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News of the Weird

The Importance of Family

• On Feb. 9 a single traffic stop in Alderson, West Virginia, resulted in the arrest of six people from the same family, trafficking in stolen power tools (including one man who traded a leaf blower, hedge trimmer and weed trimmer for Percocet pills). However, a month later, members of an even more charming family were caught in raids in Elyria, Ohio. Officers from three jurisdictions arrested 34 people—all related to each other—in connection with a $400,000 drug operation.

Government in Action

• The predawn line in March actually started forming at midnight, snaking around the building in Maitland, Florida, but it wasn’t for concert tickets. The dozens of people needed coveted visitor passes just to speak to an IRS agent—because budget cuts and personnel reductions have limited services. “I just came here to verify my identity,” said one frustrated taxpayer, who arrived at 8 a.m. and would not be served that day. The agency said its budget had been cut by $1 billion since the congressional “sequestration” in 2011.

• Nope, They Haven’t Grown Back Yet: Canada’s Department of Veterans Affairs requires any vet receiving disability benefits to have a doctor recertify the condition annually—including people like Afghan war double-leg amputee Paul Franklin. He complained to Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News in March that he had been harshly threatened with loss of benefits if he failed to file (even though the department told CBC News that it might perhaps relax the certification requirement to “every third year”).

Wait, What?

• Several theaters in Denmark reported in March that they had begun adding subtitles—to Danish-language films, because so many customers complained that the dialogue was incomprehensible. Apparently, it is widely known that spoken Danish is harder to understand than the written, but Copenhagen’s website The Local reported that actors had rebelled at improving their diction, claiming that their “mumbling” adds “realism” to the films.

• Attention to Detail: Major League pitcher Max Scherzer, new this season to the Washington Nationals, informed manager Matt Williams in March, according to a New York Times report, that he requires assistance when he warms up during daily practice sessions. He spoke of the importance of simulating actual game conditions, and since Scherzer is a starting pitcher, he needed someone to stand beside him and hum “The Star-Spangled Banner” before he begins his practice pitching.


• Lawyers Brendan and Nessa Coppinger live in a Washington, D.C., row house next door to a tobacco user, whose smoke seeps into their unit, and (especially since Nessa is pregnant) the Coppingers have filed a $500,000 lawsuit against the neighbor. However, the anti-corruption website Republic Report found that one of Nessa Coppinger’s clients is Suncoke Energy, which is being sued by four Ohio residents who allege that Suncoke does to them what Coppinger’s neighbor does to her and her fetus. (Suncoke’s “clouds or haze,” containing particulates of lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium, creosote, coal tar pitch and other alarming substances, allegedly threatens the neighbors’ health and property values.)

The Continuing Crisis

• Superman: While thousands of Japanese women accept commercial pornographic movie roles, only a dwindling number of males (by one estimate, only 30 industrywide) are available to pair with them (“stallions on call,” according to one producer). That makes the undisputed king of Japanese porn, “Shimiken,” 35, in such demand that he works as many as six movies a day with few days off. His oeuvre, according to a double entendre-laden March profile in Details magazine, includes 7,000 films, with at least 7,500 “co-stars,” including, once, 72-year-old twins. To maintain his vigor, he hits the gym fanatically and downs mineral supplements and complex amino acids—but no Viagra. “I haven’t had to use it,” he said (adding, after a pause, “yet”).

• Among Colorado’s legal contortions to improve mass murderer James Holmes’ chances of getting a “fair” trial, officials in January called more than 9,000 people to choose its jury of 12 (plus 12 alternates) who will somehow surmise whether the Aurora theater shooter was legally sane at the time he killed 12 and wounded 70. The 9,000 first had to complete lengthy questionnaires, with “thousands” returning for individual interrogation, and many for follow-up screening. (Among the prospects the judge encountered was one man skeptical of the death penalty—except in the case of a “zombie apocalypse.” Said Judge Carlos Samour Jr., “You meet some interesting people in this job.”)

Unclear on the Concept

• Some states that rushed to enact systems to evaluate schoolteachers by the test scores of their students left the details of such regimens for later, resulting, for example, in absurdities like the Washington, D.C., public school custodians and lunchroom workers who a few years ago were being evaluated, in part, by student test scores in English and math. In March, a New York public school art teacher, writing in The Washington Post, complained that his coveted “effective” rating one year had dropped to “developing” simply because his school’s student math score had fallen. Furthermore, since he is now “developing,” he must file plans for improving his performance (i.e., how, from art class, he can raise math scores among students he does not teach).

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