Crash Notes: Freaky Friday News (links only)

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The full version of Freaky Friday News will return next week after a hiatus. In the meantime, choose a news link that interests you!

The Ghost Infested Island of Lake Huron

Friday, August 7, 2015 There is an island offshore of Lake Huron in the Great Lakes where almost every square inch seems to be haunted by something or other.
— Mysterious Universe

The Sky is Turning Green Around the World

Wednesday, August 5, 2015 A green glow was seen over Chicago, two different green fireballs were spotted over Argentina, and others witnessed over Australia & Cancun.
— Mysterious Universe

Scientists sound alarm over supercharged GM organisms

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 The development of “gene drive” technology promises to revolutionize medicine and agriculture because it can in theory stop the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses.
— The Independent

The Miracle of SolarCity

Monday, August 3, 2015 Elon Musk’s Tesla and SpaceX are impressive. But the solar company he founded with his cousins could be transformational.
— Slate

 

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Crash Notes: Freaky Friday News

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Living Small

Apartment buyers in ridiculously expensive Hong Kong are now eagerly paying up to the equivalent of $500,000 (U.S.) for units not much bigger than a U.S. parking space (and typically physically self-measured by the applicant’s wing-span). An agent told The Wall Street Journal in June that, for example, standard furniture does not fit the units and that having guests over requires sitting on the window sill. (The Journal pointed out that a typical such “mosquito” apartment unit in Hong Kong is 180 square feet, way smaller than the 304 of a basketball court’s “lane” subject to a “3-second” violation.) A government lottery for subsidized units rewards barely one of every 100 applicants. [Wall Street Journal, 6-3-2015]

Recurring Themes

— Spouses often disagree politically and vote accordingly, but occasionally one runs for office against the other — as is the case in Bremerton, Washington, where incumbent Councilmember Roy Runyon is being challenged by his wife, Kim Faulkner. Both were mum as to reasons and in fact filed their registration papers together at the same time in May. Said Runyon: “We’re different people. She might have a different approach.” [Kitsap Sun (Kitsap, Wash.), 5-14-2015]

— India’s media reported in April yet another birth defect in which the surviving baby is treated as a representation of Hindu holiness. A four-armed, four-legged child (medical explanation: remains of an underdeveloped conjoined twin) is worshipped as the reincarnation of the multi-limbed Lord Ganesha, and pilgrims journey from all over India to the birthplace, Dumri-Isri in Jharkhand state. (In a nod to modernity, one witness told a reporter that initially he had thought a photograph of the child was “Photoshopped,” but now has seen the baby with his own eyes.) [OneIndia.com (Bangalore), 4-23-2015]

— The law of turkey-baster insemination took a turn in Virginia in April when mother Joyce Bruce was unable to keep sperm-provider Robert Boardwine out of her son’s life. Bruce relied on a state statute that seemed to allow her sole parenthood if the pregnancy was based on assisted-reproduction medical technology. However, the Court of Appeals of Virginia declared that a “kitchen implement” is not “medical technology” and, considering Boardwine’s genuine interest in fatherhood, ruled that he was entitled to joint custody and visitation rights. [CNN, 4-21-2015]

— Another “Human Right”: In April, London’s Daily Mail spotted Anna Broom of Gillingham declaring that despite her various disorders that keep her from working, she nonetheless imagines a first-class wedding with champagne, horse-drawn carriage and Mexico honeymoon — all at government expense — because that would be her “human right.” She told a reporter that a small ceremony at a government office would not boost her confidence, but that her “dream” wedding would be just the thing to get her back on a job search. [Daily Mail, 4-16-2015]

— The most recent exposition of people who tattoo their eyeballs, at the International Tattoo Festival in Caracas, in February, featured the phenomenon’s founder, Mr. Luna Cobra, who said it all started when he tried to create “bright blue” eyes, as in the 1984 film “Dune.” (Pigment is injected, permanently, so that it rests under the eye’s thin top layer, the conjunctiva.) Asked what the process feels like, devotee Kylie Garth told BBC News, “It was mentally intense,” resembling an eye poke, pressure and “a bit of sand” — but “no pain.” Mr. Cobra urged young people to get their jobs before trying eye tats, since “you’re going to look frightening forever to the majority of people you encounter.” [Washington Post, 2-4-2015]

— Once again, in May, lawyers went to court trying to persuade a judge that some rights under the U.S. Constitution be extended to intelligent apes (here, chimpanzees, as “autonomous and self-determining beings” at least as perceptive as, for example, severely mentally ill people, who retain rights while institutionalized). Lawyers are once again asking for a writ of habeas corpus (now available only to humans) to take Hercules and Leo out of a lab and into a sanctuary. (Adding to the discussion, in the week after the court hearing, a Harvard professor and colleagues, writing in the journal Current Anthropology, hypothesized that chimps could cook foods if given the chance. Tests revealed that they resist raw food when they are able to place it into a device that made it taste better — which in theory makes them more intelligent than children who eat cookie dough.) [Associated Press via Toronto Star, 5-27-2015] [New York Times, 6-3-2015]

— Baffling Perversion: Some men are compelled to express unrequited love for women by ejaculating onto them or into their beverages. The Minnesota legislature is working to upgrade its law (since a recent defendant, John Robert Lind, was acquitted of adulterating his co-worker’s coffee on the ground that current law requires actually touching the victim). However, Lind (who admitted a total of six climaxes against the co-worker) is an amateur compared to Tetsuya Fukuda, 40, who was finally apprehended in April, at which time he admitted “more than 100” semen attacks on women on trains near Kinshicho, Japan, dating back to 2011. He told police, “I get excited when in close contact with a woman on a crowded train.” [St. Paul Pioneer-Press, 3-11-2015] [Asahi Shimbun via Gawker.com, 4-10-2015]

Updates on Previous Crash Notes

— Freaky Friday News has remarked on modern, over-the-top versions of the centuries-old tradition in China of making funerals entertaining, to attract mourners and thereby signify that the deceased did not die “faceless.” In the recent past, festive song-and-dance acts were hired, and soon, in the competition for attendees, some families took to hiring strippers to perform — even “obscene” acts, “severely pollut(ing)” the culture, according to a critic. In April, the Ministry of Culture, previously somewhat tolerant because of sensitivity for the families, formally denounced the practice and began detaining the traveling performers. [Wall Street Journal, 4-23-2015]

— Backyard firing ranges are legal in Florida (as FFN reported last year), and in March a Florida House committee voted to keep it that way, shooting down legislation to outlaw them even in urban and residential areas. (Firing on private property is legal except if shooting over a public right-of-way or an occupied dwelling, and “negligent” gunfire, though illegal, is only a misdemeanor.) In 2014, one Florida legislator, originally from Alaska, said even in that liberty-conscious state, residents in urban Anchorage do not have rights that Floridians have. [BayNews9.com (St. Petersburg), 3-25-2015]

— Convicted “satanic cult” day care operators Dan and Fran Keller were finally unconvicted by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in May — 23 years after being found guilty based in part on toddlers’ fantastical testimony (encouraged by counselors) telling impossible tales of molestation. Still, however, the judges could not bring themselves to rule the Kellers “not guilty,” thus preserving children’s narratives of the Kellers videotaping orgies, serving blood-laced Kool-Aid, kidnapping them to Mexico and more — yet somehow releasing them, unscarred, each day to parents at pickup time in Austin. (The Kellers spent 22 years behind bars.) [American-Statesman (Austin), 5-20-2015]

— The South Pacific islanders on the Vanuatu island of Tanna believe that 2016 will be the year that the man they inexplicably worship as a god — Britain’s Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh — will finally visit them. One highly regarded islander told a London Daily Telegraph correspondent in New Zealand that the cult is starved for a visit, since Philip’s only contact since the 1940s has been via gifts (one, the most treasured, an autographed photo). Legendary Vanuatuan “Chief Jack” was convinced that Philip was a descendant of island royalty. [Daily Telegraph, 4-25-2015]

