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July 21 -August 3
VOL.14 ISSUE. 24

News Quirks

Roland Sweet
Published Thursday December 29, 10:41 am
2011 was a weird and wacky year

Photo Credit: Illustration by Myron Campbell


As is the tradition ’round here, we’ve rifled through last year’s News Quirks columns to find Roland Sweet’s strangest, funniest and best reports from the weird and wonderful world we all share — with a couple of new ones to boot. Because everyone likes boots! The months, by the way, indicate when the blurbs were published, not necessarily when the events described therein happened. /Stephen Whitworth




Troy Hixon, 45, his girlfriend, another woman and his father, former Ku Klux Klan Exalted Cyclops George Hixon, 73, were drinking at home in Osceola County, Florida, when, according to the sheriff’s report, Troy Hixon threw his girlfriend down and began shooting into the ground near her. The unnamed girlfriend told deputies the incident happened after she complained about being forced to drink cheap beer while the men drank “good beer” — Budweiser, according to the report. Troy Hixon explained the gunshots by telling a deputy he “did the redneck thing” by shooting holes in a trash can full of water so it could drain. Both Hixon men were arrested after they made threats against the deputies. (Orlando Sentinel)



Fire investigators in St. Joseph, Missouri, concluded that a blaze which destroyed a home and sent the homeowner to the hospital was sparked by the man’s smoking a cigarette while repairing a lawnmower in his bedroom. (KQTV-TV)



An unnamed man in Granby, Quebec, appeared before a small-claims court demanding compensation for a penis enlarger he insisted didn’t work, although he spent 500 hours trying to make it work. The man said he paid $262 for the X4 Extender Deluxe Edition because an advertisement promised results. (Canadian Press)




Japanese scientists are breeding mice that sing like birds. Researchers at the University of Osaka genetically engineered the mice as part of their evolved mouse project, which accelerates mutations to see what develops. “We checked the newly born mice one by one,” lead researcher Arikuni Uchimura said. “One day we found a mouse that was singing like a bird.” He explained the “singing mouse” was a random mutation but that the trait has been used to breed 100 of them so far. “I was surprised because I had been expecting mice that are different in physical shape,” Uchimura said, adding that the project had also produced “a mouse with short limbs and a tail like a dachshund.” (Agence France-Presse)



U.S. National Guard troops operating a remote video surveillance system near Naco, Arizona, observed drug smugglers using a catapult to hurl marijuana across the International Border fence. Border Patrol agents notified Mexican officials, who seized the metal-framed device, powered by heavy-duty elastic and mounted on a trailer, and 45 pounds of pot. (KVOA)



A military jury at Fort Meade, Maryland, sentenced Lt. Col. Terrance Lakin to six months in military prison and dismissal from the Army after he disobeyed orders to deploy to Afghanistan because he doubts whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States and therefore questions his eligibility to be commander in chief. He said he would have gladly deployed if Obama’s original birth certificate were released and proved authentic. (Associated Press)



The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission said it would review a policy by Waikiki restaurant Keoni by Keo’s that adds a mandatory 15 per cent tip to the checks of customers who don’t speak English. A restaurant representative explained that its many international visitors customarily don’t tip, so it’s merely trying to help its wait staff. The workers not only rely on tips for income, but also must pay taxes on a percentage of the restaurant’s total sales that Internal Revenue Service rules consider to be tips, even if they aren’t. Bill Hoshijo, executive director of the Civil Rights Commission, acknowledged the commission hasn’t received any complaints, but said it’s looking into the restaurant’s practice anyway because “discrimination based on language is ancestry discrimination.” (KITV)




A fighting rooster with razor blades attached to its legs slashed owner Singrai Soren’s throat after he tried to force it back into the ring too soon. Roosters are usually given at least an hour’s break between fights, “but Soren wanted the rooster to go to the ring within a few minutes of its first fight,” said a witness, identified as Dasai. “The rooster tried to get away from the ring several times, but Soren pushed it into the ring repeatedly. This upset it, and it attacked Soren.” Soren was killed in the attack, which occurred in a village in the Indian state of West Bengal. (The Daily Mail)



