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News of the Weird

Our Cold, Dead Hands

The semi-obscure Florida Statute 790.15 took center stage in January following a Miami Herald report of a resident of the town of Big Pine Key who routinely target-shoots his handgun in his yard, with impunity, to the consternation of neighbors. The statute permits open firing on private property (except shooting over a public right of way or an occupied dwelling), and several cities have tried, unsuccessfully, to restrict that right, citing “public safety” in residential neighborhoods. (A 2011 lobbying campaign by the National Rifle Association, and a state supreme court decision, nixed any change in the law.) “Negligent” shooting is illegal, but only a misdemeanor. Thus, even skillful shooting next door to a day care center or in a small yard that abuts a high-trafficked pedestrian street is likely perfectly legal. One Florida legislator who was originally from Alaska noted that even in Anchorage people cannot fire at will in their yards.

Cultural Diversity

• South Korea is a well-known hub for cosmetic beautification surgery, with a higher rate per capita than the U.S., but the procedures can be expensive, inspiring many young women recently to resort to do-it-yourself procedures for their professional and romantic upgrades. A December Global Post dispatch noted that some might try to force their eyes to stay open without blinking (using a novel $20 pair of glasses for hours on end) as a substitute for costly “double-eyelid” surgery. Also in use: a $6 jaw-squeezing roller device for the face to push the jaw line into a fashionable “oval” form. One teen told the reporter she applies an imaginative contraption to her face for hours a day to pressure her nose into more of a point, which is considered a desirable Western look.

• Acquired Tastes: (1) In December, thieves in Wicklow, Ireland, raided a convent’s field at the Dominican Farm and Ecology Center, stripping it of its entire crop of Brussels sprouts. A nun at the farm said the sisters were devastated to miss out on the lucrative market for high-end Christmas dinners. (2) In January, Wal-Mart in China recalled its “Five Spice” donkey meat sold in some locations because the popular snack was found to be tainted—with fox meat.

• Labor’s Influence in France: The French social security agency URSSAF initiated an enforcement action in December against the Mamm-Kounifl music bar in the town of Locmiquelic for underpaying employee contributions—in that the tavern encourages customers to bus their own tables and thus reduces its need to hire more servers. The owner denied he was trying to save money. “It’s (just) our trademark. We want the customer to feel comfortable, a bit like he’s at home.”

Questionable Judgments

• Interesting Life Ahead: From the birth register of Elkhart (Ind.) General Hospital, reported by The Elkhart Truth, Jan. 19, 2014: “Tamekia Burks, Elkhart, daughter (named La’Soulja Major La’Pimp Burks, 6 lbs., 8 oz.), 3:20 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014.”

• The makers of a product called Poo-Pourri garnered a “coveted” advertising award from USA Today in December as one of the five worst ads of the year. Toilet users concerned about smell are encouraged to spray Poo-Pourri on the commode, pre-use, and in the television ad, a British-accented female sits on the throne, extolling the product. Opening line: “You would not believe the mother lode I just dropped.” (Nonetheless, USA Today still found two other ads that upset its editors more.)

The Continuing Crisis

• The Power of Prayer: Nelson Thabo Modupe threatened a lawsuit in January against South Africa’s Eskom electric utility unless the company paid him the equivalent of about $22.3 million for “saving” the firm that amount during the weeks of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Modupe reasoned that he had joined the Zion Christian Church just before the event and had prayed (“successfully”) to God to spare the utility from blackouts and power reductions during that period (which would have cost Eskom millions more). Modupe, open to negotiation, said he would accept a partnership in the company as a compromise.

• World’s Laziest Dog Sitter: Tyler Smith, 23, was charged in December with violating the city animal care ordinance in Greenville, S.C., after a photograph was posted on Facebook of his father’s dog being lowered by rope from the second-story balcony of an apartment. According to the posting, it was time for the dog to make a call of nature, but it was raining, and Smith preferred not to go downstairs with him.

Perspective

• Three million Americans are infected with hepatitis C (as are millions more overseas), but a very recent drug, Sovaldi, completely cures it with 84 daily doses. However, its manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, has somehow determined that a fair U.S. price for the drug should be $1,000 per pill ($84,000 for the total treatment). Shouldn’t Gilead reduce the price once it has recouped its expensive investment, asked an NPR reporter in December? “That’s very unlikely we would do that,” said Gilead’s Gregg Alton, but “I appreciate the thought.” (According to NPR, Gilead “developed” Sovaldi merely by buying Sovaldi’s actual developer for $11 billion. At $84,000 per patient, Gilead would “recoup” that investment from the first 150,000 customers, leaving 2.85 million more U.S. patients to pay $84,000 each, for an income of $239 billion.)

People With Issues

• Trevor Robinson, 67, of Skellingthorpe, England, was re-arrested in November for violating a previous Anti-Social Behavior Order by pushing a doll-carrying baby carriage in public. (He was also reportedly performing a sex act on himself.) The 2009 ASBO barred him from possessing dolls, baby carriages and “any other” means in which toys might be transported. Robinson has admitted a having a problem with dolls—due, he said, to his inability to father children himself.

Least Competent Criminals

• It Pays to Know Your Rap Sheet: Jerry Pancoast, 42, was arrested on at least four charges after a high-speed chase through Iowa’s Polk and Jasper counties in January following an alleged shoplifting of tweezers and an eyebrow pencil—not even taken by Pancoast but by his companion. Pancoast drove at 100 mph, even on deflated tires and three rims that eventually caused his truck to catch on fire. The episode started as “a simple theft case,” said the arresting officer, until Pancoast abruptly took off. He later explained that he panicked because he knew there were already arrest warrants against him—but a subsequent search turned up none.

Recurring Themes

• Stories That Never Get Old: (1) Following the early-January winter storm in East Kingston, N.H., emergency crews came to the aid of a 12-year-old girl who had a “what would happen” moment and tried to lick a metal flagpole in her front yard. (2) Police in the Los Angeles suburb of Harbor City were searching in February for the man suspected of stealing surveillance cameras from a home, but not before he apparently failed to distinguish between the camera (which he took with him) and the recording unit (which remained in the home and captured his face clearly as he removed the camera).

A News of the Weird Classic (November 2010)

• Can’t Possibly Be True: Kyle Johnson shattered his skull so badly in a high-speed longboard accident in June (2010) that ordinary “decompressive craniectomy” (temporarily removing half of the skull to relieve pressure) would have been inadequate. Instead, doctors at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah, removed both halves, leaving only a thin strip of bone (after placing Johnson in a drug-induced coma) and kept the skull frozen to prevent brittleness. After the swelling subsided, they reattached both halves of the skull to his head and woke him up gradually over a week’s time. Johnson admits some memory problems and cognitive dysfunction, most notably his inability to focus on more than one concept at a time -- even when they are part of the same scene, such as two crayons on a table. Johnson said he probably won’t go back to the longboard (but would try snowmobiling).

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