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

In May, Texas health officials shut down the flea market sales of sonogram DVDs at Leticia Trujillo’s stall at San Antonio’s Traders Village. Though the nature of the equipment was not described in news reports, sonograms can be produced only under a doctor’s prescription and by licensed personnel, but pregnant flea market customers underwent a procedure (“just like a doctor’s office,” said Trujillo) that yielded a 12-minute DVD image, along with photos, for $35 — that Trujillo subsequently defended as for “entertainment” purposes only and for those without health insurance. [San Antonio Express-News, 5-22-2015]

Ironies

According to Nathan Hoffman’s lawsuit, he was prepped for eye surgery that day in May 2014 when the clinic employee handed him a small-lettered liability-limitation form to sign. He was told that the surgery at the LASIK Vision Institute in Lake Oswego, Oregon, could not proceed without a signature, and despite hazy vision, he reluctantly relented, but things went badly. The form limits lawsuit damages to a money-back $2,500, but Hoffman demands at least $7,500 (to cover the so-far two additional surgeries elsewhere to correct LVI’s alleged errors). [The Oregonian, 5-15-2015]

War Is Hell

Some jihadists who have traveled to Syria to join ISIS have complained recently (according to a Radio Free Europe dispatch) that they cannot secure work as “martyrs” because of discrimination by incumbent fighters. One “pro-ISIS” cleric, speaking for Chechens, said they “are so fed up with the long waiting lists in Syria” that they head to Iraq, where the lists are shorter. Said one, Saudis controlling suicide rosters in the Syrian theater “won’t let anyone in.” Their “relatives go to the front of the line using (their connections).” [News.com.au (Sydney), 5-22-2015]

The Continuing Crisis

— America (sometimes called a land of “second chances”) gave stockbroker Jerry Cicolani Jr., 69 such chances, before he pleaded guilty in May to selling unregistered securities — setting up his first overt punishment despite a history of 60-some client complaints made to his then-employer, Merrill Lynch, between 1991 and 2010. The stockbrokers’ self-regulating arm (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) has finally revoked his license, but issued a statement acknowledging that it needed to improve its monitoring. [New York Times, 5-19-2015]

— Awkward: Corey Huddleston, 52, apparently having taken a fancy to a teenage girl in Dickson, Tennessee, in May, knocked on her family’s front door, according to police, then pushed his way in, asked for cigarettes and beer, “touched himself” inappropriately, asked about the girl, and then reluctantly departed. However, he merely went to a back window of a darkened bedroom, climbed inside, and fondled a sleeping figure in bed, whom he likely assumed was the girl — but it was the girl’s father, who later confessed that he called the police only after resisting the impulse to kill Huddleston. (Police said Huddleston’s rap sheet shows more than 100 charges.) [WKRN-TV (Nashville), 5-13-2015]

Weird Science

Among caterpillars’ natural defenses against being devoured by birds is their ability to contort themselves into odd shapes for disguise — perhaps most ingeniously (according to researchers writing in the current Animal Behaviour journal) as bird droppings. The authors created artificial dough-based squiggles that were either straight (resembling the caterpillar) or bent (to resemble poop), and found that birds zeroed in on the straight ones about three times as often. [Science, 5-22-2015]

Least Competent Criminals

Notwithstanding the suggestion in movies, stealing a 200-pound floor model safe is a very low-return crime, as the February arrest of three pals in Kingsport, Tennessee, illustrated. After struggling to load the safe into a car’s trunk (accidentally shattering the back window), they drove to one’s apartment, but police were called when neighbors saw the safe being dragged across a parking lot in the middle of the night. (During the trip, it fell onto one perp’s foot.) Police, following gouge marks, visited the apartment and spotted the safe, as yet unopened, in the middle of the kitchen. (Police: Why do you gentlemen have a safe? Perp: We found it in an alley.) Police opened it. It was empty. [Kingsport Times-News, 2-2-2015]

Just Another Day in Court in Florida

It started in 2008, when one of Tampa Bay’s two nastiest radio “shock jocks,” Todd Schnitt, sued the other, Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, for defamation. With depositions underway in 2013, according to reporting by the Tampa Bay Times, Schnitt’s lawyer, Philip Campbell, unwinding in a bar, was hit on by a perky young paralegal who (unknown to him) worked for Bubba’s lawyer’s firm. After several drinks, she exaggerated inebriation, angling for Campbell to drive her home. According to charges by the Florida Bar Association, the paralegal’s boss called a Tampa cop to trail Campbell — who, sure enough, witnessed the car weaving, and thus arrested Campbell for DUI. (Bonus: Campbell’s work-packed briefcase went missing in the traffic stop.) Bubba himself was not implicated, and the disciplinary charges against the lawyers, pending in June 2015, are creating suspense about which of them might take the fall. [Tampa Bay Times, 5-20-2015]

From the Third-World Press

Kenya’s The Standard reported the May proclamation by prominent Nairobi lawyer Felix Kiprono that he had fallen in love (long distance) with Malia Obama (who is, famously, part-Kenyan) and is prepared to offer President Obama 50 cows, 70 sheep and 30 goats in exchange for her hand. “If my request is granted,” he said, he would not “resort to the cliche of popping champagne” but rather would “surprise (Malia) with mursik, the traditional Kalenjin sour milk,” and affix the “sacred plant,” sinendet, queen-like, around her head. [The Standard, 5-25-2015]

Have a GREAT weekend!

Crash

Crash Notes: Freaky Friday News

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$$$$: Happy Birthday to You!

There’s hardly a more “generic” song in America than “Happy Birthday to You,” but to this day (until a judge renders a decision in a pending case), Warner/Chappel Music is still trying to make big dollars off of the 16-word ditty (15 original words plus a user-supplied 16th). Its original copyright should have expired, at the latest, in 1921, but amendments to the law and technicalities in interpretation (e.g., did the copyright cover all public uses or just piano arrangements?) bring Warner at least $2 million a year in fees. A federal judge in California is expected to rule soon on whether the song is in fact uncopyrightably “generic” — 125 years after the Hill sisters (Mildred and Patty) composed it. [CBS News, 3-27-2015]

Ironies

“The ancient art of yoga is supposed to offer a path to inner peace,” wrote the Wall Street Journal in February — before launching into a report on how many yoga classes these days are so crowded that inner peace-seekers are more likely than ever either to seethe throughout their session — or to openly confront floor-hoggers. Explained one coach, “People who are practicing yoga want Zen; they don’t already have it.” [Wall Street Journal, 2-16-2015]

Timely Information: (1) Joseph Forren, 21, with a .172 blood alcohol level, plowed into a pickup truck in April in Trumbull, Connecticut (though with no serious injuries). Police said Forren’s cellphone on the seat still displayed a current text message, “Don’t drink and drive … Dad.” (2) According to police records released in April, Mila Dago (now 24 and awaiting trial for DUI manslaughter) was trading sarcastic texts with her ex-boyfriend that night in August 2013 while barhopping (later, registering .178 blood alcohol), and as she ran a red light, smashed into a pickup truck, injuring herself badly and her friend in the passenger seat fatally. According to the police report, her last text to the ex- boyfriend (three minutes earlier) was “Driving drunk woo … I’ll be dead thanks to you.” [Connecticut Post (Bridgeport), 4-27-2015] [Miami Herald, 4-30-2015]

Additional Ironies: (1) The Indian Journal of Dermatology announced in April that it was withdrawing a recent scientific paper by a dentist in Kerala state, “Development of a Guideline to Approach Plagiarism in Indian Scenarios,” because parts of the article had been plagiarized from a student dissertation. (2) Low voter turnout in non-presidential election years is increasingly problematic in easily distracted Los Angeles, but the issue was specifically addressed by campaigners in the March 3 city council elections — which, of course, only about 9 percent of registered voters cast ballots in. [NPR, 4-2-2015] [LA Weekly, 3-4-2015]

Suspicions Confirmed

In New York City, someone can be fired for being “too nice.” Doorman Ralph Body, 41, was dismissed from his job at an upscale New York City apartment building because he did too many favors for tenants, according to an April New York Post report. Body said he “gave his life” to the residents at the “27 on 27th” tower in Queens, but “upper management” thought such extra kindnesses violated building policy and ordered his dismissal despite a tenant petition. [New York Post, 4-5-2015]

