Sun Yaoting died in 1996 at age 93, but evidently his biographer Jia Yinghua is gearing up for English-language book promos (though it's not out yet, Mr. Amazon says), like yesterday's story from Reuters. "Eunuch" was a career path for centuries in imperial China, in which good executive jobs were available to down-and-out men only if they were dickless, because a regular man couldn't be trusted in the emperor's inner sanctum. So little Sun's dad was feuding with the local chief, and dad figured the only way to get back at the chief was if little Sun grew up to be a power broker so that he could crush the chief. So dad castrated him, and it was gruesome. (Bonus: When little Sun finally regained consciousness, dad discovered that the emperor had abdicated. Punk'd!) (But the new guy let the old emperor continue to live in the city, and he hired Sun, anyway, so things worked out.) There's more, especially about how legs-crossingly "gruesome" that procedure was. Reuters via Yahoo///New York Times archive
Mary Gorsuch, 48, on probation for armed bank robbery, knocked off Paul's Variety in Biddeford, Maine, but then walked across the street and ordered a pepperoni pizza; cops arrived before the pizza. WLBZ-TV (Bangor)
Mohammad, dude, it's just a game: Late in a soccer match in Hilla, Iraq, as a player had broken away and was set to attempt a game-tying kick, a spectator shot him dead. Reuters via Yahoo
Needs to lower his profile: Carlos Hoskins III was arrested in Kentwood, La., for growing dope, like from the nine potted pot plants he kept on his front porch. Times-Picayune
Always Low Prices: Two guys tried to shoplift a bucket of chicken and a package of socks from a Wal-Mart near Austin, Tex. (total retail, $6.83). American-Statesman
Awesome: A couple (reported via different news sources as Brennan Cunningham and Tabatha Carlson) were having sex in a car on the railroad tracks near Minot, N.D., and a train nudged 'em (not very hard, apparently but enough to cause a scene), and when police arrived, they were still going at it. Gotta meet this Tabatha! KFYR-TV (Bismarck) ///KXMC-TV (Minot)
Your Daily Jury Duty ["In America, a person is presumed innocent until the mug shot is released"] Mr. Orion Kent Mitchell Stoltman, 19, might have been the "adult" who along with two younger teens committed aggravated assault on two pet pygmy goats in an apparent demonstration of the forces of darkness last Halloween in Tooele, Utah. Tooele Transcript
Having encountered for the first time the phrase "giant bubonic-plague-carrying gerbil of Kazakhstan," (16 inches from nose to tail) I am so stupefied that all I can do is point people to this article and to this one, and then stand back while WU readers have fun with the notion of substituting a giant gerbil for a traditional one in this urban legend.
A Belgian company has filed a patent for an invention designed to detect sick travelers in airports. They call it a device for the "RECOGNITION AND LOCALISATION OF PATHOLOGIC ANIMAL AND HUMAN SOUNDS."
The idea is to place microphones around airports that will zero in on the sound of people coughing. The people hacking their lungs out can then be prevented from boarding a plane. A less controversial use of the technology is to detect sick pigs in pig pens.
Can people be stopped from traveling because they have a cold? I've never seen that done, but I'd like it (despite the inconvenience to the sick people) 'cause otherwise they infect everyone else on the plane. Though of course, if I were the one kicked off a plane I'd be seeing red. (via New Scientist)
(y'know, the one I mentioned here on February 5th): My "research" is much more thorough when I lay out the weekly News of the Weird column, because it has more readers and brings in more (i.e., some) income. That doesn't mean that I just slap any old thing up in this-here space, but my rep is on the line in the weekly column. Plus, I write up the weekly a couple of weeks after a news story appears, which gives a chance for other newspapers to follow up the original story and put more data out there by the time I get around to columnizing. Nonetheless, I now find that this story of a "Salzburg insurance company" that hires only Capricorns, Tauruses, Aquariuses, Arieses, and Leos has likely only ever been "reported" by London's Daily Mail, which wrote it up with journalistic malpractice by failing to name the company or anyone associated with the story. On the other hand, what it has going for it is a correct statement of the tricky law involved. "Discrimination" in employment in the EU is only illegal if it is based on specified categories (e.g., race, religion, gender, etc.). Discrimination based on the year of one's birth might be illegal, but not based on the month. That's merely absurd. (Standard Disclaimer: The story could be true. Who knows? Maybe the Daily Mail had a chance to write it up with good journalism, but just failed. Either way, it won't be in my weekly column.) (And by the way, a bow to Alex: He was skeptical of it from the git-go on MuseumofHoaxes.com) [UPDATE: Alex reports that one of his readers posted a link to an actual classified ad in the Salzburger Nachrichten that sought sales and management people of certain star signs. So, it's more likely journalistic malpractice than a hoax.]
Iran's classic, traditional breakfast (soup of sheep's head, with a side of eye and tongue in bread) is getting expensive, plus the nutrition police are on the case because of the high cholesterol. Washington Post
A 6-yr-old boy in Jharkland state, India, is doing fine after impaling himself on a 6-ft-long iron railing that appeared from the photo to have centered itself nicely through his abdomen. BBC News
Oops! After Oklahoma inmate Paul Duran got into a fight, they had to move him to another cell, but they forgot to check who they were moving him in with: the murderer he had testified against six yrs ago. (As a result, Mr. Duran is no longer with us.) Associated Press via KXII-TV (Sherman, Tex.) Today's Newsrangers: Tom Barker, Paul Music, Tom Epley, Stephen Taylor, Matt McCaffrey, Michelle Jensen, Scott Langill