News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
• Saudi Arabia’s very first sex accessory shop (in the holy city of Mecca) should be opening soon, according to news reports—operated by a Moroccan Muslim, backed by the German adult mega-retailer Beate Uhse, and supposedly fully compliant with Islamic law. Owner Abdelaziz Aouragh told Agence France-Presse he would stock 18 different Islam-appropriate toys for married couples, along with oils and fragrances that he said would enhance the marital experience. (He did not actually describe the toys, but ruled out U.S. mainstays such as inflatable dolls and vibrators.) One such “halal” sex shop opened in Turkey in 2013, and Aouragh’s financial partner runs a similar enterprise online.
The Continuing Crisis
• The February gun-and-baby-carrying workshop in Johnston, Iowa, was so successful that instructor Melody Lauer and CrossRoads Shooting Sports owner Tom Hudson plan more. Lauer insisted that she does not necessarily encourage a baby-holding mother to arm herself, but if she chooses to, safety would of course require that she be familiar with the tricky procedure of drawing, aiming and firing even though she might be “wearing” a baby in a sling in front of her body. Hudson, noting the fast-growing market of gun sales to women, said scheduling the workshop “was a no-brainer.”
• What is believed to be America’s only hard-nosed “gang” composed only of gay and transgendered African-Americans hopes to have its story told soon by filmmakers—who emphasize the group’s transition from fighters to entrepreneurs working to establish their own clothing line, according to a March report on advocate.com. The gang, originally organized for protection (“We gonna get our respect one way or another,” said one), hails from the violent Washington, D.C., Trinidad neighborhood, yet some of the 200 members (in their teens or early 20s) insist on stilettos, lipstick and mascara (while carrying knives, brass knuckles and mace).
• Pioneering British facial surgeon Ninian Peckitt, 63, facing a Medical Practitioners Tribunal in Manchester in April, was accused by a witness of “repeatedly” having punched one patient in the face during a procedure in order to straighten a fracture. Dr. Peckitt acknowledged having used his hands to “manipulate” bones in the patient’s face, calling it a routine surgery-avoiding procedure sometimes required for extensive injuries.
• Suspicions Confirmed: Two airport screeners at Denver International collaborated in an ongoing ploy in which one, a male, signaled to a female colleague that he had spotted an attractive male passenger in line that he might like to grope. The female would then suddenly notice an “anomaly” in the screening and ask that passenger to stand aside so the male agent could “inspect” him further—by genital and posterior fondling (over his clothing). The two agents were fired in February after a Transportation Security Administration investigator, having been alerted to the scheme, observed it in action.
• From Recent Florida Crime Reports: (1) Mohammed Almarri, 21, was arrested on multiple charges in Tampa on April 12 after illegally entering a neighbor’s apartment in a high-rise and forcing the owner onto the balcony. For reasons undisclosed in the police report, Almarri then allegedly microwaved the man’s wallet in his oven. (2) Joseph Williams, 35 (and with several pending warrants), was arrested on April 5 in Fort Pierce, Florida, after entering the emergency room at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute, demanding an enema and refusing to leave until he got one.
Leading Economic Indicators
• In the face of jokes about proliferating airline charges, the British economy line easyJet added another fee recently. If easyJet, on its own, cancels a flight, it charges a fee of 10 British pounds (about $15) to notify third parties. The airline said that even though its own decision created the issue, it must nonetheless cover its costs to provide cancellation notices to passengers who miss connections or who need to provide verification to collect on private travel-interruption insurance.
• Is This a Great Country or What? Counting only the pool of bonus money (not regular salaries), employees of New York securities industries in 2014 earned roughly twice as much as the total income paid to all employees in the United States who worked full time at the federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour). (The statistic, from a report by the Institute for Policy Studies and reinforced by a University of Michigan professor using figures from the New York State Comptroller and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was featured in a March New York Times analysis.)
• In April, a court in Munich, Germany, ordered a dentist (identified only as “K”) to pay the equivalent of about $21,000 to patient “Alex S” for pulling all of his teeth (19) over four weeks of treatments—as the remedy for his schizophrenia and erectile dysfunction. The dentist had testified that Alex had too much bone inflammation for ordinary fillings. K made his own claim for the equivalent of about $54,000 for the damage to his professional reputation that the trial had caused, but the court rejected it.
The Redneck Chronicles
• (1) Austin Hatfield, 18, reported to an emergency room in April after being bitten on the lip by a venomous cottonmouth viper in Wimauma, Florida. According to a fish and wildlife commission spokesman, Hatfield had been keeping the recently caught snake in an ordinary pillowcase on his bed, and when it got out, Hatfield (ungracefully) recaptured it. (The bite was not fatal.) (2) According to witnesses questioned by the Jacksonville, Florida, Sheriff’s Office (on the scene after shots had been reported at Murphy’s Express Gas station in March), one customer had fired at another, hitting him in the foot, because he felt that the customer was staring at him while he pumped gas.
Least Competent Criminals
• Nikko Jenkins, convicted of murder in a 2013 spree and trying to avoid a scheduled sentencing hearing, recently self-mutilated (for the second time), which he told a judge in Omaha, Nebraska, was evidence of his mental disorder that should render him ineligible for death row. Jenkins told the judge that a “serpent god” had ordered him to carve the “number of the beast” into his forehead, but apparently because Jenkins was looking into a mirror as he carved, his forehead display more resembled an upside-down 999 (or a lowercase ddd) than it did 666.
Animals in the News
• (1) Tidiest Animal: In a February science journal report, a University of Regensburg (Germany) professor noted that ants seem particularly orderly—with “toilet” facilities arranged in far corners of the nests. The researcher speculated that ants keep feces on hand in order to mine nutrients. (2) Least Competent Beaver: A local logger telephoned the Agder Natural History museum in Kristiansand, Norway, in April to report that he had encountered a beaver crushed to death because it was unable to judge which way the tree it was gnawing would fall. (Usually, beavers have an uncanny ability to avoid the tree, but some stragglers still populate their gene pool.)
A News of the Weird Classic (November 2011)
• Enterprising reporters get stories by earning the confidence of their sources, which Simon Eroro of the Post-Courier (Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea) obviously did. At a banquet in November (2011), the News Corp. (Rupert Murdoch’s empire) awarded Eroro its “Scoop of the Year” honor for reporting on militant tribal fighters of the Free West Papua movement—and all Eroro had to do to earn the scoop was undergo a ritual circumcision, with bamboo sticks, to prove his trustworthiness. (Some of the rebels still wear penis gourds whose size varies with the status of the wearer.)
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