When the chief auditor for Hartford, Connecticut, finally got around to checking the finances of the police shooting range recently, he found that the range supervisor had bought 485,000 bullets per year, but was using only 180,000 — and had no paperwork on where the other bullets went. (In one instance, the supervisor acknowledged having bought 94,500 rounds of .45-caliber ammo two years after the department had stopped using .45s and switched to .40-caliber weapons — but his story was that he needed .45-caliber bullets so he could trade them for .40s.) [Hartford Courant, 5-2-2015]

New World Order

Millions of sports fans “draft” their own fantasy sports teams — and even the bass-fishing tournament circuit has its fantasy league, where fans select anglers good at exploiting choice spots on the lakes. In March, Alaska Dispatch News reported that, for the fourth straight year, there would be an Iditarod Fantasy League, with a “salary cap” of “$27,000” to pick seven mushers with the best chances to push their dogs to victory, with all-stars going for around $6,000 and promising rookies selling for much less. [Alaska Dispatch News, 3-6-2015]

Compelling Explanations

Alfred Guercio, 54, was arrested in Burnsville, Minnesota, in March after forcibly entering a neighbor’s home and swiping a knife set that he had given the woman as a Christmas gift. He told the woman, and police, that he was taking the gift back, as he was upset that the woman was failing to appreciate it enough. [The Smoking Gun, 3-17-2015]

Fine Points of the Law

John Deere became the most recent company in America to claim that, though a buyer may have paid in full for a device, he may not actually “own” it. Deere claims that because its tractors run on sophisticated computer programs, the ostensible owner of the tractor cannot “tamper” with that software without Deere’s permission — even to repair a defect or to customize its operation. Already, traditional movie videos may come with restrictions on copying, but the Deere case, according to an April report on Wired.com, might extend the principle to machinery not traditionally subject to copyright law. [Wired.com, 4-21-2015]

Cultural Diversity

The March arranged-marriage ceremony in Kanpur, India, was about to start when cousins of the bride (whose name is Lovely, daughter of Mohar Singh) commandeered center stage and demanded that groom Ram Baran answer the question, “What is 15 plus 6?” Baran answered, “17,” and in short order, Lovely and her family began to drift out of the room, and the marriage was off. Eventually, according to a Times of India report, the families settled the fiasco amicably, with all gifts returned. [Times of India, 3-13-2015]

Enjoy the long weekend if you’re observing the Memorial Day Weekend.  Remember the Fallen. Otherwise have a good, safe weekend!

Crash

Crash Notes: Freaky Friday News

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The Job of the Researcher

California State University Los Angeles researcher Marc Kubasak spent about 2,500 hours (sometimes 12 hours a day) training 40 brain-damaged rats to walk on a treadmill, after sewing little vests to tether the critters, suspended, to a robotic arm. His work paid off, though, according to the February Popular Science magazine, as doctors in Poland and University College London used his procedures to help a man with a damaged spine. (In the middle of the project, Kubasak developed a rodent allergy and was forced to wear a body suit every day with a respirator.) [Popular Science, February 2015]

Ironies

U.K.’s Bedfordshire Police were searching in April for the thief who ran off without paying for his Jesus arm tattoo at the RedINC Luton studio (to go with his “Only God Can Judge Me” inking on the other arm.) In fact, the shopkeeper also believes the man swiped the equivalent of $1,548 from a cash drawer when he was momentarily alone in the studio. [Luton Today, 4-1-2015]

Former Virginia state Delegate Joseph Morrissey, already scheduled for trial for submitting false documents in one case, was foiled in March qualifying for a state Senate primary because 750 of the 972 voter signatures he submitted were found to be bogus. (Morrissey was sworn in as delegate in January while wearing an ankle monitor as part of his sentence for having sex with an underage girl, but resigned to run for the Senate.) [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3-31-2015] [Associated Press via Virginian-Pilot (Hampton Roads), 1-15-2015]

Remembrance Technology

In March, the U.S. patent office approved Google’s application covering robot software that mimics human personalities (voice, mannerisms) using a variety of moods (happiness, fear, surprise) with a notable use that family members might employ it to continue to “interact” with a loved one after he has passed. One disquieting possibility might allow a deceased person to be directed to act in ways that the person never acted while alive. [Discover Magazine, 4-26-2015]

Entrepreneurship: (1) A curious woman, inspired by her own mother’s attachment to her unlaundered pillowcases following the death of her dad, has partnered with France’s Universite du Havre to produce a person’s bottled scent by processing old clothing. A September rollout is planned, with the probable retail price of about $600. (2) Artist Mark Sturkenboom has described plans for an even more remarkable remembrance device (if the deceased is male): a dildo that holds 21 grams of cremated ashes (accessorized, perhaps for non-sexual “cover,” by a necklace and music player). “After passing,” Sturkenboom explained, “the missing of intimacy” is “one aspect of the pain and grief.” [Popular Science, 4-24-2015] [Metro News (London), 4-26-2015]

Democracy in Action

Just west of Ferguson, Missouri, is Kinloch (pop. 299), where newly elected mayor Betty McCray was unable to start work on April 23 because the losing incumbent administration merely locked her out of City Hall (“impeaching” her for “voter fraud” in the April 7 election, despite St. Louis County election officials having already certified her victory). Of McCray’s two predecessors, one was once also locked out of office by police, and the other had to go to court to get his mayoral job back after admitting that he had missed child-support payments. [KTVI-TV (St. Louis), 4-23-2015] [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1-29-2014]

Suspicions Confirmed

The controversial ex-Greenpeace campaigner who years later turned against the environmental group’s program walked out of an interview in March for a French documentary in which he assured viewers that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer was safe for humans. “You can drink a whole quart of it, and it won’t hurt you,” Patrick Moore told the interviewer for Canal Plus. The interviewer then offered Moore a swig of Roundup he had on hand. “I’d be happy to, actually,” Moore reportedly said on camera, but then quickly changed his mind. “No, I’m not an idiot.” At that point, Moore declared, the interview was “finished.” [Time, 3-27-2015]

Is This a Great Country or What?

The owner of a New York City condominium apartment that sold for $100.5 million recently received a property tax reduction of $360,000 last year — and is likely to keep receiving reductions over as many as 25 years, based on “Section 421-a” benefits the state enacted to encourage “affordable” housing in the most desirable parts of New York City. The tax abatements are available to developers that promise to create “affordable” units in the same zones (“affordable” to families making under about $40,000 annually), but in recent years, the new “millionaire” units (with tax breaks) have outnumbered the new affordable units by about 11-to-1, according to a February New York Times report, costing the city over $1 billion a year in revenue. [New York Times, 2-2-2015] [Gothamist.com, 3-18-2015]

Bright Ideas

Prison breaks in Latin American countries are often staged with cooperative, corrupt guards. However, the escape by 28 inmates in February from the Nova Mutum prison near Cuiaba, Brazil, was engineered by three make-believe “dominatrixes” (in police costumes), who playfully handcuffed the guards, knocked them out with sedatives and unlocked the cells. (The guards were found the next day, still handcuffed and naked.) [Daily Mirror (London), 2-8-2015]

Wall Street Miracle: Two March instances of gleaning insight and using it to buy stock “options” were executed so quickly (1 to 3 seconds each) that experts consulted for a Slate.com analysis said they couldn’t possibly have been made by human securities traders. Their conclusion: A robot so intelligent exists that it can “read” a news wire report, “analyze” it for hints whether to place bets on a company’s future price, and execute the order — before human traders even finish reading the news report. Profits on the seconds-long trades: $2.4 million on one and “between $1 million and $2 million” on the other. [Slate.com, 4-26-2015]

Have a GREAT weekend!

