News of the Weird: U-S-A! U-S-A!

Although discouraging the marriage of children in developing nations has been U.S. foreign policy for years, a data-collecting watchdog group in America disclosed in February that 27 U.S. states have no minimum marriage ages and estimates that an average of almost 25,000 children age 15 and under are permitted to marry every year — “estimates” because some states do not keep records by age.

Compelling Explanations

1.) Glenn Schloeffel, vice president of the Central Bucks school board in a Philadelphia suburb, recommended that science books be viewed skeptically on climate change because teenage depression rates have been increasing. Surely, he said, one factor depressing students is reading all that alarming climate-change data. 2.) Seattle’s Real Estate Services rental agency has informed the family of the late Dennis Hanel that it would not return Hanel’s security deposit following his January death because Hanel had not given the lease-required notice giving up his apartment. He had cancer, but died of a heart attack. Washington state law requires only that the landlord provide an explanation why he or she is keeping the deposit.

Runaway Math

1.) John Haskew, who told investigators that he was “self-taught on the banking industry,” evidently thought he might succeed making bogus wire transfers to himself from a large unidentified national bank, in the amount of $7 billion. He pleaded guilty in February in Lakeland, Florida. He said he thought he “deserved” the money. 2.) Katherine Kempson, 49, deciding to pay cash for a $1.2 million home, allegedly forged — according to York County, Pennsylvania, deputies — a proof of funds letter from the Members 1st credit union. Home sales are, of course, highly regulated formalities, and several attempted closings were halted when her money kept not showing up. One deputy told a reporter, “I’m guessing that she probably didn’t think it through.”

The highest bail amount ever ordered in America — $4 billion for murder suspect Antonio Willis — was briefly in play in Killeen, Texas, in February, set by Bell County’s elected Justice of the Peace Claudia Brown. Bail was reduced 10 days later to $150,000 by a district court judge, prompting Brown to acknowledge that she set the $4 billion to call attention to Texas’ lack of bail standards, which especially punishes indigent arrestees with little hope of raising even modest amounts when accused of minor crimes.

Wait, What?

Researchers including Rice University biochemist John Olson revealed in a February journal article that one reason a man avoided anemia even though he had a gene mutation that weakened his hemoglobin was because he has been a tobacco smoker — that the carbon monoxide from smoke had been therapeutic. His daughter, with the same gene mutation, did develop anemia since she never smoked. Although, Olson suggested, there are other ways besides smoking to strengthen hemoglobin, such as indulging in massive amounts of Vitamin C.

Several death-penalty states continue to be frustrated by whether their lethal-injection cocktails make death so painful as to be unconstitutionally cruel, and Arizona’s latest solution, announced as a Department of Corrections protocol, is for the condemned to supply their own presumably less unpleasant drugs. There was immediate objection, noting that such drugs might only be available by black market — and questioning whether the government can legally force someone to kill himself.

People With Underdeveloped Consciences

1.) Just before Christmas, Tammy Strickland, 38, was arrested in Polk County, Florida, and charged with stealing 100 toys from a Toys for Tots collection box. 2.) In February, thieves unbolted and stole a PlayStation from the children’s cancer ward at Wellington Hospital in New Zealand. 3.) Judith Permar, 56, was found dead, stuck in a clothing donation drop-off box in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, in February — a result, police said, of trying to “steal” items. She had driven to the box in her Hummer.

Recent Alarming Headlines

“America’s Top Fortune Cookie Writer Is Quitting Because of Writer’s Block,” Time magazine, Feb. 3, 2017; “Vaginal Pain Helps Exonerate Man Accused of Murder” (emergency medical technicians treating his sister corroborated his alibi), Miami Herald, Feb. 8, 2017; “Dresden Protest Against Anti-Islam Pegida Group Banned Over Snowball Fight Fears,” The Independent (London), Jan. 24, 2017.

Phallic News From Overseas

1.) In February, doctors at Narayana Health City in Bangalore, India, were successful in a five-hour, 20-specialist surgery normalizing an infant born with the chromosomal abnormality “polymelia” — which resulted in four legs and two penises. Doctors praised the parents, from rural Puladinni village, for recognizing the issue as “medical” and not as “superstition.” 2.) In February, police in southern Bangladesh arrested a family that used a fake penis to convince neighbors that the family had the power of genies. The villagers had known the family had a girl, but overnight the genies had “changed” her into a “boy,” thus frightening the villagers into making offerings to the family.

Undignified Deaths

1.) Clifford Jones, 58, was killed in a one-vehicle crash in Detroit in January, having lost control of his car because, according to Michigan State Police, he was distracted by watching pornography on his cellphone. He was also not wearing pants. 2.) Leslie Ray Charping, 75, of Galveston, Texas, lived “much longer than he deserved,” according to his daughter, in a widely shared obituary in February, in a life that “served no obvious purpose.” The death notice referenced his “bad parenting” and “being generally offensive,” and closed with “Leslie’s passing proves that evil does in fact die.”

Least Competent Criminals

Willie Anthony, 20, and Jamarqua Davis, 16, were arrested in Kannapolis, North Carolina, in February after, police said, they broke into a Rent-a-Center at 2 a.m. and stole a big-screen TV. After loading the set into one car, they drove off in separate vehicles, but in their haste, smashed into each other in the parking lot. Both men subsequently drove the wrong way down South Cannon Boulevard, and both then accidentally crashed separately into other vehicles, allowing police to catch up.

The Passing Parade

1.) Nelson Foyle, 93, is believed to be Britain’s longest-time patron of the same pub — the Dog and Gun in Salisbury, England — and fellow drinkers recently bought him an honorary “lordship” title to mark his 80th year on the establishment’s barstools. 2.) An art collective in a Los Angeles storefront re-created, for a two-week run in January, a retro video store that featured only boxed VHS editions of the movie Jerry Maguire — about 14,000 copies.

A News of the Weird Classic (May 2013)

The beauty pageant each April at the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, Texas, requires traditional abilities — interview poise, evening-gown fashion, talent — but also some skill and inclination to milk and skin rattlers. High school senior Kyndra Vaught won this year’s (2013) Miss Snake Charmer, wearing jeweled boots one night for her country-western ballad, then Kevlar boots and camouflage chaps the next as she took on dozens of rattlers in the wooden snake pit. Vaught expertly held up one snake, offered its tail-end rattles for a baby to touch, then helped measure, milk and skin the buzzing, slithery serpent.

Author: Chuck Shepherd

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