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News of the Weird

(c) 1999-2001 , Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved.

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LEAD STORY -- Extreme Hobbies

John Weigel and Olaf Danielson are engaged in a frenzied battle of "extreme birdwatching," each hoping to close out 2016 as the new North American champ of the American Birding Association, and a September Smithsonian piece had Weigel ahead, 763 to 759. Danielson is perhaps better known for doing much of his birding in the nude (and is the author of the provocatively titled volume, "Boobies, Peckers and Tits" -- all common names of popular birds). The old one-year record was 749, and the association attributes the larger numbers this year to El Nino, which has disrupted food supplies and driven birds into different locations. [, 9-21-2016]

Fine Points of the Law

-- Compelling Explanation: Senate bill 1342, passed in the Idaho legislature earlier in 2016, authorizes schools to use the Bible as a reference in classrooms (despite the U.S. Supreme Court's having specifically condemned a previous version of the bill ever since 1964). The bill's sponsor, Rep. Sage Dixon, said he thought his law was nonetheless constitutional because, "The little Supreme Court in my head says this is OK." (Even so, Gov. C.L. Otter vetoed the bill.) [, 3-30-2016]

-- Nebraska voters in November will be asked whether to keep the state's longstanding death penalty for murder -- even though retaining it will require them to vote "repeal." The legislature replaced death row last year with mandatory life sentences, and the referendum is to "repeal" or "retain" that legislation. Hence, to abolish the death penalty, voters must select "retain." The state attorney general, and election officials, declined to challenge the confusing arrangement, instead suggesting that Nebraskans are smart enough to figure the whole thing out. [Omaha World-Herald, 9-20-2016]

-- The Arizona legislature passed a child-molestation law recently that made any adult contact with children's genitals a criminal act, but unlike in other states' similar laws, neglected to include a requirement that the outlawed contact be for "sexual" purposes. Consequently, in principle, parents may be criminally liable, for example, for bathing a baby or changing its diaper. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled in September that it is up to the legislature to change the law, but some lawmakers professed indifference, confident that district attorneys will use good judgment about whom to prosecute. [Slate, 9-16-2016]

Fun With Pennies

(1) Robert Napolitan, 34, was arrested in Taylor, Pennsylvania, in September and charged with theft of a drum containing 300,000 pennies from his employer, Pyne Freight Lines. That steel drum weighs several tons and, of course, netted Napolitan only $3,000. (By contrast, in New York City's Diamond District in September, a brazen thief made off with a 5-gallon drum containing 86 pounds of something else -- gold flakes, valued at more than $1 million -- and is still at large.) (2) For some reason, according to a High Point, North Carolina, TV report, Larry Hall of Randolph County took seven-plus weeks out of his life recently and glued pennies to cover (except for windows and chrome) his 2000 Chevrolet Blazer (a total of 51,300 coins). [Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.), 9-9-2016] [New York Daily News, 10-1-2016] [WGHP-TV (High Point, N.C.), 10-3-2016]

Great Art!

The 1,496-page German novel "Bottom's Dream," translated into (broken) English, more than twice as long as "War and Peace," recently reached U.S. bookstores as a 13-pound behemoth, bound with a 14-inch spine that, based on a September Wall Street Journal description, will almost surely go unread. The story follows two translators and their teenage daughter over a single day as they try to interpret the works of Edgar Allen Poe, making for slow going for anyone not already conversant with Poe. [Wall Street Journal, 9-24-2016]

Bright Ideas

-- While other vehicle safety-control engineers work on actually slowing down cars and buses when a risk is detected on the road ahead, one of Volvo's recent innovations appears aimed merely at bullying pedestrians to get out of the way. According to a September report on, the safety "control" for a Volvo bus consists of progressively louder horn-honking to scare off the pedestrian. [, 9-23-2016]

-- Simple As That: (1) British farmer Pip Simpson, who lost nearly 300 sheep to rustlers in recent years, recently sprayed his remaining herd of almost 800 sheep a bright luminous orange (harmless, he said, though the sheep's opinions are unknown) to make them less attractive to thieves. (2) Saudi Arabia switched to the 365-day Gregorian calendar on Oct. 2, in part to reduce government expenses. Bureaucrats had been using the Islamic lunar Hijri (354- day) calendar, but now must work a 3 percent longer year for the same salaries. [Westmorland Gazette, 9-27-2016] [Gulf News via (Moscow), 10-3-2016]

Latest Religious Messages

In 2014, British entrepreneur Azad Chaiwala, 33, created the matchmaking service Second Wife -- because, just as men have trouble finding that special person, some Mormons, Muslims and others have at least as much trouble finding that special additional person. (Most clients, he said, are in the United States and the United Kingdom, though bigamy is illegal in both places.) The service was so successful that Chaiwala this year inaugurated, which he adamantly defended as a moral alternative to adultery and one-night-stand services such as Tinder. [New York Times, 9-21-2016]

Police Report

(1) The long-rap-sheeted Darren Clinton, 48, was in the process, according to Minneapolis police, of burglarizing a hotel room in September when an occupant returned and surprised him. Clinton, wielding a knife, escaped momentarily, but the occupant summoned his nearby roommates -- the visiting University of Arizona men's cross-country team -- and after a chase, which included jumping several barriers, the runners steered a severely winded Clinton into the arms of a state trooper. (2) Kerry Johnson, 52, was arrested in August in Charleston, West Virginia, and charged with robbing a City National Bank branch. Police said Johnson had been gambling at the Mardi Gras Casino in nearby Nitro when he ran out of money at the blackjack table. (He left a $25 chip to preserve his spot, excused himself, went to the bank, and came back with more money.) [Star Tribune, 10-1-2016] [Gazette Mail (Charleston), 8-3-2016]

People With Issues

Based on recent convictions for indecent exposure, Anthony Hardison, 50, has a public masturbation habit, and it is apparently so bad that he engaged once again in August -- while he was in the lobby of the sheriff's office in Seattle, where he had reported to register as a sex offender. He was arrested. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9-19-2016]

The Passing Parade

Austrian Edition: (1) A massive, mile-long traffic jam on the Austrian A2 highway in October between Inzersdorf and Vosendorf was caused by a huge flock of starlings crashing into cars and falling to the road. Ornithologists told reporters that the birds must have earlier feasted en masse on fermented berries and were navigating under the influence. (2) In September, an unnamed woman was detained at the airport in Graz, Austria, because her suitcase held two plastic containers with her late husband's intestines. She had come from Morocco seeking doctors' opinions whether he had been poisoned (but doctors told local media they would have to examine the entire body to determine that). Police said no laws had been broken. [The Local (Vienna), 10-6-2016] [BBC News, 9-26-2016]

A News of the Weird Classic (December 2012)

Gary Medrow, 68, has periodically surfaced in News of the Weird since 1991 for his unique behavior of using a false identity to persuade Milwaukee-area strangers over the phone to lift other strangers off the ground -- behavior for which he has occasionally been jailed and ordered to psychiatric care. After a recent period of calm, Medrow slipped in November (2012) and was charged with impersonating a photojournalist to convince two Cedarburg (Wisconsin) High School students to hoist each other on their shoulders. At an earlier hearing, Medrow said that his "addiction" helps him to relieve tension and anxiety. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11-16-2012]

Thanks This Week to Peter Swank, Deborah Rogers, Mel Birge, and Pete and Sara Discenza, and to the News of the Weird Board of Editorial Advisors.



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