Crash

Crash Notes: Freaky Friday News

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The Continuing Crisis

The February gun-and-baby-carrying workshop in Johnston, Iowa, was so successful that instructor Melody Lauer and CrossRoads Shooting Sports owner Tom Hudson plan more. Lauer insisted that she does not necessarily encourage a baby-holding mother to arm herself, but if she chooses to, safety would of course require that she be familiar with the tricky procedure of drawing, aiming and firing even though she might be “wearing” a baby in a sling in front of her body. Hudson, noting the fast-growing market of gun sales to women, said scheduling the workshop “was a no-brainer.” [Yahoo News, 3-4-2015]

What is believed to be America’s only hard-nosed “gang” composed only of gay and transgendered African-Americans hopes to have its story told soon by filmmakers — who emphasize the group’s transition from fighters to entrepreneurs working to establish their own clothing line, according to a March report on advocate.com. The gang, originally organized for protection (“We gonna get our respect one way or another,” said one), hails from the violent Washington, D.C., Trinidad neighborhood, yet some of the 200 members (in their teens or early 20s) insist on stilettos, lipstick and mascara (while carrying knives, brass knuckles and mace). [Advocate.com, 3-9-2015]

Questionable Judgments

Pioneering British facial surgeon Ninian Peckitt, 63, facing a Medical Practitioners Tribunal in Manchester in April, was accused by a witness of “repeatedly” having punched one patient in the face during a procedure in order to straighten a fracture. Dr. Peckitt acknowledged having used his hands to “manipulate” bones in the patient’s face, calling it a routine surgery-avoiding procedure sometimes required for extensive injuries. [Daily Mail (London), 4-8-2015]

Two airport screeners at Denver International collaborated in an ongoing ploy in which one, a male, signaled to a female colleague that he had spotted an attractive male passenger in line that he might like to grope. The female would then suddenly notice an “anomaly” in the screening and ask that passenger to stand aside so the male agent could “inspect” him further — by genital and posterior fondling (over his clothing). The two agents were fired in February after a Transportation Security Administration investigator, having been alerted to the scheme, observed it in action. [KCNC-TV (Denver), 4-13-2015]

Inexplicable

From Recent Florida Crime Reports: (1) Mohammed Almarri, 21, was arrested on multiple charges in Tampa on April 12 after illegally entering a neighbor’s apartment in a high-rise and forcing the owner onto the balcony. For reasons undisclosed in the police report, Almarri then allegedly microwaved the man’s wallet in his oven. (2) Joseph Williams, 35 (and with several pending warrants), was arrested on April 5 in Fort Pierce, Florida, after entering the emergency room at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute, demanding an enema and refusing to leave until he got one. [Bay News 9 (St. Petersburg, 4-12-2015] [TCPalm.com (Stuart, Fla.), 4-14-2015]

Leading Economic Indicators

In the face of jokes about proliferating airline charges, the British economy line easyJet added another fee recently. If easyJet, on its own, cancels a flight, it charges a fee of 10 British pounds (about $15) to notify third parties. The airline said that even though its own decision created the issue, it must nonetheless cover its costs to provide cancellation notices to passengers who miss connections or who need to provide verification to collect on private travel-interruption insurance. [Daily Mail (London), 4-21-2015]

Counting only the pool of bonus money (not regular salaries), employees of New York securities industries in 2014 earned roughly twice as much as the total income paid to all employees in the United States who worked full time at the federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour). (The statistic, from a report by the Institute for Policy Studies and reinforced by a University of Michigan professor using figures from the New York State Comptroller and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was featured in a March New York Times analysis.) [New York Times, 3-13-2015]

Wait, What?

In April, a court in Munich, Germany, ordered a dentist (identified only as “K”) to pay the equivalent of about $21,000 to patient “Alex S” for pulling all of his teeth (19) over four weeks of treatments — as the remedy for his schizophrenia and erectile dysfunction. The dentist had testified that Alex had too much bone inflammation for ordinary fillings. K made his own claim for the equivalent of about $54,000 for the damage to his professional reputation that the trial had caused, but the court rejected it. [The Local (Berlin) via Daily Mail (London), 4-17-2015]

The Redneck Chronicles

(1) Austin Hatfield, 18, reported to an emergency room in April after being bitten on the lip by a venomous cottonmouth viper in Wimauma, Florida. According to a fish and wildlife commission spokesman, Hatfield had been keeping the recently caught snake in an ordinary pillowcase on his bed, and when it got out, Hatfield (ungracefully) recaptured it. (The bite was not fatal.) (2) According to witnesses questioned by the Jacksonville, Florida, Sheriff’s Office (on the scene after shots had been reported at Murphy’s Express Gas station in March), one customer had fired at another, hitting him in the foot, because he felt that the customer was staring at him while he pumped gas. [Tampa Tribune, 4-21-2015] [WJAX-TV, 3-31-2015]

Least Competent Criminals

Nikko Jenkins, convicted of murder in a 2013 spree and trying to avoid a scheduled sentencing hearing, recently self-mutilated (for the second time), which he told a judge in Omaha, Nebraska, was evidence of his mental disorder that should render him ineligible for death row. Jenkins told the judge that a “serpent god” had ordered him to carve the “number of the beast” into his forehead, but apparently because Jenkins was looking into a mirror as he carved, his forehead display more resembled an upside-down 999 (or a lowercase ddd) than it did 666. [Omaha World-Herald, 4-17-2015]

Animals in the News

(1) Tidiest Animal: In a February science journal report, a University of Regensburg (Germany) professor noted that ants seem particularly orderly — with “toilet” facilities arranged in far corners of the nests. The researcher speculated that ants keep feces on hand in order to mine nutrients. (2) Least Competent Beaver: A local logger telephoned the Agder Natural History museum in Kristiansand, Norway, in April to report that he had encountered a beaver crushed to death because it was unable to judge which way the tree it was gnawing would fall. (Usually, beavers have an uncanny ability to avoid the tree, but some stragglers still populate their gene pool.) [Los Angeles Times, 2-18-2015] [The Local (Oslo), 4-16-2015]

Have a great weekend!

Crash

Crash Notes: Freaky Friday News

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Great Art

The National Gallery of Australia hosted a special series of tours of “James Turrell: A Retrospective” in early April — in which all guests were nude. The tours were staged by Australian artist Stuart Ringholt, who introduced the concept earlier at the Museum of Contemporary Art (and was nude, himself, for the Turrell show, though other gallery staff remained clothed). The post-tour cocktail reception was also in the nude. [ABC News, 3-26-2015]

The Australian “abstract expressionist” Aelita Andre began painting “professionally” at age 9 months, said her parents, and by 22 months had her own exhibit at Melbourne’s Brunswick Street gallery, and by age 4, the paintbrush-armed toddler had enjoyed a $24,000 sale. She has now also distinguished herself as an “artist” of another type while explaining her approach. In April, the now-8-year-old told News.com.au, “I interpret my style of painting as a magic, abstract universe. It doesn’t sit in one tiny sphere in all realism; it goes out and it explores the world.” She acknowledged seeing things (e.g., “rabbits”) that an 8-year-old might, but pointed out that she also sees “the cosmos.” “I just feel free. I don’t feel locked up in a tiny world.” [News.com.au (Sydney), 4-7-2015]

Wait, What?