Fish swimming around big cities could be subjected to doses of anti-depressants, according to Canadian researchers, who discovered that significant quantities of Prozac are finding their way into the water around Montreal and into the brains of fish. Noting that a quarter of Montreal’s human population consumes some type of anti-psychotic or anti-depressant drug, lead researcher Sebastian Sauve said his team observed that the pharmaceuticals reduced brain activity in brook trout exposed to Montreal’s wastewater over a three-month period. Sauve warned that fish in other big cities could show similar effects. (The Canadian Press)



A British ice cream parlour began selling ice cream made from human breast milk. “It’s good enough for our kids, good enough for our ice cream,” declared Matt O’Connor, founder of London’s The Icecreamists, which pasteurizes the milk, then churns it together with vanilla pods and lemon zest and serves it in a martini glass for 14 pounds ($22.77). The breast milk is provided by nursing mothers who answered an ad at an online mother’s forum offering 15 pounds ($24.39) for every 10 ounces. Donor Victoria Hiley, 35, said she believes that if adults realized how tasty breast milk actually is, then new mothers would be more willing to breastfeed their own infants. (Associated Press, Reuters)




The Montana Supreme Court ruled that Brock Hopkins is entitled to workers’ compensation after a captive grizzly bear at a drive-through park where he worked mauled him while he was feeding it. Hopkins admitted smoking marijuana before the attack. The court upheld the findings of the Montana Workers’ Compensation Court, which had characterized Hopkins’s actions as “mind-bogglingly stupid” but noted that grizzlies “are equal opportunity maulers” without regard to marijuana consumption. (Kalispell’s Daily Inter Lake)




A 52-year-old man told police in Lynnwood, Washington, that he set his motel room on fire because Satan was in there and he wanted to protect “the good people.” Officials at the Days Inn said the unidentified man, who’d been staying there for a month, repeatedly called employees the “anti-Christ” and “spawns of Satan.” He’d been asked to leave the hotel the day of the fire, and in the end he did — trading a motel’s bed for the dubious comforts of the Snohomish County Jail. (Everett’s The Herald)



When a German doctor praised Pope Benedict XVI for setting an example by having an organ donor card, the Vatican explained the pope wouldn’t be donating any organs. “It’s true that the pope owns an organ donor card,” the pope’s secretary, Monsignor George Gaenswein, said in a letter quoted on Vatican Radio, “but contrary to public opinion, the card issued back in the 1970s became de facto invalid with Cardinal Ratzinger’s election to the papacy.” Vatican officials said that after a pope dies, his body must be buried intact and that any papal organs donated would become holy relics in other bodies if he were eventually made a saint. (Reuters)




Scientists said that a species of sea cucumber living off the British coast might have a future as haute cuisine. Holothuria forskali, which are animals, not plants, breathe through their anus, can liquefy their body and feed on waste from the sea bottom. A research team from Newcastle University is investigating the possibility of cultivating vast “herds” of sea cucumbers to consume waste from fish farms while allowing the harvest of commercial quantities of the earthworm-like species, which, at 10 inches, sea cucumber specialist Matt Slater noted “would fit on a plate.” Although some cultures, notably the Chinese, consider sea cucumbers a delicacy and an aphrodisiac, one western diner rated their flavour “slightly lower than phlegm, the texture of which it closely resembles.” (Britain’s The Independent and the New Zealand Herald)



In a speech against federal support for Planned Parenthood, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl declared that providing abortions represents 90 per cent of the agency’s services. When confronted with the actual fact that Planned Parenthood’s abortion care represents three per cent of its medical services, Kyl’s staff explained that the Arizona senator’s assertion was “not intended to be a factual statement.” (The Washington Post)



