school districts eagerly acquired a total of 64 M-16 rifles, 18 M-14s, 25 automatic pistols and magazines capable of holding 4,500 rounds of ammunition. District officials referred generally to the need to protect against school attacks such as the notorious incidents in Colorado and Connecticut, but a local Houston area police chief, seeking to reassure a nervous public, promised that the equipment would be used only by tactically trained officers and that, otherwise, would be locked in the department’s armory. A critic of the program told KHOU-TV that statistically, the typical active-shooter school situation lasts 12 minutes, hardly enough time to get to the armory and load up.
Fine Points of the Law
• In July, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Detroit, ruling on a judicial corruption complaint, managed to describe the actions of a Michigan state judge, “Hon.” Wade McCree, as “often reprehensible”—in that he had been carrying on a romantic affair with a woman involved in a child custody case he was judging. (The woman, of course, received favorable rulings.) However, the Court of Appeals judges told the unlucky father that McCree cannot be sued because judges are generally immune from lawsuit.
• Nick Olivas, 24, is a rare American. At age 14 (an age that, in Arizona, makes him legally incapable of consenting to sex), he fathered a daughter with a 20-year-old woman—paternity that he learned of only two years ago. The mother filed against Olivas for child support that now totals $15,000. Olivas is rare in that most states exempt rape victims from child-support orders—except that, since Olivas never made a police report of the incident, Arizona Child Support Services will not exempt him, and instead has obtained an order garnisheeing his wages at $380 a month.
• According to legal scholars consulted by the Associated Press, it is conceivable that Nicole Diggs, of Yonkers, N.Y., even if convicted of negligent homicide in the upcoming trial in the death of her severely disabled 8-year-old daughter, could nevertheless inherit the remains of the child’s $2 million trust fund originally established for her care. Evidence is strong that Diggs had neglected the child’s hygiene and diet for stretches at a time and overtrusted her less-caring new husband with the girl’s well-being, but New York law uniquely still allows, in principle, a convicted mother to inherit from the child as long as she did not “intentionally” harm her.
Least Competent Criminals
• (1) Clearwater, Florida, police pulled over a “suspicious” car on July 24 and ultimately arrested the driver and his passenger. The back seat was loaded with potted plants—in fact, potted pot plants (i.e., marijuana), so crowded that the leaves and branches of some plants were sticking out of the car’s windows. (2) Daniel Warn, 28, was arrested in July in Costa Mesa, California, and charged with the burglary of an El Pollo Loco restaurant—a caper that was captured on surveillance video. Police were notified later that day when Warn—wearing the same distinctive hat and bright green shirt worn by the burglar—came to the restaurant to order a meal.
• Jonathan Thomas, 50, was charged with DUI and disorderly conduct in Washington Township, Indiana, in August after driving through two backyards one Friday evening and getting his vehicle stuck in the second. Police reported that Thomas “show(ed) his teeth to officers” and later “growled” at hospital security staff. Thomas’ day job is director of the Porter County Animal Shelter.
• Just Like the Script: (1) In August, a Bradenton, Florida, deputy sheriff was forced to duplicate a classic scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when he was advanced upon by a menacing-looking, samurai-sword-swinging, 31-year-old man. The deputy, perhaps as nonplussed as Indiana Jones was, shot him dead. (2) Rule No. 9: The 15-year-old granddaughter of Cliven Bundy (the Nevada rancher whose dispute with the federal government caused a notorious standoff in March) told Las Vegas’ KSNV-TV that her dad (Bundy’s son) was withdrawing her from her high school because officials would not allow her to carry a knife on campus. She said her dad has taught his kids (just like “NCIS’s” Leroy Jethro Gibbs) to “always” carry a knife.
• (1) Annual Bunyola “fiestas” on the Spanish island of Mallorca were canceled in September out of respect for an 18-year-old man who fatally hit his head after receiving an electric shock on a lamp post he was leaning against as he urinated at a street corner. (2) A 23-year-old medical student suffered a fatal heart attack in September while perusing a sex magazine as he attempted his fourth sperm donation in a week at a clinic at China’s Wuhan University. (3) A 15-year-old boy driving a “skid loader” on a farm near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, suffocated in August when the machine accidentally flipped him directly into a manure pit (the sixth such death locally since 1989, according to the Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal).
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