News of the Weird (July 27, 2014)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M381, July 27, 2014
Copyright 2014 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

Lead Story

Modern Warfare: The leader of the devout-Sunni jihadist group ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, making a rare, solemn appearance in July, wore a flashy silver wristwatch that various video analysts described as either a Rolex or an Omega Seafarer or a feature-laded Saudi Arabian-made timepiece that sells for only about $550. And a week earlier, a Syrian anti-government rebel leader was shown in a video exhorting his troops from notes he had made in his “Hello Kitty” notebook. And a week after that, a shopkeeper in North Waziristan, lamenting the loss of business when local Taliban fighters abruptly left the area, told a BBC reporter that the jihadists obsessively bought Dove soap, Head & Shoulders shampoo, white underwear (“briefs or Y-fronts”), and “Secret Love” and “Blue Lady” perfumes. [CNN, 7-10-2014] [The Independent (London), 7-4-2014] [BBC News, 7-12-2014]

The Continuing Crisis

Clinton Tucker, who is black, sued Benjamin Moore paints in Essex County, N.J., in June for wrongful firing--after, he said, he had tolerated years of workplace racial insults. In fact, Tucker said the company had introduced two new paint shades shortly after he was hired in 2011--“Tucker Chocolate” and “Clinton Brown,” provoking on-the-job ridicule. [Courthouse News Service, 6-27-2014]

The African hippopotamus is not found in South America--except for the estimated 50-some that, confusingly to natives, roam the Colombian countryside between Bogota and Medellin. The animals are the progeny of the four smuggled in 30 years ago by cocaine king Pablo Escobar, who generously established a grand, exotic zoo for his neighbors' enjoyment after his drug business took off (and before he was gunned down in 1993). However, as BBC News reported in June, hippos’ meat is inedible, and without their African natural enemies, they breed with astonishing prolificness--thus creating a "time bomb" for Colombia. [BBC News, 6-25-2014]

Awesome Thievery: (1) A former city official in Ridgewood, N.J., pleaded guilty in July to stealing more than a million quarters from parking meters with no one noticing for four years. Under a plea deal, Thomas Rica will likely be spared jail provided he repays about half what he stole. (2) In July, New York City prosecutors accused a former pharmacist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital of stealing nearly 200,000 oxycodone-strength pain pills over five years, despite his increasingly far-fetched explanations. Anthony D’Alessandro even boldly swiped 1,500 pills the day after investigators first challenged him. [The Record (Hackensack), 7-9-2014] [Associated Press via The Republic (Columbus, Ind.), 7-8-2014]

British lawyer Gary Stocker, 30, was headed to the top of the profession with an Oxford education and a six-figure salary--when he decided instead to become a circus’s human cannonball. He is now The Great Herrmann in Chaplin's Circus under a 1,400-seat tent in the city of St. Albans. Stocker told the Daily Mail in May, "Being in a circus is what I was destined for" and that "Perhaps I only went to Oxford to please my mum." Chaplin's show tells the story of a failing circus revived by the invention of the first "human cannon." [Daily Mail (London), 5-22-2014]


Kimberly Williams, 46, was convicted in April in Will County, Ill., of beating dominatrix Theresa Washington a baseball bat. Williams conceded to the judge that she had hired Washington but only because she wanted a "slave" to take pictures of her naked while she did housework. Instead, she said, Washington became aggressive, declared herself a “master,” and dragged Williams around by the hair. Furthermore, according to Williams, Washington’s transformation happened abruptly after a phone call Washington made to "someone she met on the dating site Christian Mingle." [New Lenox Patch, 4-30-2014]

First-World Problems

Update: U.S. obesity continues to grow--for pets as well as people--but exercise innovations for humans seem to trickle down to dogs. A July Associated Press report noted that fat Labradors and poodles now have Pilates (“pawlates”) and yoga (“doga”) and even play “Barko Polo” in the pool. A July Associated Press reported cited Morris Animal Inn’s five-day fitness camps for dogs ($249) in Morristown, N.J. (More cats than dogs are overweight, but getting cats to the gym is perhaps beyond human capability.) [Associated Press, 7-2-2014]

The New Normal

In June, as Elizabeth Neufeld, 85, was backing her car out of her driveway in Bel Air, Calif., it tipped on a curve and rolled onto its side. Elizabeth was not hurt but was trapped inside when her husband, Benjamin, 87, rushed out to check on her. As they awaited firefighters, she reportedly handed a cell phone to a passerby so that the Neufelds would have a “selfie” (which made the Internet, with Elizabeth having righted herself in the driver’s seat and Benjamin standing sheepishly alongside). (Dr. Elizabeth Neufeld, retired, is one of the world’s most prominent genetics researchers, having won numerous awards during stints at the National Institutes of Health, University of California Berkeley, and UCLA.) [ABC News, 6-26-2014]

Least Competent Criminals

Failed to Keep a Low Profile: Jacob Close, 25, wanted after jumping bail in New York on a drug charge but recently on Bloomsburg (Pa.) University police's radar screen after he was rumored to be in the area, was arrested by the campus cops in June. Close's name and photograph had appeared in the Bloomsburg Press Enterprise's "Your Opinion" feature. He apparently could not resist when a street reporter asked him the newspaper’s “question of the week”--whether the Washington Redskins football team should choose another nickname. (His apparently vitally important opinion? No.) [New York Daily News, 7-9-2014]

