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News of the Weird by Chuck Shepherd

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News of the odd and strange, reported weekly by Chuck Shepherd

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That New York Attitude

Gregory Reddick, 54, and his employer, SJQ Sightseeing Tours, filed a lawsuit in June against New York City for “harass(ing)” them and hampering their ability to rip off tourists, specifically, interfering with their “right” to sell tickets for $200 or more for trips on the Staten Island Ferry —which is actually free to ride. Reddick was wearing an (unauthorized) “Authorized Ticket Agent” jacket when arrested, and according to a New York Post account, believes he operates legally because he misunderstands a technicality in a 2013 court case. Prosecutors, who described the waterfront tourist-exploitation scene as “the wild west,” found Reddick with seven dates of birth, five aliases and six Social Security numbers.

Can’t Possibly Be True

—Doctors at a hospital in Dongyang, China, removed 420 kidney stones from a single patient in June (a “Mr. He”). One of the surgeons told reporters that a soy-heavy diet of tofu was probably to blame. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most stones removed from one kidney during surgery (in India in 2009 in a three-hour operation) is (this is not a misprint) 172,155.

—In May, the Museum of Modern Arts in Krakow, Poland, began showing a video of naked men and women entering a room and playing a game of tag —then revealing that that particular room was actually a building in a Holocaust gas-chamber facility in Auschwitz. The idea, apparently, was to bring three affected nations (Poland, Germany and Israel) together, and among the sponsors of the exhibit was the Israeli embassy in Warsaw, despite criticism that the work was somewhat “repulsive and offensive.” (A similar project opened in Tartu, Estonia, in February, but was closed almost immediately after objections from Jewish-advocacy organizations.)

—U.S. students may be clever, but they apparently badly trail Chinese students in the genius of cheating on exams (and especially on the use of cheat-enabling technology). The government’s newest anti-fraud weapon, employed recently in the city of Luoyang during the crucial university-determining tests, is a six-propeller drone that can hover above a cavernous exam hall, trying to pinpoint the locations inside in which designated ace test-takers are radio-transmitting correct answers to their clients, whose tiny earbuds are worn deep in ear canals. Cheating students also use beverage-bottle cameras, ordinary-appearing eyeglasses that can scan and transmit images, and fingerprint film (to fool fingerprint scanners that otherwise would root out test-taking “ringers”).

—France’s daily La Provence reported in May that at least one enterprising drug dealer in Marseilles had begun distributing “loyalty cards” to its best customers, offering a 10-euro discount on future sales after that customer’s card was full (all 10 squares stamped from previous sales). Said one buyer, “I thought I was hallucinating. I thought I was at a pizzeria or something.” The card also expressed thanks for the patronage and reminded the customer of operating hours (11 a.m. to midnight).

—Rehab Will Be Difficult: Laquanda Newby, 25, was charged with three counts of child abuse on June 7 at the county courthouse in Richmond, Virginia, after police spotted her car with two children locked inside on a day in which the temperature reached the 90s. Newby had parked at the courthouse that day in order to attend her hearing on charges that on May 26, she had locked her kids in a hot car while she was out on errands.

Wait, What?

Two students at Florida’s Valencia College filed a federal lawsuit in May against the school and three instructors for forcing them to undergo “transvaginal probes” as part of their sonography (ultrasound) curriculum. According to the lawsuit, the school insisted that students learn the probing on each other because, as an instructor said, “Experience is the best teacher.” The plaintiffs also charged that some instructors and a student leader (dubbed the “TransVag Queen”) made inappropriate, sexualized comments about bodies during the demonstrations. Though the school defended the practice initially, it ordered the live probes halted about a week after the lawsuit was filed and announced lessons would in the future be conducted on simulators.

Compelling Explanations

—Luis Cruz, 46, sought pre-trial release in Springfield, Massachusetts, in June —even though he had been charged with heroin distribution and even though his rap sheet, counting his record in Florida, was 52 pages long. His court-appointed lawyer, Anna Levine, was not deterred, arguing that bail was not necessary to assure that her client would appear for trial because none of the 52 pages, she said, contained an arrest for failure to appear. Said Levine, earnestly, “It’s a 52-page record for showing up.”

—“(J)ust one of those spur-of-the-moment crazy things,” explained John Paul Jones Jr., in May after he had intentionally driven his pickup truck through his living room in Senoia, Georgia. He told a reporter that he had been on the phone with his wife and gotten angry, and “one thing led to another.” Fortunately, Jones is a contractor, and has been out of work for a while and thus figures he can keep busy fixing his mess. The house “needed some work,” he said, “needed air conditioning.” Jones said the truck fared well, with just a few scratches.

Questionable Judgments

Teachers Just Wanna Have Fun: Some parents of Encinal High School students, in Alameda, California, demanded an investigation in June after learning from a counselor at an after-school program that students had been “assigned” the extra-credit project of rummaging through their parents’ bedrooms looking for sex toys (and bringing in a “selfie” holding one). Administrators told parents that the “assignment” was not a requirement of the course but could not ascertain how many students actually presented show-and-tells to the class.

A News of the Weird Classic (July 2011)

Blow Against the Empire: Bank of America (BA) had the tables turned in June (2011) after the company wrongfully harassed an alleged mortgage scofflaw in Naples, Florida. BA had attempted to foreclose on homeowners Warren and Maureen Nyerges even though the couple had bought their house with cash —paid directly to BA. It took BA a year and a half to understand its mistake —that is, until the Nyergeses sued and won a judgment for expenses of $2,534, which BA contemptuously ignored. The Nyerges obtained a seizure order, and two sheriff’s deputies, with a moving truck, arrived at the local BA branch on June 3 (2011) to load $2,534 worth of furniture and computers from the bank’s offices and lobby. After an hour on the phone with higher-ups, the local BA manager wrote a check for $2,534.

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