In March, two men serving time for anti-gay murders became the first same-sex couple allowed to get married behind bars in Britain, at the Full Sutton Prison in East Yorkshire. The romance blossomed after the two men (Marc Goodwin, 31, serving life, and pedophile Mikhail Gallatinov, 40, who is eligible for release sooner) met at the prison library, and the wedding party included four relatives of the two killers. [Daily Telegraph, 3-29-2015]

In January of this year, the principal of W.F. Burns Middle School in Valley, Alabama, sent home a letter to parents with her suggestions on how to train students in the event an active shooter breaks into the classroom. In order not to be “sitting ducks” for the intruder, each child was asked to be armed with an 8-ounce canned food item to toss at any potential spree-killer. The can is designed to give the student a “sense of empowerment” in the face of extreme danger, the principal told WHNT-TV of Huntsville, but acknowledged that “(T)his is a sensitive topic.” [WHNT-TV, 1-12-2015]

Perspective

Newly elected Alabama state Sen. Larry Stutts, in one of his first actions in office, introduced a bill to repeal “Rose’s Law,” a 1999 legislation that, had it been on the books the year before, might have saved the life of new mother Rose Church, whose doctor was OB/GYN Larry Stutts. Rose’s Law gave new mothers a legal right to remain hospitalized for up to 96 hours after birth, depending on circumstances, but the new senator calls that right just another “Obamacare-style law” in which legislators in Montgomery intrude into doctors’ decisions. (Stutts also proposed to repeal the requirement for written cautions to patients whose mammograms show unusual density.) Though her daughter survived, Rose died of a heart attack following two “doctor’s decision” hospital releases, and her husband’s wrongful-death lawsuit against Stutts and others reached a settlement in 2005. [Alabama Political Reporter, 3-28-2015]

World’s Greatest Lawyer

A man in Mios, France, fired from his job several years ago, and who had been receiving unemployment benefits, suddenly found himself being dunned by the national labor agency when a tribunal finally ruled in the employer’s favor and ordered the man’s benefits paid back. The agency ordered the man’s current employer to garnishee his paycheck of the equivalent of $160-$210 per week — until, according to a March report on Paris’s The Local, he hired a certain (unnamed) lawyer. The labor agency’s new order requires the current employer, instead, to garnishee the pay by 1 centime (about a penny) a month for the next 26,126 years. [The Local (Paris), 3-30-2015]

But Lawyering Couldn’t Be Very Difficult

Kimberly Kitchen, 45, was a successful estate lawyer in Huntington, Pennsylvania, with more than 30 clients for the BMZ Law firm (so successful in her 10-year career that she had just been promoted to partner and had served as president of the local bar association) with but one complication — that in December she was finally revealed not to be a lawyer at all. Her diploma, bar exam results, and other documents were forgeries, according to the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office, which filed charges in March. [Associated Press via Yahoo News, 3-27-2015]

Can’t Possibly Be True

Dan Kennedy of Salt Lake City was driving to work on March 31 when a large bag fell off of the truck in front of him, and, for traffic safety, he stopped to move it from the road — and discovered it contained about 75 pounds’ worth of U.S. currency (about $22,000) in a plastic bag marked with the name of the Brinks armored truck company. The bag remained sealed (any tear could have produced “leakage” weakening Brinks’ claims on the loose money), and Kennedy dutifully contacted state troopers and handed it over. He sounded perplexed when Brinks immediately sent him a $5,000 gift check. “Why would I get anything for that?” “Almost anyone,” he said, would have done what he did. [KSL-TV, 4-6-2015]

Bright Ideas

Police in Malegaon, India, seeking to reduce tensions between Muslims and Hindus over the theft and butchering of cattle (which the latter hold sacred), requested that local farmers send them “mugshots” of their cows, along with other biographical information, such as why the farmer has the cow in the first place, so they could build a database to improve bovine security. [Agence France-Presse via MSN.com, 4-1-2015]

Elizabeth Quinn Gallagher, 23, received free around-the-world plane travel in December just for having the correct name. Jordan Axani used to have a girlfriend of that name, and bought the couple world-travel tickets, but they broke up, and the tickets were not refundable. Axani decided in December to find a compatible “Elizabeth Gallagher” to use the ticket with him, and the 23-year-old Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia, student won out over 18 other “Elizabeth Gallaghers.” The trip was “strictly platonic,” he said, though he acknowledged that Gallagher’s boyfriend did not seem pleased. [Associated Press via Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News, 12-17-2014]

Undignified Deaths

(1) Wayne Clark, 52, collapsed and died in January of an apparent heart attack seconds after walking into the Aldi grocery store in Edgewood, Maryland, and announcing a robbery. At his home, police discovered evidence linking Clark to two earlier robberies. (2) Anthony Stokes, 17, died in March from car-crash injuries as he was fleeing Roswell, Georgia, police following a home invasion. Stokes drew national attention in 2013 when, in order to receive a heart transplant, he promised to turn around his until-then-criminal life. Soon after the surgery, though, he was posting thug selfies on Facebook, and in January 2015 had been jailed for possessing stolen property. [Baltimore Sun, 1-24-2015] [New York Daily News, 4-1-2015]

It’s the final weekend of the month – enjoy it!

Crash

Crash Notes: Freaky Friday News

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Family First

On Feb. 9 a single traffic stop in Alderson, West Virginia, resulted in the arrest of six people from the same family, trafficking in stolen power tools (including one man who traded a leaf blower, hedge trimmer and weed trimmer for Percocet pills). However, a month later, members of an even more charming family were caught in raids in Elyria, Ohio. Officers from three jurisdictions arrested 34 people — all related to each other — in connection with a $400,000 drug operation. [Register-Herald (Beckley, W.Va.), 2-12-2015] [WEWS-TV (Cleveland), 3-18-2015]

Government in Action

– The predawn line in March actually started forming at midnight, snaking around the building in Maitland, Florida, but it wasn’t for concert tickets. The dozens of people needed coveted visitor passes just to speak to an IRS agent — because budget cuts and personnel reductions have limited services. “I just came here to verify my identity,” said one frustrated taxpayer, who arrived at 8 a.m. and would not be served that day. The agency said its budget had been cut by $1 billion since the congressional “sequestration” in 2011. [News 13 (Orlando), 3-16-2015]

– Nope, They Haven’t Grown Back Yet: Canada’s Department of Veterans Affairs requires any vet receiving disability benefits to have a doctor re-certify the condition annually — including people like Afghan war double-leg amputee Paul Franklin. He complained to Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News in March that he had been harshly threatened with loss of benefits if he failed to file (even though the department told CBC News that it might perhaps relax the certification requirement to “every third year”).

Wait, What?

– Several theaters in Denmark reported in March that they had begun adding subtitles — to Danish-language films, because so many customers complained that the dialogue was incomprehensible. Apparently, it is widely known that spoken Danish is harder to understand than the written, but Copenhagen’s website The Local reported that actors had rebelled at improving their diction, claiming that their “mumbling” adds “realism” to the films. [The Local, 3-6-2015]

– Attention to Detail: Major League pitcher Max Scherzer, new this season to the Washington Nationals, informed manager Matt Williams in March, according to a New York Times report, that he requires assistance when he warms up during daily practice sessions. He spoke of the importance of simulating actual game conditions, and since Scherzer is a starting pitcher, he needed someone to stand beside him and hum “The Star-Spangled Banner” before he begins his practice pitching. [New York Times, 3-2-2015]

Perspective

Lawyers Brendan and Nessa Coppinger live in a Washington, D.C., row house next door to a tobacco user, whose smoke seeps into their unit, and (especially since Nessa is pregnant) the Coppingers have filed a $500,000 lawsuit against the neighbor. However, the anti-corruption website Republic Report found that one of Nessa Coppinger’s clients is Suncoke Energy, which is being sued by four Ohio residents who allege that Suncoke does to them what Coppinger’s neighbor does to her and her fetus. (Suncoke’s “clouds or haze,” containing particulates of lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium, creosote, coal tar pitch and other alarming substances, allegedly threatens the neighbors’ health and property values.) [Salon.com, 3-24-2015]

The Continuing Crisis

– Superman: While thousands of Japanese women accept commercial pornographic movie roles, only a dwindling number of males (by one estimate, only 30 industrywide) are available to pair with them (“stallions on call,” according to one producer). That makes the undisputed king of Japanese porn, “Shimiken,” 35, in such demand that he works as many as six movies a day with few days off. His oeuvre, according to a double entendre-laden March profile in Details magazine, includes 7,000 films, with at least 7,500 “co-stars,” including, once, 72-year-old twins. To maintain his vigor, he hits the gym fanatically and downs mineral supplements and complex amino acids — but no Viagra. “I haven’t had to use it,” he said (adding, after a pause, “yet”). [Details, March 2015]