Recurring Themes

By now, many in the United Kingdom have such exaggerated concern for “health and safety” that they are sensitive to even the tiniest, most far-fetched risks. In June, organizers of a dog show in Keswick drew up a list of 25 tests for dogs to perform in competition, but two had to be scrapped (supposedly for fear of lawsuits): biscuit-catching by the dog (canceled unless sponsors can be assured that dogs will only try to catch biscuits while seated) and Frisbee-catching (canceled outright for fear that dogs could injure their backs). (Indeed, in a previous UK dog show, an out-of-shape dog did hurt its back leaping for a Frisbee.) [News & Star (Workington, England), 6-18-2014]

District of Columbia government services have improved markedly since the 1990s when News of the Weird reported frequent misadventures as the “District of Calamity.” Still, things happen. Rose Preston called 9-1-1 on March 15th, fearing a stroke because of a left-side numbness, and a crew arrived promptly and administered oxygen. However, the two crew members began “bickering” while Preston, in the ambulance, waited to get going. Finally she became so frustrated that she got out, walked to a Metro station, and took a train to the VA hospital. [WRC-TV (Washington, D.C.), 3-24-2014]

Readers’ Choice

(1) Bill Hillmann, 32, expert on Spain’s bull-running eventand author of a chapter in “How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona” (the most famous festival) was hospitalized in July after being gored during the run, with the horn passing through one thigh, missing his femoral artery by a centimeter. He told the Chicago Tribune from his hospital bed that he would be back for the next one. (2) In June, an unnamed American exchange student visiting Tubingen University in Germany, exploring a large marble sculpture outside the school’s institute for microbiology and virology, was trapped inside and had to be rescued by firefighters. The sculpture was a giant vulva, and 22 responders arrived in five fire trucks to pull the man out of the “vagina.” [Chicago Tribune, 7-9-2014] [The Guardian (London), 6-23-2014]

Thanks This Week to Gerald Sacks, Candy Clouston, Chuck Hamilton, Peter Swank, Milford Sprecher, Bob Andelman, Caroline Lawler, and Sam Scrutchins, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.
     Posted By: Chuck - Sun Jul 27, 2014

Modern Warfare Ah... Who knew, rag-heads are people too.
:red: Whoops! That wasn't very PC.

Clinton Tucker Really, they attempt to honor the man and he plays the Race Card!

African Hippo We can strike that species off the endangered list thank to the useless, never-ending, money pit better known as The Drug War.

Thomas Rica So, NJ justice is, "sign here and you can keep $125,000 of your ill gotten gains".

Gary Stocker If you don't love what yo do go do what you love. Good on'ya mate.

Kimberly Williams Will County is So. Chicago so 'go figure'.

Fat Cats I know of a simple solution.

The Neufelds Wow! Who knew old folks had a sense of humor? Dho!

I'm not going to comment on the VA hospital story 'cause there just ain't enough pixels left in the universe to allow me to fully express my (ahhhhhhh) dismay at the situation.

Thanks, Chuck, for a good week.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 07/28/14 at 01:10 AM
In the words of author and hunter Peter Hathaway Capstick, “It is my personal opinion that hippo meat is one of the finest of game foods … The taste is mild, less than lamb and more than beef, slightly more marbled than usual venison. It tastes exactly like, well, hippo.” I didn't make that up. Google 'hippo meat' and you'll find it.
Posted by DAN LAW on 07/28/14 at 01:10 AM
Expat, I'm not so sure that Mr Rica got off as easily as you may have thought. I wonder how much the bank charges for accepting that much in coins. The interwebs tell me that a million quarters weigh 25 tons.
Posted by TheCannyScot in Atlanta, GA on 07/28/14 at 01:12 PM
Scotty, the guy rips off the city for 250,000 and no jail time. Joe Blow does a joint and ends up in the joint.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 07/28/14 at 02:00 PM
paint- The names of the colors (the ones with his name) are a coincidence, but if he was ridiculed because of it then that is a hostile work environment and racist too.

hippos- Gonna be worse than those frogs in Australia.

25cents at a time- Pretty bad the guy gets a free pass on grand theft, its who you kn(bl)ow.

Oxy theft- I can't see how he got away with it for that long. There has to be more people complicit I'd think to keep it covered up. That stuff is very strictly handled and accounted for.

cannon ball- Now his momma is proud of him!

Dom/sub- I thought those things had to be agreed upon before play began.

85- She has a sense of humor about it anyway.

interviewed while on the lam- That story belongs under 'unclear on the concept' as well!

nanny state- Even about the animals now!?!

ambulance- Wonder if they will have the nerve to bill her for coming out.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 07/28/14 at 07:15 PM
Quarters: what's the betting that if he hadn't been a city official but just a random clever thief, he'd have been in jail for eight years and be made to pay back 150% of his theft rather than just 50%?

Stocker: well, I wouldn't like the job, but if he does, fair dos.

Pet obesity: besides, cat owners don't have the sense of responsibility to take care of their vermin. If they did, they wouldn't let them run amuck and murder the songbirds.

Elf'n'safety: the English care more about their dogs than about their children anyway.

Bulls: serves him right. Next time, even better luck to the bull.
Posted by Richard Bos on 07/29/14 at 07:13 AM
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