The New York Timesdeparted from its official style by dropping the honorific “Mr.” on second reference to the late Osama bin Laden. (Memo from Tom Jolly, associate managing editor, reported by the Poynter Institute)




As many as 115 acres of watermelons exploded in China’s Jiangsu Province after farmers there overdosed the melons with the growth stimulator forchlorfenuron during wet weather, turning them into what Chinese news media described as “land mines.” The 20 farmers affected were using the chemical for the first time, hoping to capitalize on a surge in watermelon prices. (Associated Press)



Authorities arrested Carey Newman, 34, in West Frankfort, Illinois, after she reportedly threw a lawn mower at another woman. (Carbondale’s The Southern)



Increasing numbers of Arizona residents are painting their lawns green to avoid high water bills and fines from homeowners associations that can amount to thousands of dollars. An average-size lawn costs $200 to spray with a vegetable-based dye that lasts three months before turning blue. Although painting lawns keeps the grass green, it still needs watering so it doesn’t die. Besides fear of citations from homeowners’ associations, the biggest boost to the grass-spraying business has been the housing crisis, which prompted real estate brokers to find cheap ways to enhance the curb appeal of available properties. (The New York Times)



Twitter helped form Northern Ireland’s new government, as the five governing parties took turns using the social media platform to pick which of the 10 ministries they wanted to head for the next four-year term. The majority Protestant party, the Democratic Unionists, went first and chose the Finance Department. The Irish nationalist Sinn Fein went second and chose Education. The entire process took less than 30 minutes. (Associated Press)




Three players on a gay softball team in Washington state sued after they were disqualified from taking part in a statewide tournament because they weren’t gay enough. Organizers of the Gay Softball World Series declared the men to be bisexual, not gay, and said their team thus exceeded the limit of two non-gay players. U.S. District Judge John Coughenour said the suit could proceed to trial but ruled that the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance has a First Amendment right to limit the number of heterosexual players on each team. (Associated Press)



Germany’s Green Party demanded that the government protect citizens from cancer-causing sex toys. Noting that 20 per cent of Germans use the erotic aids, 10 Green Party legislators in the Bundestag released a paper, “Sexual Health as a Consumer Protection Issue” urging government to take responsibility and action. “Many dildos and other sex toys such as vibrators and anal plugs contain a high amount of phthalates, other carcinogenic plasticizers and toxic substances,” the paper stated, adding that these substances enter the body through mucous membranes and can lead to infertility, hormone imbalances, diabetes and obesity. Green Party lawmaker Volker Beck wants Germany to follow the example of Denmark, which, he said, “urges users of vibrators, artificial vaginas and other such items to first cover them with condoms and to avoid models made of PVC.” (Spiegel Online)



Archaeologists looking in an ancient sewer beneath Herculaneum announced discovery of the largest deposit of human excrement ever found in the Roman world: enough to fill 750 sacks. (BBC News)




While Pittsburgh police detective Robert DiGiacomo was looking for an assault suspect, a man climbed into his unmarked car and ordered him to get out. DiGiacomo drew his gun and identified himself to Micah Calamosca, 21, who then claimed he wasn’t stealing DiGiacomo’s car, he was shooting a scene for the new movie Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises — currently filming in Pittsburgh — and that the apparent carjacking was “part of the script.” “At no point did I think that was the truth,” said DiGiacomo, noting that Calamosca fit his suspect’s description. (WTAE-TV)



Searching the Internet is polluting the planet and contributing to global warming, according to scientists who blame the server industry’s dependence on coal-fired electricity to support its fast-growing network of data centres. The Internet already consumes two to three per cent of the world’s electricity, mostly to operate and cool banks of computers that conduct data searches. This figure is expected to double by 2020. Already, Apple, Google and Facebook are opening new “server farms” in North Carolina, whose electricity rates are among the United States’ lowest. Their combined estimated use is 200 to 240 megawatts, all of it provided by coal-burning plants. “We have to move from this fossil fuel fiesta,” warned Ottawa engineer and green information technology consultant Bill St. Arnaud. (The Montreal Gazette)




Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones, 19, showed her commitment to Korean studies at Britain’s University of Sheffield by having her tongue surgically lengthened to improve her Korean pronunciation. The lingual frenectomy, which involves cutting a flap of skin that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, lets her make sounds she couldn’t before. “My pronunciation was very foreign,’” said Brooksbank-Jones, “but now I can speak with a native Korean accent.” (Britain’s Daily Mail)



Scientists have created an artificial sphincter to combat fecal incontinence. Researchers looking to treat seniors with a “degenerated or weakened internal anal sphincter” reported in the journal Gastroenterology that they developed the “cellurized anal sphincter” by combining human muscle cells with mouse nerves, then growing them on a circular scaffold to make replacement sphincter rings. They implanted the lab-grown rings in mice, where they performed as intended. The team foresees developing the prosthesis for humans. (USA Today)



Surveillance video at a pet shop in Mesa, Arizona, showed Eric Fiegel, 22, stealing several snakes, including baby boa constrictors, by stuffing them down his pants and walking out. Police said Fiegel went to another pet store and traded some of the snakes for $175 and a large reptile tank. (The Arizona Republic)



Swedish authorities arrested Richard Handl, 31, for trying to split atoms in his kitchen. Handl, who is unemployed, explained he bought the radioactive elements radium, americium and uranium on the Internet and from Germany and tried setting up a nuclear reactor at home in Angelholm. After causing a small meltdown on his stove, Handl contacted Sweden’s Radiation Authority to make sure his experiments were legal. Police were dispatched immediately. Handl stated he was just “curious” about splitting atoms but admitted his plan was “crazy.” (The Telegraph)



Hoping to boost attendance, a Spanish soccer team is encouraging its male fans to make donations to local sperm banks while watching a lesbian zombie movie the team produced. La Liga’s Getafe has struggled to fill its 17,000-seat stadium, the smallest in its division. “We are few, and we have to be more,” said the video’s creator, Angel Torres. “We have to move a mass of fans to seed the world with Getafe supporters.” (The Daily Mail)




Janet Hardt, 63, died after injecting heated beef fat into her face around her mouth and chin. She’d gone to the hospital complaining that her face felt like it was burning. Authorities in Cook County, Illinois, said that judging from infections in her mouth and lip and scarring from the injections, she’d apparently performed the procedure several times, trying to reduce wrinkling. Although Hardt’s face reportedly looked “grotesque”, it had few wrinkles. Neither the injections nor the infections caused her death, however — an autopsy determined she died of peritonitis, a severe abdominal infection. (Chicago Sun-Times)



Facing the world’s most expensive real estate prices and strict zoning laws that forbid changing a house’s height or perimeter, well-to-do Londoners eager to enlarge their homes have started digging. Underground expansions can have up to four levels and include swimming pools, home theaters, gyms, wine cellars, bowling alleys, squash courts, climbing walls, servants’ quarters, waterfalls, hair salons and multicar garages with special elevators for vintage car collections. (The New York Times)



The City Council of Gould, Arkansas, adopted an ordinance making it illegal to form any kind of group without its permission. (The New York Times)



After astronomers announced the discovery of Kepler 16B, a planet some 200 light years from Earth that has two suns, the discovery team’s Alan Boss of Washington’s Carnegie Institution announced the finding’s implications: “It’d be a weird cocktail hour. The sun would go down and you’d have a drink and then, a few hours later, the other sun would go down while you have another drink.” (The Washington Post)




Florida authorities warned that Miami is being invaded by giant African land snails. They grow as large as 10 inches long, leave a slimy trail of excrement wherever they go, harbour the microscopic rat-lung worm (which can transmit meningitis to humans) and “eat the stucco off the side of the house,” according to Richard Gaskalla of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “It’s us against the snails,” said Gaskalla. (NPR)



