News of the Weird

B y Chuck Shepherd

Tombstone, Ariz., which was the site of the legendary 1881 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (made into a 1957 movie), is about 70 miles from the Tucson shopping center where a U.S. congresswoman, a federal judge and others were shot in January. A Los Angeles Times dispatch later that month noted that the “Wild West” of 1881 Tombstone had far stricter gun control than present-day Arizona. The historic gunfight occurred when the marshal (Virgil Earp, brother of Wyatt) tried to enforce the town’s no-carry law against local thugs. Today, however, with few restrictions and no licenses required, virtually any Arizonan 18 or older can carry a handgun openly, and those 21 or older can carry one concealed.

Leading Economic Indicator
The government of Romania, attempting both to make amends for historical persecution of fortune-telling “witches” and to collect more tax revenue, amended its labor law recently to legalize the profession. However, “queen witch” Bratara Buzea, apparently speaking for many in the soothsaying business, told the Associated Press in February that official recognition might make witches legally responsible for future events that are beyond their control. Already, witches are said to be fighting back against the government with curses — hurling poisonous mandrake plants into the Danube River and casting a special spell involving cat dung and a dead dog.

Compelling Explanations
British loyalist Michael Stone still claims it was all a misunderstanding – that he did not intend to assassinate Irish Republican Army political leaders in 2006, despite being arrested at the Northern Ireland legislature carrying knives, an ax, a garotte, and a bag of explosives that included flammable liquids, gas canisters and fuses. He was later convicted, based on his having detonated one explosive in the foyer and then carrying the other devices into the hall to confront the leaders, but he continued to insist that he was merely engaged in “performance art.” (In January 2011, the Northern Ireland court of appeal rejected his claim.)

Phyllis Stevens, 59, said she had no idea she had embezzled nearly $6 million until her employer, Aviva USA, of Des Moines, Iowa, showed her the evidence. She said it must have been done by the “hundreds” of personalities created by her dissociative identity disorder (including “Robin,” who was caught trying to spend Stevens’ remaining money in Las Vegas just hours after the showdown with Aviva). Stevens and her spouse had been spending lavishly, buying properties, and contributing generously to political causes. As the “core person,” Stevens said she will accept responsibility but asked a federal judge for leniency. (The prosecutor said Stevens is simply a thief.)

Thomas Walkley, a lawyer from Norton, Ohio, was charged in January with indecent exposure for pulling his pants down in front of two 19-year-old males, but Walkley said he was merely “mentoring” at-risk boys. He said it is a technique he had used with other troubled youths, especially the most difficult cases, by getting them “to think differently.” Said Walkley, “Radical times call for radical measures.”
Ironies

U.S. News & World Report magazine, and the National Council on Teacher Quality, announced plans recently to issue grades (A, B, C, D and F) on how well each of the U.S.’s 1,000-plus teachers’ colleges develop future educators, but the teachers of teachers appear to be sharply opposed to the very idea of being issued “grades.” The project’s supporters cited school principals’ complaints about the quality of teachers applying for jobs, but the teachers’ college representatives criticized the project’s measurement criteria as overly simplistic.

Police were out in force in September as schools opened in Toronto, writing 25 school-zone speeding tickets in the first two hours. One of the 25 was issued to the driver of a school bus, caught speeding through a school zone trying to avoid being late at a pickup point farther down the road.
The Litigious Society

Paul Mason, 50, an ex-letter-carrier in Ipswich, England, told reporters in January he would file a lawsuit against Britain’s National Health Service for negligence – because it allowed him to “grow” in recent years to a weight of nearly 900 pounds. Mason said he “begged” for NHS’s help in 1996 when he weighed 420, but was merely told to “ride your bike more.” Last year, he was finally allowed gastric surgery, which reduced him to his current 518. At his heaviest, Mason estimates he was consuming 20,000 calories a day.

Update
Life is improving for some Burmese Kayan women who, fleeing regular assaults by soldiers of the military government of Myanmar, become valuable exhibits at tourist attractions in neighboring Thailand – because of their tribal custom of wearing heavy metal rings around their necks from an early age. The metal stacks weigh 11 pounds or more and depress girls’ clavicles, giving them the appearance of elongated necks, which the tribe (and many tourists) regard as exotic. While human rights activists heap scorn on these Thai “human zoos” of ring-necked women, a Nacogdoches, Texas, poultry plant recently began offering some of the women a more attractive choice – lose the rings and come work in Texas, de-boning chickens.

Copyright 2010 Chuck Shepard.
Distributed by Universal UClick.

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