News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
• November is tax-publicizing season in Finland, where, starkly unlike America, the government releases all individuals’ tax records to help build public support for the country’s vast welfare state. Thus, reported Foreign Policy magazine, Finnish society gets a “yearly dose of schadenfreude” ... “opening the door for a media frenzy of gossip, boasting and fingerpointing” about “fair share” and who’s more worthy. A few, however, proudly pay high Finnish taxes as a “badge of patriotism,” rejecting common tax shelters. “We’ve received a lot of help from society,” said one homegrown (and wealthy) entrepreneur, “and now it is our turn to pay back.”
“Offended!” (Tiptoeing in America)
• Steve Soifer, CEO of an international support group for people with “shy bladders,” excoriated DirecTV in November for its series of commercials featuring Rob Lowe, whose “awkward” character in one ad stands at a urinal and says, “Fact: I can’t go with other people in the room.” Soifer says the ad ridicules a serious problem—and compared it to “making fun” of a man missing an arm or leg.
• The Power of One Sensitive Soul: (1) Lt. Col. Sherwood Baker was turned away from Adams High School in Rochester, Michigan, in September by a guard who said a school official sent word that Baker was not allowed in to discuss his daughter’s class schedule until he changed to civilian clothes—because “a student” might be offended by his military uniform. (The Rochester school superintendent later apologized.) (2) The British Embassy in Washington, D.C., apologized twice in August, first a tongue-in-cheek “apology” for England’s War of 1812 attack on the White House and then for making that “apology” in the first place—because of a backlash on Twitter from Americans complaining the jokey “apology” was “offensive.”
• David Van Vleet asked for certain supposedly public records in Tacoma, Washington, and was forced into federal court when the city turned him down. Van Vleet wanted data from the city licenses of strip club employees (dancers’ stage and real names, date of birth, etc.) so that he could pray for them individually, by name, to make his appeals more effective. (In October, Judge Ronald Leighton denied Van Vleet a temporary restraining order against the city.)
• The Washington, D.C., restaurant Second State recently added an accessory to its bar menu—“hand-cut rock,” i.e., “artisanal” ice, for $1 extra (but free in premium drinks). The local supplier Favourite Ice assures that its frozen water contains no calcium to cloud it and, with a heavy-duty band-saw blade, “hand-cuts” 200-to-300-pound blocks into the cubes that ultimately wind up in the glass. A Favourite Ice founder said his frozen water resists drink-weakening longer than ordinary cubes do.
• Daniela Liverani, 24, of Edinburgh, Scotland, and British singer Katie Melua recently survived inadvertent, grotesque ordeals hosting, respectively, a three-inch leech and a spider. The leech had found its way into Liverani’s nose during an Asian backpacking trip and had poked part-way out several times (though Liverani had assumed it was a nosebleed clot and “sniffed (it) back up”). When she finally saw a doctor in October, she said, the leech played peek-a-boo for a half-hour until the doctor grabbed it with tweezers. Melua’s tiny spider apparently lived in her ear for a week, creating a constant “rustling” noise until her doctor vacuumed it out. She guessed that it came in through old earbud headphones on an airline flight. (Her spokesperson said the singer had no hard feelings and had released the spider into her garden.)
• The law finally caught up, partially, to squatter Darrell Beatty in September, as he was charged with grand larceny for forging a deed to a home owned by Jennifer Merin, 70, in Laurelton, New York. However, he bailed out of jail on Oct. 22 and immediately returned to the house. In fact, Beatty’s two sons had remained “at home” even while Beatty was locked up. The home has been in Merin’s family since 1930. “Mind-boggling,” she said.
• The Law Works in Strange Ways: (1) The Gothamist news site reported in October that bicyclist John Roemer, who was rear-ended by a driver in Brooklyn in May (and whose intensive-care bill was paid by the driver’s insurance company), is now being sued by the driver in small claims court for $2,000 damage to her car. (2) In November, a civil court in Lindau, Germany, ordered Rory Gray to pay Dr. Daniel Ubani for calling Ubani “an animal” (for having injected Gray’s father with 10 times a drug’s safe dose in 2008, which led to his death). The court found the epithet unwarranted and ordered Gray to help pay Ubani’s legal expenses.
Well, Of Course!
• The owner of the world’s largest corn maze (63 acres), at Cool Patch Pumpkins in Dixon, California, told Sacramento’s KOVR-TV in October that “several” times this season, visitors have called 911 to come get them out of the maze. Said owner Matt Cooley, “When it’s dark, all you see is corn.” (Also, two months earlier, an emergency crew in Braintree, England, was forced to use special equipment to find and rescue an elderly woman who had fallen while inside the 10-acre Blake House Craft Centre maze.)
• Cliches Come to Life: (1) In a $460,000 police-brutality settlement with the city of Birmingham, Alabama, in October, plaintiff Anthony Warren will receive $1,000, with the rest going to his lawyers. (The un-angelic Anthony is serving 20 years for running over an officer during a high-speed car chase in 2008; he took a beating once officers caught him.) (2) Condemned California inmate Steven Homick, 74, finally took his last breath on Nov. 5—more than 29 years after committing the two murders that put him on death row. However, Homick died of natural causes (the 65th condemned California man to go that way in the last 35 years).
Best of the Foreign Press
• (1) “Dwarf Stripper Gets Bride Pregnant on Her (Bachelorette) Night” (an October report from the LasCincoDelDia website in Spain after the husband was surprised that “his” wedding-night consummation resulted in a baby born with dwarfism). (2) “Man’s ‘Drugs Test Trick’ Foiled by Pregnancy” (a November report from Egypt’s Al-Yawm al-Sabi website on a male bus driver who tried to game a drug test by using his wife’s urine, only to inadvertently discover that he would soon become a father).
Least Competent Criminals
• Employees of the Marshalls department store in Longmont, Colorado, said they had been hearing noises but were unable to locate the source for several days until finally, on Nov. 10, they summoned firefighters, who tore out an interior wall and freed a weak, injured Paul Felyk, 35, who had been trapped between that wall and an exterior wall after falling through the roof. A scrawled note near him was three days old. Burglary charges were filed against Felyk, who has a substantial rap sheet.
• The desert sands of the Arabian Peninsula are fine-grained and smooth—unable to be used in manufacturing or, especially, the concrete industry, which is crucial to the massive upscale developments in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and other countries. Nor does desert sand work for beach restoration in the United States and other areas—because it blows away so easily. The resultant “sand crisis,” with various countries bidding against Middle Easterners for the Earth’s sea sand (described in a November New York Times essay), sounds much more severe than the first time News of the Weird mentioned (in 2007) how relatively easy it is, contrary to cliche, to sell sand to Arabs.blog comments powered by Disqus
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