News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
• An unarmed man, suspected of no crime, who three years ago was shot 16 times by police while lying in his bed, told a Seattle Times reporter in March that he bears no ill will for the cops who shot him. Said Dustin Theoharis, now 32, “Sometimes (police) make mistakes.” Theoharis was napping in a friend’s house in Puyallup, Washington, when police arrived to arrest the friend’s son, and when Theoharis reached for his ID, one officer imagined a gun, and the two officers opened fire, hitting Theoharis in the jaw, both upper arms, both lower arms, wrist, hand, shoulder, abdomen and both legs. He spent months in a hospital and skilled nursing facility and today is largely immobile and unable to work. (He “won” legal settlements totaling $5.5 million, but one-third went to lawyers, and much of the rest has paid medical bills.)
Can’t Possibly Be True
• Update: According to the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, it appears that some of the 2016 Summer Olympics aquatic events will take place among floating household trash and raw sewage in Guanabara Bay (although Mayor Eduardo Paes noted to the Associated Press in March that the events are scheduled for the “cleanest part” of the bay). To acquire the games, organizers had promised a massive cleanup, but now, with 500 days to go, Paes conceded that the goals will not be met and that, indeed, infrastructure improvements still have not halted the sewage flow into the bay.
• Despite the skepticism of a few tech writers, the Internet pornography super-site Pornhub insists that it is developing a wristband that stores energy (enough to power a cellphone) that can be generated by the “up and down” motion of masturbation. Pornhub announced in February that it will soon begin recruiting human testers for its Wankband.
• According to the 17-year-old bicyclist who was broadsided by a motorist at rush hour in Sheffield, England, on March 6, a woman at first alighted from the car to help. However, upon seeing the extent of the cyclist’s injuries, she apologized and walked away, telling the sprawled-out victim that her children were in the car and would be “scared” to see all that blood—and so she would drive them on to school. (Witnesses provided a description of the vehicle, but the hit-and-run driver was still at large.)
• Trying to stake out a position on the Paris murders of the staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine, Pope Francis in January told an audience during his Philippines tour that freedom of speech is important, but that there are limits. “If my good friend Dr. (Alberto) Gasbarri (who organized the pope’s visit and was standing at his side) says a curse word against my mother,” Francis said, “he can expect a punch.” He then “threw” a mock “punch” toward Gasbarri. (The Vatican press office was later moved to clarify that violence in God’s name can never be justified.)
• Super-Protective Parenting: Standardized placement exams are typically far more determinative of student success in Asian countries than the United States, and in March in some testing centers in India’s Bihar state, “traditional” rampant cheating became grotesque. Dozens of parents were seen climbing outside walls of one center (to pass answers and notes to the students), reminiscent of movie depictions of Santa Anna’s army scaling the walls of the Alamo. The week-long secondary school exams, testing 1.4 million students, had early-on seen 400-plus students expelled, nine bags of cheat sheets confiscated, and at least seven parents arrested. However, officials admitted that their security forces were overmatched by parents desperate to assist their children.
• Chicago’s WGN-TV was forced to apologize in March for a misjudgment in booking its “Morning Show” after an unconventional “circus” performer, in a live-television publicity segment, took a power saw to a metal box affixed to her crotch. “Dancer” Shana Vaughan-Gabor, of the Cirque De La Femme, created a dazzling shower of sparks, provoking the male host to first demand that the camera cut away, but then admitting, “I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet a woman like this.” In the follow-up segment, a group of children who had witnessed the scene used descriptions like “creepy” and “stinky,” but Vaughan-Gabor later urged the station to “save the children from ‘boring’ (entertainment).”
The Litigious Society
• In March, the Administrative Office of the Courts revealed a slight increase in federal litigation in 2014, but a much larger increase in prisoner lawsuits. Leading the upturn was Dale Maisano, 63, serving 15 years for aggravated assault, who last year alone filed 3,613 cases concerning his Florence, Arizona, facility. Counting previous prison stints, Maisano has filed 6,076 complaints against various officials and prison system health-care providers. (In a 2014 USA Today report, Maisano volunteered that he himself “could use some mental health help.”)
Unclear on the Concept
• In March, the investment bank Credit Suisse Group AG agreed to pay $16.25 million to settle a client’s charges that Credit Suisse gave faulty investment advice on two acquisitions by Freeport-McMoRan (one of the world’s largest producers of copper and gold). Actually, according to a Wall Street Journal report, Freeport will receive only $10 million in cash. The remaining amount it agreed to accept, to make up for Credit Suisse’s faulty advice, is $6.25 million worth of future investment advice.
Is This a Great Country or What?
• Ion Productions of Cincinnati is eager to sell “the world’s first commercially available hand-held flamethrower”—the XM42, which could shoot 25-foot flames and costs between $700 and $800. Ion announced in March that it was seeking additional funding, touting the device’s uses (“killing insects,” “eliminating weeds between pavement cracks,” “melting snow,” “entertaining friends”) and assuring potential buyers that portable flamethrowers are less regulated than handguns. (Only California and Maryland legislators, and a few city or county officials, appear to be on top of the issue of amateur flame-throwing.)
• Police in Grandville, Michigan, arrested David Slovinski, 51, following a pair of January incidents in which he approached employees of Meijer stores and showed them cellphone photos of his genitals. Slovinski, already a “sexually delinquent person” under the law, was on a GPS monitor during the incidents. He later told a police investigator that he knew what he was doing was wrong, but that showing his penis to people “cheers me up when I’m feeling down.”
Least Competent Criminals
• Recurring Theme: Perpetrators on the run frequently, unintentionally reveal their whereabouts by their need to show off on social media, but Christopher Wallace has reached legendary show-off status. Being sought in connection with a January burglary, he went to his home in Fairfield, Maine—and posted on the Snapchat site that that’s where he was. Police arrived and, during their canvass, noticed a brand-new Snapchat post from Wallace—mischievously writing that police were in his home right then, searching for him, but that he was cunningly hiding in a cabinet. Police opened the cabinet and arrested him.
A News of the Weird Classic (May 2010)
• In mid-April (2010), senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi issued a warning that then-recent earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and elsewhere were caused by women’s loose sex and immodest dress. Immediately, Australian Jennifer McCreight began campaigning worldwide, urging women to dress provocatively on April 26, to create “boobquake” to test the cleric’s theory, and at least 90,000 women pledged to reveal scandalous cleavage on that date. On April 26, a Richter-scale 6.5 quake did in fact hit just south of Taiwan. (Tempering the ayatollah’s “victory,” a Purdue University seismologist observed that a 6.5 quake was not uncommon for that region).
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