– Among Colorado’s legal contortions to improve mass murderer James Holmes’ chances of getting a “fair” trial, officials in January called more than 9,000 people to choose its jury of 12 (plus 12 alternates) who will somehow surmise whether the Aurora theater shooter was legally sane at the time he killed 12 and wounded 70. The 9,000 first had to complete lengthy questionnaires, with “thousands” returning for individual interrogation, and many for follow-up screening. (Among the prospects the judge encountered was one man skeptical of the death penalty — except in the case of a “zombie apocalypse.” Said Judge Carlos Samour Jr., “You meet some interesting people in this job.”) [Associated Press, 3-9-2015]

Unclear on the Concept

Some states that rushed to enact systems to evaluate schoolteachers by the test scores of their students left the details of such regimens for later, resulting, for example, in absurdities like the Washington, D.C., public school custodians and lunchroom workers who a few years ago were being evaluated, in part, by student test scores in English and math. In March, a New York public school art teacher, writing in The Washington Post, complained that his coveted “effective” rating one year had dropped to “developing” simply because his school’s student math score had fallen. Furthermore, since he is now “developing,” he must file plans for improving his performance (i.e., how, from art class, he can raise math scores among students he does not teach). [Washington Post, 3-25-2015]

Quintessential Australia

(1) In March, the Simoneau family in a town near Australia’s Sunshine Coast at first considered the three-foot-long slitherer to be one of the country’s ubiquitous snakes, but the home invader was moving very slowly and, it turned out, was merely from one of those hair-raising Australian species — gigantic earthworms. (2) Dogs and cats, as well as wild animals searching for food, sometimes show up with their heads caught in fences, buckets or food containers (and, to avoid starvation, need to be freed by helpful humans). In a suburb of Adelaide, in March, a deadly Eastern brown snake turned up needing similar aid, but it being Australia, its head was stuck in a beer can. [Sunshine Coast Daily, 3-5-2015] [ninemsn.com.au (ASydney), 3-15-2015]

Marketing Challenges

(1) Burger King Japan commenced an April rollout — limited in duration and only in Japan — of Burger King-branded cologne (mimicking the Whopper’s savory “flame-grilled scent”). Early reviews were favorable, even though the launch date, suspiciously, was April 1. (2) A small Virginia defense contractor won a $7 million job recently to help Pentagon analysts sift through supercomputer research, and according to the industry watchdog Defense One, the firm has decided to stick with its long-ago- selected original name. Even though events have overtaken that name, the company will still be known as Isis Defense. [The Verge, 4-1-2015] [DefenseOne.com, 3-9-2015]

Least Competent Criminals

Didn’t Go As Planned: (1) Surveillance cameras revealed a man with a gun inside the Circle K in Palm Bay, Florida, on Jan. 31. Since the clerk was in the back, with the cash register locked, the man decided to wait for him — for 17 seconds, according to the video — but then, impatient, fled empty-handed. (2) According to a February Ormond Beach, Florida, police report, Matthew Semione, 26, handed a holdup note (implying that he was armed) to a Sun Trust bank teller, who walked away to get money. Semione grew weary of waiting and left empty-handed, but was arrested minutes later. [Florida Today, 2-1-2015] [Daytona Beach News-Journal, 2-19-2015]

Have a great weekend!

Crash

Crash Notes: Freaky Friday News

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When a Mistake is No Longer an Accident

An unarmed man, suspected of no crime, who three years ago was shot 16 times by police while lying in his bed, told a Seattle Times reporter in March that he bears no ill will for the cops who shot him. Said Dustin Theoharis, now 32, “Sometimes (police) make mistakes.” Theoharis was napping in a friend’s house in Puyallup, Washington, when police arrived to arrest the friend’s son, and when Theoharis reached for his ID, one officer imagined a gun, and the two officers opened fire, hitting Theoharis in the jaw, both upper arms, both lower arms, wrist, hand, shoulder, abdomen and both legs. He spent months in a hospital and skilled nursing facility and today is largely immobile and unable to work. (He “won” legal settlements totaling $5.5 million, but one-third went to lawyers, and much of the rest has paid medical bills.) [Seattle Times, 3-21-2015]

Can’t Possibly Be True

According to the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, it appears that some of the 2016 Summer Olympics aquatic events will take place among floating household trash and raw sewage in Guanabara Bay (although Mayor Eduardo Paes noted to the Associated Press in March that the events are scheduled for the “cleanest part” of the bay). To acquire the games, organizers had promised a massive cleanup, but now, with 500 days to go, Paes conceded that the goals will not be met and that, indeed, infrastructure improvements still have not halted the sewage flow into the bay. [Associated Press, 3-23-2015]

Compelling Explanations

According to the 17-year-old bicyclist who was broadsided by a motorist at rush hour in Sheffield, England, on March 6, a woman at first alighted from the car to help. However, upon seeing the extent of the cyclist’s injuries, she apologized and walked away, telling the sprawled-out victim that her children were in the car and would be “scared” to see all that blood – and so she would drive them on to school. (Witnesses provided a description of the vehicle, but the hit-and-run driver was still at large.) [Huffington Post UK, 3-12-2015]

Trying to stake out a position on the Paris murders of the staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine, Pope Francis in January told an audience during his Philippines tour that freedom of speech is important, but that there are limits. “If my good friend Dr. (Alberto) Gasbarri (who organized the pope’s visit and was standing at his side) says a curse word against my mother,” Francis said, “he can expect a punch.” He then “threw” a mock “punch” toward Gasbarri. (The Vatican press office was later moved to clarify that violence in God’s name can never be justified.) [Associated Press via Yahoo News, 1-15-2015]

Cultural Diversity

Super-Protective Parenting: Standardized placement exams are typically far more determinative of student success in Asian countries than the United States, and in March in some testing centers in India’s Bihar state, “traditional” rampant cheating became grotesque. Dozens of parents were seen climbing outside walls of one center (to pass answers and notes to the students), reminiscent of movie depictions of Santa Anna’s army scaling the walls of the Alamo. The week-long secondary school exams, testing 1.4 million students, had early-on seen 400-plus students expelled, nine bags of cheat sheets confiscated, and at least seven parents arrested. However, officials admitted that their security forces were overmatched by parents desperate to assist their children. [BBC News, 3-19-2015]

The Litigious Society

In March, the Administrative Office of the Courts revealed a slight increase in federal litigation in 2014, but a much larger increase in prisoner lawsuits. Leading the upturn was Dale Maisano, 63, serving 15 years for aggravated assault, who last year alone filed 3,613 cases concerning his Florence, Arizona, facility. Counting previous prison stints, Maisano has filed 6,076 complaints against various officials and prison system health-care providers. (In a 2014 USA Today report, Maisano volunteered that he himself “could use some mental health help.”) [Washington Post, 3-20-2015]

Unclear on the Concept

In March, the investment bank Credit Suisse Group AG agreed to pay $16.25 million to settle a client’s charges that Credit Suisse gave faulty investment advice on two acquisitions by Freeport-McMoRan (one of the world’s largest producers of copper and gold). Actually, according to a Wall Street Journal report, Freeport will receive only $10 million in cash. The remaining amount it agreed to accept, to make up for Credit Suisse’s faulty advice, is $6.25 million worth of future investment advice. [Wall Street Journal, 3-17-2015]

Is This a Great Country or What?

Ion Productions of Cincinnati is eager to sell “the world’s first commercially available hand-held flamethrower” — the XM42, which could shoot 25-foot flames and costs between $700 and $800. Ion announced in March that it was seeking additional funding, touting the device’s uses (“killing insects,” “eliminating weeds between pavement cracks,” “melting snow,” “entertaining friends”) and assuring potential buyers that portable flamethrowers are less regulated than handguns. (Only California and Maryland legislators, and a few city or county officials, appear to be on top of the issue of amateur flame-throwing.) [Washington Post, 3-22-2015]

The Aristocrats!

