News of the Weird (May 26, 2013)

News of the Weird
Weirdnuz.M320, May 26, 2013
Copyright 2013 by Chuck Shepherd

Lead Story

* The Department of Agriculture reported recently that in four of America’s largest cities--New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Denver--nearly one home out of 100 keeps chickens either for fresh-egg supply or as pets, giving rise to chicken services such as Backyard Poultry magazine,, and Julie Baker’s Pampered Poultry store. Among the most popular products are strap-on cloth diapers for the occasions when owners bring their darlings indoors, i.e., cuddle their “lap chickens.” Also popular are “saddles” for roosters, to spare hens mating injuries--owing to roosters’ brutal horniness, sometimes costing hens most or all of their back feathers from a single encounter. [NPR, 5-1-2013]

Government in Action

* “Consider the ways we’re taxed,” wrote Maryland’s community Gazette in April--when we’re born, die, earn income, spend it, own property, sell it, attend entertainment venues, operate vehicles, and pass wealth along after death, among others. Maryland has now added a tax on rain. To reduce stormwater runoff into the Chesapeake Bay, the Environmental Protection Agency assessed the state $14.8 billion, which the state will collect starting in July by taxing “impervious surfaces”--any land area in its 10 largest counties that cannot directly absorb rainwater, such as roofs, driveways, patios, and sidewalks. [ (Gaithersburg, Md.), 4-5-2013]

* The Washington Post reported in April that the federal government is due to spend $890,000 this year to safeguard . . nothing. The amount is the total of fees for maintaining more than 13,000 short-term bank accounts the government owns but which have no money in them and never again will. Closing the accounts is easier said than done, according to the watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste because the accounts each housed separate government grants, and Congress has required that, before the accounts are closed, the grants must be formally audited--something bureaucrats are rarely motivated to do, at least within the 180 days set by law (though there is no penalty for missing the deadline). [Washington Post, 4-24-2013]

* It's good to be the County Administrator of Alameda County, Calif. (on San Francisco Bay, south of Oakland). The San Francisco Chronicle revealed in March that somehow, Susan Muranishi negotiated a contract that pays her $301,000 a year, plus "equity pay" of $24,000 a year so that she makes at least 10% more than the next highest paid official, plus "longevity" pay of $54,000 a year, plus a car allowance--and that she will be paid that total amount per year as her pension for life (in addition to a private pension of $46,000 a year which the county purchased for her). [San Francisco Chronicle, 3-25-2013]

* The Way Washington Works: (1) Congress established a National Helium Reserve in 1925 in the era of “zeppelin” balloons, but most consider it no longer useful (most, that is, ranging from President Reagan to the Democratic congressman who in 1996 called it one program that, if we cannot undo it, “we cannot undo anything”). The House of Representatives recently voted 394-1 to continue funding it because of “fears” of a shortage that might affect MRI machines and, of course, party balloons. (2) In rare (these days) bipartisan action, Congressional military “experts” of both parties are about to force the Army to continue building Abrams-era tanks--when the Army said it doesn’t want them and can’t use them. The tank manufacturers, of course, have convinced Congress that it needs the contracts, no matter what the Army says (according to an April Associated Press analysis). [Washington Post, 4-26-2013] [Associated Press via Yahoo News, 4-29-2013]

Great Art!

* The Jewish Museum in Berlin is currently staging what has become popularly known as the “Jew in the Box” exhibit to teach visitors about Judaism--simply featuring one knowledgeable Jewish person who sits in a chair in a glass box for two hours a day and answers questions from the curious. Both supporters (“We Germans have many insecurities when it comes to Jews”) and critics (“Why don’t they give him a banana and a glass of water [and] turn up the heat?”) are plentiful. [Daily Mail (London), 3-29-2013]

* The weather in Hong Kong on April 25th wreaked havoc on American artist Paul McCarthy’s outdoor, 50-foot-tall piece of “inflatable art” in the West Kowloon Cultural District. “Complex Pile” (a model of an arrangement of excrement) got punctured, which mostly pleased McCarthy’s critics since his recent work, reported the South China Morning Post, has often centered around bodily functions. [South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), 4-26-2013]

Police Report

* News of the Weird has reported several times on the astonishing control that inmates have at certain prisons in Latin American countries, with drug cartel leaders often enjoying lives nearly as pleasurable as their lives on the outside. However, according to an April federal indictment, similar problems have plagued the City Detention Center in Baltimore, Md., where members of the “Black Guerilla Family” operated with impunity. Between 2010 and 2012, corruption was such that 13 female guards have now been charged, including four women who bore the children of the Family’s imprisoned leader, Tavon White. Cellphones, drugs, and Grey Goose vodka were among the smuggled-in contraband, and the indictment charges that murders were ordered from inside. (Baltimore City Paper had reported 14 stories in 2009 and 2010 on the gang-related corruption at the Center, but apparently state and federal officials had failed to be alarmed.) [, 4-26-2013; Washington Post, 5-6-2013]

* Frequent Flyers: (1) Chicago police have arrested Ms. Shermain Miles, 51, at least 396 times since 1978, under 83 different aliases, for crimes ranging from theft (92 times) to prostitution and robbery. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, she is a virtuoso at playing “the system” to delay her proceedings and avoid jail time. (2) Alvin Cote, 59, passed away in February of poor health in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, following a “career” of 843 public-intoxication arrests. [Chicago Sun-Times, 4-20-2013] [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 2-13-2013]

