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News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
Is It Really a “Problem” If 99 Percent Wish They Had It?
• Among those struggling with psychological issues in modern America are the rich “one-percenters” (especially the mega-rich “one-percent of one-percenters”), according to counselors specializing in assuaging guilt and moderating class hatred. London’s The Guardian, reporting from New York, found three such counselors, including two who barely stopped short of comparing the plight of the rich-rich with the struggles of “people of color” or out-of-closet gays. Sample worries: isolation (so few rich-rich); stress, caused by political hubbub over “inequality”; and insecurity (is my “friend” really just a friend of my money?).
Can’t Possibly Be True
• Stories surface regularly about a hospital patient declared dead but who then revives briefly before once again dying. However, Tammy Cleveland’s recent lawsuit against doctors and DeGraff Memorial Hospital near Buffalo, New York, reveals an incident more startling. She alleges that her late husband Michael displayed multiple signs of life (breathing, eyes open, legs kicking, attempted hugs, struggles against the tube in his throat) for nearly two hours, but with two doctors all the while assuring her that he was gone. (The coroner came and went twice, concluding that calling him had been premature.) The lawsuit alleges that only upon the fourth examination did the doctor exclaim, “My God, he has a pulse!” Michael Cleveland died shortly after that—of a punctured lung from CPR following his initial heart attack—an injury for which he could have been treated.
The Continuing Crisis
• For an October report, Vice Media located the half-dozen most-dedicated collectors of those AOL giveaway CDs from the Internet’s dial-up years (“50 Hours Free!”). Sparky Haufle wrote a definitive AOL-CD collector’s guide; Lydia Sloan Cline has 4,000 unique disks; Bustam Halim at one point had 20,000 total, before weeding to 3,000. (The AOL connoisseurs file disks by color, by the hundreds of packaging styles, by number of free hours, and especially by the co-brands—the rare pearls, like AOL’s deals with Frisbee and Spider Man. Their collections, said both Halim and Brian Larkin, are simply “beautiful.”
• In 20th-century Chicago, according to legend, one did not have to be among the living to vote on election day, and a 2013 policy of the city’s community colleges has seemingly extended rights of the dead—to receive unearned degrees. City Colleges of Chicago, aiming to increase graduation numbers, has awarded a slew of posthumous degrees to former students who died with at least three-fourths of the necessary credits to graduate. (The policy also now automatically awards degrees by “reverse transfer” of credits to students who went on to four-year colleges, where they added enough credits, hypothetically, to meet City Colleges’ standards.)
People Different From Us
• It would be exhaustive to chronicle the many ways that the woman born Carolyn Clay, 82, of Chattooga County, Georgia, is different from us. For starters, she was once arrested for stripping nude to protest a quixotic issue before the city council in Rome, Georgia; for another, her driver’s license identifies her as Ms. Serpentfoot Serpentfoot. In October, she filed to change that name—to one with 69 words, 68 hyphens, an ellipsis and the infinity sign. One judge has already turned her down on the ground that she cannot recite the name (though she promised to shorten it on legal papers to “Nofoot Allfoot Serpentfoot”).
• Hinton Sheryn, 68, on trial at England’s Plymouth Crown Court in September, denied he was the “indecent exposer” charged with 18 incidents against children dating back to 1973—that he would never do such a thing because he would not want anyone to see his unusually small penis. In response, the prosecutor brought in a prostitute known to have serviced Sheryn, to testify that his penis is of normal size. Sheryn was convicted and sentenced to 17 years in prison.
• A Jacksonville, Florida, sheriff’s SWAT team surrounded a mobile home on Oct. 14 to arrest Ryan Bautista, 34, and Leanne Hunn, 30, on armed burglary and other charges, but since two other women were being held inside, officers remained in a stand-off. Hunn subsequently announced by phone that the couple would surrender—after having sex one final time. Deputies entered the home around 4 a.m. on the 15th and made the post-coital arrest without incident.
• A 27-year-old owner of the Hookah House in Akron, Ohio, was fatally shot by an Akron narcotics officer during an October raid for suspected drugs. The man had his arms raised, according to the police report, but dropped one hand behind him, provoking an officer to shoot. Only afterward did they learn that the man was unarmed; they concluded that he was reaching only to secure or to push back the packet of heroin he felt was oozing out of its hiding place in his buttocks.
• In September, village officials in Uzbekistan’s town of Shahartepeppa, alarmed that Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev would drive through and notice barren fields (since the cotton crop had already been harvested), ordered about 500 people into the fields to attach cotton capsules onto the front-row stalks to impress Mirziyoyev with the village’s prosperity.
• (1) The naked bodies of a man and a woman, both aged 30, were found in August 40 feet beneath a balcony—in the moat surrounding the Vauban Fort castle on an island in the English Channel. Police speculated that the couple had fallen during exciting sex “gone wrong.” (2) A woman was killed in an accidental head-on collision in Houston on June 18 as she was racing after another car. She was angrily chasing her estranged husband, who was with another woman, but neither of those two was hurt. (The driver of the crashed-into SUV was severely injured.)
Least Competent Criminals
• Jorge Vasconcelos, 25, was traffic-stopped in El Reno, Oklahoma, in October because he was reportedly weaving on the road, but deputies detected no impairment except possibly for a lack of sleep. Then, “out of nowhere,” according to a KFOR-TV report, Vasconcelos, instead of quietly driving off, insisted that he was doing nothing wrong and that deputies could check his truck if they thought otherwise. They did—and found an elaborately rigged metal box in the engine, containing 17 pounds of heroin, worth over $3 million. He was charged with aggravated trafficking.
• (1) Norway’s notorious 77-murder terrorist Anders Breivik (serving only 21 years because that is Norway’s maximum sentence) complained in September that he was feeling so oppressed behind bars that if conditions didn’t improve, he would go on a hunger strike and starve himself. (2) In July, artist Hilde Krohn Huse, shooting a video alone in a forest near Aukra, accidentally got hung upside down naked in a tree for nearly four hours. (3) In October, hunters who had shot two elk near Narvik were informed that they had inadvertently wandered into an area of the Polar Park zoo (and that, thanks to them, the zoo’s elk population was now down to three).
A News of the Weird Classic (July 2010)
• In the midst of (2010) World Cup fever, readers might have missed Germany’s win over host Barbados in June for the Woz Challenge Cup, following an eight-team polo tournament with players not on horses, but Segways. The sport is said to have been created by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, whose nerd-populated Silicon Valley Aftershocks competed again (in 2010) in Barbados (but last won the Cup in 2007). Wozniak lamented that his own polo skills are fading, but the San Jose Mercury News reported that Woz’s fearlessness on the Segway seems hardly diminished.
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