Least Competent Criminals

Driver Joshua Concepcion-West, 27, was arrested in Apopka, Florida, with an ingenious license-plate cover that he could raise and lower remotely from his key chain, thus avoiding identification by cameras as he passed through turnpike checkpoints. On Jan. 11 at a $1.25 toll plaza, he had neglected to check his rear-view mirror before lowering the cover—and failed to notice that right behind him was a Florida Highway Patrol car with a trooper watching the whole thing.

Lamest Criminal Defense Ever: Substitute teacher Pete Garcia Hernandez, 49, was arrested in Houston in January and charged with three counts of indecency with a child, involving girls at Looscan Elementary School. The girls had reported earlier that Hernandez had kissed them each on the mouth, but police investigators quoted Hernandez as calling it all an “accident,” that “he was speaking close with them and his tongue accidentally went into their mouth(s).”

Perspective

Right to Be Grumpy: Trader Joe’s has gained popularity among grocery shoppers in large part by having relentlessly sunny employees, but now that the firm has expanded from mellower California to brusquer New York City, it is learning that cheerfulness is harder to find. The company fired Thomas Nagle recently because, though he said he frequently smiled, he was told his smile was insufficiently “genuine,” and, backed by several colleagues, he has filed an unfair labor practice charge; and union organizers have taken notice. The National Labor Relations Board has already ruled (against another employer) that workers cannot be forced to convey that all-important “positive work environment,” because they are entitled to have grievances.

The Passing Parade

(1) Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania (pop. 4,300), rarely makes the news, thus allowing it to avoid questions about its awkward name, since it is (a) landlocked and (b) 100 miles from New Jersey. But, in January, local residents were disturbed about the odor of a farm’s prematurely ripening radishes. (2) Scientists at Spain’s University of Barcelona announced they had reduced the fear of death in some of their 32 research participants by exposing them, using artificial intelligence Oculus Rift headsets, to out-of-body experiences so that they could see and feel themselves “alive” even when they are not actually present.

A News of the Weird Classic (April 2013)

Undocumented immigrant Jose Munoz, 25, believed himself an ideal candidate for President Obama’s 2012 initiative for children, in that he had been brought to the United States by his undocumented parents before age 16, had no criminal record, and had graduated from high school (with honors, even). Since graduation, however, he had stayed at his parents’ home in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, jobless, unenterprisingly “vegging,” making it difficult to prove the final requirement of the law: that he had lived continuously in the U.S. since graduation (just lying around the house leaves no paper trail). After initial frustrations, Munoz finally proved his residency by submitting his Xbox Live records documenting that his computer’s Wisconsin location had been accessing video games, daily, year after year.

People Different From Us

“Every major event in my life has been about insects,” Aaron Rodriques, 26, told The New York Times in December, at home in New York City, during a winter break from his doctoral research at Purdue University on the “sweet tergal secretions” of German cockroaches, and on his way to buy a supply of crickets and hornworms. (“Hornworms,” he said, have an “amazing defense” where they “eat tobacco for the nicotine, which they exhale as a gas to scare away predators.”) “When I’m feeling stressed out,” Rodriques said, he might take one out to “calm me down.” He met his first girlfriend when she was attracted to his pet giant African millipede (as long as a human forearm), but admits that “for the vast majority” of time in school, “I was alone.”

Updates

Two years ago, News of the Weird updated previous entries by noting that China’s Ministry of Culture had cracked down on the centuries-old tradition of festively over-the-top funerals (ceremonies to assure the family that the deceased did not die “faceless”)—by arresting the song-and-dance people, including strippers and pole-dancers, peddling their services to mourners. Even though that ban has been working, nostalgic Chinese can still see great funeral pole-dancing—in Taiwan—according to a January report on the death of Chiayi county official Tung Hsiang, featuring 50 “scantily clad” entertainers. (Pole-dancing, itself, is still big in China, where the national pole-dancing team recently performed its annual outdoor show, wearing shorts and halter tops, in the country’s northernmost village, Beiji—where the temperature was minus 33 Celsius.)

A News of the Weird Classic (April 2013)

College basketball player Shanteona Keys makes free throws at a 78 percent rate for her career, but on Feb. 16 (2013), she weakly shanked one of those 15-foot shots, causing it to thud to the floor about 8 feet short of the rim—the worst collegiate free-throw attempt of all time, according to several sports reporters who viewed the video. Keys explained to Deadspin.com that she always brings the ball close to her face when she shoots, “and my fingernail got caught on my nose, so I couldn’t follow through correctly.” Her Georgia College (Milledgeville) team lost to rival Columbus State 70-60.

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Chuck Shepherd
Copyright 2015 Chuck Shepherd. Distributed by Universal Uclick

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