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News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
• Though India is recognized as a world leader in promoting the health benefits of urine, its dominance will be assured by the end of the year when a cow-urine-based soft drink comes to market. Om Prakash, chief of the Cow Protection Department of the RSS organization (India’s largest Hindu nationalist group), trying to reassure a Times of London reporter in February, promised, “It won’t smell like urine and will be tasty, too,” noting that medicinal herbs would be added and toxins removed. In addition to improved health, he said, India needs a domestic (and especially Hindu) beverage to compete with the foreign influence of Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
Government in Action
• After 50 years’ separation following their adoptions by separate families, identical twins Rosabelle Glasby of Australia and Dorothy Loader of Malaysia were reunited in September 2008 after a years-long search by Glasby, and she applied to bring Loader to Australia under the country’s family migration policy. However, in January, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship ruled that, under the law, Loader is not related to Glasby (in that the adoption wipes out birth status).
• Change We Can Believe In: In December, the city council in Brighton, Mich., passed an ordinance making it illegal for anyone to be “annoying” in public, “by word of mouth, sign or motions.” Violators can be ticketed and fined.
• States That Need Better Training in Arithmetic: (1) Two Maryland officials (reportedly new on the job) made a simple error in addition in 2007 (in estimating counties’ property values) that was revealed in January 2009 to have cost state offices $31 million in overpayments, according to a Washington Post report. (2) In October, the Dallas school district was forced to lay off 375 teachers to ameliorate an $84 million deficit caused by a massive math error in the budget, according to a report by WFAA-TV.
• Earlier, He Could’ve Gotten a Mortgage, Too: In a December test of the laxness of New York City’s property-ownership office, a New York Daily News reporter walked out of the city’s register of deeds with title to the $2 billion Empire State Building. His fake purchase document, with a fake notary public stamp and a fake “witness” signature (of “Fay Wray,” star of the original King Kong), took 90 minutes to convert to an official deed, which of course came as a great surprise to Empire State Land Associates, to whose shocked representative the reporter “returned” the property the next day.
• The campus police chief of Colorado State University, Dexter Yarbrough, also teaches a criminology class, during which he gives a flavor of real police work (since he’s a former Chicago cop). According to audio recordings of his lectures reported in January by the campus newspaper The Collegian, Yarbrough acknowledged that police sometimes have to “lie” and “cut corners” and “beat (the) ass” of a suspect if they “deserve” it. Sometimes, a confidential informant gets paid off with police-seized drugs, but only after being warned, “[H]ey, if you get caught with this, you know, don’t say my name.” Most unenlightened of all was Yarbrough’s characterization of some rape victims: “[E]ven when [women] say ‘no,’ [t]hey want the dick.”
• Police in Holland Township, N.J., removed three kids from the home of Heath and Deborah Campbell in January at the behest of the state Division of Youth and Family Services. The kids are three-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell and his one-year-old sisters, Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell and JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell. The family was also in the news in December when their local ShopRite supermarket bakery refused to make a birthday cake with little Adolf’s name on it.
News That Sounds Like a Joke
• (1) Michael Reed, 50, was charged with attempted robbery of Eddie’s Fried Chicken in Fort Worth, Texas, in December. He was armed only with a tree branch and was quickly neutralized by a 56-year-old employee, who grabbed a broom, and the men proceeded to duel until Reed dropped his branch and fled (but was arrested nearby). (2) The Happy Egg Company (Lincoln, England) altered the packaging in January for its six-egg cartons to include the prominent warning, “Allergy Advice: Contains Egg.”
People Different From Us
• (1) The Northwest Florida Daily News reported the arrest of a woman for trespassing in December in Mary Esther, Fla., after she was reluctant to leave a neighbor’s porch. According to the newspaper, she eventually “left…in anger, knocking over a dryer…in the front yard.” (2) Robert Blue, 53, was arrested in Las Vegas in January and charged with chaining his 15-year-old daughter to her bed at night to keep her from eating. Blue told police that the girl weighs 165 pounds, but that he wanted her at 145, which he said is her ideal fighting weight for mixed martial arts.
Least Competent Criminals
• A masked man escaped in December after trying unsuccessfully to rob the Washman carwash in Portland, Ore. In the middle of the job, the man’s gun literally broke apart and fell to the ground. As he continued to demand money, it became clear why robbing a carwash is tricky. The employee grabbed the nearest tool, which was the wand of a pressure washer (2,000 pounds per square inch) and hosed the robber, sending him fleeing.
• Texas “Justice”: As far as the state of Texas is concerned, Andre Thomas, 25, was and is sane and was and is competent to assist his lawyers. Thomas was convicted of murdering his wife and two kids in 2004 after a judge ruled him competent despite the fact that after the killings, Thomas had carved out the victims’ hearts, put them in his pocket, and later tossed them in the garbage. In addition, before trial, Thomas had plucked out his right eye and eaten it. In October 2008, Texas’ highest criminal court upheld the conviction and sentence, endorsing the trial judge’s view of Thomas’ sanity. In January 2009, on death row in Livingston, Texas, Thomas plucked out his left eye and ate it.
Now, Which One Is the Brake? (all-new)
• Elderly drivers’ recent lapses of concentration, confusing the brake pedal with the gas (or “drive” with “reverse”): Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Joe Greenhill, 94, crashed into a restraining wall in downtown Austin, nearly winding up in Lady Bird Lake (December). A 90-year-old woman, driving her brand-new Dodge Challenger, rammed a pole while turning left in Pompano Beach, Fla. (October). An 83-year-old man drove through his garage wall and continued on about 70 yards in Lycoming Township, Pa. (September). An 83-year-old man drove 50 feet into Big 5 Sporting Goods Store in Milwaukie, Ore. (December). An 82-year-old man crashed his SUV into a tree on a Pittsburgh golf course after zigzagging out of control across the fairway (September). An 82-year-old man crashed into a group of Cub Scouts lining up for a Christmas parade (injuring 12) in Dallas (December).
A News of the Weird Classic (May 1997)
• In April 1997, Russian performance artist Oleg Kulik opened a two-week New York City show, I Bite America and America Bites Me, in which he stayed in character as a dog, on all fours, from the time his plane landed in New York until the moment he left town. Kulik holed up in a gallery cage wearing only a dog collar and exhibiting dog behaviors and emotions, and visitors could enter the cage to play with him only after putting on protective padding in case Kulik bit them. Kulik had been arrested in three countries for biting his audience. (A Paris gallery owner has called Kulik “a great intellectual” whose art is rooted in the downfall of communism in Russia.)
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