Police in Grandville, Michigan, arrested David Slovinski, 51, following a pair of January incidents in which he approached employees of Meijer stores and showed them cellphone photos of his genitals. Slovinski, already a “sexually delinquent person” under the law, was on a GPS monitor during the incidents. He later told a police investigator that he knew what he was doing was wrong, but that showing his penis to people “cheers me up when I’m feeling down.” [MLive.com (Grand Rapids), 3-19-2015]

Least Competent Criminals

Recurring Theme: Perpetrators on the run frequently, unintentionally reveal their whereabouts by their need to show off on social media, but Christopher Wallace has reached legendary show-off status. Being sought in connection with a January burglary, he went to his home in Fairfield, Maine — and posted on the Snapchat site that that’s where he was. Police arrived and, during their canvass, noticed a brand-new Snapchat post from Wallace — mischievously writing that police were in his home right then, searching for him, but that he was cunningly hiding in a cabinet. Police opened the cabinet and arrested him. [Associated Press via Morning Sentinel (Waterville, Maine), 3-24-2015]

Have a GREAT weekend!

Crash

Crash Notes: Freaky Friday News

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#PuppyFriday: Man’s Best Friend

Researchers are now preparing a study seeking to confirm that dog slobber, by itself (and not just the psychological advantages of playing with and petting a dog), might provide human health benefits (such as relief from asthma, allergies and inflammation). Specialists from the University of Arizona and University of California San Diego point to existing evidence of the comparative healthiness of dog-owning families and suspect that canine saliva, like yogurt, may have unusual probiotic value. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 3-17-2015]

Updates

India Justice: Since Crash Notes last visited the judicial backlog in India (2013), the problem has worsened. The open caseload grew to 31,367,915 by the end of that year — a quantity that, if all of the country’s judges, working around the clock, each resolved 100 cases an hour, it would still take 35 years to clear. Bloomberg Business Week reported in January that lawyers needlessly fatten the backlog with multiple filings, mainly to jack up their fees (and thus encouraging “extortion threats,” in place of “law,” as the preferred method of resolving disputes). [Bloomberg Business Week, 1-8-2015]

Death-penalty opponents have long sought a clear-cut case in which an obviously innocent person was wrongfully executed, and unsurprisingly, the great state of Texas appears about to provide that, in Cameron Todd Willingham (convicted in 1992 and executed in 2004). Since his trial, the arson evidence “proving” murder has been thoroughly discredited, and recently an ex-cellmate’s 1996 letter surfaced — demanding that his own prosecutor comply with the sentence-reduction he was promised if he claimed that Willingham had “confessed” to him (and in fact the cellmate’s sentence was substantially reduced after he wrote the letter, though the cellmate later appeared grievously remorseful). Prosecutor John Jackson is facing a state investigation for not disclosing the sentencing promise before trial. [Washington Post, 3-9-2015]

Elf Justice: Public policymaking in the United States is often gridlocked by recalcitrant ideologues, but at least administrators are not constrained by elves, as in Iceland. After seven years of controversy, the country’s Road Administration recently approved a new pathway near Reykjavik that had been delayed by a troublesome, 70-ton boulder in the right-of-way — which could not be dislodged because it is believed to be a “church” for the country’s legendary “hidden people.” The elves’ leading spokeswoman, Ragnhildur Jonsdottir, finally declared, to officials’ relief, that the elves had accepted the boulder’s relocation (to the side of the road), having “been preparing for this for a long time, moving their energy to the new location.” [mbl.is (Reykjavik), 3-18-2015]

Four weeks ago, Crash Notes observed that a United Nations representative opposed a suggestion to open certain meetings to the public, fearing that it would only invite spectators in the gallery to throw “mayonnaise” at the delegates. However, two months earlier (and unknown to Freaky Friday News), the Belgian prime minister, defending his country’s austerity measures, had faced a group of protesters who had rained upon him french fries topped with mayonnaise. [Daily Mail (London), 12-22-2014]

Three months ago, Crash Notes highlighted a London man’s agreement to pay the equivalent of $500 for surgery on a nondescript office-aquarium goldfish, to relieve its constipation. Subsequently, however, veterinarians in Scotland (charging the equivalent of $750) performed cancer surgery on two goldfish, and in September 2014, in Melbourne, Australia, a goldfish received “brain surgery” (for the apparent bargain of $200). [Newser.com, 3-20-2015, 9-16-2014]

Recurring Themes

Japan may have its cat restaurants (where loaner felines lounge during meals) and even its penguin bar in Ikebukuro, and London (as reported here a month ago) an experimental owl cafe (with specially domesticated birds perched on diners’ shoulders), but not to be outdone, an entrepreneur in Seoul, South Korea, guesses that his Thanks to Nature Cafe will be a big hit — with sheep wandering through the dining room. (After all, according to the lunar calendar, 2015 is the Chinese zodiac Year of the Sheep.) Owner Lee Kwang-ho said his novel business model has attracted visitors from Macedonia, Saudi Arabia and New Zealand, among other countries. [The Independent (London), 2-6-2015]

Home Unimprovement: Recent cases to add to the classic “Don’t DIY” Files: (1) Fred Horne of Columbus, Ohio, burned down his house in February trying to smoke the bedbugs out of his couch. Only that one piece of furniture caught fire, but carrying it out of the house, Horne got stuck in a doorway, and the blaze spread. (2) Near Darwin, Australia, in February, an unnamed woman living in an RV came face-to-face with a snake and decided to encourage the serpent to leave — by lighting a fire beneath the RV’s floor. The vehicle was destroyed but, said the police superintendent, “we don’t know what happened to the snake.” [WBNS-TV (Columbus), 2-4-2015] [Australian Broadcasting Corp. News, 2-25-2015]

Supporting the Troops: Federal law prohibits foreclosures and repossessions (unless by court order) against active-duty military members, but Americans would hardly know that from observing creditors. A 2012 Government Accountability Office report found at least 15,000 violations by U.S. financial institutions, small and large, including J.P. Morgan Chase (violations Crash Notes reported in 2011). In February, auto lender Santander Consumer USA agreed to pay $9.35 million to settle charges that it illegally seized cars of 760 service members (some while deployed in war zones) over the last five years. [New York Times, 2-26-2015]

Smash-Mouth Competition: Dentist Leopold Weinstein, 63, was arrested in February in Camarillo, California, and charged with suspicion of setting fire to three competing dental offices (one for the fourth time). One victim said the arsonist even drilled holes in the roof and poured in gasoline to accelerate the blaze. (Later in February, in Hua Hin, Thailand, a 36-year-old woman was arrested for scattering screws on a busy street in order to increase business for her husband’s tire shop.) [KCBS-TV (Los Angeles), 2-2-2015] [Khaosod English (Bangkok), 2-25-2015]

— Artists Working in the Medium of Silicone: Padge-Victoria Windslowe, a “Gothic hip-hop” performer known as “Black Madam” who carried out buttocks-enhancement procedures on the side (“thousands,” she bragged) using industrial-grade silicone (and Krazy Glue to seal the injection site), was convicted in Philadelphia in March of the third-degree murder of one “patient” whose silicone leaked to her lungs. During the trial, Windslowe told the jury she had been called the “Michelangelo of buttocks injections” — though the reigning overachiever still appears to be Ron Oneal Morris, some of whose patients achieved higher booty-circumference numbers. (Morris is awaiting trial in Miami on manslaughter charges.) [Associated Press via Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, N.J.), 3-9-2015]

Also, Recurring…

(1) Devin Gesell, 17, and two underage accomplices are the most recent burglars to make off with a deceased person’s ashes, believing they had swiped cocaine. Disappointment resulted from the very first taste, and the cremains were immediately tossed from the getaway car. (St. Peters, Missouri, March). (2) A 35-year-old woman became the most recent to get stuck climbing down a chimney, but she wasn’t a would-be burglar. She was trying to enter the house of a former boyfriend (and father of her three children), who had forbidden her presence in the home. (Also, she was naked, perhaps to assist her descent.) (Woodcrest, California, January) [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3-6-2015] [KCBS-TV (Los Angeles), 1-3-2015]

Enjoy your first weekend of April!