* Somewhat Backwards DUI: Danielle Parker was hospitalized, and awaiting DUI charges, after a crash near Gaston, N.C., in March even though she had been in the passenger seat of the car. She had handled the wheel momentarily because Brittany Reinhardt, 19, in the driver’s seat, was busy texting. (Reinhardt, apparently sober, was charged with “aiding and abetting” a DUI.) [Gaston Gazette, 3-29-2013]

The Weirdo-American Community

* The biggest news out of Newtown, Conn., recently--not involving the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School--came when local environmental officials announced on April 29th that they were investigating the finding of “200 to 300 one-gallon plastic jugs” filled with urine in a home “in a state of disrepair.” No charges were filed against the homeowner, but officials sought to assure neighbors and users of the property that no health hazard was present. (The average person, reported the Connecticut Post, produces about six cups of urine a day.) [Danbury News Times, 4-30-2013]

Strange Old World

* Mr. Datta Phuge perhaps overly personifies India’s national obsession with the beauty of gold. For special occasions, he outfits his “knuckles, neck, and wrists” with golden “signet rings, chunky bracelets, and a medallion,” wrote BBC News in April after Phuge had also purchased a crinkly-gold tailored shirt made for him for about US$250,000. The 7-lb. shirt (from Rankar Jewellers in the city of Pune) has a velvet lining to keep it from irritating his skin, and he must of course always travel with a bodyguard. [BBC News, 4-14-2013]

Readers’ Choice

* (1) Sam Worby, 39, made headlines internationally in February when, dressed as Batman, had hauled fugitive Daniel Frayne, 27, into a Bradford, England, police station. It turns out he was just helping his friend Daniel turn himself in (on an outstanding arrest warrant). In a separate incident in April, the two “friends” were arrested together and charged with burglarizing a garage in Bradford. (2) In a confessional in the April GQ magazine, the sports writer Buzz Bissinger (creator of TV’s “Friday Night Lights”) admitted that his later-in-life fame had enabled a narcissism that caused him to impulsively buy 81 leather jackets in a three-year period, plus 75 pairs of boots, 41 pairs of leather pants, 32 pairs of upscale jeans, 10 evening jackets, and 115 pairs of leather gloves, among other extravagances and aberrations. [Daily Telegraph (London), 4-16-2013] [GQ, April 2013]

Thanks This Week to Hal Dunham, Thomas Wyman, David Henshaw, and Thomas Goodey, and to the News of the Weird Senior Advisors (Jenny T. Beatty, Paul Di Filippo, Ginger Katz, Joe Littrell, Matt Mirapaul, Paul Music, Karl Olson, and Jim Sweeney) and Board of Editorial Advisors (Tom Barker, Paul Blumstein, Harry Farkas, Sam Gaines, Herb Jue, Emory Kimbrough, Scott Langill, Steve Miller, Christopher Nalty, Mark Neunder, Bob Pert, Larry Ellis Reed, Rob Snyder, Stephen Taylor, Bruce Townley, and Jerry Whittle).

     Posted By: Chuck - Sun May 26, 2013

Government in Action: In Germany we started paying last year for the amount of rain draining off our property. If there were a drought, they'd tax us for sun, too!
Posted by Daddy A on 05/26/13 at 01:54 PM
taxes- Pretty soon we will get taxed on breathing. Or rather the co2 we exhale.

empty account fees- There is so much waste in government and yet they want to cut off the elderly, handicapped and veterans first. It has been said that a society will be judged by how it treats the elderly and infirm. What does that say about where our society is going?

county administrator- She is a criminal and so is anyone who voted for her compesation package. This is where reform should begin.

Helium- MRIs?

tanks- Lobbyists are pretty much all criminals too.

ask a Jew- Hey it worked with Paul Mooney on the 'Chappelle Show'!

inflatable poop- Its a comedy prop not art for pete's sakes.

gangs control jail- Does this surprise anyone?

hundreds of arrests- It is ridiculous that these people have no real responsibility for their actions.

DUI- Why would either girl ever admit to the 'hold the wheel while I am texting' bs. Are they both blonds?

300 gallons of pee in the house, 300 gallons of pee. Take one out and pour it about, 299 gallons of pee in the house...

gold- Money does not ensure good taste.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 05/26/13 at 08:16 PM
We've had stormwater utility taxes on large roofs and parking lots for a few years. They're talking about a special tax on undeveloped lots within the city, so they'll get you whether you build or not.

The current big thing is finding someone to head up a department whose sole purpose is to confiscate property which has outstanding fines against it for weed control (or lack thereof), being public eyesores, back taxes, etc.

(Our city council won't be happy until the city owns the whole city and taxes both food and toilet paper.)

Re: bank accounts. The audits required by law would probably cost over $20,000 each, so leaving them open and paying a $70 maintenance fee to the bank is a lot cheaper. Most states have laws that bank accounts not used in a certain number of years get closed automatically and turned over to the state. Maybe that could be an end to some of them?
Posted by Phideaux on 05/26/13 at 09:20 PM
Helium is a finite, non-renewable resource produced primarily in the U.S. that the U.S. government has been selling off far below market price. When the U.S. reserves are depleted, the cost of helium will rise astronomically. I'd like to think that the quotation marks around "fears" were added by the notoriously conservative (and anti-science) Washington Post. You'd think conservatives would at least understand the concept of selling something at fair market value instead of taking a loss on it.
Posted by John on 05/27/13 at 09:39 AM
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