Future computer-based combat likely will involve electronic strikes that cause widespread power outages and even the physical destruction of thousand-ton turbines, according to the head of U.S. cyber-warfare forces. Army General Keith Alexander also warned that recent massive losses of private and public data to computer criminals and spies represent the largest theft in history, estimating the value of lost information as high as $1 trillion. (The Washington Times)



Authorities arrested Dale Foughty, 56, after they said he entered a convenience store in Onslow County, North Carolina, wearing a Spider-Man mask and waving a sword, and demanded money. The clerk pulled out a broom and poked the robber in the stomach. A second clerk joined in the struggle, during which the suspect lost his mask and had part of his ponytail ripped out. He fled empty-handed, but sheriff’s deputies found him nearby. (Associated Press)




Detailed photos of the moon’s surface, taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from an altitude of 13 to 15 miles, revealed that Apollo astronauts who visited the moon from 1969 to 1972 left behind buggy ruts in the surface and trash that included discarded backpacks, the bottom parts of three lunar landers, packing material and an insulation blanket. Arizona State University geology professor Mark Robinson, the orbiter’s chief scientist, predicted it would take 10 million to 100 million years for dust to cover signs of the astronauts’ landings. (Associated Press)



Ugandan authorities charged George Kiberu, 35, with “abusing the presidency” because he built a pigsty using campaign posters for President Yoweri Museveni for the roof and walls. The posters were left over from last February’s election. (Associated Press)



Alabama officials ordered all 16,000-plus of the state’s sworn law-enforcement officers to undergo special training aimed at clarifying the new, uber-strict immigration law. R. Alan Benefield, head of the Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission, explained that the four-hour training sessions are necessary because of the law’s complexity and lingering confusion, which caused two international incidents in November. First, a 46-year-old German manager with Mercedes-Benz, which employs hundreds of workers to build sport-utility vehicles at a large plant in Vance, was arrested for violating the law while driving a rental car on a business trip because he wasn’t carrying a driver’s license and a passport. In the second incident, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, another major employer, said a Japanese worker temporarily assigned to the United States was cited under the immigration law at a routine police checkpoint, even though he possessed a valid Japanese passport and an international driver’s license. (Associated Press)



Thanks to a grant from the Michigan Homeland Security Program, 13 counties received Arctic Blast Sno-Cone machines costing a total of $11,700. Explaining that the machines can be used to make ice to prevent heat-related illnesses during emergencies, treat injuries and provide snow cones as an outreach at promotional events, Sandeep Dey, executive director of the regional agency responsible for overseeing homeland security in the counties, said requests for the machines would not have been granted by themselves but were approved because they were included with other homeland security equipment. Dey pointed out one county had requested a popcorn machine, but that request was denied. (Greenville’s The Daily News)



Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz of Buckfield, Maine, set a distance record for a car that runs on candy and soda. During its test run, the Mark II single-seat rocket car, which uses a simple piston-and-cylinder mechanism to get it moving, traveled 239 feet, fueled by 54 bottles of Coke Zero and 324 Mentos. The previous record was 220 feet. (Associated Press)



South Korea announced it would begin using robots to patrol prisons. The 1.5-meter-tall, four-wheel guards are designed to monitor conditions inside cells and detect abnormal behavior, such as violence and suicide attempts. “The robots are not terminators,” insisted Lee Baik-chul of Seoul’s Kyonggi University, who headed the $850,000 project to develop the robots. “Their job is not cracking down on violent prisoners. They are helpers.” Noting the first robot is scheduled to begin a month-long test in March at a jail in Pohang, Lee said the researchers “are now working on refining its details to make it look more friendly to inmates.” (Agence France-Presse)


Compiled from mainstream news sources by Roland Sweet

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