Crash

Crash Notes: Freaky Friday News

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Witness Protection

Even dangerous felons sometimes serve short sentences, but Benito Vasquez-Hernandez, 58 — guilty of nothing — has been locked up for nearly 900 days (as of early March) as a “material witness” in a Washington County, Oregon, murder case. The prosecutor is convinced that Vasquez-Hernandez saw his own son, Eloy, murder a woman in 2012, and the case is on hold until the victim’s body is found. The judge has given Vasquez-Hernandez two opportunities to leave, both impractical (pay a $500,000 bond or give a video deposition, but he speaks no English, is illiterate in Spanish and, said his lawyer, might be mentally incompetent). (Consolation: Material witnesses in Oregon earn $7.50 a day.) [The Oregonian, 3-12-2015]

The Continuing Crisis

The trendy St. Pauli neighborhood in historic Hamburg, Germany, suffers its share of uncouth revelers who wander out from nightclubs seeking restroom facilities but too often choose walls of storefronts and private homes, reported London’s The Guardian in a March dispatch. The solution, according to the civic group IG St. Pauli: paint jobs with an “intensely hydrophobic” product known as Ultra-Ever Dry,” which somewhat propels liquid aimed at it right back toward the source by creating an air barrier on the surface. In other words, said an IG St. Pauli official, it’s “pee back” time, and shoes and trouser legs should expect splashes. [The Guardian, 3-4-2015]

We have “139 frogs, toads, lizards, turtles,” Ms. Thayer Cuter told Seattle’s MyNorthwest.com in March, touting her Edmonds, Washington, amphibian rescue shop, especially the heroic job done recently on Rocky, the Texas toad who came with stones in his tummy. “He had to have a lot of enemas (but) Rocky is rock-free now” and, after passing all the pebbles, is finally able to eat. Added Cuter, turtles are underrated pets, “very social” and love massages and “cuddl(ing).” [MyNorthwest.com, 3-11-2015]

The Job of the Researcher: Cockroaches can be bold explorers or shy and withdrawn, according to recent work by researchers at Belgium’s Universite Libre de Bruxelles, who caught a bunch of them, affixed radio tags and studied their movements. “Explorers” are necessary for locating food sources, although, obviously, they are also most likely to find Roach Motels; “shy, cautious” roaches are necessary for survival and group stability, and a mixture of the types ensures cockroaches’ legendary survivability. A Mother Nature News commentator wrote, hopefully, that understanding roaches’ personalities might make us “less quick” to “grab a shoe.” [Mother Nature News, 2-6-2015]

Can’t Possibly Be True

Ranson IB Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina, has a strict dress code (requiring, for example, only “hunter green” outerwear). Thus, on Jan. 27, when parent Chanda Spates dispatched her three kids in improperly hued coats, Ranson officials confiscated the “contraband” clothing, leaving the three (along with 20 other sartorial miscreants) to make their way home after classes with no outerwear at all — though the temperature that afternoon was in the 30s. (Following parental outrage, the administrators apologized.) [Fox News, 2-1-2015]

A female teacher working for the Arizona Department of Corrections was brutally assaulted in prison by a sexual predator and has sued the department, but in February the state attorney general’s office, contesting the lawsuit, told the judge, basically, that the teacher understood all along that she could get attacked in prison. She was administering inmates a GED exam, but that day had no guard support, not even one to hear her screams, and was given an emergency radio tuned to an unmonitored frequency. Nonetheless, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Weisbard essentially shrugged: “The risk of harm, including assault, always exist(s) at a prison like Eyman.” [The Arizona Republic, 2-4-2015]

Compelling Explanations

Clueless in Florida’s Panhandle: (1) Debra Mason, 58, was arrested for theft of a pickup truck in Destin, Florida, in January — and according to police, Mason said she knew it was stolen property but “didn’t think it was ‘that’ stolen.” (2) Ten miles away in Mary Esther, Florida, in February, Robert Pursley, 54, was arrested for DUI and was asked about items in his truck. According to the police report, Pursley insisted that everything was his — “except for anything illegal.” A baggie of cocaine was in the truck’s center console. [Daily News of Northwest Florida, 1-24-2015, 2-25-2015]

U-S-A! U-S-A!

Americans Abroad: (1) American sisters Lindsey, 22, and Leslie Adams, 20, were convicted, fined and deported by Cambodia’s Siem Reap Court in February after taking several nude photos of each other at the Preah Khan temple, apparently for their social media “friends.” The Angkor Archaeological Park, where the temple is located, is reportedly the world’s largest religious monument. (2) Two other American women were arrested in March for carving 8-inch initials into a wall at Rome’s ancient Colosseum and then snapping selfies for their friends. [Phnom Penh Post, 2-9-2015] [CNN, 3-9-2015]

Recurring Theme: Among the most recent lives ruined by badly botched prosecutions: (1) Joseph Sledge, now 70, was released from prison in North Carolina in January after wrongly serving 36 years for a double murder; hair samples (revealing another man’s DNA), long thought to be lost, were discovered in a court clerk’s storage room. (2) Kirk Odom, 52, served 22 years after his wrongful Washington, D.C., conviction for rape and robbery; a court in February awarded him $9.2 million in compensation, but on the other hand, after several prison rapes, he had contracted HIV. (Odom is one of several D.C. men convicted of rape or murder based on erroneous analysis by an “elite” FBI hair-analysis unit.) [Los Angeles Times, 1-23-2015] [Washington Post, 2-28-2015]

Least Competent Criminals

Not Ready for Prime Time: (1) Tyler Lankford, 21, attempting a robbery of Minerva’s Bakery in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, in January, committed (according to police) the rookie mistake of laying his gun on the counter so he could pick up the money with both hands. The clerk grabbed the gun, and Lankford fled but was arrested in March. (2) There are expert counterfeiters, and then there is Cass Alder, 22, convicted by a court in Canada’s Prince Edward Island of trying to pass $100 bills that had been printed on napkins but affixed by Alder onto thicker paper. [KDKA-TV (Pittsburgh), 3-4-2015] [The Guardian (Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island), 2-25-2015]

Is This a Great Country, or What?

“America’s Game” Is Gaming the Government: The U.S. Treasury recently took in more than $40 billion by auctioning off part of the wireless spectrum, but one buyer — the Dish satellite-TV provider — got a discount worth $3.25 billion by convincing the Federal Communications Commission that it is a “very small business” (despite its market value of $34 billion). Using awe-inspiring loophole-management, Dish created a separate company in partnership with a small Alaskan Natives’ group, which theoretically “managed” the company — though the Alaskans’ hands were tied by an earlier Dish-friendly contract. Thus, Dish got the benefits of being “very small” while retaining control — a “mockery” (said one commissioner) of the FCC’s simple-minded attempt to help small businesses. [New York Times, 2-25-2015]

Seeing Jesus the Christ and the Mother Mary

Recent Personal Appearances: Swansea, Wales, January (Jesus in fur in a Yorkshire terrier’s ear); Crowthorne, England, January (Jesus as bird poop on a car); West Kilbride, England, December (Jesus on a stone in a garden); Pocono Summit, Pennsylvania, November (Jesus on a serving of chicken breast); Polk City, Iowa, November (Mary on a tree trunk); Memphis, Tennessee, September (Jesus on a tree trunk); Fresno, California, October (Jesus in a plume of smoke in a house fire); Ecorse, Michigan, September (Jesus on a pierogi); Liberty, Texas, September (Jesus on a downed tree); Jackson County, Mississippi, May (Jesus in a rusted air-conditioner unit). Swansea: [Metro.co.uk (London), 1-19-2015] Crowthorne: [Metro.co.uk, 2-2-2015] West Kilbride: [BT.com (London), 1-2-2015] Pocono Summit: [WNEP-TV (Scranton), 11-14-2014] Polk City: [KCCI-TV (Des Moines), 11-14-2014] Memphis: [WMC-TV (Memphis), 9-24-2014] Fresno: [KSEE-TV (Fresno), 10-29-2014] Ecorse: [WXYZ-TV (Detroit), 9-7-2014] Liberty: [KHOU-TV (Houston), 9-16-2014] Jackson County: [WLOX-TV (Biloxi), 5-30-2014]

Have a GREAT weekend!

Crash