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NEWS OF THE WEIRD

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News of the odd and strange with Chuck Shepherd.

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Channeling George Carlin

“Military Intelligence”: The head of U.S. Navy intelligence has for more than two years been prohibited from accessing classified information (as the Pentagon disclosed to The Washington Post in January). Vice Admiral Ted Branch came under investigation in 2013 in a corruption scandal involving a foreign defense contractor and various Navy personnel and might have been suspended from all duties — except that, given the political gridlock in Washington, no consensus candidate has emerged. No charges have been filed against Branch, but before he enters any room at the Pentagon, classified material must be stowed away.

Recurring Themes

— New World Order: (1) Yet another woman gave birth to her own granddaughter in January. Tracey Thompson, 54, offered to be the surrogate mother for her fertility-challenged daughter, Kelley, and delivered a 6-pound, 11-ounce girl at The Medical Center in Plano, Texas. (2) After notable successes in the United States, Latin America claimed in December its first transgender pregnancy after Ecuadorean Fernando Machado announced he was expecting a child with his partner Diane Rodriguez. Fernando used to be “Maria”; Diane used to be “Luis”; and though both undergo hormone therapy, they have retained their birth organs.

— Overexcited police departments occasionally feel the need to safeguard towns by zealous enforcement of anti-gambling laws. In November, police in Altamonte Springs, Florida, raided the Escondido Community Clubhouse, formally shutting down the retirement village’s games of bingo, bunko, penny poker and — most controversially — the weekly sessions of the culturally venerated mahjong. Although none of the games is illegal under state law, advertising for-money games is, and the notices in the Heritage Florida Jewish News were such attention-getters that the pots for the games often grew to exceed the $10 legal maximum. (Given mahjong’s sociological significance, news of the bust was even reported in Jerusalem’s Times of Israel.)

— Perspective: On the heels of a similar program in Richmond, California, Washington, D.C.’s D.C. Council authorized funding in January to pay stipends to notorious criminals if they stop committing crimes. Police would identify up to 50 residents likely to violently offend again in 2016 and offer them periodic cash payments plus special training and educational benefits — as long as they stay out of trouble. Officials in Richmond (once overwhelmed by gun deaths) say their program, commenced almost 10 years ago, has produced a 76 percent drop in gun-related crime.

— Reports of the prominence of animal urine in various cultures’ health regimens have surfaced periodically in News of the Weird, and in December, in Al Qunfudhah, Saudi Arabia, a shop selling camel urine (with a long history of alleged medicinal qualities) was closed by authorities after they found 70 camel-urine bottles actually filled with shopkeeper-urine.

— About a decade ago, several fast-food restaurants (especially during evening shifts staffed by sometimes inadequately trained managers) were plagued by a prank phone-caller, posing as law enforcement requesting investigative help, asking managers to strip-search employees for “contraband” and to describe the searches in real time to the caller. (A suspect was arrested, and the calls stopped.) Managerial judgment was also on display at a Morro Bay, California, Burger King in January when a prank caller somehow convinced BK employees to begin shattering the store’s windows because of a purported “gas leak.” Several windows were smashed in, and an investigation of the call is ongoing.

A News of the Weird Classic
(October 2011)

A judge in Nice, France, ruled in September (2011) that Article 215 of the French civil code (defining marriage as a “shared communal life”) in fact requires that husband and wife have sex. A husband identified only as Jean-Louis B. had evidently lost interest years earlier, and his wife was granted a divorce. Apparently emboldened by her victory, she then filed a monetary claim against the husband for the value of his 21-year-long lack of service, and the judge awarded her 10,000 euros (then worth about $13,710 — $653 a year).

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